Catch a live podcast about resilient mesh networks in Brooklyn

Come catch a live recording of Library Bytegeist at a public radio event in Brooklyn! We will be talking about the community-run mesh wi-fi network they have built in Gowanus to remain resilient in the case of future disasters, either natural or man-made.

You can RSVP at the BRIC event page.

WHEN

Friday, May 5, 9:00 – 9:30 pm

WHERE

Gallery at BRIC House

647 Fulton Street (Enter on Rockwell Place)

Brooklyn, NY 11217

WHO

Molly Schwartz, Fellow at the Metropolitan New York Library Council, host and producer of Library Bytegeist

Raul Enriquez, Technology Coordinator & Training Specialist, New America / Resilient Communities

Mario Peart, Digital Steward with the Gowanus Fifth Avenue Committee (FAC)

This recording will be part of the Public Access / Open Networks exhibit. This exhibition will present both key and lesser-known figures who worked in the Public Access arena, as well as contemporary artists experimenting with the democratic potential of new media platforms on the Internet. The show highlights the historical relationships between community-produced media and political action, documenting the potential for social change and creative reimagining through this technology.

RESILIENT NETWORKS NYC

Resilient Networks NYC is a multi­stakeholder partnership building local wireless networks in six Superstorm Sandy­impacted neighborhoods. In each neighborhood, New America’s Resilient Communities Program is partnering with a local community organization on the front lines of climate adaptation and economic resilience. With our support, our partners are training local residents as “Digital Stewards” to conduct outreach, collaborate with local businesses and leaders, and design, install, and maintain resilient public WiFi systems.

When telecommunications systems are functioning normally, these public WiFi networks will provide access to the internet. Because commercial networks often fail in emergencies, however, the networks also feature redundant connections, local hosting, and backup power systems. This design will allow the networks to function as response and resilience organizing platforms in emergencies, enabling community ­based organizations to communicate with each other, with local residents, and with first responders, even when other systems fail.

Hunts_Point
A photo of the digital stewards training in Hunts Point

Using OpenRefine to Reconcile Name Entities

BY KAREN H.

OpenRefine is a well-loved tool among information professionals for cleaning “messy” data, mostly tabular data (Excel, CSV, TSV), but also record data in serializations like XML. Do you have values in an Excel spreadsheet with unwanted whitespace? Or multiple spellings for the same term? Then OpenRefine might be just the tool for you. OpenRefine is flexible enough to handle script-writing or the writing of regular expressions to batch alter values any way you choose. And scripting can be used for other purposes, too, including calling outside APIs to align new data with what you have.

Continue reading “Using OpenRefine to Reconcile Name Entities”

Using Beautiful Soup with Python for Webscraping

BY KAREN H.

Topic(s):

  • Introduction to the process of webscraping, using Python and Beautiful Soup

Audience:

  • People who want to understand the process for extracting data from web pages, especially in situations when direct access to the backend database might not be possible;
  • People who program in Python and want to know more about the HTML parser Beautiful Soup;
  • Digital humanists, scientists, infographic designers, etc..

Continue reading “Using Beautiful Soup with Python for Webscraping”

Conference Redux: Molly went to INST-INT in New Orleans

Calling all in need of some Monday inspiration! Last week I attended the INST-INT  in New Orleans from January 22 – 24. About 300 artists, designers, activists, and engineers (plus a couple librarians, woot woot!) gathered in an intimate jazz market for two days of talks and demonstrations about the Art of Interactivity, interspersed with evening musical programs and design demos at venues around New Orleans. The scale, complexity, and creativity of the work on display was truly mind-blowing, ranging from musical swings in city centers to self-sustaining waterpods to folded paper structures that turn into a planetarium with the help of your smartphone’s flashlight. Some of the projects were serious, others playful, some massive, others tiny, some machine-based, others decidedly non-digital.

One of the major conference takeaways for me was how the essence of interaction is collaborative, and therefore it often takes large teams to pull off any one of these installations. As Rafael Lozano-Hemmer emphasized in his presentation, too often interactive media art is categorized as visual arts, whereas in truth it is closer to film: it is both time-based and event-based. Therefore each project should include a list of credits, like a film does, attributing credit to all of the people whose effort it took to create it.

