Resource Links – Considerations for Curation

Here some links to resources and software that I have been exploring in my first weeks at CEREV. In between inventorying equipment, setting up the internet, and configuring computers for the CEREV facilities, I have been researching and testing software for three specific environmental functions:

1. A WordPress/BuddyPress online collaborative class environment for Dr. Lehrer’s Curating Difficult Knowledge class and related SSHRC Image, Sound, Text & Technology grant project.

2. Software/hardware options for networking multiple video projectors/screens for curatorial experiments in the Workshop.

3. Collaborative software platforms for developing and sharing collective work and brainstorming.

First off, lets look at WordPress. For those of you who aren’t familiar with WordPress, it is a social blogging platform that can be used for blogs, websites or quite robust content management systems (digital libraries, media archives etc…). It is very easy to set up, very easy to use, very adaptable and best of all you can manage it all from any web browser (IE, Firefox, Safari etc…). And it’s free! In other words, you don’t need to be a Web designer to update content or functionality. Combined with a plugin called BuddyPress you can create a collaborative group-based online environment with forums, chat rooms and an area for shared resources. I will post more on this later but for those of you who are interested here are the links:

An excellent example of WordPress/BuddyPress integration can be found here at CUNY Academic Commons.

Secondly, as I mentioned in my previous post, we are fortunate to have a Workshop for experimental faculty/student research. It will house a networked audio/video system for multiple projections, installations and interactive presentational media. As CEREV is an Apple-based media lab, our platform choices have to be Mac compatible. Core to all this is the requirement that the software/hardware system of choice must allow a single computer to show individual videos on multiple screens (which requires multiple video cards) or alternatively media projection can be configured by a networked server computer that controls other remote computers to project individual videos. Interestingly enough, although Mac is often characterized as the creative PC platform, the majority of multiple projection software seems to be Windows-only. Researching this, I came across excellent open source software called MediaScreener, created by an educator and interactive software developer named Zach Poff. I have been very impressed with the application; it is very stable in my testing thus far and shows great possibilities in terms of the CEREV Workshop. Although MediaScreener is not necessarily as adaptable or user friendly as some proprietary software packages, it is free, and if you’re on a budget it is well worth considering.

A link to MediaScreener and Zach Poff other interactive software he has developed can be found here, thanks very much Zach!

Some proprietary, Mac-based software environments for synchronizing multiple image projection I am also currently considering include Pro Vision Player and Sedna Presenter. Sedna Presenter, an application that was originally developed for digital signage, is an interesting possibility for networked projection, and is very scalable.

NOTE: Having a library of video clips to experiment with is always necessary in these situations. A useful site for free archival media and video is Archive.org.

My last observations for this post focus on collaborative software platforms for developing and sharing collective work and brainstorming. The Incubator will act as a CEREV brainstorming and media editing facility. Ideally, this room will allow groups to discuss and develop collaborative ideas/resources. Smartboards were discussed, but I suggested that they were better suited to instruction than collaboration. Dr. Lehrer mentioned an interesting collaborative software package she saw students using at the University of Washington called TeamSpot. What made this application so interesting was that it allowed multiple users to work in one central environment using their individual laptops. I started to research this further, and indeed the application looked excellent for our needs. Ultimately, though, TeamSpot, or any software like it, is a type of remote desktop (or VNC) application that allows multiple computers to see and control one shared computer environment, usually through a shared network or Internet connection.  Subsequent Googling led me to a similar and more affordable application called TeamViewer. TeamViewer has one definite advantage to TeamSpot: price. Not only is it cheaper, but for non-enterprise use it is actually free. Although the Incubator is not yet fully equipped, the main idea is to have a central, shared desktop computer (connected to a projector) that individuals can access and control with their individual laptops. Groups can work on and share any media collaboratively, such as concept maps, PowerPoint documents or even co-edit video and audio. TeamViewer takes all the headaches of the typical VNC remote desktop configuration (such as port configuration and firewall issues) and gives the users a simple invite key and access code to the host shared desktop environment. Users only need to install the TeamViewer application to their laptop and they are ready to go, best of all it is multi-platform and works equally well with a PC or Mac. So far my initial tests of TeamViewer are very positive, it is stable and fairly responsive for a remote desktop application. More to come….

Center for Ethnographic Research and Exhibition in the Aftermath of Violence