All posts for Tag: interactive

Recap: ideaBOOST Master-Class and Networking Event

On Thursday, ideaBOOST held its Master Class and Networking Event at the Arts & Letters Club on Elm Street in Toronto, and featured expert insights from leading entrepreneurs in the technology space.

The interview-based Master Class included input from Sunil Sharma, Managing Director of STEM 7 Capital; Doug Cooper, Program Director for the Communitech Hyperdrive Accelerator; and Hussein Fazal, the co-founder of AdParlor (sold to Adknowledge in 2011).

Participants from the current Spring 2013 ideaBOOST Cohort and Affiliate Program were invited to attend for informal networking and the featured Master Class.

Here are some of the tips Sharma, Cooper and Fazal had for emerging startups:

“Really leveraging and accessing the mentor network – that’s important. I think the most valuable part of being in any program is the mentor network,” Sharma said. “It takes a lot of personal initiative to contact, to research the mentors, research their networks and be typically un-Canadian in their strategy of reaching out.”

According to Cooper, accountability is crucial.

“Startups need to make some real objectives that aren’t just vanity metrics like site visits, ad impressions. If you’re just trying to engage people, these metrics mean almost nothing. The key is being disciplined enough to capture a metric that isn’t easy to capture.”

“You have to keep talking to people, emailing — just keep hustling,” Fazal said. “Startups shouldn’t be afraid of being persistent and hearing ‘no’.”

See full photo coverage from the July 24 event here.

Be sure to stay tuned for updates on this exciting group of companies, as well as the ideaBOOST program.

Don’t Miss it: nextMEDIA and the Digi Awards!

As the end of November approaches we are reminded that nextMEDIA and the Digi Awards are around the corner!  We will be there and to make sure that you are able to attend the crew at nextMEDIA has decided to offer a discount for all <STABLETALK> Readers! This is one of the many perks for following us online!

nextMEDIA 2011 is poised to be the most anticipated yet!  Evolve your business alongside leading executives from advertising, publishing, media and technology for two days of strategy, networking and insights at Canada’s most influential media conference.

Some of this year’s participants include:

Also, don’t miss The Branded Entertainment keynote:

The Entertainment Marketplace: Where Buyers Meet Sellers…Yet The Price Is High

Join Robert Friedman on an informative keynote session and behind-the-scenes look at @radical.media’s global company success with well-known next generation entertainment properties. Hear from him how the development and distribution of content across multiple platforms is evolving. @radical.media has created some of the world’s most innovative content; developing, producing and distributing content for television, feature films, commercials, music programming, digital content and design including projects such as the critically acclaimed “Iconoclasts” for Sundance Channel, Emmy®-winning “10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed America” for the History Channel, “Oprah Presents Masterclass” for OWN, HBO’s “Paradise Lost”, a wide array of MTV music projects including “Lady Gaga: Inside the Outside”, “Britney: For the Record”, the Award-winning digital experience “The Wilderness Downtown” for Google Creative Lab and Arcade Fire and the the Grammy-nominated digital project “The Johnny Cash Project” with Chris Milk.


After nextMEDIA be sure to attend the Digi Awards!

We are very proud of our alumni for making it on the Digi List for this year’s Digi Awards!

Best of luck to all of you, we will be there cheering you on!

Digi Awards details…

Date: December 6 2011 at 7:00pm
Location: The Carlu
Tickets: https://registration.achillesmedia.com/delegate_registration/list_products?event_id=37 (this comes with your nextMEDIA pass)

As always, I will be live-tweeting from these two events as well as writing a wrap-up <STABLETALK> post so stay tuned!

You have to see it: Tentacle 1.0 at the MoMA!

 

You may remember a couple months ago we showed Tentacle 1.0 at Doors Open Toronto, now Tentacle 1.0 is on display again! Tentacle 1.0 is on display at the Museum of Modern Art as part of Talk to Me: Design and the Communication Between People and Objects. The exhibition takes place from July 24 to November 7, 2011.  Not only is Tentacle 1.0 beautiful but it’s extremely engaging and addictive, I encourage you all to see it if you are in the area.


Transmission Global Summit, 2011

 

For more details about this exhibit please visit: http://moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2011/talktome/home.html

Credits

 

Reading Between the Lines

From early alphabetic scrawls on papyrus and tree bark 5,000 years ago, to Retina Displays and multimedia interactivity; the book has certainly had an interesting history.

Last summer, Amazon reached a memorable tipping point for their online store, selling 143 Kindle-compatible ebooks for every 100 hardcover titles they shipped. People have been predicting this massive shift from analog to digital reading for at least forty years, but that’s not to say that there haven’t been fumbles (however innovative) along the way. The basic morphology of the Kindle draws significant inspiration from Alan Kay’s DoD-funded 1968 Dynabook concept; and even Kay says we haven’t arrived at a desirable enough design yet, from a software perspective. There are plenty of interesting pieces tracing the evolution of the Dynabook (in concept and technology) into the iAge; including a PhD thesis on technocultural transformations by John Maxwell, and a piece on Tom’s Hardware by Wolfgang Gruener.

At the end of the day, with OLPC’s, iPads, and Kindles taking over the world; it’s easy to see the PMP or eReader device itself as the tool enabling new directions and visions for reading. But if you furrow that brow of yours and peer between the lines, you’ll quickly find whole other systems at work. Support software and digital pre-press platforms are playing a huge part in shaping the future of books, and many of these technological toolkits are being written on-the-fly.

Let’s start this examination of the tools supporting innovation in reading by looking at the shiniest of resulting products.

Al Gore’s Our Choice from Push Pop Press on Vimeo.

Last week saw the launch of a digital adaptation of Al Gore’s most recent climate change opus, Our Choice. While the book was first put to print in 2009, this new iOS adaptation represents an overhaul of many aspects of its form and content, while preserving much of the original text intact. Not surprisingly, for a showcase of such quality and bravado, the AppBook (Bapp? Aook? We could really use a snappy neologism, here) was designed by Push Pop Press, a new company comprised of expats from Cupertino. Mike Matas, who has had the distinct pleasure of living the hired-by-Apple-at-age-19 dream, got his feet wet as an interface designer for Delicious Monster. His collaborator, Kimon Tsinteris, was responsible for interface elements within the iPhone’s Maps app. Their penchants for design and slick multimedia integration are well represented in Our Choice; whether you’re blowing into an iPad’s microphone to learn about how wind power provides base load while charging batteries (the folks at Smule must be thrilled to see the beginnings of a gust-interface API taking hold), or zooming your finger around the continental US in some of the coolest interactive infographics I’ve ever seen.

Insert obligatory joke about Gore's books blowing.... HERE.

Tim Flannery, ecologist and author, also has a new ebook out. Here on Earth offers many of the same forms of content interaction as Our Choice; in a slightly less futuristically minimal presentation, at twice the price. David Eagleman, neuroscientist wunderkind, has converted three of his most recent books into iOS-ready titles featuring video read-along segments and interactive visual elements. If you’re less interested in Why The Net Matters (a great however brief read, one of the issues that the full-length fully-interactive Our Choice tackles) and more into post-modern noir, check out Nick Cave’s The Death of Bunny Munro; the ebook seamlessly integrates the original text into a well-played audiobook version voiced by Mr. Bad Seed himself.

A Kickstarter project to bring Matthew Modine’s Full Metal Jacket Diary to interactive platforms is also looking very exciting – I just wish someone at Taschen would tackle an adaptation of the recently reprinted Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon: The Greatest Movie Never Made.

While these products all share innovations and interfaces in common, each also offers a slightly different approach to the format; an evolutionary offshoot, if you will. Many of the design patterns introduced by paperbacks and mass-produced hardcovers are still intact and recognizable, but new patterns and modes of interaction are being introduced all the time. What’s notable about how this is taking place, I think, is how these new patterns and means of production are being introduced by independent ebook developers and big-business tool smiths alike.

Demo of navigation from Enhanced Editions on Vimeo.

While the works I introduced above have all been produced by small creative teams, most of those teams are actually in the business of toolkit creation, rather than one-off content adaptation. Push Pop Press, for all of its apparently exclusive affiliation with Al Gore, is dedicated to producing a platform for authors and publishers, not interactive experiences about climate change. Enhanced Editions, the company that produced one of Eagleman’s books (the delightful SUM: Forty Tales from the Afterlife) as well as Nick Cave’s, is also in the business of rolling out a platform for streamlining the adaptation of books into interactive experiences. With Barack Obama, David Suzuki, and Stephen King in their roster of clients; it’s safe to say they’re off to a good start. Arcade Sunshine Media and PopLeaf, designers of Eagleman’s Net and Flannery’s Earth, have structured their businesses similarly. There isn’t much transparency around their process, but these firms seem to represent the thriving cottage industry of independent tool designing storytellers quite effectively.

But that’s only one segment of the ebook economy… and debatably, it’s the sunnier territory. Adobe Systems, overlords of the digital content production landscape, has got its eyes on the ebook and digital magazine space as well, and the scale of their intended operation combined with the industry status of their tools has resulted in a view on their process with a slightly higher pixel-per-inch count.

They make it look so easy!

