Final project update / preview

1-1The hard part is over! I finished my sculpture on Sunday, I waited cautiously for everything to set and the glue to dry for a day before calling it. Today I focused on getting the 3D imaging done. It was a little daunting, and as I write this my phone is currently analyzing all the images. I was surprised to find out that the maximum allowed shots for any given image is 70, so I’m crossing my fingers that the images I took once complied will be sufficient to produce a detail model. I hope to be able to tweak and clean up the model tonight before calling it finished. I also took photos throughout my process this weekend that I’d like to share on a separate post so I’ll be doing that as well as finishing my reflection tonight.

I’m feeling positive about the way things are coming together. I’m going to hope that the 3D model doesn’t give me too much trouble, and that’s really my only concern about now, I expect to complete everything tonight. I’m excited to present my work to the class tomorrow as well as see everyone else’s projects!

 

Here is a little preview, I don’t want to give too much away 🙂

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Project update: construction

For the construction stage I have been doing some more planing and research into the anatomy of hands, below are the guides I have chosen to help me with this project. I think I’m going to follow the bone structure model more closely than the muscle or vein guides. I’m going to try not to be too critical of the “accuracy” as I go and aim for the overall impression to be recognizable hands.

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Today Sat. 3rd I’ve set aside all afternoon and tonight if need be, to make major changes and hopefully finish most of this piece. I’ll try to remember to post another update/ preview pictures!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Project Proposal revision/ final

Project Proposal : Our “Hands”

By Kimberly Carbajo

Executive Summary

In short, I plan to create a sculpture to address my feelings on our digital culture, specifically the internet as our peripheral and the keyboard as a symbol through how we interact with this virtual interface through our hands and physical touch. I will attempt to make this piece with little other than the repurposed parts of the keyboard itself, and model it on human anatomy. In addition I will use 3D imaging tools to accompany the sculpture and give both a physical and interactive  perspective. My goal is 2 part, to complete this project as originally imagined, and to have it create a conversation on the individual’s relationship/ use of tech as a peripheral.

Rationale

The purpose of this project is to explore the link that exists between technology and the individual. As one of our five senses our hands are how we explore the world through touch yet one could argue that technology has made us lose touch with reality. In our readings for this course, as well as other material from previous DGST courses, I have been motivated to explore the relationship between the “self” and the gadgets we use to transport ourselves physically or virtually to catch a glimpse of something new. In the novel we read this semester William Gibson’s “The Peripheral”, I was drawn to the idea of a peripheral itself  as virtual sensory device. I asked myself how we have been affected by our own technology, albeit rudimentary in comparison to the novel’s, today. It occurred to me that we have been using the internet as our peripheral since it was created, but the keyboard specifically, has acted as the link that has physically connected us to this virtual world. With this in mind, I aim to create a sculpture made almost entirely from the parts of a keyboard that resembles the human anatomy of hands. In the process I hope to continue to question the relationship and digital culture between man, machine and peripheral, and hopefully provoke others to ask even more questions and reflect on their own feelings/ relationship with tech. My audience for this project would be other students and faculty within the Comm & Digital studies major and anyone else who is interested in the subject.

Risks and Rewards

As I undertake this project I have come across some risks that should be addressed. One of them is that I can tend to be overzealous in the imagination stage of a project but have trouble with the execution. I’m very excited to explore this theme and would hate to have to downgrade or swap out any ideas to compensate for lack of skill and time. I think my second biggest challenge will be sourcing the materials and deciding how to best use them. This will very much be a “learn-as-I-go” type of project, and I’m hoping that my crafty side will come in handy. On the other hand if I am successful and able to overcome these obstacles I will immediately benefit from having brought a creation that started off as a far-fetched daydream to life. I also hope that my classmates will benefit from the variation of my project and my hope is to at the very least elicit some type of response from them, whether positive to to construction or even if they find the sculpture grotesque, I hope it will make them pause and think.

Resources

For this project I will need:

  • 2 (very basic) keyboards
  • Dremel drill & smaller drill
  • Set of pliers
  • Interchangeable screwdriver
  • Wires and nails/ bolts
  • Craft glue ex. E6000
  • Safety goggles, dust mask, gloves

Skills / software:

I’m familiar with using drills and other equipment to make jewelry, and I’m not afraid to break things apart so I’m hoping I’ll be able to adapt these skills to this project. I’m also planning to use a 3D imaging app to create an interactive way to display the finished piece. The app is called 123D catch and I will be using my phone as well as my laptop to render and tweak the images.

