DML Blog

The Many Sides of Prezi

posted on 08 May 2012 19:59 by Sara Spink

Prezi is a really versatile tool that I’ve come to appreciate not just for the opportunities it offers for presentations but also for brainstorming and organization. One of the aspects I like best is the ability to evolve my presentation alongside my research. I’ve also found Prezi to enhance the preparatory stages of my work, even when my the project itself concerns a different medium. For example, I used it to map out and keep track of the images I gathered in the course of creating a documentary video essay for The Material Culture of Twentieth-Century New York. With its infinite canvas in expanse and depth, and a responsiveness that makes it augmentative rather than disruptive to my thought process, I find that Prezi acts like a giant digital whiteboard. It allows me to think spatially and visually, and I can lay out ideas and images—ease of integrating other media like youtube videos and PowerPoints is another huge asset—to make connections and comparisons that would be difficult to ascertain without the ability to see “the big picture” in this way. For this reason, it was particularly suited to a specific project in our Scenic Design course, a “visual expression” exercise in which we assembled material that would serve as our inspiration if we were to design sets and costumes for a play of our choosing.

In terms of sharing, it also truly facilitates discussion. The possibilities of non-linear navigation permit easy access to any element of a presentation and, particularly with the ability to zoom into high-resolution images, allow for detailed side-by-side comparisons not possible with other software. The Scenic Design course offers another paradigmatic example in the Visual Syllabus our instructor initiated. We could all edit it—even simultaneously—adding our own supplementary material and grouping images and/or video before or during class meetings to substantiate the points we wanted to make.

Intuitive, easy to learn, and adaptable to a wide variety of purposes, Prezi gives users extraordinary flexibility and creative freedom in devising their final products. Presentations are portable and accessible, even offline, and easily embedded into websites. Advantageous as both a mode of presentation and an integral part of the working process, it’s also fun to use! For those who are interested, we have an extensive how-to section detailing its format and tools. Please feel free to reach out to the DML for links to examples of students’ Prezis, or to contact me regarding the work I’ve done.

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Tags: dml materialresearch presentation prezi research spink tools visualresearch

Spring 2012 & the DML is abloom and buzzing

posted on 13 Jan 2012 23:57 by BGC DML

photo by Flickr user blathlean used under Creative Commons license

It is almost MLK Day and that means a calendar year has just turned over and we are about to start our spring semester. 2011 was a really good year for the DML. Here are some highlights:

In the spring, Prof. David Jaffee's 19th c. New York class created a great online exhibition, which saw our students bravely delve into the unfamiliar world of web design, HTML, CSS, javascript, etc.

PhD candidate Yenna Chan's class Rus in Urbe saw a successful first foray into video essays. Inspired by these works, Prof. Jaffee implemented a similar assignment in his fall course Material Culture of 20th c. New York Class, and his students produced some really amazing work.

During the summer the BGC was host to an NEH Institute on the Material Culture of NYC. Participants took advantage of the DML and workshops on presentations, database software, and collaboration tools.

Fall 2011 saw the use of wikis as course sites at the BGC flourish to its fullest, as every class now has a course site with many professors experimenting with new assignments that take advantage of the interactive and collaborative features of the sites.

There was also an explosion in the use of Prezi at the BGC for not only presentations, but also as a space to compare and analyze sets of visual information, create visual syllabi for course materials, and even develop prototypes for potential digital media projects.

The upcoming spring promises to be just as busy, if not more so. AMNH fellow Erin Hasinoff's Material Itineraries focus gallery tutorial will be designing prototypes for interactive media displays while Prof. Jaffee's Interpretation of the Artifact in the Age of New Media course will inevitably be exploring and experimenting with a wide range of digital media on a number of platforms.

We will also be beginning a project to develop an archive for all of this student work, using Omeka to store and catalog digital copies as well as provide professors a platform from which to present this student work. The first round of material to enter the archive will be the videos from professor Jaffee's Material Culture of 20th c. New York class, as well audio files and transcripts from interviews of designers and craftspersons done by students from Prof. Catherine Whalen's Craft and Design in the USA course. The digital sustainability questions that this archive will raise will also help us determine how best to handle one of our most exciting projects this semester, our first digitally-born qualifying paper. Finding a way to store, catalog, and make available this new type of project should prove an interesting challenge as students start producing more digital-born work.

That's not even all that's going on digitally at the BGC. We are applying for bigger digital grants, experimenting more with digital materials and interfaces in our galleries, and improving the overall quality of technology across the institution. It's a great time to be doing digital things here and it only promises to get better.

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Tags: archive digitalsustainability hasinoff jaffee prezi wiki

Digital Scholarly Communication and Visual and Material Research #hastac2011

posted on 04 Dec 2011 18:20 by BGC DML


Just got back from the University of Michigan and the HASTAC 2011 conference. HASTAC stands for Humanities, Arts, Sciences, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory and brings together a wide variety of people working on ways to integrate technology into academic work. This particular conference was focused on Digital Scholarly Communication, a topic which has really been at the forefront of much digital discourse for the last couple of years and has far reaching implications from the impact and relative value of different formats of academic expression (journals, books, blogs, Twitter, etc.), to the role of open access in publishing, to the changing state of tenure and promotion, especially within the humanities. It was good to be there and to see a number of friends, make new contacts, and once again do a survey of the field and the changes that are taking place.

While at HASTAC, one thing in particular stood out to me about how the work we do in the DML fits into the way the humanities is adopting digital technologies and how the larger realm of academia is adapting as well. A recurring commentary that I noticed and heard was that there will always be different sets of questions and priorities for different disciplines and subdisciplines in how technology influences research and academic practice. Tara McPherson of USC and Vectors actually brought this up explicitly in a Q&A session after Siva Vaidhyanathan's keynote with regards to the different approaches that scholars in the humanities and arts take to research and scholarly communication. What this brought to mind for me was how the materials used for research can influence the types of questions and the relative importance of those questions that scholars have to ask about their work when integrating digital technology into their research. The thing that really came to the fore for me while at HASTAC 2011 was how questions about permissions and the right to reproduce materials are much more central to the discourse surrounding digital scholarly communication for art historians than other humanists.

