The U.S. National Archives Launches an Animated GIF Archive: See Whitman, Twain, Hemingway & Others in Motion

Does it matter to you if some people insist on pronouncing GIF with a hard “g” rather than saying “Jiff,” as if they were telling you when they’d get back from the store? (I freely admit, I’m one of those people.) Well then, you, reader, certainly belong to a core audience for the National Archives and Records Administration’s online library of animated “jiffs.” Clearly NARA knows the correct pronunciation, since they announce their new collection with the dated pun “Getting’ Giphy With It.” And they know what the internet needs most from them in times like these: “quality animated GIFs from a reputable source.”

NARA’s archive of jerky, silent, digital moving pictures resides at their GIPHY channel, and contains an “animated history of all flavors including major historic events, celebrities, National Parks, newsreels, animated patents, dancing sailors,” etc…

"... wait, what’s that?," you say, “animated patents”? Yes. Admittedly, not all of the collection’s GIFs make the quippiest of reaction shots. The archive does, as Allison Meier writes at Hyperallergic, “tell US history in motion.” But animated images of static photos—some dating from before the days of animation---tend to look a little stiff, as in the GIF below, made from two different exposures of a Walt Whitman portrait. Or the already exceedingly stiff portrait further down of a young Mark Twain and friend.

Meier compares these GIF anachronisms to the New York Public Library’s “Stereogranimator,” a neat online tool that allows us to experience a 19th century mechanical version of the GIF. In that regard, they join antiquarian interest with digital curiosity. But when we think of animated GIFs, we generally think of weird little vignettes, like the image at the top, which shows us architect William Van Alen dressed as his famous Chrysler Building, from a 1931 gathering of the Society of Beaux-Arts Architects (which we’ve featured in a previous post).

You’ll find plenty of nostalgic GIFS, such as (if you’re a GenX’er) that of Woody the “Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute” public service owl, above.

Naturally, the archive contains its share of images with world historical significance---like the exploding swastika in Nuremberg from the end of World War II, above---and cultural significance, such as the tippling Hemingway and boyish Beatles, below.

Scenes from classic films and TV shows, advertisements and public service campaigns... the resource “currently has over 150 NARA GIFs,” writes Meier, “with more continuing to be added.” Is this a publicity stunt? Absolutely. “GIFs help keep us relevant,” remarks Darren Cole of the National Archives, “but also further the agency’s mission of providing access to our holdings to the public.”

In light of the popularity of “history image accounts” on social media, notes Meier, the NARA GIFs “are a savvy initiative to connect a wider audience with the richness of the National Archives"---a way that allows users to accurately document sources and place images in context. Each GIF on the NARA channel links back to the National Archives Catalog, with various levels of description and sourcing information. Gimmick or no, it’s a pretty cool resource full of some pretty cool GIFs—even, believe it or not, those “animated patents.”

via Hyperallergic

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

100,000 Free Art History Texts Now Available Online Thanks to the Getty Research Portal

paul klee getty portal

"I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library," Jorge Luis Borges famously wrote. Were he alive today, he might well regard the internet as becoming more paradisiacal all the time, at least in the sense that it keeps not just generating new texts, but absorbing existing ones and making them available free to readers.




And while his well-known story "The Library of Babel" envisions a magical or extremely high-tech library containing all possible texts (which the internet has started to make a reality), recent additions to the vast library of the internet have done him one better by incorporating not just pages of letters, but intricately designed and lavishly illustrated art texts as well.

raven matisse

Take the Getty Research Portal, which has just, for its fourth anniversary, unveiled a new design and a total volume count surpassing 100,000. "In assembling a virtual corpus of digitized texts on art, architecture, material culture, and related fields from numerous partners, the Portal aspires to offer a more expansive collection than any single library could provide," writes project content specialist Annie Rana at the Getty's blog The Iris. "Furthermore, with these freely downloadable materials, scholars and researchers can now be in possession of copies of rare books and other titles without having to travel to far-flung locales."

OC Getty Portal Kandinsky

More than twenty institutions now share their collections at the Getty Research Portal: recent joiners include the Art Institute of Chicago’s Ryerson and Burnham Libraries, the Bibliotheca Hertziana-Max Planck Institute for Art History in Rome, the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel, the Menil Library Collection in Houston, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Library and Archives in New York, and the Warburg Institute Library in London. But wait, says Rana, there's more, or at least more on the way: "Dialogues with art libraries and institutions in India, Iran, and Japan are in the works as the project also looks to increase international coverage."

