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posted on 21 Oct 2014 17:59 by carlinsoos
Hey, everyone! I’m Carlin, a first year MA student at the Bard Graduate Center, and the newest addition to the Digital Media Lab.
As one would expect when jumping into graduate study, the past few weeks have been filled with a lot of very exciting changes. I recently moved from Portland, Maine, where I did my undergraduate studies in graphic design and art history at the Maine College of Art. With this location switch, from a medium-sized city in New England to the largest on the East Coast, I am also launching a change in professional focus: from a practicing graphic designer to a researcher of the discipline.
For the past four years I was deeply involved in various graphic design practices. I interned for a moderately sized advertising firm in Portland, switched to a smaller design studio where I focused more on identity and print design, worked as an in-house designer for an art college, and did historical research for two type designers currently creating typefaces for N’ko and Ge’ez scripts. I’ve tried a bit of everything, and had some great experiences. However, as my academic studies turned more towards art history and theory, I began to think about graphic design not solely as a contemporary practice, but as a field with a rich history—a history that is, sadly, often neglected in contemporary art historical study. I’m excited to fuse my passions for graphic design and historical research, and seek to add contributions to the growing field of typographic history.
I have found at the BGC an amazingly supportive community that is encouraging of my research interests, which (at the moment) focuses mostly on twentieth-century graphic design, advertising, and print propaganda from Central and Eastern Europe, as well as the history of typeface design. The DML is just one more place at the BGC where I can combine my various interests in material culture, design, and technology, and help others engage in the various fields I love. Over the years the DML has become a project hub at the BGC, supporting faculty and students in creating incredibly accomplished projects. During my time in the lab I hope to show others the amazing opportunities technology offers, and give them the support and encouragement they need to use it to the highest degree.
posted on 20 Oct 2014 15:31 by Andrew Gardner
New York City has been short a design museum these past three years—not the only one, but certainly an important one. That’s all about to change this coming December, when the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum reopens its doors after extensive renovation. Located inside the historic Carnegie Mansion along Museum Mile on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, the museum, which claims to be the nation’s only museum dedicated entirely to historic and contemporary design, has been working to transform its image from stodgy and inaccessible to inviting and technologically hip. To that end, the museum’s digital department has completely transformed everything about the museum experience.
I spent the summer at the museum as a Peter A. Krueger fellow, immersed in the digital museum transformation, working closely with the Cooper Hewitt’s digital and curatorial departments as they prepare for reopening. The centerpiece of the museum’s strategy is what they are calling the “digital pen.” Shaped much like your common writing implement, these pens are handed to visitors the moment they walk into the door and purchase a ticket. Each visitor will then use the pen to “collect” objects they find interesting or want to learn more about. The operating principle is simple: see the object, look at the label and wave the pen in front of it, where a sensor registers pen data. This selection of objects will be accessible after the visitor leaves the museum by accessing a unique web URL printed on each ticket.
The pen can also be used to interact with the second part of the museum’s digital transformation: the digital table. Scattered throughout the museum, these 8-foot by 4-foot touchscreens are the digital hub of object information within the museum. Here, the user can use the digital pen to learn more about the objects they have collected, see related objects not on view and even draw on and manipulate images of their favorite objects. The immersion room will allow the visitor to go wild designing a wallpaper via the digital table and pen, which will then be projected on the wall to give visitors a taste of what it might look like in situ.
Much of what I worked on this summer was writing and editing object chats for each of the 170+ objects that will be on view in the museum’s reopening special exhibition entitled TOOLS: Extending Our Reach. This also included drawing specific relations between loan objects and some of the 217,000 objects in the Cooper Hewitt collection, a difficult task considering that the collections of Cooper Hewitt and those of some of the 12 loaning institutions, including the National Museum of Air and Space and the National Museum of the American Indian, cover wildly different subject matter. It was, in many ways, a monumental task and something that I think more museums with even larger collections will struggle with in coming years as collections are digitized and the museum experience becomes seamlessly integrated into an online experience.
Considering the sheer magnitude of the museum’s effort—which has also included a rapid capture digitization that will attempt to take a high-resolution image of every object in the collection, a brand new website built on the seamless Wordpress CMS (find it at cooperhewitt.org), an easily navigable collections website component, and a Chester Jenkins designed (and freely downloadable) typeface—the digital pen and table initiative is certainly impressive. But the bigger question: will it work? And will visitors care? From the beginning, it seems that the museum has tempered expectations partly because it acknowledges that this is one big experiment. Because, truly, who knows?