We have had a number of private and public gatherings at the BGC to discuss scholarly communication, the future of publishing, and the role of the artifact in the age of new media and it is inevitable that those types of conversations gravitate to the cost and challenge of reproducing images that are critical to the argumentation of art and material culture historians. This goes beyond regular questions of tenure and promotion, open access, and the mode of scholarly publication and enters a very real realm of economic and legal considerations that involve copyright, the systems that museums use to control and generate revenue from their unique collections, and the relationships that scholars and institutions must maintain with content providers in order to ensure future access. This isn't to say that these are questions that other humanities scholars aren't confronted with, but I found it interesting that the availability and publishability of the visual and material research objects that scholars at the BGC work with was a secondary question at a gathering on digital scholarly communication.

I was reminded of the challenge of these types of materials in the pedagogical realm when talking to Brian Croxall (@briancroxall), a postdoc at Emory and one of the fabulous ProfHacker authors, about the Prezis that we are using at the BGC with more and more regularity. When showing him the visual syllabi I had constructed for my Scenic Design in Western Theatre class, we started thinking about ways that could we could perhaps show other teachers the thought-map/workspace approach to using Prezi that we have adopted at the BGC. We quickly ran into the barrier that most if not all of the materials I had gathered (about 1200 images covering 140 years of scenic design) could be used under fair use on a private Prezi for a class, but could not be publicly displayed for obvious copyright reasons. This is why the question of open access pedagogy and course materials has been a bit sticky here at the BGC. While I would love to open up all of our wikis for the world to see (since our students and faculty are doing some really amazing work on them and embracing the collaborative ethos that wikis provide) they are almost always inundated with visual materials with copyright issues attached to them. As a school that relies on our strong relationships with institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, American Museum of Natural History, New York Public Library, and Museum of Modern Art, we still need to recognize and respect the contested space of copyright and permissions. This limits the amount of envelope-pushing we can do as an institution.

This is not meant to be a critique of HASTAC 2011 in any way. It was a good conference (although a little bit of un-conferenceness would have suited the audience I think), and the lack of explicit conversation about rights and permissions was definitely not an intentional omission of any sort. However, what it did remind me of was how widespread the impact of digital technology on the academy has been and how hard it is to cover all the facets of that change, even at a conference completely dedicated to those questions and filled with leading minds and practitioners. I do think that the DML is doing a good job in keeping up with trends–if not even pioneering some solutions–and that the BGC has taken a very progressive stance incorporating digital media across the institution. Nevertheless, many challenges remain and I am intrigued to see how changes in copyright and permissions in the world of art historical materials continue to impact the notion of digital scholarly communication in our corner of academia.

Kimon Keramidas @BGCDML

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Tags: amnh copyright digitalscholarlycommunication hastac2011 materialresearch met moma permissions prezi visualresearch

Fall 2011

posted on 22 Aug 2011 17:12 by BGC DML


Today was the first day of orientation and the beginning of the DML's third year. This is always a great time of year as the buzz of students returns to the building, faculty return from the summer trips, and the semester starts rolling. There will be a lot going on in the DML this semester as more classes are using wikis and other digital tools, such as Prezi, Zotero, Omeka, and Filemaker Pro. Furthermore, as we continue with some ongoing focus gallery projects and start a few new ones, it will be interesting to see how media continue to play a role in the gallery work students are doing. Some things to keep an eye on during the coming months:

There will be a lot of Workshops this semester so pay attention for announcements from the Library, VMR, and DML.

There are some new computers in the DML (two 17" laptops and a 27" iMac) along with some other hardware (a 3D scanner, and a high-res flatbed scanner). The 3D scanner in particular promises to open up some real interesting opportunities for material based digital work.


Our Wiki How-To provides a lot of information on how to use the wikis, but also keep an eye on the Prezi How-To and Omeka How-To for detailed instructions on how to use those tools.

There are a number of developing digital projects running through the DML, including interesting one lead by Profs. Jaffee and Glass. Let me know if you are interested in getting involved in more elaborate projects.


For a good example of one of the digital projects that have come through the DML, be sure to visit the Visualizing Nineteenth Century New York digital exhibition by BGC students. The product of two semesters of research and web design turned out really well by the end of the spring and is a great example of the kind of work that can be done in the DML.

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Tags: filemaker glass jaffee omeka prezi visualizing19thcnyc wikis workshops

NEH Summer Institute Complete #BGCNEH

posted on 01 Aug 2011 15:57 by BGC DML

By all accounts the NEH Summer Institute was a resounding success. The visiting scholars added some life to a normally quiet summer and I think they really appreciated their whirlwind session on New York City material culture. On the DML side, it was encouraging to see so many people interested in the approach the BGC takes towards technology and scholarship. The workshops gave the participants exposure to a wide range of tools and resources and it was great to see people quickly incorporate the tools into their final presentations. The wiki became a useful tool for conversations and the sharing of pictures taken on the various field trips. It also seems like Prezi provided everyone with a new way of presenting materials and continues to be a useful tool in breaking the monotony of Powerpoint presentations and an effective way of presenting material culture resources.

Congratulations go out to Prof. David Jaffee for planning such a successful institute. Hopefully we will get to do another NEH Institute sometime soon, this time maybe through the Office of Digital Humanities with a more explicit focus on technology and the study of material culture.

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Tags: neh prezi wiki workshops

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