Thursday 24 December 2009

Christmas and New Year greetings to one and all

Buckets and spades
Strewth - there it is - the end of another work year. I am alone in the office. All the rest are either packing their bucket and spades or heading in the opposite direction. Walked down High Street earlier and it was, as a friend of mine would put it, a sea of calm. So different from my memories of Christmas Eve in London. Here in Auckland, half the city leaves town, and don't return for at least a couple of weeks - many for three.

The Hawke's Bay

As I happily admitted to Jim Mora on National Radio yesterday,  for some of the time, myself and my partner are off down to the Hawke's Bay - the proper name for that part of New Zealand which takes in Napier, Hastings, all the surrounding hinterland, north to Wairoa, south to Tararua. Naturally this description will offend at least a dozen peole.  For the record, Te Ara, the online Encyclopedia of NZ has some lovely pages on the Bay, here.

London/Scottish snow
But what we can agree on is that it, and  indeed all of New Zealand, at this time of year is a blessed land. And the people a joy to  live with. That said, I look at the snow pictures over in London and of course up in Scotland, and ache for the sound and touch of my loved ones up there. But in that all I do is repeat the eternal condition of the migrant.

Intermittent coverage for 3 weeks
Normal service will be resumed on the 18th January, 2010. However, I will be dropping on to the blog for the odd moment or two in the three weeks ahead. So I won't  be a complete stranger. I might even try some ideas out for the year ahead.  I had a little go at that with Jim Mora yesterday - if you have the interest -  or the time [which is not to presumed at this time  of year, I embed it below.

Audio of Jim Mora conversation -  2009/2010 trends

Download: Ogg Vorbis   MP3

Moko the dolphin from Mahia
Alternatively you might want to skip that and just watch Moko the dolphin from further up the coast at Mahia, and thanks to Andy Fenton for the link.

Recent news sources on Moko
Gisborne Herald

Wednesday 23 December 2009

A Bar at the Folies-Bergère


This is an example of the embed feature from Art Babble. On one hand it's great - a really neat example of how content on one part of the web can be distributed through blogs and other social media. However, it doesn't showcase the really innovative part of the Art Babble project - that the video sits inside a player which also has a whole bunch of contextual links to the topic. To see this you need to go back to the source - here .

I am just going off for the last Afternoon spot with Jim Mora on National Radio, at 3pm.  One of the things we are talking about is the embed feature. More on this later. However,  I also need to go to the office Christmas party - so there might be a delay!

Tuesday 22 December 2009

Kit Kat for Christmas

The Kit Kat Club
Ophelia Field - Harper Collins $25
Looking for a last book for Christmas. Have an interest, as I do between history, and modernity? Then the Kit Kat Club by Ophelia Field is for you.

So what was the Kit Kat club? Imagine a cross between a TED conference and a local New Zealand Foo Camp, where every couple of weeks you were summoned to give yet another - speech of your life – as well as be expected to have an opinion on every nuance of the current politics of the day – and be able to either write about – or publish – or sponsor the next ‘big thing’

Then imagine if you're a struggling author,  this all taking place within half an hours walk of the your lodgings in the Strand in London, and then – better still – if you got the call to join, you got fed while you talked. As for company, you would be rubbing shoulders with the likes of the legendary dramatist William Congreve, and the writers and publishers Joseph Addison and Richard Steel.

Enter the truly loud and wonderful world of the Kit Kat Club, a select gang of writers – publishers and patrons who, from its founding in 1690, for the next 20 years, regularly gathered  together - first at the pie shop of the baker Christopher [Kit] Cat -  had a brilliant dinner and the chance to take part in one of the great moments in London life when literature as a profession finally took off as something that you could earn a living at.

Patronage always had a master.

There was of course a catch. The publishing deals to be had almost always were with the same guy – Jacob Tonson – a cross between Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, and Rupert Murdoch. Also, the topics under discussion where almost always about making the dominant political elite -the Whigs - acceptable, witty and erudite. In short talent came with politics – and politics always had a master.

Ophelia Fields’ account of how this club came to dominate the ferment of intellectual and political inquiry of the early 18th century London of coffee house society is a compelling one. It’s also a brilliant read.

That said, it’s clear that if your politics or your face didn’t fit, there was little to commend the Kit Kat pie, or its patrons.