With the release of Creative Suite 5.5 this week, Adobe has made a significant move into the digital content adaptation space. Building on what the company brought to market in the Creative Suite 5 version of InDesign, these new software applications are designed to unify the market around common platforms and compatibility matrices, while opening up some opportunities for experimentation to those who might be a bit nervous hiring ex-Apple interface engineers to re-imagine the future. Unfortunately, if you’re in the business of taking that interactive adaptation and selling it as a magazine, the book’s cosmopolitan cousin who doesn’t visit the farmhouse anymore, you’re in for a bit of a world of hurt. Elliot Jay Stocks, a designer from Bristol, recently broke down all of the costs involved in getting a digital magazine on to the virtual racks of Apple’s stores using Adobe’s infrastructure, and it’s not pretty – creators and publishers, regardless of their size, are looking at a minimum $10,000 payment to Adobe just to get the wheels in motion. Once you actually start selling subscriptions, Adobe has decided on rate of about $0.30 per issue sold and electronically delivered; as if Apple’s allegedly out-of-this-world 30% take wasn’t high enough already. If you work on Wired magazine, don’t worry… Adobe is picking up the tab for May 2011′s issue.

So... we're going to stick with that "Build Once / Deploy Everywhere" mantra?

But does all this spell the end of the ebook as we know it? WikiBooks is pushing out almost 2,400 open-content textbooks as of this morning; and while they do skimp on the engaging interactivity front, they’re available as DRM-free PDF’s. Blurb, one of the web’s largest houses of self-publication, released an app this week that provides users with tools to assemble their own photo and storybooks on the go. And while it may seem that slick and zoomy-pinchy app books are clearly the way forward into the future, a quick comparative scan of ebook formats on Wikipedia indicates a healthy and resilient diversity.

Perhaps in spite of all the power-plays taking place in the context of tools for enabling new ebook formats and experiences, it’s important to take a step back and remind ourselves to concentrate on the stories themselves. What scroll or hand-crafted book from the annals of history would you most like to see on an iDevice this year?* What kinds of stories do these new formats and production processes enable?

Trevor Haldenby is an interactive producer and photographer living in Toronto. He has attended Wilfrid Laurier University, Rhode Island School of Design, CFC Media Lab, and is presently completing a Master’s of Design in Strategic Foresight & Innovation at OCAD University.

* I welcome the “conspiracy theorist!” catcalls, and am eagerly envisioning a full-on cross-contextual interactive adaptation of the Voynich Manuscript, a famed 15th century ciphertext (or nude gardening guide) that has stumped codebreakers for more than 600 years.

Frontline Documentary

On January 12th 2010, violent earthquakes ripped through the earth’s crust 13 kilometres beneath southern Haiti. Hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives, and millions more were displaced from their homes. Massive collapses took place across health care, transportation, and communications infrastructure systems. Within hours, this world ripped apart was descended upon by a sea of visitors from across the globe. Supplies and rescue personnel from the Dominican Republic arrived in Haiti alongside their equivalents from Iceland, China, Qatar, and Canada. One of the groups that arrived in Port-au-Prince on January 15th was made up of members of the Red Cross Field Assessment and Coordination Team (FACT).

The members of the Red Cross FACT Team had come to Haiti to manage and oversee logistics around the international disaster recovery. But they also brought with them a team of photographers and filmmakers, as well as a web content producer. The first group was intended to produce a three-part documentary for TVO on the challenges FACT faced in stabilizing the situation, and the second unit was dedicated to capturing additional individual and social stories for a set of interactive segments.

The documentary team attached to the FACT was capturing the chaos and upturned humanity of Haiti in the weeks following the earthquake for a project called Inside Disaster: Haiti – a densely populated and excellently designed multimedia information resource on the Haiti earthquake, and ongoing recovery efforts. Inside Disaster provides clean and understandable data on the history of humanitarian aid; media assets presenting objective views of the disaster; and interactive mini-documentaries exploring the experiences of survivors, journalists, and NGO workers.

This week, I had the opportunity to sit down with Inside Disaster’s Web Field Producer, Nicolas Jolliet. We discussed his involvement in the project, and his understanding of the relationship between innovation and the evolving media landscape.

Presently, Nico is spending his spare hours pioneering the integration of numerous robotic and sensing technologies into a tool he has (in collaboration with whole communities of independent filmmakers) been dreaming of for years. After relocating to a nearby park, he demonstrated his newest creation to me: a helicopter-mounted DSLR camera rig capable of lifting several kilograms of equipment to altitudes of thousands of feet. While the rotors spin too noisily to let him track the birds migrating through Toronto this time of year, his helicopter (I suppose it’s technically a hexicopter) will be an invaluable tool for documentary production. The tool provides high quality HD footage (check out a tropical demo video on YouTube) along GPS-routed paths, at a meaningfully human scale that has previously been difficult to negotiate in the field – higher than a dolly or third-story window, and lower than a helicopter. It’s easy to find more adaptations of technological tools for the frontlines of filmmaking in a blog post Nico published for Inside Disaster, before the earthquake in Haiti even determined the project’s setting.

