Drinking about museums: the New York edition, June 15

Inspired by Koven J. Smith and Kathleen Tinworth's 'Drinking About Museums' in Denver and Ed Rodley's version in Boston, we're drinking about museums (and libraries and archives) in New York this Friday (June 15, 2012), and you're invited!  Since I'm only in NYC for a week and still get confused about whether I'm heading uptown or downtown at any given time, Neal Stimler @nealstimler has kindly taken care of organising things.  If you're interested in coming, let him know so you can grab his contact details and we know to keep an eye out for you.
We're heading to k2 Friday night at the Rubin Museum of Art, 150 W. 17 St., NYC 10011.  We'll be there from 6:30 until closing at 10pm.  The table is booked for Mia Ridge, and we should have enough room that you can just turn up and grab a seat.  It's free entry to the gallery from 6-10:00 p.m and the K2 Lounge serves food.

If you've got any questions, just leave a comment or @-mention me (@mia_out) on twitter.  We'll also keep an eye on the #drinkingaboutmuseums tag.

Crowd-sourcing the translation of museum content into sign language?

We've been thinking about crowd-sourcing some British Sign Language (BSL) content for the Science Museum for a while now, particularly as we're running events with BSL interpreters and a new site ('Brought to Life') with some BSL content is due to launch in March. This post is both an attempt to think through some of the issues, and a question open to all – what do you think?

The idea
There are two related options – asking the public to share their translations of English text on the Science Museum websites or galleries into BSL with us, or asking people to contribute new content in BSL. Translations could include content like object captions (to view online or download to portable devices to take into the museum), exhibition information and interpretation, instructions for games like Launchpad – any existing content online or in the galleries.

Why it could be useful
Linda Ellis gave a presentation at the UK Museums Computer Group (MCG) meeting on 'Unheard Stories – Improving access for Deaf visitors' where she pointed out the distinctions between 'deaf' and 'Deaf', including that Deaf people use sign language as their first language and might not know English while deaf people probably become deaf later in life and English is their first language. Linda also said that Deaf people are one of the most excluded groups in our society. Deaf visitors surveyed for the Wolverhampton Arts and Museums Service said they wanted: concise written information; information in BSL; to explore exhibits independently; stories about local people and museum objects; events just for Deaf people (and dressing up, apparently).

(More notes on Linda's presentation and a link to her slides are in this earlier post).

I saw a great example of BSL content in museums at the 2009 Jodi Awards. The British Museum worked with the Frank Barnes School and media company Remark on a project where young deaf people produced signed curriculum resources for young deaf people. You can find out more and watch the videos at British Sign Language videos about the Museum.

Video goes mainstream?
One uncertainty is whether possible contributors would be comfortable creating and uploading video. The popularity of products like 'You Tube ready' digital compact cameras and the Flip would suggest that consumers are comfortable with the idea of creating and sharing video online.

The 2008 Horizon Report suggested 'grassroots video' will be adopted in one year or less:

Video is everywhere—and almost any device that can access the Internet can play (and probably capture) it. From user-created clips and machinima to creative mashups to excerpts from news or television shows, video has become a popular medium for personal communication. Editing and distribution can be done easily with affordable tools, lowering the barriers for production. Ubiquitous video capture capabilities have literally put the ability to record events in the hands of almost everyone. Once the exclusive province of highly trained professionals, video content production has gone grassroots.

In terms of understanding the context and perhaps expecting video online, a report The Valley looks towards 2009 in the BBC quotes Jim Patterson, product manager at YouTube, saying:

"This generation of users utilize the web differently and consume video differently. They grew up in an environment where digital, interactive media was ubiquitous. It has shaped how they use the web."

And Mr Patterson said this new video generation has also shaped the very nature of how YouTube is being used.

"Comscore is estimating that YouTube is the second largest search engine," he said.

"To this cohort, YouTube is their search engine. YouTube 'is' the web. Seeking the answer to any question, they prefer that the result be expressed as a video, so they go to YouTube."

That last point – "YouTube is their search engine. YouTube 'is' the web" – is pretty damn important, regardless of any other issues around museum content.

My questions

  • Am I imagining a need that isn't there? Are there enough people with British Sign Language as a first language who are interested in content at the Science Museum to make the project worthwhile? Is BSL content about particular objects or exhibitions something d/Deaf visitors would find useful?
  • Would anyone out there be interested in creating this content?
  • Is there enough acceptance of internet video? Is it easy enough for the public to produce and upload their own videos?

What do you think?

Some fairly random links

I've been busy with overseas visitors and preparing for the Life in the UK test – I'm in ur country, working in ur museumz; so this is a fairly random selection of stuff that's caught my eye recently.

A heart-warming story for geeks from the BBC: CAPTCHAs used to decipher digitised historical texts.

"How can you tell if an existing site is on the verge of needing a redesign or has even far exceeded its usefulness? Here are nine questions to guide your decision" in
Does your site need a redesign?

European search engine

EU OKs German Online Search-Engine Grant

The European Union on Thursday authorized Germany to give $165 million for research on Internet search-engine technologies that could someday challenge U.S. search giant Google Inc.

The Theseus research project — the German arm of what the French call Quaero — is aiming to develop the world's most advanced multimedia search engine for the next-generation Internet. It would translate, identify and index images, audio and text.

Fragmented European research efforts are one of the reasons blamed for the region lagging behind the United States in information technology. European companies in general spend far less on research than those based in other parts of the world, and the EU said the project should help change that.

I wonder how they'll identify and weight or rank European content. And will it be tied in with the European Digital Library?

The BBC says "Photo tool could fix bad images" but I think it's far more likely to be used to create fake images. I guess I wouldn't have thought of an image that shows what was actually present as 'bad' – maybe it's not the best postcard if you want the recipient to think you were in an undeveloped paradise, but it's an accurate depiction of the scene.

I'm reminded of the way the Soviets would remove people from historic photos when they fell out of favour – now the ability to rewrite history is available for you at home!

Computational thinking

I hadn't heard the term but before this is an interesting (in a geeky way, natch) BCS article on computational thinking:

Computational thinking could be considered to be a manifesto for computer science and is what every computer scientist has within them, without their equipment. It might be seen as being a common language for solving problems.

Computational thinking helps iron out the problems from abstraction – determining what it is that can be computed. Some felt that it was a form of intellectual property – a way of thinking which aids the 'user' in solving problems and tapping into their constructive imagination.

Computational thinking has an obligation to find a solution and is sometimes used to crystallise natural phenomena by naming things that haven't already had names in the past.

It was thought that it helps us to deal with systems, which generate too much data, complete with false positives and negatives and helps us to better understand the constraints to a problem.

News just in -no more funding for AHDS from April 2008

The AHRC has announced important changes in its policy for grant applicants,advising them that it has decided to cease funding the AHDS from
April 2008. The AHRC has elected to retain a data service in the area of
Archaeology and is in negotiation with the ADS in York. Details of the
impact on grantapplicants is outlined on the AHRC website at:http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/news/news_pr/2007/information_for_applicants_to_AHRC_june_deadline.asp

Perhaps I'm a cynic but I wonder if the reason begins with 'O' and ends with 'lympics'.

I've been in Laos since Easter but I'm back in London now, and I'm slowly catching up with email, RSS feeds, forums and mailing lists. The only archaeology I saw was Wat Phou but that was fantastic. And the 'Exhibition Hall' was quite good. A proper review and photos may follow if I get a chance soon.

Google Maps for non-geeks – I wonder how much uptake it'll get, and whether it'll change how our users understand geospatial data generally.

"Google has rolled out another do-it-yourself tool from its bottomless box of tricks, this one designed to unleash your inner cartographer.

My Maps integrates with Google's popular mapping service, Google Maps, allowing users to customise the charts with virtual stick pins and pointers into which information – including photos and videos – can be embedded." The Age

There won't be any updates for three or so weeks, I'm off on holiday.