Time commitments:

Once I have sourced and have all my materials I think the biggest obstacle will be the deconstruction and construction days. I will have to set aside time in between classes and during the weekends to do most of this work, and some of it might be a little noisy so I will have to do it during the day. Most if not all of this will take place in my dorm, as I don’t have, or know of an on campus location where I could do the bulk of the crafting, because of this I do have to conscious of when I do most of the work.

Schedule

Between now and Dec 6. I plan to have each of these stages completed

  • Plan day (completed)
  • Deconstruction day  (completed)
  • Construction  day  (in progress)
  • Finishing touches –  3rd-4th
  • 3D imaging day  – 4th-5th
  • Presentation – Dec 6th

Assessment

I will know this project is successful if I can manage to make my vision into a reality be presenting a morphing of the human anatomy and technology. If I am successful, I hope to present a piece both physically and digitally on Dec 6th that represents this theme. I think the fair way to grade this project would be a division between effort/ execution how much time and skill I put into the piece and secondly, your own personal reaction to it, specifically if it succeeds or fails to provoke questions or  discussion.

Progress Report

So far I’ve fully completed two of the 5 stages of my project. The first stage was planing which I took a bit longer than expected with as I was figuring out how to best approach my concept. I think I have a solid foundation now and it has alleviated some of the stress to know that I have also thought of a few back up solutions in case problems arise. I was also able to source the rest of my materials during thanksgiving break, the most important of which were the two keyboards. I ended up caving and purchasing them from Walmart at $10 a piece. The second stage was the deconstruction phase of the project in which I took apart one of the keyboards and made further plans about how to incorporate the pieces into my design. This part was fairly quick, and since then I have been able to jump into stage 3 which is construction. I hope to be done with the bulk of my sculpture on or before Saturday which would give me the weekend to finish steps 4-5 finishing touches and 3D imaging. I want to work ahead of course in case any issues or setbacks come up. Worst case I want to be able to run to the store and buy whatever in need in an emergency.

Below are some photos of the materials I’m using and some from the deconstruction stage.

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Why I am Learning Programing / Introduction

Introduction notes:

I was pleasantly relieved after reading the introduction for this textbook to learn about the unique approach to coding, or what the author Nick Montfort refers to as the “creative potential of computer computation” I’m genuinely interested in how we’ll explore computation as part of our culture and possibly get a chance to reflect that in our semester projects. I was also glad to learn that this text was produced with students in mind and not for individuals who might already have some prior coding experience. Although I have attempted to learn coding in the past I’m grateful for the refresher and would like to take baby steps back into this realm. I’m also very intrigued by the authors claim to lay a different foundation for beginners that focuses on a more “Artistic and humanistic inquiry” which really calls my attention as a creative person who likes to build and tear things apart to better understand how they work. Overall I think the introduction did a nice job of conveying Montfort’s approach and soothing my own fears about revisiting coding.

Why I’m learning:

My history with CompSci and programming has honestly been a rocky one. As a Comm. and digital studies major I’ve attempted twice to take some variation of an intro course for computer science and haven’t had much success. I’ve always been interested in the process but find that the classes I’ve taken move too fast for me even at the beginner level. I think my biggest problem is that I get easily overwhelmed by how complex some of the languages like Python can be and like the quote from the introduction stated “Unless you can think about the way computers solve problems, you can’t even know how to ask the questions that need to be answered.” This pretty much sums up my biggest dilemma; I’m much more of a hands on tactile learner and with coding I have a hard time wrapping my mind around how it all comes together on the screen. On the other hand I have no problem fiddling away with HTML or CSS. I’ve spent pretty much all of my adolescence up until now toying with building and designing webpages so it has always been a source of frustration for me that coding has been so difficult to learn. I’m optimistic about this new approach though, which like the author mentioned I had never considered before as an area where both the computing and arts/ humanities could be blended. Thinking about it again after reading the introduction, it sounds like the type of approach that would best benefit someone like myself who would like to learn the basics so that I could enhance other projects and avoid the stress I’ve felt in the past about having to undertake an entirely new language. The way the author talks about his guided approach was very reassuring and reminded me of the saying “a mile wide and an inch deep” since we’ll be covering a few languages and techniques.

Goals:

One of my goals, and probably the most important one, is to stay on top of all the readings for this book. Now that I have a copy I plan on catching up and staying ahead of the readings so that I have enough time to digest the material. I’m usually a fast reader, but I know there will be parts in this textbook that I might have to read several times before I feel like I’ve fully grasped the concept. I will own that time management has always been a slight struggle for me and since this will be my third time approaching programming, albeit from a new angle, I’d really like to not hinder myself by falling behind and playing catch-up this semester.  Another goal of mine would be to create something worthwhile using the tools in this book. I’m excited about the artistic element to this upcoming project and I’d really like to come up with something unique that reflects both what we’ve learned in class and tests my imagination.

Project reflection & semester review

This semester has been a very tech-oriented one for me and I was happy to be able to put those skills into practice along with my team for our project. The mission statement definition of our project in a broad sense, was to digitize the Civil War letters of Montgomery Slaughter and George Murray. In our contract we outlined several milestones and assigned each other roles to help keep us organized. In the end although we missed a few milestones, I feel that we created a fully rounded space to house these documents. The only area in which I feel we are presently lacking is in advertising. Our group worked steadily from the finalization of our contract, to fixing edits until our symposium presentation to create a worthy website, but I think all this energy may have exhausted us and taken away some time to advertise before the event. Looking back at our contract I think most of my team would agree that we were a little ambitious with our goals, but I think that worked in our favor because even though we sometimes found ourselves in a time-crunch to make up for passed deadlines, in the end the website turned out to be more than just an online archive but also a digital museum in my opinion.

In the group planning stages we envisioned this website as a good primary resource for those interested in Fredericksburg Civil war history, and I think we accomplished that goal very well. I have to mention that I was/ am very proud of the teamwork within my group. I’m not sure if it was due to the survey we initially completed before the start of the semester (I think that was a great idea!) but we ended up having a good balance of skills, Breck and Kathleen as History majors, were already familiar working with primary documents and citations, which really benefited us the entire semester. In addition, Matthew and I brought varying levels of technical skill and experience working with coding and website design which we consistently used as well throughout the semester.

I think the most challenging part for my team was the actual digitization of the letters themselves because it was the most time consuming. I was responsible primarily for the scanning of the Murray letters, and his biographical page on our site. Kathleen and I spent the first weeks of the semester scanning letters, and then the whole team was responsible for uploading and including the correct metadata for a selection of letters. My own contributions leaned more to the technical and creative side of the project. Within the website I worked on configuring our theme on Omeka and the individual page designs for our website. I also created some original art for our homepage including a banner and the decorative image of Murray and Slaughter. One of the biggest challenges I had was figuring out exactly what kind of beast Omeka was. I’m not used to working with websites that are more restrictive, but the experience helped my test myself in working around a problem to find unconventional solutions. One example of this is the image galleries I created to display separate images in both the Slaughter and Murray bios; I would have liked something a little fancier, but it serves its purpose.  In the final weeks I also collaborated with Kathleen to make an introductory video for our website. It was an experience, that I won’t forget soon, after 11 hours in the video editing lab I think both of us walked away with new skills. Ultimately though I feel it’s a nice and necessary addition because it summarizes everything that our website represents in a concise way.

In closing, I’m very pleased with the final product and the experiences I’ve had in this class. I hope our website and the depth of information it holds become a good resource and add to the historical Civil War community in Fredericksburg.

Final Reflection and Contract Defense

Well, this is the end for me. Not only in this class but also at Mary Washington. It has been an interesting four years here and something I wouldn’t trade for the world. By and large, this class has been one of the most beneficial learning experiences at this school. Not only did I apply my skill of critically analyzing historical documents, but I also learned the importance of actively participating in the documents themselves. Reading through the diaries and analyzing them is one thing. But doing both of those things knowing that I am constructing a site for others to use is an almost sublime experience. Knowing that I contributed something useful that can be applied in other people’s research is rewarding.

I was also able to apply the skill of time management to this process. This is something that not only made my tenure at Mary Washington helpful, but also one that I can take with me out into the “real” world and claim confidently that I have worked diligently to first acquire and second hone. Between the hours spent scanning, uploading, and transcribing, all while knowing that there was a deadline as well as other people depending on me to do my role, time management became essential to the success of this project. I think my group, more than any other group, relied the most on time management. The sheer volume of material that we had to scan, upload, transcribe, and edit all while working out the many kinks with Omeka, reflects this challenge of managing our time effectively.