I shot this video of Nico testing out his hexicopter in a Toronto park.

Many new documentary filmmaking technologies, from super-light camera rigs to DIY cranes and follow-focus units, have emerged out of lead-user communities. Eric von Hippel coined that term in 1986 in reference to groups of hobbyists doing a better job designing products than product designers. Some of the earliest innovations in 35mm adapters for HD camcorders came out of indie filmmaker messageboards and fora. Companies like Redrock and Zacuto quickly realized that a product category had emerged, and that they could make quite a bit of money selling premium versions of what the cutting-edge filmmakers had identified as offering a significant competitive advantage. The DSLR revolution in independent filmmaking is presently closing the loop – offering the look-and-feel of 35mm cinema at a relatively low price, with minimal hassle (depending on your preference for P mode over M). Nico built a mind-blowing customized collapsible crane and dolly system for a documentary he shot in the Amazon a few years ago, but apparently you can already buy one that’s lighter (if not on your wallet) from one of the big DSLR rig manufacturers. There’s a great interactive slideshow on the Inside Disaster site that explores some technology specifically adapted for disaster recovery, as well.

One of the most interesting things I learned about Inside Disaster from Nico was how the crew challenged themselves to compress documentary workflows into live journalistic timelines. To produce content for the Inside Disaster website and social media channels, Nico was working 24-hour shifts of concept development, travel, filming, editing, writing, compression, blogging, and transmission. While documentaries used to be associated with months or years of incubation prior to release, new expectations in an age of always-on media have condensed the equipment and responsibilities of entire film crews down into the hands (and backpacks) of a single operator. Nico claims that backgrounds in languages, musical performance and production, photography, writing, and filmmaking helped land him the job as Field Producer.

In a recent piece for Point of View magazine, Katie McKenna, the producer of Inside Disaster, noted that the project launched in two phases – one entirely dedicated to logistics and pre-positioning within social media networks, and another dedicated to storytelling from teams in Haiti with a long tail made up of resequenced content for branching online interactive experiences. But while open-sourcing the marketing and distribution is one way to embrace emerging toolkits in documentary production, open-sourcing the production and storytelling is something altogether different.

In the world of ethnographic research, everything exists within a cultural context. In isolated or marginalized communities, just getting a realistic research understanding of the landscape in which cultural values are situated can be a difficult task. Photovoice, a participatory research method pioneered in the late 1990’s by Caroline Wang and Mary Anne Burris, operates through the provision of cameras to these communities in hopes that the process of taking and analyzing pictures will stimulate the community to engage in critical dialogue around the opportunities and challenges it faces. In a way, photovoice represents an evolution of the documentary form in the direction of open-source ideation and production. Inside Disaster hails from a different lineage, but broke new ground in other ways relative to the social commons. All of the photos and footage that Nico transmitted each night from Haiti are available under Creative Commons licenses from Flickr and YouTube. While there is plenty of context from frontline journalism and documentary cinema surrounding the Inside Disaster content, open-source status is itself a significant challenge to the patterns and structures of mainstream media.

Discussing these topics in Nico’s Toronto studio, it was difficult not to let my mind wander to the feedback loops linking new innovations and the tools that support them. Guitars and mixing equipment undulate across one of Nico’s walls, and a fully realized robotics bay juts from the other. While inspecting his newest hexicopter prototype (comprised of firmware, structural elements, and sensors tweaked from upon the shoulders of thousands of collaborating un-experts online), I asked Nico how he would feel about me outing him as a closet engineer. He laughed, and told me that it’s not really about engineering, it’s about using new tools to reach new levels of quality in production values and accessibility. “It’s about creating a Steven Spielberg film from your backpack.”

This year, Inside Disaster provided the world with unmatched views of a human and natural disaster. In order to meld the traditions and techniques of journalism and storytelling with the realities of an always-on media landscape, Nicholas Jolliet and the production team of Inside Disaster brought new innovations not only to their vision for documentary storytelling, but also to the tools required to realize it.

Trevor Haldenby is a producer and photographer living in Toronto. He has attended Wilfrid Laurier University, Rhode Island School of Design, CFC Media Lab, and is presently completing a Master’s of Design in Strategic Foresight & Innovation at OCAD University.

Windows Home & International Edition

"Neighbourhood Watch" by Sean Yelland, courtesy of Ingram Gallery

Out My Window won the 2011 Interactive Emmy for Digital Non-Fiction, the inaugural IDFA DocLab Award for Digital Storytelling, and is available along with other HIGHRISE projects on the NFB’s site: http://highrise.nfb.ca/

For the past year I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with the National Film Board of Canada on the marketing of a project called Out My Window. Directed by Filmmaker in Residence Katerina Cizek, the project is one of the first to launch under the umbrella of the HIGHRISE program at the NFB; a multiyear and multimedia exploration into vertical living in the global suburbs. Out My Window is comprised of several 360º virtual environments representing highrise apartments in 13 cities around the world, and explores how people living in similar architectural structures around the world have customized their space in response to physical, psychological, social, and political factors.