Dr Sam Johnson to Lord Chesterfield 
As for the patron end of the equation -  when reading more than one account of their fickle ways,  I was reminded of the classic response of Dr Sam Johnson to Lord Chesterfield who in response to a very late endorsement of his Dictionary project, responded, “Is not a patron my lord, one who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for life in the water -  and when he has reached ground, encumbers him with help?

A version of this review appears in Idealog Magazine. 

Push Notification

Monday 21 December 2009

NZ On Screen in 2009

NZ On Screen
Thisvideo is one of the top five 2009 favorites from NZ On Screen,  the online showcase to  classic NZ television and film, where you can view programmes, and find out about the people who made them.

NZ On Screen  has been a work in progress since their initial launch in October 2008.  This year, as well as continuing to climb the content mountain,  they also managed to introduce the embed feature, thus making video, like the one above available on other web sites.

It sounds like a small thing technically - and for sure, these days, it isn't that hard to do in terms of code etc. However, getting the permission of rights holders is a whole new thing. Traditional film and documentary makers are notoriously shy of any feature which appears to signal they are giving their content away.

Web as a recommendation engine.
Persuading them that, to the contrary, embedding allows their work to go viral around the web inside a giant recommendation engine is an ongoing task for us all. So congratulations to the team at NZ On Screen for their work this year - and once again - thanks a bunch to making the embed thing a growing reality.

Top 5 titles on NZ On Screen in 2009
And in the tradition of this time of year - herewith the top 5 titles for 2009, both for the world at large, and as a NZ sub-set.

1. Britten Backyard Visionary (1993)
2. Kea Mountain Parrot (1993)
3. Peter Snell Athlete (1964)
4. Flare - A Ski Trip (1977)
5. Trio At The Top (2001)

Top 5 titles for NZ'ers in 2009:

1. Britten Backyard Visionary (1993)
2. Billy T Live (1990)
3. Peter Snell Athlete (1964)
4. Trio At The Top (2001)
5. Gloss (1987)
6. A Haunting We Will Go (1980)

Christmas Collection
They have also released a Christmas collection - which brings together "classic telly and film moments for the pavlova and pohutukawa season. From broadcasting icons (Selwyn Toogood, Thingee), to barbies, bickering and beer. Families come together to feed (Peta Mathias, Alison Holst), drink (The West clan), fall apart (in full length Gregory King and Niki Caro dramas); and a farmer gets jiggy with the fencing wire...."

See here for the full monte-

Sunday 20 December 2009

Journal of the Polynesian Society - 100 years now online

Good to see the Scout Report picking up on the news that the Journal of the Polynesia Society, JPS,   is now fully digitised and avilable for view at Auckland University.  Scout has this to say about the project.
10. The Journal of the Polynesian Society

The Polynesian Society was founded in 1892 and their primary aim "was the scholarly study of past and present New Zealand Maori and other Pacific Island peoples and cultures." The Society continues to pursue this goal through this journal, and they have recently worked with The University of Auckland Library to progressively digitize the first 100 years of the journal. Started in 1892, the Journal of the Polynesian Society covers many topics, including archaeology, anthropology, sociology, and geography.

First-time visitors can read the brief introduction to the project on the homepage, and then click on the "Enter" tab to get started. Visitors can browse through each issue at their leisure, and they can also use the "Search" feature to look for specific topics or keywords. [KMG]
Scout Report

The 100 years  milestone
I am a little ashamed to note I missed the big milestone here - that after seven years slog the project is complete - i.e. Volumes 1-100 - the full 100 years of back issues has been digitised from 1892- 1992, and are freely available online, here
Given the uniqueness of the record, the scale of this project is impressive -  the 100 digitised volumes comprise over 3775 individual article-level sections, more than 40,000 individual pages and around 5000 photographs, drawings and maps.

About JPS
As the project owners point out, 'The Journal of the Polynesian Society has been the world's premier academic journal for scholarly articles on the archaeology, anthropology, history and linguistics of the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Islands, including New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.  Other details on the project include:
Project History
The digitisation project began in 2002 with exploratory talks with the Polynesian Society. Judith Huntsman, the current editor of the JPS, supported the project from its inception. Rose Holley, the former Digital Services Librarian at the University of Auckland Library, designed specifications for outsourcing TEI mark-up. Brian Flaherty, Associate University Librarian, created the website. John Laurie, Digital Initiatives Librarian, assembled and edited the raw files and put them online


The project is powered by b-engine rendering software, a local New Zealand product, developed by Tony Murrow. This produces the fast keyword-in-context search and browse capabilities which distinguish this project.