OC Getty Portal The Building in Japan

Still, the selection of items looks quite international already. The post highlights a few items of high potential interest to Open Culture readers, such as Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven illustrated by Edouard Manet and translated into French by Stéphane Mallarmé, as well as a monograph on, an exhibition catalog about the work of, and writings by the Russian abstract painter and art theorist Wassily Kandinsky. But even though the Getty Research Portal seems only to have plans to grow larger and larger, everyone browsing through it will surely find something suited to their artistic interests, from Paul Klee (top) to Roy Lichtenstein to Japanese architecture and everything in between; you have only to step through the portal to find it.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Explore Harvard’s Iconic Spaces with 360° Interactive Videos

For me, nothing captures those occasional feelings of post-graduate yearning like "I Wish I Could Go Back to College," a N-quite-SFW track from the Broadway musical, Avenue Q.

With all due respect, it feels like the five members of Harvard University’s just-graduated Class of 2016 sharing their recollections in the interactive 360° video project, Harvard Students Say Farewell, left a few crucial details out. (Note: Youtube 360 videos only work in Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, or Opera browsers.)

It’s completely safe for prospective parents, not a keg or condom wrapper in sight. (The project is hosted on Harvard’s official Youtube channel.)

Unsurprisingly, Harvard appears to have been the participants’ universal first choice of college. Hasty Pudding performer, Joshuah Campbell, above, a self-described “Black kid from the country,” confides that it was the only place he applied to.

He may have arrived wondering how he would fit in, but four years later, his grubby dorm room is one of the “iconic” Harvard locations viewers can explore digitally as he briefly reflects upon his experience.

That’s about as down and dirty as this series gets. The human subjects seem to have been selected with an eye toward diversity and humility, rather than the clenched Boston Brahmin jaw that once defined the institution.

Meanwhile, the libraries, quads, and theaters through which this new breed of Harvard men and women wander attest to the place's ongoing exclusivity.

Sreeja Kalapurakkel, above, a member of the Harvard South Asian Dance Company, knew what she was getting into, as a student at a respected Boston secondary school. Shortly after graduation, she sung Harvard's praises somewhat more frankly on her Facebook page:

Each day of my time at Harvard was filled with everything that makes life beautiful: darkness, struggle, despair, loneliness, friendship, hope, perseverance, light. Every experience, every lesson, every friend transformed me into someone more human and gave me something new to fight for.

Harvard, like every other college in the land, has relaxed its policy on ending a sentence in a preposition.

Ana-Maria Constantin arrived sight unseen from her native Romania to pull us out onto the deck of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.

On to the locker room! Hockey captain Kyle Criscuolo joins the Detroit Red Wings, reflecting that Harvard student athletes enjoy no special treatment. In future, the university may want to require them to listen to Will Stephen’s lecture, "How to Sound Smart in a TED Talk." Criscuolo sounds sincere, but also stiff, as if reading from a sheet of paper, or the digital equivalent thereof.

(Thereof is an adverb, by the way. Not a preposition. I checked.)

Harvard Art Museums Student Board member Rachel Thompson paints herself so meekly, I’m tempted to check with her freshman year roommate. Was she really so filled with self doubt? I've always assumed Harvard acceptance letters would puff the recipient up. Good lord, imagine the effect the rejection letters must have!

Use a mouse to explore the immersive environment on your computer, or the YouTube app to navigate on a mobile device. Use a virtual reality headset and the Harvard Crimson staff’s vocabulary list to enhance the experience even more.

The complete playlist is here.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine, and a Northwestern University grad. Follow her @AyunHalliday

Stephen Fry Launches Pindex, a “Pinterest for Education”

Who can now deny that, in the internet, we have the greatest educational tool ever conceived by mankind? Surely no Open Culture reader would deny it, anyway, nor could they fail to take an interest in a new startup aiming to increase the internet's educational power further still: Pindex, which calls itself "a Pinterest for education." No other company has yet staked that territory out, and certainly no other company has done it with the support of Stephen Fry.

The Telegraph's Cara McCoogan describes Pindex, which launched just last month (visit it here), as "a self-funded online platform that creates and curates educational videos and infographics for teachers and students," founded and run by a four-person team.




Fry's role in the quartet includes offering "creative direction," but he's also put his unmistakable voice to one of Pindex's first videos, an "explainer about the Large Hadron Collider, dark matter and extra dimensions. Other videos will focus on science and technology, including ones on the Hyperloop, colonising Mars, and robots and drones. Mr Fry is expected to do the voiceovers for several of these."

Have a look around the site and you'll also find a collection of material on gravitational waves, some creative writing resources, an infographic guide to nutrition, details on a variety of fun science experiments, and much more besides. There's even a guide to Pindex itself, which explains how to use the site and what you can get out of it going forward, whether as a teacher, a student, or just someone into learning as much as possible — a pursuit that, even in what Fry calls "a time when it is easy to lose faith in an online world that seems to centre around trolling, bullying, hating, trivializing and belittling," gets more rewarding by the day.

via The Telegraph

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Download the Software That Provides Stephen Hawking’s Voice

hawking capitalism future

Creative Commons image via NASA

Ah to be possessed of a highly distinctive voice.