I have my ideas, however. I am worried that visitors will lose their tickets that unlock that precious unique URL, or, worse, break or steal one of the pens. Or that they simply won’t know how to use the pen or won’t care to. That’s the worst case scenario. But I think the digital pen and corresponding table speak to a larger initiative to make museums institutions that are accessible to a number of different kinds of people who learn and see differently. For the person who may not be so interested in the museum experience of object + vitrine + wall label, this may be the perfect option. They can look at cool things, look at objects that are similarly cool, read about them, draw on them and track their visit through the museum when they get home. Or, it could revolutionize note-taking and information capture and help guide the interested visitor to other things that may help in research or otherwise. For others, the pen may come across as a pesky nuisance. I suspect that all of these are possible. But what I will say is that the museum is trying. It is trying to reinvent the idea that the museum has to be a place of siloed information where only the most esoteric can truly unlock the secrets of the objects. And for this reason, I give Cooper Hewitt one massive round of applause. It’s trying something and who knows? It may just be the next great revolution in museum-going.
posted on 27 Feb 2014 17:50 by Laura Kelly-Bowditch
Last semester, I proposed a project in collaboration with the Brooklyn Museum, where I intern, to explore using laser scanning and 3D printing to expedite artifact storage and shipping containers. I have been researching the problems that have arisen, including concerns from the Brooklyn Museum conservator about exposing objects to lasers and material concerns (plastics, used in the majority of consumer 3D printers, do not have a good track record for longevity or archival properties!) as well as talking to other museum professionals who have been exploring similar projects. The Yale University Art Gallery has been experimenting with using a CNC machine to cut foam to shape and is exploring creating printable polyethylene, an archival material currently used for storage mounts and packing.
I have been researching whether it is possible to scan an object that can subsequently be used to create a printable negative using CAD software. Ideally, this less invasive process than traditional molding will result in a custom mount or shipping container that is more streamlined than current practices of hand measuring, cutting, and re-cutting materials. Given the available materials we currently have to print with in the DML (ABS Plastic) the resulting custom-molded mount would need to be covered with an archival material, such as Tyvek, and be a material that would not be damaged by a hard mount. Additionally, the workflow as it stands is much slower than traditional techniques and consumer technology has a long way to go before scanning and printing a mount is easier or better than what is done now.
As Andrew touched on in his last post, Ariel Rosenblum, a first year MA student, has just finished installing her exhibit in Northampton, MA featuring two art pieces she scanned and printed with our Makerbot Replicator.
Working through an entire project, from scanning to tweaking the model to printing was a great practical opportunity to experience this workflow with a real project, instead of a theoretical application. It has been a great experience for all of us in the DML. The more we print, the better a handle we get on the quirks of the equipment and software. For example, we are experimenting with ways to keep models from warping off the build platform. As it turns out, we should have been replacing the protective tape every few builds. Whoops! If new tape doesn’t fix the warping problem, we have a few tricks up our sleeves now, including hairspray and sanding the tape.
Ariel’s sculpture, featuring a rock wrapped in felted wool, presented particular challenges for our equipment and software. Ariel scanned her piece twice—once to capture the sides and a second time to read the top and bottom.
Melding these two scans required virtual pins to be placed on the same point in each scan, so the software can then match up and fuse the two data sets. When scanned, the irregular texture of the materials was rendered as holey. The resulting print represents a fascinating visual interpretation of the original artwork, with the internal supports the MakerWare software inserted to support the structure during printing highly visible and adding to the aesthetic impact of the object. Ariel printed several versions of her first piece, the largest of which took a total of 17 hours.
Kimon has been working his way through the components of a set of headphones. Once printed, these components can be assembled with some wire and electronics equipment to create a useable product! Come by and check it out, we try to send emails when we’re printing. We also welcome project ideas and would love to work with you if you have any ideas for ways to use our scanner and printer.
posted on 12 Feb 2014 19:02 by Andrew Gardner
We’ve made it to a new semester! While it’s blustery and cold outside these days here in New York, things are quite literally heating up inside because… we’re 3D printing!* Laura, my fellow DML assistant, has been hard at work on research about 3D printing. Her work perfectly coincides with a new 3D printing project we’ve been doing with MA student and artist Ariel Rosenblum, who is working on mounting an exhibition using stereoscopy as means of deconstructing perception of form through a variety of media, including technological development and the advent of 3D printing.
She printed a really cool rock wrapped in wool, which took a few tries, but we think it turned out ok? It’s really pretty exciting. Her show “Behold Binocular” opens Friday, February 14, 2014 at Historic Northampton in Massachusetts.
We’ve also been busy polishing off the odds and ends from last semester. Professor Catherine Whalen had two amazing digital student projects. Over the last few years, she and her students did an incredible amount of work on the BGC Oral History project (in collaboration with Professor Kimon Keramidas, Digital Media Lab Director, Laura and myself), which I discussed last fall in my recap of the DML Salon. The project was a smashing success and has been well-received both internally and externally. It’s an invaluable resource for scholars doing research on contemporary craft.
In addition to that project, which came together last fall, Prof. Whalen’s Colonial Revival class put together an incredible project composed of research surrounding a defining stylistic moment in American material culture. The project was a complicated coding process (Prof. Keramidas spent way more time on working on it than anyone, though the painstaking footnoting process was my work!), but it turned out to be a really interesting way of combining research into one cohesive format. It was also a really interesting exercise in collaborating with colleagues, from a research and from a technological perspective.
What to look forward to in the coming months:
- You’re invited to the Spring 2014 Digital Media Lab Salon which takes place tomorrow, Thursday, February 13, 2014, showcasing the best digital projects from the last semester (there are many!)
- Students from Professor David Jaffee’s 19th-Century New York focus gallery class, Laura and I among them, will be hard at work in the DML putting together proposals for the digital interactive components of the exhibition, which opens next fall.
- Students from Dean Miller’s focus gallery class will be working on Prezis and movies that explore the work and methodology of Aby Warburg.
- And plenty more 3D printing to come… Including 3D printed headphones!
Stay tuned! Laura’s going to update us on current and future 3D printing technology…
*Seriously, one thing I’ve noticed about 3D printing: it gets really warm in here! A fully different climate region in the Digital Media Lab as compared to every other room in the building. But I digress…
Also, behold Ariel's digital rendering of the 3D printed scans in one image:
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posted on 20 Nov 2013 19:15 by Andrew Gardner
If you haven’t already heard, we are preparing for a very exciting exhibition on New York City in the 19th-century, curated by Prof. David Jaffee, who also heads up new media research here at the BGC. The exhibition opens in Fall 2014. While this is neither the time nor the place to begin discussing preparations for this exciting exhibition (Laura, my DML colleague, and I will be working on the In Focus gallery project next semester, so I am sure you will be hearing more about it very soon), I do think it’s an excellent opportunity to think about projects looking at similar subject matter and how it is treated in the digital space. Part of next semester’s challenge will be to conceive of any digital components of the exhibition. The other challenge is deciding which objects will work best to tell our story.
The New York Times’ A History of New York in 50 Objects is an excellent starting point for thinking about the life of New York City over the last several millenia. This digital gallery includes 50 objects that help define or explain the history of New York, from its earliest residents to the latest in 21st-century technology. Objects include: the tusk of one of Manhattan’s earlier residents (mastodons); a print of the settlement of the Dutch on Governor’s Island to the old oyster shells the heyday of the city’s industry; a stamp depicting the first Armory Show; the yellow metrocard; and an artisanal bar of chocolate from Brooklyn. It’s a remarkable collection of objects to be sure.
This project is an interesting case to consider, partly because we, as students of material culture, have to approach these objects from multiple perspectives. We think about them as primary source documents where text or language do not exist and we think about what objects best represent our subject or best tell its story. I am therefore curious about some of the curatorial decisions that were made in this particular project, and the telling exclusions. In the comments section at the bottom of the page, a commenter suggests that there should be a shirtwaist representing the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, which was a pivotal moment in the labor rights movement in America. But clearly, the editors and curators thought that an original Singer sewing machine would better illustrate the booming garment industry in New York and trumped the importance of the labor rights movement. As Sam Roberts, who wrote the introduction to the project says, “ours ‘can only be a history’ and ‘not the history.’”
The challenges of piecing together a gigantic story using only a few key objects seems a remarkably difficult task, even with the help of curators and historians. For example, I would have liked to have seen reference made to the city’s agrarian past and perhaps something that touched on the city’s culture of fine dining and Broadway theater. With this in mind, I will say that I was quite interested to learn the story of the origins of air conditioning and that Edison operated a primitive power station on Pearl Street in Lower Manhattan before the age of electricity was upon us.
I am also intrigued with the way that the digital exhibition functions on the NYTimes.com site. The pop-up lightbox photo gallery feature is nice, but it still is very Web 2.0. I immediately think of the possibilities that tools like Prezi, where zoom features figure heavily and where the object and the text work seamlessly together as your navigate through a timeline or set path of images. At the very least, I would have loved to have seen zooming technology so that some of the smaller details of the objects themselves. While certainly light years ahead of what most institutions can accomplish in terms of technological slickness, I do think that the navigation, the lack of zooming technology and the inability to read more about a particular object are limitations of this project.
With all this in mind, it gives me a lot to think about as we look towards the spring semester, when we will be preparing the 19th-century New York Focus Gallery show. Stay tuned for more!
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