Led by veteran production and coordination teams at the NFB, and brought to life through the creative input of dozens of artists and technicians around the world, Out My Window is a flagship production for the Film Board (an institution internationally renowned for its documentary content) and for Canada. The project advocates Canadian values around storytelling, equity, and diversity while meaningfully engaging with global audiences.

What drew me to the project was how it represented an attempt, sometimes explicit and sometimes emergent, to experiment using multiple systems at the foundation of documentary cinema, all at once: production technique, distribution strategy, and audience engagement. During the creation of Out My Window, all of these “tools” that support documentary projects were rounded up and brought in for analysis, and in many cases, reinvention.


The central interface of Out My Window seems elegantly simple: 360º panoramas of apartments in highrise towers all over the world, within which viewers can interact with objects, people, or views of the cities outside. Most of the people who I’ve shown the piece to over the last several months have remarked at how simple to understand and engaging the panoramic interface is. Asking those same people to explain how they might actually go about filming that 360º panoramic action shot tends to result in a bit of head-scratching.

The wizardry behind Out My Window’s innovative interface came out of a collaboration with the Dutch 360º camera company yellowBird (they also happen to have the best domain name ever: http://www.yellowbirdsdonthavewingsbuttheyflytomakeyouexperiencea3dreality.com). While Stanley Kubrick utilized an f/0.7 lens (allegedly machined for use in U2 spy-planes) to film his epic Barry Lyndon using natural light; and James Cameron developed the Pace/Cameron Fusion Camera System to bring the virtual world of Pandora to life in Avatar; it’s unusual for a group of filmmakers to reinvent the technology with which they capture their scene for a one-off project. But experiments in technology is a part of what Highrise is all about. Some of the content at the heart of Out My Window has already been adapted into a physical installation called StorySpace (in collaboration with the CFC Media Lab, of all institutions… I swear that I’m not part of any recursive linking conspiracy). The living panoramic visuals are probably the aspect of the project that most directly illustrates how its execution was dependent on innovative uses of new tools.

But for all of its benefits, access to new production technology certainly isn’t something to be assumed or taken for granted. Aside from the NFB’s working relationship with yellowBird, creative collaboration with freelance photographers from 13 cities was central to the production of Out My Window. Musicians that appear on the project’s soundtrack were also as much participants in the film’s creation as subjects for its cameras and microphones. I came to the project as a fan of digital storytelling interested in thinking about big issues, and I was welcomed aboard the team to help define strategies for engaging audiences new kinds of media experiences.

In the human research field, there has been an effort in play for decades to recast subjects as participants – it’s at the core of the evolution of modern research ethics. But to see the same shift occurring in documentary production – of subjects and audiences into active co-creators – is exciting. Last week, Kat Cizek posted to the Highrise blog about the interplay between technology and citizen journalism in the Los Angeles Riots of 1992.

A flurry of online activity emerged last month when Paleofuture posted part of a 1987 OMNI Magazine interview about the future of cinema with Roger Ebert. Most of the ruckus was due to the accuracy that seemed to be attached to some of Mr. Ebert’s forecasts about then-emerging revolutions in entertainment. One of his forecasts is particularly interesting, I think because it’s the one we most easily forget to remember as a huge leap – the sheer diversity of cinematic content we have access to, through the Internet (or even Netflix, Canadian content agreements be-damned). What Ebert was most excited about in terms of the digital cinema revolution ahead was how films would no longer only open in a handful of cities around the world. They would open everywhere, in homes and on the go, to roars of applause from Non-Angelinos everywhere. Out My Window is a decidedly international story, and it’s (appropriately) available, online and free-of-charge, to audiences equally scattered across the globe.

Of all the systematic “tools” that act as the foundations of documentary, the one presently under the most intense reinvention is actually the audience. Global audiences are great, but globally connected creative audiences are even better. Out My Window: PARTICIPATE, a side project to the original documentary, invites people from all over the world to contribute views and stories from out their windows to the experience; widening the net of contributors to the project, and ultimately resulting in a completely different viewer experience. Photos and stories submitted to the Flickr Participate pool are fed into an interface on the NFB’s site allowing visitors to interact with a tapestry of views on the world by window-framed image, keyword text, or landscape colour.

While Out My Window is highly innovative in terms of its experience and packaged form, its release also highlighted one of the key benefits of an adaptive online documentary: the option to respond to relevant “Black Swan Events” (an idea developed by Nassim Nicholas Taleb to reference high-impact events that are extremely difficult to predict with much accuracy) on the global stage. Participate has had a number of submissions inviting online viewers into the surging unrest in Alexandria earlier this year, as well as the resulting celebrations in Tahrir Square.