DataNZ of Auckland were contracted to do the scanning and TEI mark-up.


The project's completion was  assisted by funding received from the Pacific Rim Digital Library Alliance (PRDLA) ... "

Source -NZ libs

Saturday 19 December 2009

St Matthew- in- the-City, Auckland billboard

Controversial billboard taken down after third attack
This full sized street billboard has been outside St Matthew's in the City, Auckland, since Thursday. this week. Yesterday, after the third defacement by angry locals, this time  a knife attack by an elderly woman, the Church took it down.  Though St Matthew's, and especially its vicar, Archdeacon Glynn Cardy, had seen it as a way of encouraging debate as to the meaning of Christmas, it was all too much for  the wider Auckland Christian community, who were deaf to the intent:

"To make the news at Christmas it seems a priest just needs to question the literalness of a virgin giving birth. Many in society mistakenly think that to challenge literalism is to challenge the norms of Christianity. What progressive interpretations try to do however is remove the supernatural obfuscation and delve into the deeper spiritual truth of this festival..."
Glynn Cardy - see here for full article

Bishop of Auckland
They had also lost the support of the Bishop of Auckland, the Right Reverend John Paterson who said in a press release, there  ' are a multitude of issues for a city and the wider church that he would rather focus on in the season of Christmas than a billboard'

The image stays online
That people were enraged by the  message and not the artifact seems to have escaped his notice. But - hey ho - it's gone -  at least in the physical world.  It remains online of course. Curiously, I got this image from a press release on Scoop - the NZ news agency . Now I can't find it. Looks like it has been taken down as well.

St Matthew's Online
St Matthew's is a well known inner city Auckland Church who have an active ministry to both the local media - arts and cultural crowd - as well as the nearby possies of the homeless and distracted. So the quote that they put the image up to start a debate on the meaning of the Christian message, though a tad naive, is totally in keeping with their way of thinking.

If you want to talk to them about any of this, they have, in their own way, a totally excellent web presence/ online church, here.

Billboard Theology
You can also watch the vicar make his own point for himself, here

Thursday 17 December 2009

As the holiday approaches, life gets cryptic

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.
This means you're free to copy and share these comics (but not to sell them). More details.

Wednesday 16 December 2009

Most Watched YouTube videos in New Zealand

Top five New Zealand-created videos 

Top 5 most watched videos overall

Top 5 New Zealand music videos

Top 5 most watched music videos overall

Top 5 user-generated content

Top 5 most-watched movie trailers
2. Bruno 
4. 2012

Top 5 most-watched ads

Most Watched YouTube videos globally

Top 5 most watched videos
1. Susan Boyle - Britain’s Got Talent (120+ million views)
2. David After Dentist (36+ million views)
3. JK Wedding Entrance Dance (33+ million views)
4. New Moon Movie Trailer (30+ million views)
5. Evian Roller Babies (27+ million views)

This post was sourced from a Google press release. A copy of this is here.
Google , NZ also covered it on their own local blog, here

New Zealand Cabinet Paper on P2P policy replacement to Sec 92a - three strikes still there

Images of Wordles are licensed Creative Commons License.

NZ Cabinet Paper on Peer to Peer File sharing
Despite a ruthless determination to be suspicious and agin it from the start, I have to say I might even be a tiny bit impressed by the NZ governments attempt to re-sail the choppy seas of peer to peer copyright violation, and the whole debate, collectively known here in NZ as the Sec 92a debacle, on  internet rights - three strikes and your out - ISP's are not courts - et, al.

Cutting of internet access
Although I'm still totally against anyone having their internet access taken off them for a copyright offence [still feels against natural justice] the elements on offer in the NZ governments press release might just manage to engender at least the beginnings of a new debate.

The Cabinet paper - HTML and PDF version is  here - It's still wet of the press - so you can be sure there will be a lot of coment on this.

The NZ governement press release

" The Government favours a three-notice procedure to deal with illegal copying of material over computer networks, Commerce Minister Simon Power said today.