Since these projects are better shown than told, I’ve included a list of videos about some of my favorites in this blog post for you to explore:

Melissa Mongiat and Mouna Andraos presented on the work they did with their Daily Tous Les Jours studio to built a collective musical instrument using swings in multiple cities:

Dr. Rebecca Fiebrink showed us how to use Wekinator to create musical synethesis:

Mary Mattingly presented about her work on a self-sustaining Waterpod in New York City:

Waterpod Project from Mary Mattingly on Vimeo.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer gave an inspiring talk about the broader meanings of interactive media art and showed us many of the installations that his prolific studio has worked on over the past two years, including this one, “Call on Water,” which writes words from the poems of Mexican writer Octavio Paz in mid-air with plumes of air from a water basin:

L05, Wesley Taylor, and ill Weaver of the Detroit-based art collective Complex Movements shared their project, Beware of the Dandelions:

Delaney Martin and Jay Pennington shared the work they did to create a Music Box Roving Village in New Orleans and elsewhere:

New Orleans Airlift – Music Box Roving Village: City Park 2015 from New Orleans Airlift on Vimeo.

Refik Anadol showed walked us through his journey to the work he does today, including this public art installation 350 Mission Building in City of San Francisco:

Virtual Depictions: San Francisco / Public Art Project from Refik Anadol on Vimeo.

Kelli Anderson rounded off the amazing three days with a presentation of the creative work she’s done with paper as an interactive medium, including engineering paper into a working camera:

There were also many amazing five-minute “show and tell” presentations. Here are a couple of the projects presented:

Diffusion Choir by Hypersonic, Sosolimited, and Plebian Design:

DRYADS from Dave and Gabe (with digital fabrication help from Gamma NYC):

I hope you enjoy these videos as much as I do. Until next time,

Molly

p.s. I also gave a quick lightening talk about my project at METRO, calling for collaborators and ideas (which actually worked, thanks for everyone at INST-INT who approached me!).

Catch up on the latest episodes of Library Bytegeist! 🎧

You can stay updated with monthly audio stories from the libraries, archives, and museums of New York City by following our podcast on SoundCloud, iTunes, or Stitcher. Here are summaries of our last three episodes, produced and hosted by Molly Schwartz as part of her METRO fellowship project:

Episode: #4 Talking Pop-up Media Migration with the XFR Collective’s Rachel Mattson

In this episode, Molly talks with Dr. Rachel Mattson about her work as a member of the XFR Collective, an all-volunteer group of over 14 members, does the work that it does, partnering with artists, activists, individuals, and groups to preserving at-risk audiovisual media – especially unseen, unheard, or marginalized works, like this gay wedding celebration – by providing low-cost digitization services. Please read below for more information about the XFR Collective and the tools we used to produce this podcast.

Here is a link to a rough transcript of the episode: docs.google.com/document/d/1Yf3iD…/edit?usp=sharing

Related Articles and Links

Continue reading “Catch up on the latest episodes of Library Bytegeist! 🎧”

Toward a Mindful Media Studio 📻

(hei there this is molly here)

In this post I’ll give you a little overview of my fellowship project designing a media studio at METRO’s new offices on 599 11th Avenue over the next nine months, as well as some background about my inspiration and motivation for this work. In the spirit of the studio, I am producing a podcast with audio stories from across the libraries and archives of New York City. Tune into Library Bytegeist and look out for updates here as studio construction continues:

My Fellowship Project: Designing a Media Studio

The purpose of the studio will be to provide a welcoming and inclusive space that is equipped with different kinds of media, old and new and in-between, analog and digital and virtual. This includes digital forensics equipment, a graphics station, and media for the production of audio, video, and web content. In an open loft space with huge windows overlooking the Hudson River on one side and the bustling streets of Hell’s Kitchen on the other, METRO’s Media Studio will be a physical space where the library, archive, and museum professionals from across METRO’s 250+ member organizations can gather, experiment, and create with tools we use to tell our stories and our histories in an increasingly media-saturated world.  

As Erik Boekesteijn from the innovative Doklab at the Delft Public Library in the Netherlands put it, “librarians of today are the media guides of tomorrow.” With the proliferation of multimedia creation becoming ever-more accessible and diverse, librarians are faced with the task of becoming fluent users of and able guides to digital, analog, and virtual media that are constantly changing and evolving. Libraries and archives have always brought of level of institutionalized structure and mindful intention to the collection, organization, preservation, and access to the different media that tell our stories and document our pasts, and the studio will be a space to help them do so in the age of smartphones, virtual reality, and whatever comes next.

Analog ←→  Digital: it’s a spectrum

Although it might not seem obvious from my intention to design a tech-filled studio, my fellowship project was inspired by one reverse pitch in particular, submitted by the Art Resources Transfer. The title of this pitch was “Creating access through print collections: the role of books and print literacy today.” The pitch was calling for new ways to share the Art Resources Transfer’s amazing print collections with a public that seems increasingly occupied with new digital media. Even as excited as I get about the possibilities of new technologies, especially as they could be applied in the cultural sector (virtual reality trips to the museums of the past! open access to scanned books!), I came to library work due to my longtime love of books and print literature. Research in psychology and cognitive science has only come to confirm something that I have known for a long from my own experience: reading print literature does something to the brain that increases focus, attention, absorption, and relaxation in beneficial ways. That is part of why I like it so much. But similar brain states, characterized by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi as a state of flow, can also be activated by the participation in a wide range of activities, such as playing chess, going jogging, working on a puzzle, playing a musical instrument, or doing yoga. As Csikszentmihalyi outlines in his book “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience,” this state of flow, when we lose our sense of self and feel deep senses of exhilaration and enjoyment in our human experience, is reached through experiences rather than through the elusive satisfaction of new material possessions.1 Which is why, in the design of our media studio, I would like to focus less on the characteristics of the cool new media that we buy and more on the types of experiences we create when we use the equipment in the studio to create media that tell the stories of the libraries, archives, and museums of New York City and Westchester County.