Actress Katherine Hepburn had one.

As did FDR

And noted Hollywood Square Paul Lynde…

Physicist Stephen Hawking may trump them all, though his famously recognizable voice is not organic. The one we all associate with him has been computer generated since worsening Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, aka Lou Gehrig’s disease, led to a tracheotomy in 1985.

Without the use of his hands, Hawking controls the Assistive Context-Aware Toolkit software with a  sensor attached to one of his cheek muscles.

Recently, Intel has made the software and its user guide available for free download on the code sharing site, Github. It requires a computer running Windows XP or above to use, and also a webcam that will track the visual cues of the user’s facial expressions.

The multi-user program allows users to type in MS Word and browse the Internet, in addition to assisting them to "speak" aloud in English.

The software release is intended to help researchers aiding sufferers of motor neuron diseases, not pranksters seeking to borrow the famed physicist’s voice for their doorbells and cookie jar lids. To that end, the free version comes with a default voice, not Professor Hawking’s.

Download the Assistive Context-Aware Toolkit (ACAT) here.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Her play, Fawnbook, is currently playing in New York City. Follow her @AyunHalliday

Do Not Track: Interactive Film Series Reveals the Personal Information You’re Giving Away on the Web

If Facebook knows everything about you, it’s because you handed it the keys to your kingdom.  You posted a photo, liked a favorite childhood TV show, and willingly volunteered your birthday. In other words, you handed it all the data it needs to annoy you with targeted advertising.

(In my case, it’s an ancient secret that helped a middle aged mom shave 5 inches off her waistline. Let me save you a click: acai berries.)

Filmmaker Brett Gaylor (a “lefty Canadian dad who reads science fiction) seeks to set the record straight regarding the web economy’s impact on personal privacy.

Watching his interactive documentary web series, Do Not Track, you’ll inevitably arrive at a crossroads where you must decide whether or not to share your personal information. No biggie, right? It’s what happens every time you consent to “log in with Facebook.”

Every time you choose this convenience, you’re allowing Google and other big time trackers to stick a harpoon (aka cookie) in your side. Swim all you want, little fishy. You’re not exactly getting away, particularly if you’re logged in with a mobile device with a compulsion to reveal your whereabouts.

You say you have nothing to hide? Bully for you! What you may not have considered is the impact your digital easy-breeziness has on friends. Your network. And vice versa. Tag away!

In this arena, every “like”---from an acquaintance’s recently launched organic skincare line to Star Trek---helps trackers build a surprisingly accurate portrait, one that can be used to determine how insurable you are, how worthy of a loan. Gender and age aren’t the only factors that matter here. So does your demonstrated extraversion, your degree of openness.

(Ha ha, and you thought it cost you nothing to “like” that acquaintance’s smelly strawberry-scented moisturizer!)

To get the most out of Do Not Track, you’ll want to supply its producers with your email address on your first visit. It’s a little counter-intuitive, given the subject matter, but doing so will provide you with a unique configuration that promises to lift the veil on what the trackers know about you.

What does it say about me that I couldn’t get my Facebook log-in to work? How disappointing that this failure meant I would be viewing results tailored to Episode 3’s star, German journalist Richard Gutjahr?

(Your profile… says that your age is 42 and your gender is male. But the real gold mine is your Facebook data over time. By analyzing the at least 129 things you have liked on Facebook, we have used our advanced algorithm techniques to assess your personality and have found you scored highest in Openness which indicates you are creative, imaginative, and adventurous. Our personality evaluation system uses Psycho-demographic trait predictions powered by the Apply Magic Sauce API developed at the University of Cambridge Psychometrics Centre.)

I think the takeaway is that I am not too on top of my privacy settings. And why would I be? I’m an extrovert with nothing to hide, except my spending habits, browsing history, race, age, marital status…

Should we take a tip from our high school brethren, who evade the scrutiny of college admissions counselors by adopting some ridiculous, evocative pseudonym? Expect upcoming episodes of Do Not Track to help us navigate these and other digital issues.

Tune in to Do Not Track here. You can find episodes 1, 2 and 3 currently online. Episodes 4-6 will roll out between May 12 and June 9.

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Ayun Halliday an author, illustrator, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine invites you to look into her very soul @AyunHalliday

Google Makes Available 750 Icons for Designers & Developers: All Open Source 

google icons

If you're a designer or developer, Kottke.org thought you'd might like to know: "As part of their Material Design visual language, Google has open-sourced a package of 750 icons. More info here."

Over at Github, you can view a live preview of the icons or download the icon pack now.

Our friends at BoingBoing add, "They're licensed CC-BY-SA and designed for use in mobile apps and other interactive stuff." Use them well.

 

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