Mr Power announced the release of a Cabinet Paper that outlines the basis of new legislation, which will be introduced to Parliament early next year. This follows a review of section 92A of the Copyright Act 1994.

The main points of the proposal are:

  • Right holders will be able to request that internet service providers (ISPs) give alleged infringers notice to stop infringing activity.
  • The first notice will inform the account holder that infringing has occurred and is illegal. Two further notices may be sent.
  • If infringing continues after three notices, the right holder may seek a penalty of up to $15,000 at the Copyright Tribunal. The amount will be based on the damage to the copyright owner.
  • Where serious and continued breaches occur, right holders will be able to go to court to seek a range of remedies, including the suspension of accounts for up to six months.
  • Account holders will be able to issue counter notices, and can request a hearing if they feel they should not be penalised.

Mr Power said the three-notice procedure was the key to the process.

"The procedure will both educate and warn file-sharers that unauthorised sharing of copyright works is illegal, and in turn stop a large proportion of illegal file sharing.

"A great deal of work has gone into finding a fair, effective, and credible process for the enforcement of copyright against illegal peer-to-peer file-sharers.

Mr Power said though right holders will be able to seek suspension of accounts through the courts, he expected that would happen only in cases of serious offending.

"I want to stress that account holders will have the opportunity during each of these processes to defend claims by right holders."

"This was a complex issue to work through, and industry groups, intellectual property experts, and officials worked hard to ensure the issues raised in the submissions were addressed.

"I'm confident we now have a workable solution."

The public will be able to make further submissions at the select committee stage.

Monday 14 December 2009

Nina Simon and the Particpatory Museum down under

Nina Simon
Nina Simon  one of the stand out moments at the recent NZ National Digital Forum is still in Australasia giving workshops to various museums and libraries  - including, in NZ,  Te Papa - Auckland Museum, and the NLNZ, and over the ditch at the Powerhouse Museum, and the State Library Queensland

The Powerhouse
The Powerhouse  Museum have put the entire presentation up on their Fresh + New blog as a 75 minute video - here .  Above are the slides - Thanks to both of them for their generosity.
Quite a gift if I may say so!

Further references
Lynda Kelly from the Australian Museum was also in the audience and she has posted some great notes, here

Friday 11 December 2009

Friday moment - Fuselage of a Horsa glider, converted into a home

Fuselage of a Horsa glider, converted into a home
Gelatin silver print - 1947

Friday moments and Winton Woods
I came across this image this morning. It entranced me. Not sure why - traces of the wee Scottish boy building wigwams in the garden from instructions in a comic - childhood memories of the old woman who lived in a caravan in Winton Woods - and of course, a residue of  my sadness over the earlier post on Holland House. Whatever, the impulse, I have this idea to share it as a Friday moment.

Source - National Media Museum
It comes form the Daily Herald archive/collection, which in turn sits inside the UK National Media Museum. No idea of the connection between this archive and the museum - perhaps others can explain it?

Thursday 10 December 2009

SFMOMA - what happens when the IT head goes on holiday

SFMOMA - be very afraid of going on holiday
Leo Ballate, SFMOMA Information Systems and Services Director, goes away to Miami for a week...and comes home to....

Source - SFMOMA Open Space blog

Wednesday 9 December 2009

Cabbages and kings with Jim Mora on National Radio

Today, I  had a really nice half hour talking to Jim Mora in NZ National Radio about various local, and not so local, happenings on the internet. This is the running order which we kind of stick to. You can listen here, as well as download - Podcast (MP3)  Oggcast (Vorbis)

1. 0 OLPC - One Laptop Per Child
First up, we revisited the OLPC project, which we first talked about about earlier in the year, and promised to come back to.

OLPC Australia
Australia now has a OLPC project. Currently involves 1000 children with a target of 4000 more next year, most of whom are in remote rural Australian communities. The long term goal is 400,000 children. There is a fantastic video about it on their web site - also on You Tube where the teacher talk about the effect the project has on the childrens learning.

OLPC Oceania
There has been a lot of progress - with many of the island nations now backing the project, including the latest, Fiji. They now have a very useful blog covering their work

OLPC - not just a laptop
OLPC isn't just a cheap laptop - it uses an entirely different operating system and is premised on an educational model which encourages online collaboration. This means they are developing new applications all the time. Some of these are explained on the site here

New Zealand connection
Though NZ doesn't have an OLPC project - there is a very well respected testing team who test new applications etc in their own time. Very geeky crowd but hugely impressive - and a good example of how code guys are often ragged trousered  philanthropists in their own time. See OLPC Friends

2. Google
2.1. Google Real Time search
This just happened - rolls out in NZ over 'the next few days'
Purports - don't you love that word - to give immediate access to new posts including Twitter - and FaceBook

2.2. Google's Year?
Are they still the big bad guys determined to steal all our data - not so according a major spokesperson at the Battle of Ideas conference in London
Session - Rethinking Privacy in an age of Disclosure and Sharing
The whole session is on line.

3.  2010 - Apple Tablet
Apple Tablet - all the smart money says January 19th for the launch, and that includes New Zealand
What is it? A cross between a net-book and an iphone - size of a proper paperback - content deals being pursued and agreed as we speak. Do I want one? I will kill for one!

4. Three sites that interest
4. 1. All About the Story
Building a market place new writing .
Local journalist and online news legend  Julie Star [who helped set up the Telegraph in the UK ] now has a new venture where both professional and emerging journalists [including newbies - amateurs etc] can put up a story - and then see if it is picked up by the main stream guys - who of course will pay for the privilege.

4. 2  Kickstarter
Love this to bits - an online place where a creative - artist - musician - writer - filmmaker - inventor - explorer [don't you love the last one!]  can write up their planned project and then seek some money - goods - whatever to make it happen.

4. 3 Captain Scott's blog

Making a blog out of the last journal of Captain Scott.

Window Farms - great idea via Kickstarter

Heading up to talk to Jim Mora on National Radio today; the running order includes a mention of the really neat site,  Kickstarter, which lets people with an invention - idea - project find a backer.

Window Farm
This post is about one of the projects featured on the site - Window Farms. Love this project to bits - might even donate - and better still - might just try it out in our apartment here in Auckland.  Herewith the detail in their own words, but the video does it better. 

".... In February 2009, through a residency at Eyebeam, Britta Riley and Rebecca Bray began to build and test the first Window Farms prototype. Growing food inside NY apartments is a challenge, but within reach.
The foundational knowledge base is emerging through working with agricultural, architectural and other specialists, collecting sensor data, and reinterpreting hydroponics research conducted by NASA scientists and marijuana farmers.

We have been researching and developing hydroponic designs that are inexpensive and made from relatively inexpensive materials. The working prototype is a drip system made from recycled water bottles, holding 25 plants. Beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, arugula, basil, lettuce and kale are thriving.

While completing the first Prototype in mid-April, we invited a dozen "Pioneers" to join us in creating Window Farms. We asked them to approach the project like a night class, devoting one night a week for two months.

We showed them our prototype and presented the DIY research and development we did so far and invited them to build on our research to create their own designs. Currently, the Pioneers are designing their systems. Their innovative ideas are adding to the knowledgebase about DIY hydroponics...."

The Pitch on Kickstarter
On Kickstarter they say they are looking for US$25k to take the project forward. They have a really good pitch on the site here, including another great video.

The Jim Mora interview where I talk about this:
Download: Ogg Vorbis   MP3

Tuesday 8 December 2009

English Heritage and Holland House - mad with avarice and blind to their future

Holland House - post air raid - September 1940

RIP Fair Use and the lost world of contemplation
I have just asked around the office for confirmation of the five stages of grief: the consensus seems to be - denial- bargaining - anger - depression- acceptance. As of this morning, I am midway between anger and depression - with anger definitly in front, especailly, if I re-traumatise myself by looking at this image.

Holland House - via  Thomas Babington Macaulay
I love this image. I have known it for 25 years. It is a core part of my personal intellectual history. I first came across in 1984 in a text in the old Middlesex Polytechnic Library while writing an essay on Macaulay, the 19th century essayist, historian, and politician..

For some reason I was entranced by 'young Tom'  There was his parents for starters - he was the son of  Zachary Macaulay, one of the Clapham Saints, which included Wilberforce, all of whom were prominent in the movement for the abolition of the slave trade.

As for Thomas, for years I passed his childhood home on my way home from Clapham Common tube. The more I learned about him, the more I loved his reported cleverness - his industry - and his determination to use his intellect, not just to think, but to think to a purpose. 

I even enjoyed reading his essays - found the history of the Edinburgh Review and  its famous rival the Quarterly Review,  an equal fascination. Best of all, through Tom Macaulay, I recognised the fellow feeling of the secret autodidact  hidden carefully but cheerfully away inside the formal structure of, in my case a degree course as a mature student, and in his, as a member of the political and intellectual elite of his day.

Holland House
That this political and intellectual elite was at the time, either Whig or Tory goes without saying.  If on the Whig faction, you didn't get anywhere unless you turned up to the famous soirees of  Lady Holland, at Holland House, set amidst its own extensive grounds in north west London, which 21st century Londoners know as Holland Park.

Macaulay, though by no means a social high flyer, was by all accounts a star, regularly earning his supper and a re-invite  In the process, not only did he gain access to the inner circle, he had a standing invite to use the famous Holland House library any time he liked.

Like most things, the Holland House elite didn't last - these days Lady Holland is remembered, if at all, as the woman who introduced the dahlia to Britain. But the legend of the library did endure, as did the house itself, surviving into the 20th century, and finally coming to grief in a 10 hour air raid in September, 1940.

The image
All of which is context to the image above. This is the Holland House library the day after the air-raid. The roof is down - the devastation is everywhere - but by some miracle the books are still intact on the shelves, and the accompanying three gentleman browsing at their leisure, one of the all time images of British endurance during the 2nd World War.

The copyright thing.
Apart from my own personal history, this is a story that needs retelling. But now, English Heritage think they own this image, and all the layers it contains. Moreover, they think they can control its future use by a labyrinth of charges ranging from the creative to the editorial to the personal - whatever these might mean.

And last but by no means least - they think they have the right to mutilate it by sticking  a copyright sign on it.

Blind to their future
As I note in my intro, I am beside myself - this image is part of my intellectual history -  my story - my heritage - and they are claiming ownership of all three. At a personal level, it is beyond conscience. On a public institutional level, another tragic example of the memory/heritage sector mad with avarice, and blind to their future. Shame on them!


Update - 15th December 2009
Turns out - and thanks to @mdgreaney -  there is a non stamped version of the image here, on English Heritage Viewfinder.

They still think they own a public domain work.
The joy stops here though - this link take you to their terms and conditions, which includes this user friendly litany of control:
5.1 All content on the Site including but not limited to images, text, software and graphics is protected by copyright. We, or our licensors, own copyright and/or database rights in the selection, coordination, arrangement and enhancement of such content, as well as in the original content. Photographs are the copyright works of those indicated next to each image. English Heritage and the English Heritage logo are trademarks of English Heritage.

5.2 Except as expressly set out in these Terms of Use, nothing in these Terms of Use shall give you any rights in respect of any intellectual property owned by us or our licensors. You shall not assert or attempt to obtain any such rights and you shall not use, copy, reproduce, modify, publish, transmit, participate in the transfer or sale of, create derivative works from, or in any way exploit, our name, trade marks, logos or other proprietary marks, or those of our affiliated organisations, or any of the content of the Site, in whole or in part, except as provided in these Terms of Use.

 5.3 You may download material from the Site for your own personal, non-commercial use only. Downloaded material may not be re-copied or shared with any third party. However, if you are a teacher in primary, secondary or tertiary education, you may make copies of downloaded material for your reasonable teaching purposes within the classroom only. Any other reproduction or extraction requires our written permission and a fee may be charged. Photographic prints of most of the images on the Site may be purchased from English Heritage's National Monuments Record for private and research use. For further information please contact us using the contact details at paragraph 9 below.

5.4 Except as otherwise expressly permitted by these Terms of Use or under copyright law, no copying, redistribution, retransmission, publication or commercial exploitation of downloaded material will be permitted without our express permission and/or that of the copyright owner. In the event of any permitted copying, redistribution or publication of copyright material, no changes in or deletion of author attribution, trade mark legend or copyright notice shall be made. You acknowledge that you do not acquire any ownership rights by downloading copyright material.
Sigh .... !

Monday 7 December 2009

Frank Howarth, Director of the Australian Museum offers some big themes for 2010

Nine big Museum themes for 2010.
Lynda Kelly on Museum 3.0 has started a welcome discussion thread on the future direction of museum policies, by posting the challenge the Australian Museum  staff received recently from their Director, Frank Howarth, who as part of the museum's strategic planning cycle, urged them to think about nine big themes for 2010.

1. Increasing the accessibility of the Museum and its programs
2. Pushing the digital envelope: doing more in the virtual world
3. Partnerships: more leverage and influence
4. Linking cultural collections and communities
5. Increasing our advocacy: taking a stance on things that matter
6. Getting more creative and lateral with what we call “exhibitions”
7. Getting more commercial without jeopardising our brand or values
8. Towards new approaches to cataloguing and understanding our biodiversity
9. Doing the things that are important and have impact, and stopping those that don’t

Can anyone play?
I think these are fabulous questions - would be wonderful if they became part of a wider debate, including one here in New Zealand - both at and between, for example,  Te Papa, Auckland MuseumPuke Ariki, Canterbury, et al - as well as the NZ National Digital Forum - and of course Museums Aotearoa.

And of course, all of the above is just as relevant to other parts of the world. 

Friday 4 December 2009

Wonderland - the 'Magic of the Rose' at Auckland Museum

Wonderland - The Magic of the Rose
The second part of the Wonderland exhibition - The Magic of the Rose - opened at Auckland Museum last night. It share billing with the last of the 2009 LATE series, the Museum's hugely successful 2009 inaugural set of 10 panel discussions, with live music after. Last night, however, in yet another mixing of the recipe the live bands were replaced with a cabaret hosted by actor, broadcaster and all round Renaissance man, Oliver Driver.

'New Zealand is above the water line against its will'
I didn't stay for the cabaret - but had a very enjoyable time listening to Finlay Macdonald talk with scientists Hamish Campbell and George Gibbs about the remote history of New Zealand and the emergence of Gondwanaland: which, by the by,  produced my all time quote of the year, 'New Zealand is above the water line against its will'

Rose: Art /Nature
Notwithstanding all this competition- the stand out success of the evening for me was and remains  Wonderland - Magic of the Rose.

The exhibition is in two parts - The Rose as Art , and the Rose as Nature. In the one  you walk round a series of exhibits exploring the cultural and artistic history of the rose - its place in the various cultures of its origins, including a lovely set of features showing how the European rose tradition took much of its inspiration from other parts of the word. There are some beautiful craft pieces from the collection in this part. 

In the other half - The Rose as Nature -  we are offered a great set of pieces exploring the genus rosa - the history -  pollination - hybrids et al. And here, its great to see some lovely open texts from the library, one of the Museums best kept secrets. 

Local collections - local connections 
As I noted above, this exhibition is itself one of two under the banner  Wonderland - the first The Mystery of the Orchid ran from the 3rd July to the 8th November, with the web site archive still on view, here.

The Mystery of the Orchid drew record numbers, and was seen at the time as a real success.  And so, comparing the two - the Mystery of the Orchid, now - the Magic of the Rose - isn't really necessary. They both work as stand alone exhibitions,  as well as serving as yet more evidence of the success of Auckland Museums new team based exhibition strategy.

They are also a complete validation of Auckland Museum Director Dr Vanda Vitali's determination  to  give Auckland access to first class exhibitions showcasing their own collections,  courtesy of the Museums enhanced in house creative and exhibition design capacity.

More confident
That said, compared with the earlier Mystery of the Orchid, in this second round, The Magic of the Rose, I felt there was a better balance - as well as more depth - between the pieces from the collection - the interactive  and video installations - and the text and imagery  exploring the rich story of the rose both  as Art, and as Nature.

I also felt a greater confidence in the juxtaposition of the scholarship with the visual theater, as if the exhibition team had decided the visitor, this time round, could  take a bit more of the hard stuff - aka scholarship, with this quote illustrating the overall voice:
'People have been besotted with roses for thousands of years. They flowered in ancient Chinese gardens, bloomed by the river Nile in Cleopatra’s Egypt and scented the bowers of Persian princes.

'But the rose originated long before civilisation. It evolved 40 million years ago in central Asia, before diversifying into around 150 species scattered across the temperate and subtropical zones of the northern hemisphere.

The roses most beloved by people were those whose bloom was brightest, fragrance the sweetest, or whose properties were believed to be medicinal or purifying. Nearly all modern hybrids can trace their ancestry to a handful of rose species with such qualities.'
The Magic of the Rose web site
As in the Mystery of the Orchid, there is a neat micro site on the Auckland web site, here. It mirrors the Art and Nature tracks, but also offers contextual resources for education use, shopping, et al. As well as video features, there is also some excellent audio embedded into the pages, including poetry readings, as well as some lovely pieces from the curators whose work behind the scenes all too often goes unheard.
By the by [and those with no interest in web tools might want to ignore the next two paragraphs] I especially like the way they only use Abobe/Flash interactive as small measured instances that pop up when required and then retire to let the web pages just sit and do their job. The result is a much better user experience.

This is in welcome contrast to some other Museum micro/exhibition sites where the navigation, the content, and everything else is wrapped inside a closed and totally uniform visitor as opposed to user  experience. For the Auckland micro site, go here to have a look for yourself.

Finally I need to record my congratulations to Mika, actor, broadcaster, cabaret star and all round legend. He is present in a number of the video works in the exhibition. Here is a sample. Like everything else in this production - it is a total class act.

Tuesday 1 December 2009

Dear UNESCO New Zealand - pick OLPC!

UNESCO New Zealand
Heard this story today, that those very nice  UNESCO people here in New Zealand  recently had a spare $500 and were asking around for suitable places to spend it.

Pick OLPC!
Although the moment is long gone, my immediate reaction was why not buy a One Laptop per Child 'laptop' and then leave it in Bellamy's, the restaurant inside the NZ Parliament.  Then see which of our Members of Parliament  has the curiosity to pick it up, and ask what's this? And then afterwords, think to ring Anne Tolley, the NZ Minister of Education,  and ask if she was talking to OLPC?

The Vision Thing from Australia!
In advance of the question, and to inform the subsequent phone call,  go and and see what is  happening in the rest of the Pacific, here - or  as it is now fashionable - go and have a look at what Australia is doing  right now-  here?

Or if you have three minutes - watch this.

Last Word
I think the design - architecture and messaging on the OLPC site Australia is a total stunner. End of!

ECAR study of USA university students internet use provides some interesting insights

The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2009
Since 2004, the annual ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology  has been shedding light  on how information technology affects the USA college experience.

Now in its 6th year, the survey results offers a twofold benefit. First, they give a useful snapshot of current student behavior in the USA. Second, even in the short time frame of the the study, it shows how rapid is the ongoing development of the web as platform -   i.e ' an always on - ready to hand network of sources - people and points of view' - as a integral piece of a students learning matrix.

In the process it also shows how quickly the current landscape of  the day changes. For example, with a citation use of 88.3%, the study note that laptops are now almost ubiquitous, Moreover, almost half the student population surveyed have an internet capable phone, and that almost 100% of them use social networks  daily.

Mobile devices
Also new to this year is the welcome focus of the survey on student use of mobile devices. The graph below shows  the current state of play among the respondents. Note this is a USA survey, so it needs to be used with caution. However, of interest in the response of the students who are yet to use mobile as a device for internet access - some cite the expense of a data plan - others the ubiquity of other internet pathways.

The dog which didn't bark
As an aside, and purely as my own personal comment, none of the respondents seemed to consider the almost unusable mobile [as opposed to desk or laptop] interfaces of most university web sites as a reason for not using their mobile phones to access  their learning resources. And yes, this critique applies especially to library catalogs.

Library web site use
But speaking of libraries, and in a welcome contrast to some other more pessimistic studies, the survey notes that 94.6% of the respondents say they use the University and library web site.

The Methodology
For the record, the ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2009 'is a longitudinal extension of the 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008 studies. It is based on quantitative data from a spring 2009 survey of 30,616 freshmen and seniors at 103 four-year institutions and students at 12 two-year institutions; student focus groups that included input from 62 students at 4 institutions; and review of qualitative data from written responses to open-ended questions.'

The report
The report is available, here. And thanks to Roy Tennant at Current Cities for the heads up

The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2009 (ID: ERS0906)
Smith, Shannon, Gail Salaway, and Judith Borreson Caruso, with an Introduction by Richard N. Katz. The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2009 (Research Study, Vol. 6). Boulder, CO: EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research, 2009, available from