If you haven’t experienced Out My Window yet, I recommend you dim the lights, come to terms with your fear of heights, and get ready for a moving and deeply innovative interactive experience.

Thanks to Ingram Gallery for letting me show off some of Sean Yelland’s work (on display right now in a great show at 45 Avenue Road). Special thanks to Katerina Cizek, Gerry Flahive, and Sarah Arruda for entertaining my questions about cinema and/or the breadth of social media these past several months!

Trevor Haldenby is a producer and photographer living in Toronto. He has attended Wilfrid Laurier University, Rhode Island School of Design, CFC Media Lab, and is presently completing a Master’s of Design in Strategic Foresight & Innovation at OCAD University.

GestureTek is Looking for a Content Development Intern!

GestureTek, a leading developer of gesture based interactive systems, is recruiting a Content Development Intern. Participate in the creation of video games controlled by body movement, multi-touch kiosks for museum exhibits and large scale interactive installations for corporate showrooms.

Details!

Your Tasks
Gain familiarity with our complete product line including multi-touch tables, 3D camera systems and motion sensitive interactive projections.
Test content and complete reports on the experience.
Participate in the development of applications, writing code and editing image files.

Requirements

Recommendation from a teacher or previous employer.
Experience with HTML, Java, Action Script an asset. A willingness to learn is necessary.
Familiarity with graphic manipulation software including Photoshop and Illustrator.

Commitment
A minimum of 160 hours must be committed to.

Compensation
Full training on our products will be provided.
Recommendation letter from the president co-signed by the content development manager.
Receive priority placement for future contract opportunities.

Contact
Submit your resume or CV to scott.nihill@gesturetek.com. Demand will be high so don’t hesitate to apply.

Musea and Media

If you live in Toronto, you might be familiar with the renovations that have taken place over the last several years at the Royal Ontario Museum. A $270,000,000 budget resulted in an expansion opening up a total of nearly 388,000 square feet of redesigned exhibition space. If you’ve visited the Art Gallery of Ontario since they attempted a similar renovation, you might have learned that it cost them nearly the same amount of money to build a hall out of Douglas Fir as it cost the ROM to build one of awkward glass crystals. Inside both institutions LCD screens dot the halls, and in the AGO’s elevators, video installations by Vera Frenkel break up (or help hold) the silence between visitors to the espresso bar.

But in the shadow of these enormous structural renovations, dramatic changes to the interactive experiences on offer have been few and far between.

Museums are places that inspire a sense of grandeur in the context of human, and natural, history. But modern museums and art galleries are also institutions racing to keep pace with ever-accelerating advances in the uptake of digital technologies. The museum is a unique cultural artifact that acts as our interface with the deep past, with timeframes rarely considered in our day-to-day lives. But in relation to the ancient systems with which they interface, museums are actually rather young. The first museums in Europe began materializing only 500 years ago. The first public museum, the Louvre, opened a good 280 years after that. The “Golden Age” that museums have named in their honour, like the Mesozoic of the dinosaurs, is bordered by the late 1800’s and the First World War.

But the huge advances that have come in the last 50 years of digital technology, scientific practice, and design have created a strange situation for museums. As leading-edge innovation and research shifted to universities over the course of the 20th century, museums went from being centres of scientific research to institutions facing real existential dilemmata. If emerging technologies and scientific advances offered better insight into the past, museums would have to innovate and refresh exhibitions at a faster rate. And if audiences came to expect technology they’d experienced elsewhere within the museum’s walls, they would have to leap into a sprint in completely new fields of interpretation.

Museums have a number of unique relationships to digital media, some resulting from the their unique situation as a tool for interfacing with deep time; physically, informationally, and procedurally.

  • Museums have digital media artworks or artifacts in their collections.
  • Museums are among the institutions that will oversee the curation of the emergence of digital media.
  • Museums make broad use of digital media in the design of exhibitions and interpretive displays.

Some of the most interesting exhibitions or tools in museums and galleries today take a look at how these three unique ties can be brought together, or strummed in harmony. The traditional toolkits of museum operators, designers, and audiences are evolving.

The Google Art Project, launched earlier this year, allows web surfers to head inside 17 famous museums and galleries around the world using Street View technology. Over 1,000 high-resolution (some of them excruciatingly high resolution) artworks can be accessed through the service, and they are all accessible through either a catalogue or from a virtual wall of the museum in which they reside. The influence services like this will have on the museum industry in the medium term is difficult to forecast. Will a technology company wind up becoming a dominant museum designer, in an interesting flip of the curation of media history by cultural institutions? Will curators and technicians begin preparing works solely for online exhibition? Will artists respond to this shift in curatorial process by creating more and more gigapixel artifacts that live on an external hard drive rather than in the rafters of the few remaining Queen West lofts?

Within the stacked halls of MoMA in New York City, another interesting approach to revising the interactive experience of the museum has just been unveiled.

Microsoft Digital Art is a system designed to emulate the experience of painting on canvas, using a variety of different media. “Digital Art” (an interesting name to decide upon, given the recent trademark spats between MSFT and AAPL over generic terms like “App” and “Windows”) introduces to the high-end museum space an unusual and sometimes uncomfortable element: user-generated content. When I designed Painting The Myth: The Mystery of Tom Thomson with a group of collaborators at the CFC Media Lab in 2004, our efforts were concentrated on creating a new opportunity for museum and gallery audiences to engage with works in an institution’s collection. Painting The Myth told the story of a famous Canadian painter’s mysterious death, while enabling users young and old to paint through one of his works, as he would have painted it nearly one hundred years ago.

Microsoft Digital Art, by enabling visitors to paint their own digital masterpieces, affords museums the opportunity to acquire, curate, and utilize digital media in a single device.

With the three units MoMA has been loaned through the end of August, they could encourage the creation of tens of thousands of original artistic works. It is not clear from Microsoft’s mammoth Terms of Use whether or not painters retain ownership of their works, or if the cycle between creation and institutional acquisition in the art world is compressing similarly to the time between paradigm-shifting technological advancements.

Microsoft Digital Art’s presence at MoMA seems indicative of the museum’s commitment to curating the history and evolution of digital media. Talk To Me, an exhibition opening at MoMA this July, will focus on the nature of the dialogue between human beings and the objects we’ve created. The exhibition’s site is a mildly confusing and hyper-categorized list of projects and ideas, but here and there you can get some real insight into the ideas behind the show. The curators see Talk To Me as an exhibition about the relationship between form, function, and meaning. Dead languages of innovation and metrics of techno-cultural impact will be on display in the museum alongside early daguerrotypes (some with an eerie meta-meta feel to them). MoMA isn’t necessarily trying to create another Massive Change with Talk To Me, but the exhibition has potential.

But in displaying Microsoft Digital Art, MoMA is also making a few interesting statements about the role of large institutions in rolling out digital interfaces to their collections. I think it’s telling that the museum is using Digital Art to enable user-generated content creation rather than a more engaging experience with the works in its collection. This says to me that while they think digital toys are fun, and by all means at home in the Material Lab, they’re not necessarily going to replace the LCD screens and more traditional interpretive displays scattered around the rest of the museum. Although less trendy, those traditional displays are hot media; and although it employs cutting-edge technology and big brand power, the Microsoft Digital Art system is cool… that’s McLuhan cool, not auto-tune cool. Hot media are best used for dealing explicitly with the artifacts in the collection, whether in the form of a digital audio player with tour information or a plaque. Cool media are best rolled out as creative interventions, engaging experiences ultimately divorced from the collection of the institution itself. The Virtual Museum of Canada put out a call a few weeks ago for proposals dealing with augmented reality, geo-location, and various museum collections across the country… so perhaps there is still hope for exciting innovation in digital interpretation closer to home.

In a recent piece on Rhizome, Michelle Kasprzak kicked off a great conversation on cultural institutions in an age of intangible culture. Through an examination of recent attempts at creating virtual museums, Kasprzak interrogates the nature of the museum, and how recent online incarnations such as Adobe’s Museum of Digital Media have used the word itself as a signifier for the culturally authentic. Is this what happens when we start keeping all of our deep-time lenses in a single basket, so to speak? What are the consequences of concentrating our thinking about history and artifacts into one word – museum – which can then be tossed about and attached to cultural institutions of all sorts?

Standards are emerging around what makes a 21st century museum “good” – but it’s unlikely we’ll arrive at a monocultural agreement any time soon. The very activities that used to be tended to exclusively by museums and galleries (or by the very wealthy with a fondness for the esoteric or macabre) – historical and natural artifact collection, preservation, interpretation, contextualization – are rapidly being taken up by the masses. Wikipedia is a museum of sorts, but of ideas as much as physical artifacts. Flickr may not be the best gallery in the world, but it certainly has one of the largest collections. As Michelle Kasprzak noted in her article, the US Library of Congress welcomed billions of tweets into its digital archive last year… and they had the good sense to announce the decision via Twitter.

In my previous post, I advocated the idea that designing something new often requires a new toolkit. It’s been very interesting for me to consider museums in this context… as institutions responsible for preserving our relationship with deep time in an engaging, accessible and decidedly modern manner. Ever-accelerating evolutions in technology as well as the changing expectations of diverse audiences must make the decision-making process in any modern museum even more complicated.

Trevor Haldenby is a producer and photographer living in Toronto. He has attended Wilfrid Laurier University, Rhode Island School of Design, CFC Media Lab, and is presently completing a Master’s of Design in Strategic Foresight & Innovation at OCAD University.

CFC Media Lab Goes to SXSW!

The CFC Media Lab’s Operations Manager, Leonardo Dell’Anno, is heading to Austin, Texas for SXSW on Friday March 11, 2011. Leonardo will be on-site for the Interactive and Music portion of the festival.   The CFC Media Lab will be co-hosting the Maple Leaf Digital Lounge Party with Digital L.A. at Paradise on Sixth at 9:00pm on Saturday March 12th, 2011.   It will be a night of live music featuring “The Frail”, “The Color”, and “Pharmacy Golden State”.   If you are in Austin please come out to our party, RSVP online at: http://www.eventbrite.com/event/1378915373?ref=ebtn.

Also, Leonardo will be on hand with CFC Media Lab alumni, Romeo Candido, Davin Lengyel and James Milward, who will be competing in the prestigious, international SXSW Accelerator with their mobile app Herd.  They were selected from a pool of hundreds of submissions and are the sole Canadian competitor.

About HERD
HERD was conceived at the CFC Media Lab’s NBC Universal Multiplatform Matchmaking Program where co-founders Romeo Candido, Davin Lengyel and James Milward challenged themselves to find a new way to share music. HERD is a new mobile application and community platform that uses GPS technology making it possible for artists, brands and music lovers to connect through music and locations that matter to them.

Feel free to check out our Stabletalk Facebook page and Twitter feeds (@cfcmedialab) where Leonardo will be updating you during SXSW.

Stitch Media: CNMA 2010 Winner!

HUGE congratulations to Stitch Media for walking away with BEST IN CANADIAN CULTURE – INTERACTIVE for Redress Remix at the Canadian New Media Awards 2010 last night!

Don’t Miss it: nextMEDIA and the Digi Awards!

As the end of November approaches we are reminded that nextMEDIA and the Digi Awards are around the corner!  We will be there and to make sure that you are able to attend the crew at nextMEDIA has decided to offer a discount for all <STABLETALK> Readers! This is one of the many perks for […]

You have to see it: Tentacle 1.0 at the MoMA!

  You may remember a couple months ago we showed Tentacle 1.0 at Doors Open Toronto, now Tentacle 1.0 is on display again! Tentacle 1.0 is on display at the Museum of Modern Art as part of Talk to Me: Design and the Communication Between People and Objects. The exhibition takes place from July 24 […]

Reading Between the Lines

From early alphabetic scrawls on papyrus and tree bark 5,000 years ago, to Retina Displays and multimedia interactivity; the book has certainly had an interesting history. Last summer, Amazon reached a memorable tipping point for their online store, selling 143 Kindle-compatible ebooks for every 100 hardcover titles they shipped. People have been predicting this massive […]

Frontline Documentary

On January 12th 2010, violent earthquakes ripped through the earth’s crust 13 kilometres beneath southern Haiti. Hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives, and millions more were displaced from their homes. Massive collapses took place across health care, transportation, and communications infrastructure systems. Within hours, this world ripped apart was descended upon by a […]

Windows Home & International Edition

For the past year I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with the National Film Board of Canada on the marketing of a project called Out My Window. Directed by Filmmaker in Residence Katerina Cizek, the project is one of the first to launch under the umbrella of the HIGHRISE program at the NFB; a multiyear and multimedia exploration into vertical living in the global suburbs.

GestureTek is Looking for a Content Development Intern!

GestureTek, a leading developer of gesture based interactive systems, is recruiting a Content Development Intern. Participate in the creation of video games controlled by body movement, multi-touch kiosks for museum exhibits and large scale interactive installations for corporate showrooms. Details! Your Tasks Gain familiarity with our complete product line including multi-touch tables, 3D camera systems […]

Musea and Media

If you live in Toronto, you might be familiar with the renovations that have taken place over the last several years at the Royal Ontario Museum. A $270,000,000 budget resulted in an expansion opening up a total of nearly 388,000 square feet of redesigned exhibition space. If you’ve visited the Art Gallery of Ontario since […]

CFC Media Lab Goes to SXSW!

The CFC Media Lab’s Operations Manager, Leonardo Dell’Anno, is heading to Austin, Texas for SXSW on Friday March 11, 2011. Leonardo will be on-site for the Interactive and Music portion of the festival.   The CFC Media Lab will be co-hosting the Maple Leaf Digital Lounge Party with Digital L.A. at Paradise on Sixth at […]

Stitch Media: CNMA 2010 Winner!

HUGE congratulations to Stitch Media for walking away with BEST IN CANADIAN CULTURE – INTERACTIVE for Redress Remix at the Canadian New Media Awards 2010 last night!

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