Although incredibly massive amount of things we had to do helped us hone our time management skills, I think it also hurt us. Towards the beginning of the semester when we were working on our contracts, I think my group kind of under estimated the challenge we were tasked with and as a result, the dates we put down did not always match with the dates we actually had the task finished by. Between other classes, graduation, job applications, and everything else in college, it was difficult for me, and I think my group as well, to finish by the dates we set forth. However, this was not due to us being lazy or procrastinating. I think we accomplished the goals we set out on the contract. We wanted to digitize a collection of diaries, with transcriptions, and include a page turning plugin with the goal of other historians or casual visitors to use and explore. And I think my group accomplished these goals. To be fair, we did have some hiccups along the way which did lead to some frustrations. But I know we all took those hiccups in stride and did not dwell on the frustrations but instead used them as learning experiences moving forward. The problems we faced with Omeka were handled wonderfully by Callie as she did not hesitate to ask for guidance. The same could be said about Mike when he was tasked with finding information about Steven Gordon. He maintained an effective line of communication with Luisa who supplied him with the necessary information. James kept his cool throughout the entire process. He was kind of the jack-of-all-trades of the group. He did the scanning, some research, made the timeline, and helped to outline our final presentation. He was essential to the success of the group. As for myself, I would like to think that I was helpful to the group. I worked on the transcription and finished it in time; put all the files on my hard drive and sent them off to Louisa; and stayed up really late the night before it was due making sure that everything was uploaded and formatted correctly (my hands still ache from all the alt-tabbing).

All in all, this semester and this project has been both a learning experience as well as an opportunity for me to apply my historical skills in a new way. It was more than just researching and then writing a final paper. It was an active participation with the historical process, creating a product that can be used by others. It was definitely one of the most rewarding classes I’ve taken at this school.

Reflective Essay

The Hurley Convergence Center project has been a wonderful experience. In my reckoning it has kept well within the parameter of our mission statement, even if it has not always lived up to the due dates. I believe I have contributed quite a bit to making this project a reality and steering it into its dual role as a resource and archive.

The original idea for the website layout worked out better than imagined. We were ultimately disappointed of the ability to swipe or click left and right to move between pages, but the menu is just as useful, if not better for including all pages. The idea of Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary pages was exercised for nearly every topic. A landing page was created to explain the purpose of the category and its contents, in addition to the home page these served as primary pages. The secondary pages held most of the information, and each one had some form of visual aid. Tertiary pages were not used for every secondary page, only the ones it made sense to include them in. A common tertiary page would be for a video transcript, and it can be argued that the Archives page served a dual secondary/tertiary role.

For the archive, it was originally imagined that there would be video and audio interviews coupled with a timeline and a catalog of archived documents. Needless to say, there were some serious technical issues associated with this side of the project. To start with, the final website includes no audio-only interviews. It was originally imagined that some individuals would be too busy to make the walk to the production studio, and that we could accommodate them by coming to their offices with recording equipment. In the end the recording equipment was found to be deficient and nobody we interviewed was unwilling to join us in the studio. In the end we exceeded our goal of six or seven interviewees by obtaining a grand total of eight.

After meeting with John Morello and obtaining his personal archive of the HCC, it became abundantly clear that two or three people could not classify every document in that file in the time allotted for the semester, let alone with the other needs of the project. With the addition of Jerry Slezak’s files and the transfer from Hanbury Evans, that goal became much loftier. As a compromise I came up with the hazy idea of putting together certain documents to form a narrative ‘spotlight’ on some aspect of the HCC’s conception/construction (In the middle of a group presentation no less). I consider these my greatest contribution to the site, and by far my favorite.

The final technical issue is one we are at a loss to solve, and likely doesn’t need solving. On some older versions of Internet Explorer the timeline does not display correctly. After the disappointment faced in our presentation I accessed the timeline from several different locations using all three common browsers. I found that the last three versions of Firefox and Chrome were entirely compatible with the timeline, but only the last two of Internet Explorer, and only if the older one was fully up to date with common software. I cannot begin to explain why, but I do take comfort in the knowledge that Internet Explorer is the least used of all three browsers.

In closing I would like to touch on our milestones. As laid out, most of the first few weeks dealt with exploring technology and educating ourselves on the HCC and its equipment. Our interviews were completed on time, our pages were written on time (although not necessarily in their final form), the editing was very nearly complete and the website was finalized on time. The only not wholly done on time was the Timeline, which was held back by a lack of detailed information. It wasn’t until the files of Jerry Slezak laid out the original exploration committee’s several design phases that the entire picture became clear. It occurs to me that I have talked very little about my own role in the process. I was primarily responsible with the archive and, in fact, did the majority of work on it. Otherwise I was present at half the interviews, despite working full time; I developed a standardized look to the resource pages, and I wrote most of them; and I was primarily responsible for making the timeline.

