Monthly Archives: September 2008

ICM Mobile Homework

I just need to use this as a host for some jpgs that aren’t working elsewhere for turning in homework.

Thesis: Research Process

At the end of the Capstone project, we need to write a paper which talks a bit about the process of creating this project, so I figure the easiest way to do that is to document well as I go.

I’m entering the phase of research where things are starting to gel. I begin most creative projects with a concept that immediately gets put into a giant lobster pot and put on the back corner of my brain’s stove to slowly get warm. Every so often I throw something into the pot to let it simmer, and every so often I give it a taste to see how things are coming together. (Unlike cooking, I can and often do remove items or ideas added in). I let my brain keep things going on a low simmer because if you try and rush things, they come out feeling rushed. But then again, there’s a point of no return with waiting, and eventually you just gotta get Nike on the project and Just Do It. Luckily I’ve got a good handle on what that sweet spot feels like, and we’re approaching it.

So instead of just letting ideas percolate and randomly surfing, I now find myself moving through my research more systematically. I’m now in hunter/gatherer mode. I start with a general goal, and then begin to get into methodical explorations, branching out along the network. And I use Zotero, so now I’m beginning to take notes.

Pictures, Too

One of the difficulties with the topic of Mount Rushmore is that there’s lots of pictures of the monument, but with history it can get difficult sourcing images to use. Actually, there are many images, but the trouble comes from trying to source them -legally-. So at this stage in the game what I’m doing is trolling through the Creative Commons looking for good quality images that I can repurpose. It’s a great site.

Creative Commons Search

Creative Commons Search

The Creative Commons search gives you a simultaneous search of Google, Yahoo!, Flickr,,OWL Music Search, and SpinXpress. You can check the boxes to filter so that it includes Commercial use or ability to modify, adapt, or build upon. I keep that one checked because I know that I’ll be repurposing these graphics quite a bit before I’m done.

Documentation for Photographs

At this point I’m going through the photos and doing two things. One, I’m saving them to my hard drive in folders which give the name of the site they came from and the name of the account owner who posted them originally. Look below for a sample:

Sample directory

Sample directory

Once the website and then the account name are in the directory, I then rename the photo I’m downloading with a file naming convention.

  • cc = Creative Commons
  • att = Attribution
  • noc = Non-Commercial only
  • sa = Share Alike

The ‘cc’ makes it clear that I got it off of Creative Commons, so I have at least partial rights to use the images without needing to open dialogue with the original owner. Then after that I need to pay attention to how they want it used. Most want attribution, so if I use the image I need to give them attribution somehow on the site that the visual was from. ‘Non-Commercial’ isn’t a problem for this project since it’s for academic credit. And ‘Share Alike’ means that anything that I make through these need to be kept within the Creative Commons domain.

Dotting i’s and Crossing t’s

While this sounds sufficient for tracking, I’m a bit paranoid because I know that by the time it comes for me to assemble my citations, I end up with the best of intentions and the worst of a paper trail. So I’m taking the additional steps of working within Zotero to further keep things straight. If you use the Right-click on an image in a browser where you have Zotero installed, it will give you the option to ‘Save Image As Zotero Snapshot’.

Zotero Instructions

Zotero Instructions

(The photo is of the bust of Gutzon Borglum, and was posted to Flickr by Imabaker3. Licensed under the Creative Commons. Attribution, non-commercial only, and share alike.)

When you save the image as a Zotero Snapshot, Zotero will generate a link to where the image lives on the web, take a snapshot/screenshot and save it in the Zotero directories, and it also gives you some additional options which make the tool worthwhile.

It’s those tools which are going to save my butt later much in the project process. For example, I’m generating tags for each of the image links which describe which Creative Commons rights are attached to them. That way, I’ll be able to access all of the information fairly straightforwardly. (It does slow things down a bit now, but I’ll trade a bit of precaution to save some sanity at the back end.)

