¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 I receive a weekly email from Ted Talks every Saturday morning and depending on how busy I am catching up on all the things I wasn’t able to do during the week, I try and make (a little) time to browse the newest talks. Not too many Saturdays ago, I was feeling a little burnt out on work and school (and the ever-present big data project we’re supposed to be thinking about), so I turned to Ted Talks for some inspiration.
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 The first talk I viewed was given by Amit Sood that introduces the audience to “Every piece of art you’ve ever wanted to see up close and searchable.” Amit is the director of Google’s Cultural Institute & Art Project and got me thinking how a large scale collection of images can be used to make new stories and connections across the various places they are located! This project has been done in coordination with many of the world’s greatest art institutions (including museums, archives, and other foundations) and is a shining example of how access to valuable cultural artifacts can be shared extensively with everyone, despite their proximity or ability to physically (or monetarily) go to a museum. However, I’m most likely not going to use images as my large data set (I’m thinking more along the lines of gathering data about my library’s book collection), I was impressed by the many visualizations displayed and the possibilities of uses for this kind of data set.
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 A big bang metaphor was used regularly throughout this talk and it reminded me fondly of the many times I’ve gone to the AMNH’s Hayden Planetarium. At minute 3:51, Amit states,
“So let’s zoom. We start from this one object [the Venus of Berekhat Ram–one of the oldest objects in the world, found in the Golan Heights around 233,000 years ago, and currently residing at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem]. What if we zoomed out and actually tried to experience our own cultural big bang? What might that look like? This is what we deal with on a daily basis at the Cultural Institute — over six million cultural artifacts curated and given to us by institutions, to actually make these connections. You can travel through time, you can understand more about our society through these. You can look at it from the perspective of our planet, and try to see how it might look without borders, if we just organized art and culture. We can also then plot it by time, which obviously, for the data geek in me, is very fascinating. You can spend hours looking at every decade and the contributions in that decade and in those years for art, history and cultures. We would love to spend hours showing you each and every decade, but we don’t have the time right now. So you can go on your phone and actually do it yourself.”
¶ 6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 Amit and his co-presenter, Cyril Diagne who is a professor of Interaction Design at ECAL (Lausanne, Switzerland) and an artist in residence at the Google Cultural Institute Lab (Paris, France), give the audience a demonstration of how these images, when put together on such a massive scale, demonstrate how this platform can allow a user to go through time and across great distances to make connections among the 6 million objects contained in the collection. I’ve just downloaded the app for my phone and I plan to play quite a bit!
¶ 7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 After being inspired by Amit’s talk, I wanted to search for a more literary themed talk and project. I did a search for “library” and found this talk among the top hits entitled Jean-Baptiste Michel + Erez Lieberman Aiden: What we learned from 5 million books which was given a little earlier than Amit’s talk.
¶ 8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 Apparently, I seem to be most impressed with Google enabled/sponsored projects–or at least that’s what TedTalks has presented me with! I promise, I am not a loyal devotee to all things Google, but I do recognize their strides in contributing to the availability of information online and how pretty & user friendly they’ve made it all. I was not aware of the Ngram viewer prior to this talk, so at the very least, I learned of one more tool available to me. The presenters humor alone is worth viewing this short talk. I was appeased by their discussion of how awesome it would be to read all the published books in the known world in order to form an understanding about a massive corpus, but how absolutely impractical it is! They also poke a little bit of fun at the practical practice of close reading. Which of course has its own merits, but with access to millions of digitized works, distant reading is opening up new means for awesomeness to be had! Nonetheless, they make an excellent case for undertaking such large scale endeavors.
¶ 9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 I often feel that the many digital humanities project ideas I have often feel awesome yet terribly impractical and mostly insurmountable with my current skill set. Although, I’m slowly realizing that many projects are practical and #gcpraxis16 is designed to move us from frightened big-data novices into seasoned practitioners. I am looking forward to, and inspired by, the process ahead.