I was struck by the ways that discourses around media and technology oftentimes characterize the formats that we use to communicate information as being new or old, advanced or obsolete, an inevitable one-way street of technological process in which different types of media are seen as competitors vying for our attention. In such a zero-sum paradigm, the increasing popularity of video production is inherently threatening to print literature and the internet threatens the existence of libraries. While I think that time has proven such predictions to be mostly alarmist and unfounded, they hold powerful sway over how we view media in ways that I think limit the ways that experiment within and among different types of media. Let’s question and blur some of these false dichotomies by turning away from looking at media as pieces of technological equipment, and toward looking at media as human experiences.

Mindful Media + Intermediation

It is interesting to think about what we are actually seeking when we use media: are we discovering knowledge, forging human connections, understanding our past, escaping into an alternative reality? Thinking about media usage as an experience let’s us bring some awareness to how we use in our professional and personal lives, in a similar way that mindfulness practices help us bring awareness to our feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. This could open up new possibilities for more intentional, and potentially creative, usages of media. Therefore I had the idea: what if, instead of conceiving of our studio space as a new media lab, we conceive of it as a mindful media studio? Such a distinction gets more at the philosophy behind building a studio than what the space looks like in practice. Both types of spaces would probably have computers, cameras, printers, recorders, etc. But by focusing on the ultimate usage of the media, we can design a space that is more iterative, low-cost, low-stakes, high-impact, and flexible, such as our Executive Director Nate Hill described in his blog post. We want to create a space that allows for the creative reuse and appropriation of materials in a way that works for our member institutions as the technologies inevitably change over time.

To give an example of the type of I would like to turn to something that has been both a popular internet phenomenon and forms the subject of my research as a PhD student: ASMR videos.

ASMR stands for “autonomous sensory meridian response” and is used to describe a type of video that triggers relaxing tingles for the viewer through the use of aural and visual stimuli. ASMR videos have become incredibly popular on YouTube, the most watched ones garnering upwards of 2 million views. Here is an example of what one looks like (I strongly suggest putting on your headphones):

To come back to the question of how we can creatively think about the role of printed books and how we engage with them in an era when libraries are increasingly focused on digital technologies, these types of ASMR videos are extremely interesting. These are examples of print literature being used within videos purely for the relaxing effect of their materiality as human hands tap on the covers, flip the pages, and trace the words. Many ASMR videos feature other forms of media, things like keyboards, smartphones, and computer screens, but ASMR creators use them as purely material objects rather than as information-carrying materials. It is a classic example of remediation, in which a medium uses the format of other medium as its content, like the use of videos, pictures, and words as the content of much of the material found on the web, or the ornate decorated letters in medieval texts, or the icons on your computer shaped like paper files and floppy disks. Media scholars Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin as describe the way that old and new media are constantly blurring and interacting with each other, especially as digital media continues to disrupt the landscape:

Older electronic and print media are seeking to reaffirm their status within our culture as digital media challenge that status. Both new and old media are invoking the twin logics of immediacy and hypermediacy in their efforts to remake themselves and each other.2

The Mindful Media Studio will ideally be a playground for this kind of thinking and experimentation. Libraries, archives, and museums are unique in that they have rich stores of diverse materials that have been collected, organized, and preserved over decades. The possibilities for what we could do when we rethink, blend, and remix these materials across genres and sensory experiences is extremely exciting and will hopefully lead us to use new technologies as tools for mindfully engaging with our cultural histories.

Thanks for reading, listening, and everything you do,

Molly


  1. Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: Harper and Row.
  2. Bolter, Jay David and Grusin, Richard (1998). Remediation: Understanding New Media. The MIT Press. 5.

Hello from the METRO Fellows!

Hello! Welcome to the first post on our METRO Fellows blog. This is a place where we will share our thoughts, activities, and experiments over the course of our 9 months as Fellows at the Metropolitan New York Library Council.  The following posts will be a mixture of text, audio, and video stories documenting our experiences as we undertake three different projects in collaboration with METRO and its member institutions.

Continue reading “Hello from the METRO Fellows!”

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