Zotero's Image Snapshot panel


So you can see, it collects all sorts of information on the image for me. Since I told Zotero to take a snapshot, I’ve actually got two versions of the file to work from… one that I downloaded into the file directory structures manually, and the other that’s taken directly by Zotero and stored.

In both instances I can now work offline on the items.

My one complaint, though, is that I’m not sure yet how to share between the Zotero files on my home computer and the Zotero files on my laptop.

Well, I’ll figure it out sooner or later. There’s always the hard way of reproducing the relevant research or marrying the two automatic bibliographies by hand.

And now, back to getting images and doing research.

Thesis: Musing about panic

I work as an Interactive Producer right now, and I have to admit that I’m getting used to the weird feelings that happen at the beginning of the project when the client is like, “Go, go, go!” and we’re more like “Plan, plan, plan!”  At a certain point the planning needs to come together into something more solid and real and begin to be put into action.

I did up a whole project plan laying out everything that was necessary and made it fit into neat little boxes, but the reality has been difficult to arrange to match. Naturally. 😉

What I need to do next

I need to just jump in with both feet, arrange some time to focus on the project and get the content written or outlined, get the sitemap drafted, and get a feel for the overall design. Once I have that, it will inform how I need to flesh out the content a bit better by showing me what I have vs. need. Then it will also help me revise my designs, too.

One date that I want to adhere to strongly is Columbus Day for the day that coding begins. It means I have to have my planning stage done by then, and be full on into execution. ‘

Seeing what’s out there

What I’m building is called an Interactive Narrative. There’s a great website that I’ve been using to find other examples of Interactive Narratives, and I’ve been using the old Designer trick of surfing the competition and identifying items that work well, that I like, and which suggest ways of working with my subject material.

For example, there’s Hope & Living with HIV in Jamaica. It uses a couple of nice features. I like the idea of using photos as the background elements around the Flash interface, as well as using a bottom-nav element with fluid sizing. The site really did a nice job with putting in audio files and pairing them with snapshots of the person speaking. Rolling over the photo brightens it, and cues the audio file to play. Moving the mouse over all the photos with a little speed cues a slight babble or chorus of voices.

I see using it in my project by having a section called “In Their Own Words” which shows each of the four faces of Mount Rushmore. Mouseover will cue the voiceover audio that I’ll record with my friends to provide presidential-sounding voices. They’ll read the historical quotes that each of the four presidents said or wrote about Native Americans as the text appears in a box.

I’ve got a couple more ideas too coming from other Interactive Narratives, but I’ll save them for the actual work. It’s just nice to remember that the first step for design includes research as well. Seeing what’s out there and what works or doesn’t work is a valuable place to begin, hopefully saving time and effort in the long run.

And, ultimately, that’s what such excessive planning for interactive projects is all about.

Thesis: Starting the research

The problem with doing up such a wonderful project plan is that it quickly becomes apparent when you’re lagging behind. (I suppose that’s the point of a plan in the first place, eh?)

This is technically week 3 I’m in, and I still have yet to source the hosting for the site and determine the site’s name. These are things that can be done later, but I just need to make sure that wherever I end up parking this it will be able to stand for a year and it will be able to host the flash media that I need. I’m hoping to get all the hosting for as little as I possibly can, truth be told.

I was also supposed to have a fully fleshed-out timeline and all of my research done. I’m getting there. I’m using the Firefox plugin called Zotero. What a fantastic tool that is. I’m loving it. I highly recommend it for any scholars out there, or even just folks who like to take notes online about different websites. How the hell did I do any work of consequence in my undergraduate days without tools like this? How the hell did we do it without Google?

Interactive Narratives to Compare With

The one thing that’s been kind of cool, though, is that I’ve also been told where to find the online narrative collection by Richard Hanley. This is the kind of thing that I’ll be putting together, all about Mount Rushmore.

And the really cool thing is that after taking a look at some of the stuff that’s gotten done I really think that this can end up pretty cool. I’ve been finding some great quotes that will work well in crossfades. I’m thinking that I might want the entry to be very patriotic looking, showing the grandeur of Mt R, and then showing closeups of each of the Presidents on the Mount, and run their historic quotes about how they want to annhilate Native Americans. Kind of puts it all into perspective.