Thank you for the opportunity,

Andrew Steele

Defense of Contract and Final Reflections

The essential goal of our project, as stated in the Murray/Slaughter contract, was to digitize the letters of Montgomery Slaughter and George Murray, and we have been able to do so. We have completed our website, an Omeka-based digital archive that creatively displays our collections of letters from Murray and Slaughter.

In terms of the details of the contract, in broad strokes, we have done very well. Essentially everything was completed in terms of the website itself. We have not, however, done the intended publicity work, due to the constraints of time though I am willing to send some emails to that effect over the next few days. In terms of deadlines, we missed a few, though only the deadlines for having the letters uploaded and the StoryMap completed were missed by a significant margin. That delay was due primarily to technical difficulties and the fact that the group, due to the complications with Omeka’s item ordering and the relevant plug-in for that, believed we would have to upload the letters in a staggered fashion. The delays in getting Murray’s letters done meant that although I had Slaughter’s transcribed letters ready, we had decided I couldn’t upload them, as we wanted to complete the Murray collection in the complete order first. That ended up taking longer than anticipated. Despite that, once given the go-ahead, the Slaughter letters were up inside of two days. The StoryMap, which required looking at all of the letters, was also delayed as we focused on resolving the technical issues plaguing the letter uploads.

In terms of the parts of the project I was responsible for, my main regret is not fixing the transcriptions of the letters to the best of my ability before they went up on the site, as substantial parts were left blank on the transcriptions I was working with. However, I had a couple of difficulties that partially account for this, the main one of which is that I was working with handwritten transcriptions, which took far of my time in the special collections room than I expected, so I was unable to spend any time also working with the originals, which Kathleen had scanned. Until all items relating to the same letters were up on the website, which did not happen until weeks later than expected, I did not have any terribly convenient way to display both the original transcription and a separate description, so that ended up dropped from the agenda as I worked on other aspects of the project. Relating to this, another area in which the contract also ended up being slightly outdated over time was the tasks assigned to each member, as we ended up helping each other on tasks on originally assigned to one member; in my case, I assisted substantially with the StoryMap and helped with some of the initial planning and clip selection for the video.

Despite the challenges, I am overall pleased with the website. It was completed on time, the entire group was satisfied with how it looks, and it certainly achieves the basic task of digitizing the Murray-Slaughter letters. Overall, I am proud of the work we did for the website, and feel we fulfilled the spirit of our contract.

 

 

 

Semester Review

“Our mission, at the behest of the National Park Service, is to digitize a collection of letters from Montgomery Slaughter, the wartime mayor of Fredericksburg, and from George Murray, a Union soldier from Pennsylvania.”  This was the first sentence of our Mission Statement when we first received the project.  It has been about four months since then and as I have said in many updates since then, we have come a long way.  We have completed a digital archive in the form of a website that displays all of the letters written by George Murray and Montgomery Slaughter.  Looking over our statement however, we have not contacted any local organizations as we first intended.  This is because after spending so much time making the actual site, we have forgotten to spread the word about it.  In terms of tools, we have successfully used Omeka to make our site making use of its collections and items aspects.  The only tool we did not use to make our project is iMovie as we switched to Final Cut Pro to edit our video together and we never changed our contract to reflect this.  We have completed all of the jobs outlined in our contract though we had to change one job (recording for every single letter) simply because there was not enough time to record for all of them.  We all did a fair share in terms of labor though I personally feel I could have done more to help edit the video or set up the site.  We all did our individual tasks though, uploading all of the letters and metadata and setting up the site to begin with.  The schedule of milestones helped a lot as we constantly knew what we had to do and what the next step was after that.

Creating the site was not a difficult process though Omeka took a bit of getting used to.  Once we had the proper plugins, we were able to upload all of our letters and then rearrange them in the proper order.  I was concerned about this for a while because our letters were organized by date and needed to be kept in this order and Omeka initially only allowed us to organize our items alphabetically or by date uploaded.  Nothing in this project was particularly difficult; everything was more meticulous than anything.  We had most of the letters and transcriptions to begin with so putting them on the site was not hard, recording audio was done in three sittings and was fairly straight forward once everyone knew the process for recording, and editing and exporting all of the audio was incredibly simple. My only regret was not preparing more for the presentation as I was too nervous and we opened a Google Slide presentation in Powerpoint and the layout was completely messed up when we presented our final project.  Other than that, I would like to think we did a good job making the site with all of the letters.  We still need to go back and fix a couple of things here and there (mainly adding citations) but other than that, I hope users have a good experience checking out our site.