Oh, and the cool thing that I found out today in my research (well, cool as in ‘wow that’s an interesting tidbit’, because it’s actually really so very -not- cool in reality) is that the legal case of the Lakota claims on the Black Hills is the longest continually running legal dispute in the US history. It’s still ongoing, which is something I did not know.

Lots of opportunity for education here. I’m actually pretty partial to the Native American cause. I’m going to be pretty careful with my research, though, because a lot of the information which is out there on the net doesn’t seem to be citing and sources, and there’s minor disagreements about different aspects of things. If I present a biased story, that’s fine so long as I keep it factual and cite my sources.

Be the change? Start the discussion.

Bruce Schneier over at Wired had an article about our data shadow which was posted 5.15.08 in which he describes a) that we create a shadow of data for ourselves as individuals, b) that while we’re cognizant of some of the places where this happens in our lives (bank statements, driving records, etc) there are others which might not be as apparent to us (ATM records, EZPass records, grocery loyalty card programs, etc), and c) we need to start considering Data Privacy laws.

I heartily agree with the need to craft these laws, but I’m thinking a bit higher up on the food chain. Everyone says how several of the Bill of Rights amendments no longer seem entirely relevant, so I’m thinking that We the People need to actually organize and craft one or more Constitutional Amendments which can become the Digital Bill of Rights. And not entrust it to mere federal law, but push it through the Constitutional Amendment ratification process so that it becomes enshrined as the highest law of the country, beyond the reach of the federal government itself, beyond the reach of states tinkering. Besides, new Constitutional Amendments give the Supreme Court something new to chew on for the next century or so.

In all seriousness, technology certainly has changed, and we need to be able to work within the new changes that are coming. If we don’t start thinking about it for ourselves as individual citizens with vested interest in controlling the uses and abuses of our personal data, then we leave it at the mercy of the sitting government… and no sitting government ever votes to weaken its own power. We need to start this discussion in earnest, because we’re already seeing how abuses of personal data are causing problems.(Identity theft anyone? Spamming email lists?)

More than Piracy, more than Privacy, it’s about Rights.

This isn’t just about insuring privacy, although it can certainly address that too. It needs to be about actually setting definitions of Rights. The internet has opened many different arenas where traditional legal rights and notions of property do not function in the same mode that they have, or they are being bent or broadened in ways that don’t seem to favor the individual citizen, but instead place power in the hands of the corporations and the government because those are the groups who have the cash to retain the better lawyers or the power to enforce their own hegemony.

The Bill of Digital Rights will need to actually settle some questions with definitions. Who owns the data shadow of a person, for instance? Should it be legally mandated that personal data cannot be collected, manipulated, traded, or sold without direct permission of the person being collected from? And there should be a law which removes any sort of mandatory opt-ins. In other words, you shouldn’t be forced to “optionally” allow data collection or release of personal data in order to receive a good or service. The grocery loyalty cards, for example, must be available to everyone, even those who do not consent to the grocery store collecting information on the purchasing habits of the person using it.

I don’t know what will stand up to the long term consideration and what will be taken out, but I definitely think we need to start having this discussion. After all, the process to ratify a Constitutional Amendment is long and deliberate. If we’re going to hold on to anything, we’d better start soon.

The Omnivore’s 100

How the Omnivore’s 100 Works:
1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional: Post a comment at Very Good Taste, linking to your results.

My Omnivore’s Hundred:
1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart

16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans

25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper (I *was* in a fraternity.)
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava

30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar

37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects

43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal

56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbread (Not by themselves I haven’t, but I do like Haggis and they’re an ingredient there.)
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
(Haggis is delicious. Absolutely delicious. Since I’ve eaten Haggis, does that mean Sweetbreads also counts?)
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche (ouzo) or absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
(aka “grits italiano”)
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake