Make Your Own Medieval Memes with a New Tool from the Dutch National Library

As much joy as inter­net memes have giv­en you over the years, you may have strug­gled to explain them to those unfa­mil­iar with the con­cept. But if you’ve found it a tall order to artic­u­late the pow­er of found images crude­ly over­laid with text to, say, your par­ents, imag­ine attempt­ing to do the same to an ances­tor from the four­teenth cen­tu­ry. Intro­duc­ing memes to a medieval per­son, the best strat­e­gy would pre­sum­ably be to begin not with sar­don­ic Willy Won­ka, the guy dis­tract­ed by anoth­er girl, or The Most Inter­est­ing Man in the World, but memes with famil­iar medieval imagery. Thanks to KB, the nation­al library of the Nether­lands, you can now make some of you own with ease.

“On vis­i­tors can use images tak­en from the Dutch nation­al library’s medieval col­lec­tion and turn them into memes,” says “When using the meme gen­er­a­tor, peo­ple active­ly cre­ate new con­texts for these his­toric images by adding cur­rent cap­tions. The avail­able images are accom­pa­nied by explana­to­ry videos, pro­vid­ing view­ers with back­ground infor­ma­tion and show­ing them that, much like today, peo­ple in the Mid­dle Ages used images to com­ment on their sur­round­ings and cur­rent affairs.” You might repur­pose these live­ly pieces of medieval art for such twen­ty-first-cen­tu­ry top­ics as club­bing, online shop­ping, or the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic.

At the top of this post appears an image from 1327, orig­i­nal­ly cre­at­ed for a book of mir­a­cles King Charles IV ordered for his queen. As KB explains, it offers “a warn­ing of what can hap­pen if you don’t learn your prayers prop­er­ly.” Below that is “a sort of Medi­ae­val car­toon” from 1183 about the tech­niques involved in prop­er­ly slaugh­ter­ing a pig. And just above, we see what hap­pened when “the Ken­ite Jael lured the leader of the army, Sis­era, into her tent. Sis­era had been vio­lent­ly oppress­ing the Ken­ites for 20 years. While he slept, she whacked a tent peg straight through his head.” Though cre­at­ed for a pic­ture Bible 592 years ago, this pic­ture sure­ly has poten­tial for trans­po­si­tion into com­men­tary on the very dif­fer­ent per­ils of life in the twen­ty-twen­ties. But when you deploy it as a meme, you can do so in the knowl­edge that even your medieval fore­bears would have known that feel.


Relat­ed con­tent:

Why Butt Trum­pets & Oth­er Bizarre Images Appeared in Illu­mi­nat­ed Medieval Man­u­scripts

Killer Rab­bits in Medieval Man­u­scripts: Why So Many Draw­ings in the Mar­gins Depict Bun­nies Going Bad

Why Knights Fought Snails in Illu­mi­nat­ed Medieval Man­u­scripts

800 Illu­mi­nat­ed Medieval Man­u­scripts Are Now Online: Browse & Down­load Them Cour­tesy of the British Library and Bib­lio­thèque Nationale de France

160,000 Pages of Glo­ri­ous Medieval Man­u­scripts Dig­i­tized: Vis­it the Bib­lio­the­ca Philadel­phien­sis

The Aberdeen Bes­tiary, One of the Great Medieval Illu­mi­nat­ed Man­u­scripts, Now Dig­i­tized in High Res­o­lu­tion & Made Avail­able Online

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

The Depths of Wikipedia: Enjoy a Compendium of the Online Encyclopedia’s Most Bizarre Pages

@depthsofwikipedia If the author­i­ties kill me for mak­ing this tik­tok just know I loved you guys #learnon­tik­tok #tik­tok­part­ner ♬ orig­i­nal sound — Annie Rauw­er­da

What’s your stance on Wikipedia, the free, open con­tent online ency­clo­pe­dia?

Stu­dents are often dis­cour­aged or dis­al­lowed from cit­ing Wikipedia as a source, a bias that a Wikipedia entry titled “Wikipedia should not be con­sid­ered a defin­i­tive source in and of itself” sup­ports:

As a user-gen­er­at­ed source, it can be edit­ed by any­one at any time, and any infor­ma­tion it con­tains at a par­tic­u­lar time could be van­dal­ism, a work in progress, or sim­ply incor­rect. Biogra­phies of liv­ing per­sons, sub­jects that hap­pen to be in the news, and polit­i­cal­ly or cul­tur­al­ly con­tentious top­ics are espe­cial­ly vul­ner­a­ble to these issues…because Wikipedia is a vol­un­teer-run project, it can­not con­stant­ly mon­i­tor every con­tri­bu­tion. There are many errors that remain unno­ticed for hours, days, weeks, months, or even years.

(Anoth­er entry coun­sels those who would per­sist to cite the exact time, date, and arti­cle ver­sion they are ref­er­enc­ing.)

Wikipedia has a clear­ly stat­ed pol­i­cy pro­hibit­ing con­trib­u­tors from close para­phras­ing or out­right copy­ing and past­ing from out­side sources, though in a bit of a cir­cle-in-a-cir­cle sit­u­a­tion, sev­er­al not­ed authors and jour­nal­ists have been caught pla­gia­riz­ing Wikipedia arti­cles.

A list of Wikipedia con­tro­ver­sies, pub­lished on — where else? — Wikipedia is a hair rais­ing litany of polit­i­cal sab­o­tage, char­ac­ter assas­si­na­tion, and “revenge edits”. (The list is cur­rent­ly sub­stan­ti­at­ed by 338 ref­er­ence links, and has been char­ac­ter­ized as in need of update since Octo­ber 2021, owing to a lack of edits regard­ing the “con­tro­ver­sy about Main­land Chi­nese edi­tors.”)

It can be a pret­ty scary place, but Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan senior Annie Rauw­er­da, cre­ator of the Insta­gram account Depths of Wikipedia is unfazed. As she wrote in an arti­cle for the tech pub­li­ca­tion Input:

Wikipedia is a splen­did­ly exten­sive record of almost every­thing that mat­ters; a mod­ern-day Library of Alexan­dria that’s free, acces­si­ble, and dynam­ic. But Wikipedia is char­ac­ter­ized not only by what it is but also by what it is not. It’s not a soap­box, a bat­tle­ground, nor a blog.

It’s also becom­ing famous as Rauw­er­da’s play­ground, or more accu­rate­ly, a packed swap shop in which mil­lions of bizarre items are tucked away.

If your sched­ule lim­its the amount time you can spend down its myr­i­ad rab­bit holes, Rauw­er­da will do the dig­ging for you.

Turn­ing a selec­tion of Wikipedia excerpts into a col­lage for a friend’s quaran-zine inspired her to keep the par­ty going with screen­shots of odd­ball entries post­ed to a ded­i­cat­ed Insta­gram account.

Her fol­low­ers don’t seem to care whether a post con­tains an image or not, though the neu­ro­science major finds that emo­tion­al, short or ani­mal-relat­ed posts gen­er­ate the most excite­ment. “I used to post more things that were con­cep­tu­al,” she told Lithi­um Mag­a­zine,  “like mind-blow­ing physics con­cepts, but those didn’t lend them­selves to Insta­gram as well since they require a few min­utes of think­ing and read­ing.”

The bulk of what she posts come to her as read­er sub­mis­sions, though in a pinch, she can always turn to the “holy grail” — Wikipedia’s own list of unusu­al arti­cles.

In addi­tion to Insta­gram, her dis­cov­er­ies find their way into an infre­quent­ly pub­lished newslet­ter, and onto Tik­Tok and Twit­ter, where some of our recent faves include the def­i­n­i­tion of hum­ster, a list of games that Bud­dha would not play, and the Paul O’Sullivan Band, “an inter­na­tion­al­ly based, pop-rock band con­sist­ing of four mem­bers, all of whom are named Paul O’Sullivan.”

Along the way, she has found ways to give back, co-host­ing a vir­tu­al edit-a-thon and bring­ing some gen­uine glam­our to a livestreamed Wikipedia triv­ia con­test.

And she recent­ly authored a seri­ous arti­cle for Slate about Rus­sians scram­bling to down­load a 29-giga­byte file con­tain­ing Russ­ian-lan­guage Wikipedia after the Fed­er­al Ser­vice for Super­vi­sion of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Infor­ma­tion Tech­nol­o­gy and Mass Media (Roskom­nad­zor) threat­ened to block it over con­tent relat­ed to the inva­sion of Ukraine.

(You can read more about how that’s going on Wikipedia…)

Sub­mit a link to Wikipedia page for pos­si­ble inclu­sion on the Depths of Wikipedia here.

Fol­low Annie Rauwin­da’s Depths of Wikipedia on Insta­gram and Tik­Tok.

via NYTimes

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Lis­ten to Wikipedia: A Web Site That Turns Every Wikipedia Edit Into Ambi­ent Music in Real Time

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Listen to Wikipedia: A Web Site That Turns Every Wikipedia Edit Into Ambient Music in Real Time

Wikipedia turned 20 years old this past Jan­u­ary. Do you remem­ber how you first heard of it? Or more to the point, do you remem­ber when you actu­al­ly start­ed click­ing on it when it came up in your search results? For me, Wikipedia first proved an essen­tial resource for learn­ing about music: on it I looked up my favorite bands, then found my way to entries about all the peo­ple, events, places, and things asso­ci­at­ed with them. (I then tru­ly felt what it meant to go down an inter­net “rab­bit hole.”) Hav­ing been intrigued by, for instance, the music of Bri­an Eno, I dis­cov­ered through Wikipedia the world of ambi­ent music, of which Eno’s work con­sti­tutes only one part.

Two decades on, Wikipedia itself has become ambi­ent music. Lis­ten to Wikipedia, writes co-cre­ator Mah­moud Hashe­mi, “is a real-time aural­iza­tion of Wikipedia grow­ing, one edit at a time. The site is lit­er­al­ly self-explana­to­ry.” Even so, at that linked blog post Hashe­mi and his fel­low devel­op­er Stephen LaPorte explain that “Bells are addi­tions, strings are sub­trac­tions.”

Small­er edits sound high­er ones, and larg­er edits low­er ones. “There’s some­thing reas­sur­ing about know­ing that every user makes a noise, every edit has a voice in the roar. (Green cir­cles are anony­mous edits and pur­ple cir­cles are bots. White cir­cles are brought to you by Reg­is­tered Users Like You.)”

It all sounds a bit like — and looks even more like — Eno’s “gen­er­a­tive music” apps. But Lis­ten to Wikipedia adds a con­sid­er­able ver­bal and intel­lec­tu­al dimen­sion, label­ing each edit that bub­bles up with the name of the rel­e­vant page. Kawaii met­al. Year of the Fifth Coali­tion. Tom Brady. Lee Coun­ty, Texas. Do You Like Hitch­cock? Justin Bieber discog­ra­phy. Geog­ra­phy of Gael­ic games. Cal­i­for­nia Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty. Bas­ket­ball at the 1988 Sum­mer Olympics – Men’s tour­na­ment. All these names arose and van­ished with­in about a min­ute’s view­ing, as did many oth­ers of more deeply tan­ta­liz­ing obscu­ri­ty. If you feel tempt­ed to look them all up on Wikipedia itself, count your­self among those of us who’ve known, for twen­ty years now, where the inter­net’s real poten­tial for addi­tion lies. Explore Lis­ten to Wikipedia here.

h/t @pbkauf

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Bri­an Eno Explains the Ori­gins of Ambi­ent Music

Behold the MusicMap: The Ulti­mate Inter­ac­tive Geneal­o­gy of Music Cre­at­ed Between 1870 and 2016

The His­to­ry of Elec­tron­ic Music Visu­al­ized on a Cir­cuit Dia­gram of a 1950s Theremin: 200 Inven­tors, Com­posers & Musi­cians

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

A New Collection of Official, Authorized Prince GIFs!

Tech entre­pre­neur Anil Dash, pod­cast­er, music his­to­ri­an, and advi­sor to the Oba­ma White House’s Office of Dig­i­tal Strat­e­gy, knows his way around Prince’s cat­a­logue.

Less than a year after the icon­o­clas­tic musi­cian left the plan­et, Dash cre­at­ed a guide to help new­bies and casu­al lis­ten­ers become bet­ter acquaint­ed with his oeu­vre:

The nice thing about Prince’s work is that there are no bad start­ing points; if you don’t like what you hear at first, he almost cer­tain­ly made a song in the com­plete oppo­site style as well.

He assem­bled playlists for the Prince-resis­tant, reel­ing ‘em in by cater­ing to var­i­ous tastes, from “riff-dri­ven rock tracks” and elec­tron­i­ca to “Prince for Red­bone fans.”

(Those playlists are also a great ser­vice to those of us whose atten­tion wan­dered in the decades fol­low­ing Prince’s 80’s hey­day.)

Dash has also now done us a sol­id and high­light­ed an offi­cial archive of high-qual­i­ty Prince GIFs, tak­en from his music videos.

Prince was noto­ri­ous­ly pro­tec­tive of his image, and wild as it is, the GIF archive, a col­lab­o­ra­tion with GIPHY, Pais­ley Park and Prince’s estate, col­ors with­in those lines by steer­ing clear of unflat­ter­ing reac­tion shots culled from inter­views, live per­for­mances, or pub­lic appear­ances.

There’s still a broad range of atti­tudes on dis­play, though best get out of line if you’re look­ing for an expres­sion that con­veys “lack of con­fi­dence” or “the oppo­site of sexy.”

The archive is arranged by album. Click on a song title and you’ll find a num­ber of moments drawn from its offi­cial music video.

Any cap­tions come straight from the horse’s mouth. No back­seat cap­tion jock­eys can has cheezburg­er with Prince Rogers Nelson’s image, thank you very much.

Begin your explo­rations of the Prince GIF Archive here.

via Kot­tke

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Prince Play Jazz Piano & Coach His Band Through George Gershwin’s “Sum­mer­time” in a Can­did, Behind-the-Scenes Moment (1990)

Read Prince’s First Inter­view, Print­ed in His High School News­pa­per (1976)

Hear Prince’s Per­son­al Playlist of Par­ty Music: 22 Tracks That Will Bring Any Par­ty to Life

Prince Plays Gui­tar for Maria Bar­tiro­mo: It’s Awk­ward (2004)

Ayun Hal­l­i­day always stood at the back of the line, a smile beneath her nose. Ayun is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  See her onstage in New York City in Feb­ru­ary as host of  The­ater of the Apes book-based vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

The Joy of Experiencing Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody for the Very First Time: Watch Three Reaction Videos

Remem­ber when you first encoun­tered Queen’s “Bohemi­an Rhap­sody”?

I sus­pect many of us don’t. It’s not the Kennedy assas­si­na­tion. Nor does it take long for Fred­dy Mer­cury’s soar­ing vocals and mon­u­men­tal lyrics to leach into the blood stream, cre­at­ing the impres­sion that we were born know­ing every note, every word, every stag­ger­ing tran­si­tion…

(Note to those unfa­mil­iar with this impos­si­ble to cat­e­go­rize 1975 mas­ter­piece: Go give it a lis­ten RIGHT NOW, while the rest of us wait for you here. Here’s the offi­cial video. But first, set up what­ev­er equip­ment you need to film your reac­tion in real time, as Penn­syl­va­nia based YouTu­ber AFRO REACT, does above.)

He’ll def­i­nite­ly remem­ber where he was when he first heard this won­der­ful, sem­i­nal song, as will over 1000 view­ers, most of whom gave him an encour­ag­ing thumbs up.

So what if he mis­pro­nounces both “bohemi­an” and “rhap­sody”?  That he’s unclear whether Queen is the name of the singer or the band? He can cringe later…or not. Such doc­u­ment­ed boo boos may be a gen­er­a­tional haz­ard, the way crimped and moussed 80s hair was for mine.

(I was sur­prised, and grate­ful, that nei­ther he, nor any of the video reac­tion mas­ters fea­tured today, sniped at the ridicu­lous coif­fures of the artists they were watch­ing.)

Per­haps AFRO REACT’s appre­ci­a­tion will lead him to inves­ti­gate those unfa­mil­iar words and more: Scara­mouche, Bis­mil­lah, fan­dan­go (No, not the pop­u­lar movie time site…)

I appre­ci­at­ed how he con­sult­ed his mom pri­or to lis­ten­ing, to see if she thought he’d enjoy the full song as much as he liked the snip­pet he’d heard in a movie trail­er.

My son nev­er asks my opin­ion like that.

Hold up a sec there, AFRO REACT. Why not leave Mom out of it and just give it a spin (as we used to say)?

I sus­pect what he was real­ly eager to find out was whether she thought this track would be wor­thy of a reac­tion video.

The answer, resound­ing­ly, is yes.

I con­fess that his habit of paus­ing the video to inter­ject his own thoughts was dri­ving me out of my gourd. My son does the same thing.

I have since learned this is more than just a symp­tom of being born into a world where pret­ty much every­thing can be paused and restart­ed at will, at least as far as prac­ti­tion­ers of the reac­tion video arts are con­cerned.

Tak­ing fre­quent breaks like that is a sol­id way to get around copy­right claim when includ­ing the offi­cial videos along­side the reac­tion. (Oth­er tech­niques include low­er­ing the vol­ume while offer­ing one’s response or fast for­ward­ing 5 sec­onds a cou­ple of times per minute.)

I sus­pect many old­er fans will feel a lump at the 4:15 mark, as the appre­cia­tive first-timer mus­es, “This man has a beau­ti­ful voice. Like, what hap­pened to him?”

Ask your moth­er, kid.

The real treat comes at 6:15. Scara­mouche, scara­mouche, what­ev­er our young lis­ten­er was expect­ing, it sure­ly wasn’t that!

Thus­ly anoth­er Queen fan is forged. Just a few days ago, he shared his vir­gin response to “Under Pres­sure (Live at Wem­b­ley)

Tuscaloosa-based musi­cian Joey Da Prince takes a more under­stat­ed approach to reac­tion videos. Watch­ing him bob from side to side, brow fur­rowed, appre­cia­tive invol­un­tary smiles bloom­ing now and again, reminds me of com­ing home, strip­ping the cel­lo­phane from a just-pur­chased album (or CD) and giv­ing it a good hard lis­ten, eye­balls glued to the lin­er notes.

He only hits pause once, shocked by the open­ing line of the famous first verse:

Mama just killed a man…

Oh, wait a minute. In a just post­ed 25-minute lyric break­down, Joey reveals that he mis­heard that line, and was, under­stand­ably, tak­en aback by the idea of the singer’s moth­er mur­der­ing some­one.

(Mercury’s tech­nique was impec­ca­ble, so let’s take this as proof that com­mas are eas­i­er to see than hear…)

Like AFRO REACT, Joey quick­ly queued up the live ver­sion of “Under Pres­sure”…and “Some­body to Love,” “Fat Bot­tomed Girls,” “We Will Rock You,” the list goes on…

He’s obsessed to such a degree that he’s even filmed his reac­tion to pop cul­ture essay­ist Polyphonic’s The Secrets Behind Fred­die Mer­cury’s Leg­endary Voice, below. This is what life­long learn­ers do.

It’s worth not­ing that Joey Da Prince tried “Bohemi­an Rhap­sody” on a commenter’s sug­ges­tion.

At the rate he’s going, he’s going to burn through Queen’s siz­able cat­a­logue pret­ty quick­ly, so toss him some sug­ges­tions, peo­ple!

I’m gonna go out on a limb and nom­i­nate Kate Bush’s “Wuther­ing Heights.”

Gamer Qua­max, aka Qua, did not come to “Bohemi­an Rhap­sody” as a total Queen new­bie. By his own admis­sion, he was some­what famil­iar with “We Will Rock You,” “We Are the Cham­pi­ons,” “Anoth­er One Bites the Dust,” and “Under Pres­sure” from their appear­ances in movies and “oth­er pop cul­ture” (which pre­sum­ably does not cov­er some­one else’s reac­tion videos.)

As he lis­tens in an intent for­ward-fac­ing hunch, he seems the most keyed-in to the humor that is a def­i­nite part of this song’s lis­ten­ing expe­ri­ence (and pos­si­bly per­for­mance). He laughs mer­ri­ly at the phrase “Mama Mia, Mama Mia” and avails him­self of some tru­ly delight­ful after effects in the edit­ing process. (Those in a rush may fast for­ward to 4:32.)

Final pro­nounce­ment? It’s “dope and fun­ny” and he real­ly liked the tran­si­tions from one musi­cal style to anoth­er.

Wel­come to the Queen Army, Qua­max! You should try lis­ten­ing to “Under…” oh, you already did.

Read­ers, if these young men’s open-mind­ed­ness and open ears have inspired you to shoot a reac­tion video of your own, you’ll find a good primer here.

What haven’t you heard?

And what do you wish you could hear again for the very first time?

via Metafil­ter

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hip Hop Fan Freaks Out When He Hears Rage Against the Machine’s Debut Album for the Very First Time

Hear Fred­die Mer­cury & Queen’s Iso­lat­ed Vocals on Their Endur­ing Clas­sic Song, “We Are The Cham­pi­ons”

Queen’s “Bohemi­an Rhap­sody” Played by 28 Trom­bone Play­ers

Watch the Brand New Trail­er for Bohemi­an Rhap­sody, the Long-Await­ed Biopic on Fred­die Mer­cury & Queen

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Mon­day, Octo­ber 15 for anoth­er month­ly install­ment of her book-based vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

John Turturro Introduces America to the World Wide Web in 1999: Watch A Beginner’s Guide To The Internet

There are only two kinds of sto­ry, holds a quote often attrib­uted to Leo Tol­stoy: a man goes on a jour­ney, or a stranger comes to town. When it set about pro­duc­ing A Begin­ner’s Guide to the Inter­net, a “com­mu­ni­ty ser­vice video” geared to view­ers unfa­mil­iar with the World Wide Web, inter­net por­tal com­pa­ny Lycos went with the lat­ter. That stranger, a his­to­ry teacher and aspir­ing come­di­an named Sam Levin, comes to a town named Tick Neck, Penn­syl­va­nia, his car hav­ing bro­ken down ear­ly in a cross-coun­try dri­ve to a gig in Las Vegas. In order to update his manager/sister on the sit­u­a­tion, he stops into the rur­al ham­let’s only din­er and orders “cof­fee, half reg­u­lar and half decaf — and the tele­phone book.”

Sam does­n’t make a call; instead he unplugs the din­er’s phone, con­nects the line to his com­put­er, looks up his inter­net ser­vice provider’s local num­ber, and (after the req­ui­site modem sounds) gets on the infor­ma­tion super­high­way. Today we know few activ­i­ties as mun­dane as going online at a cof­fee shop, but the towns­peo­ple, inno­cent even of e‑mail, are trans­fixed. Sam shows a cou­ple of kids how to search for infor­ma­tion on haunt­ed hous­es and col­lege schol­ar­ships, and soon the stu­dents become the teach­ers, demon­strat­ing online games to friends, chat rooms to a cranky old-timer (“I don’t like this word net­work at all. Net­work of what? Spies, prob­a­bly”) and even state gov­ern­ment feed­back forms to the may­or of Tick Neck (who describes her­self as “not much with a key­board”).

Though at times it feels like the 1950s, the year was 1999, per­haps the last moment before Amer­i­ca’s com­plete inter­net sat­u­ra­tion — before social media, before stream­ing video, before blogs, before almost every­thing pop­u­lar online today. “The video for Inter­net ‘new­bies’ star­ring John Tur­tur­ro was made avail­able for free rental on the com­mu­ni­ty ser­vice shelf of over 4,000 Block­buster Video stores, West Coast Video stores, pub­lic school libraries and class­rooms across the Unit­ed States,” says a con­tem­po­rary arti­cle at “The pro­duc­tion was fund­ed by Lycos who has insti­tut­ed a cam­paign to bet­ter edu­cate the pub­lic about the World Wide Web.”

Those of us on the Web in the 1990s will remem­ber Lycos, which ran one of the pop­u­lar search engines before the age of Google. Launched in 1994 as a research project at Carnegie Mel­lon Uni­ver­si­ty in Pitts­burgh (which might explain A Begin­ner’s Guide to the Inter­net’s set­ting), Lycos was in 1999 the most vis­it­ed online des­ti­na­tion in the world, and the next year Span­ish telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pa­ny Tele­fóni­ca acquired it for a cool $12.5 bil­lion. Tur­tur­ro, not to be out­done, had in 1998 ascend­ed to a high lev­el of the coun­ter­cul­tur­al zeit­geist with his role in the Coen broth­ers’ The Big Lebows­ki, the pur­ple-clad bowler Jesus Quin­tana — very much not a stranger any­one would want going online with their kids, but Tur­tur­ro has always had a for­mi­da­ble range.

His­to­ry has­n’t record­ed how many new­bies A Begin­ner’s Guide to the Inter­net helped to start surf­ing the Web, but the video remains a fas­ci­nat­ing arti­fact of atti­tudes to the inter­net dur­ing its first peri­od of enor­mous growth. “My fam­i­ly does­n’t own a com­put­er,” the young boy tells Sam, “and my dad does­n’t like ’em. He says facts are facts.” (That last sen­tence, innocu­ous at the time, does take on a new res­o­nance today.) The boy’s teenage sis­ter excit­ed­ly describes the inter­net as “like going to the library, depart­ment store, and post office, all at the same time.” Enter­ing his cred­it card num­ber to buy an auto-repair man­u­al for the skep­ti­cal mechan­ic, Sam says (with a strange defen­sive­ness) that “it’s com­plete­ly pri­vate. I’ve done it before and it’s not a prob­lem.” As with any stranger of leg­end who comes to town, Sam leaves Tick Neck a changed place — though not near­ly as much as the Tick Necks of the world have since been changed by the inter­net itself.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How to Send an E‑mail: A 1984 British Tele­vi­sion Broad­cast Explains This “Sim­ple” Process

From the Annals of Opti­mism: The News­pa­per Indus­try in 1981 Imag­ines its Dig­i­tal Future

In 1999, David Bowie Pre­dicts the Good and Bad of the Inter­net

What’s the Inter­net? That’s So 1994…

John Tur­tur­ro Reads Ita­lo Calvino’s Fairy Tale, “The False Grand­moth­er,” in a Short Ani­mat­ed Film

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Behold the MusicMap: The Ultimate Interactive Genealogy of Music Created Between 1870 and 2016

A Pan­do­ra for the adven­tur­ous anti­quar­i­an, the high­ly under­rat­ed site Radiooooo gives users stream­ing music from all over the world and every decade since 1900. While it offers an aur­al feast, its lim­it­ed inter­face leaves much to be desired from an edu­ca­tion­al stand­point. On the oth­er end of the audio-visu­al spec­trum, clever dia­grams like those we’ve fea­tured here on elec­tron­ic music, alter­na­tive, and hip hop show the detailed con­nec­tions between all the major acts in these gen­res, but all they do so in silence.

Now a new inter­ac­tive info­graph­ic built by Bel­gian archi­tect Kwin­ten Crauwels brings togeth­er an ency­clo­pe­dic visu­al ref­er­ence with an exhaus­tive musi­cal archive. Though it’s miss­ing some of the fea­tures of the resources above, the Musicmap far sur­pass­es any­thing of its kind online—“both a 23and me-style ances­tral tree and a thor­ough dis­am­bigua­tion of just about every extant genre of music,” writes Fast Com­pa­ny.

Or as Frank Jacobs explains at Big Think, Crauwels’ goal is “to pro­vide the ulti­mate geneal­o­gy of pop­u­lar music gen­res, includ­ing their rela­tions and his­to­ry.”

With over 230 gen­res in all—linked togeth­er in intri­cate webs of influ­ence, mapped in a zoomable visu­al inter­face that orga­nizes them all at macro and micro lev­els of descrip­tion, and linked to explana­to­ry arti­cles and rep­re­sen­ta­tive playlists (drawn from YouTube)—the project is almost too com­pre­hen­sive to believe, and its degree of sophis­ti­ca­tion almost too com­plex to sum­ma­rize con­cise­ly (though Jacobs does a good job of it). The Musicmap spans the years 1870–2016 and cov­ers 22 major cat­e­gories (with Rock fur­ther bro­ken into six and “World” into three).

In an oval around the col­or­ful sky­scraper-like “super-gen­res” are decades, mov­ing from past to present from top to bot­tom. Zoom into the “super-gen­res” and find “a spider’s web of links with­in and between the dif­fer­ent hous­es” of sub­gen­res. “Those links can indi­cate parent­age or influ­ence, but also a back­lash (i.e. as ‘anti-links’).” Click­ing on the name of each sub­genre reveals “a short syn­op­sis and a playlist of rep­re­sen­ta­tive songs.” These two func­tions, in turn, link to each oth­er, allow­ing users to click through in a more Wikipedia-like way once they’ve entered the minu­ti­ae of the Musicmap’s con­tents.

The map not only draws con­nec­tions between sub­gen­res but also between their rel­a­tives in oth­er “super-gen­res” (learn about the rela­tion­ship, for exam­ple, between folk rock and clas­sic met­al). On the left side of the screen is a series of but­tons that reveal an intro­duc­tion, method­ol­o­gy, abstract, sev­er­al nav­i­ga­tion­al func­tions, a glos­sary of musi­cal terms, and a bib­li­og­ra­phy (called “Acknowl­edg­ments”). Aside from visu­al­ly reduc­ing all the way down to the lev­el of indi­vid­ual bands with­in each sub­genre, which could become a lit­tle dizzy­ing, it’s hard to think of any­thing seri­ous­ly lack­ing here.

Any­thing we might find fault with might be changed in the near future. Although Crauwels spent almost ten years on research and devel­op­ment, first con­ceiv­ing of the project in 2008, the cur­rent site “is still ver­sion 1.0 of Music map. In lat­er ver­sions, the playlists will be expand­ed, per­haps even com­mu­ni­ty-gen­er­at­ed.” Crauwels also wants to sync up with Spo­ti­fy. Although not a musi­cian him­self, he is as pas­sion­ate about music as he is about design and edu­ca­tion, mak­ing him very like­ly the per­fect per­son to take on this task, which he admits can nev­er be com­plet­ed.

Crauwels does not cur­rent­ly seem to have plans to mon­e­tize his map. His stat­ed motives are altru­is­tic, in the same pub­lic ser­vice spir­it as Radiooooo. “Musicmap,” he says, “believes that knowl­edge about music gen­res is a uni­ver­sal right and should be part of basic edu­ca­tion.” At the moment, the edu­ca­tion here only applies to pop­u­lar music, although enough of it to acquire a grad­u­ate-lev­el his­tor­i­cal knowl­edge base.

The four cat­e­gories at the top of the map—the strange­ly named “Util­i­ty” (which includes hymns, mil­i­tary march­es, musi­cals, and sound­tracks), Folk, Clas­si­cal, and World—are zoomable but do not have click­able links or playlists. Giv­en Crauwels’ com­pletist instincts, this may well change in future updates. In the TED talk above, see him tell the sto­ry of how he cre­at­ed Musicmap, a DIY effort that came out of his frus­tra­tion that noth­ing like it exist­ed, so he had to cre­ate it him­self.

Enter the Musicmap here and try not to get lost for sev­er­al hours.

via Big Think

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Radiooooo: A Musi­cal Time Machine That Lets You Hear What Played on the Radio in Dif­fer­ent Times & Places

Radio Gar­den Lets You Instant­ly Tune into Radio Sta­tions Across the Entire Globe

The His­to­ry of Hip Hop Music Visu­al­ized on a Turntable Cir­cuit Dia­gram: Fea­tures 700 Artists, from DJ Kool Herc to Kanye West

A His­to­ry of Alter­na­tive Music Bril­liant­ly Mapped Out on a Tran­sis­tor Radio Cir­cuit Dia­gram: 300 Punk, Alt & Indie Artists

A Mas­sive 800-Track Playlist of 90s Indie & Alter­na­tive Music, in Chrono­log­i­cal Order

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

Smartify, a Shazam for Art, Lets You Use Your Phone to Scan, Identify & Learn About Major Works of Art

Not so long ago, art muse­ums were known as tem­ples of qui­et con­tem­pla­tion, despite dai­ly inva­sions by rau­cous school groups.

Now, the onus is on the muse­ums to bring the moun­tain to Mohammed. Those kids have smart­phones. How long can a muse­um hope to stay relevant—nay, survive—without an app?

Many of the muse­ums who’ve already part­nered up with Smar­ti­fy—an app (Mac-Android) that lets you take a pic­ture of art­work with your phone and instant­ly access infor­ma­tion about them—have exist­ing apps of their own in place: the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art in New York, the Her­mitage in St. Peters­burg, Amsterdam’s Rijksmu­se­um, to name a few.

These insti­tu­tion­al apps pro­vide vis­i­tors with an expand­ed view of the sort of infor­ma­tion one com­mon­ly finds on a muse­um card, in addi­tion to such prac­ti­cal­i­ties as gallery lay­outs and cal­en­dars of events. More often than not, there’s an option to “save” an art­work the vis­i­tor finds captivating—no word on what this fea­ture is doing to post­card sales in muse­um shops, so per­haps print isn’t dead yet.

Giv­en all the muse­um apps free for the down­load­ing, for whom is Smar­ti­fy, a “Shaz­am for art,” intend­ed?

Per­haps the glo­be­trot­ting muse­um hop­per eager to con­sol­i­date? Its devel­op­ers are adamant that it’s intend­ed to com­ple­ment, not replace, in-per­son vis­its to the insti­tu­tions where the works are housed, so arm­chair muse­um goers are advised to look else­where, like Google Arts & Cul­ture.

Per­haps the biggest ben­e­fi­cia­ries will be the small­er gal­leries and muse­ums ill equipped to launch free­stand­ing apps of their own. Smartify’s web­site states that it relies on “annu­al mem­ber­ship from muse­um part­ners, in-app trans­ac­tions, adver­tis­ing and data sales to rel­e­vant arts organ­i­sa­tions.”

Ear­ly adopters com­plained that while the app (Mac-Android) had no trou­ble iden­ti­fy­ing famous works of art, it came up emp­ty on the less­er-known pieces. That’s a pity as these are the works vis­i­tors are most like­ly to seek fur­ther infor­ma­tion on.

One of the devel­op­ers com­pared the Smar­ti­fy expe­ri­ence to vis­it­ing a muse­um in the com­pa­ny of “an enthu­si­as­tic and knowl­edge­able friend telling you more about a work of art.”

Maybe bet­ter to do just that, if the option exists? Such a friend would not be ham­pered by the copy­right laws that ham­per Smar­ti­fy with regard to cer­tain works. A friend might even stand you a hot choco­late or some pricey scone in the muse­um cafe.

At any rate, the app (Mac-Android) is now avail­able for vis­i­tors to take for a spin in 22 dif­fer­ent muse­ums and gal­leries in the UK, US, and Europe, with the promise of more to come.

Those whose knowl­edge of art his­to­ry is vast are like­ly to be under­whelmed, but it could be a way for those vis­it­ing with kids and teens to keep every­one engaged for the dura­tion. As one enthu­si­as­tic user wrote:

As a child­hood Poke­mon fan and avid art fan, this is a dream come true. This is like a Pokedex for art lol. If you ever watched the ani­me, Ash Ketchum would scan a Poke­mon with his Pokedex and get the details of its name, type, habits, etc. This app does that but instead of scan­ning mon­sters, it scans and ana­lyzes art work then gives you the load (sic) down about it.

Those with Inter­net pri­va­cy con­cerns may choose to heed, instead, the user who wrote:

Be aware, they want to gath­er as a “side effect” your pri­vate art col­lec­tion. I just want­ed to try it out with some of my art pieces (Gün­ther Förg, Richter, etc) but it does­n’t work if you don’t give them your loca­tion data. Be care­ful!


Muse­ums and Gal­leries Whose Images/Art Appear in Smar­ti­fy as of Jan­u­ary 2018


J. Paul Get­ty Muse­um

Los Ange­les Coun­ty Muse­um of Art (LACMA)

Lagu­na Art Muse­um

Muse­um of Con­tem­po­rary Pho­tog­ra­phy

Freer | Sack­ler Gal­leri­es­The Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art

The Met Clois­ters



The Bowes Muse­um

Mid­dles­brough Insti­tute of Mod­ern Art

Ben Uri Gallery

The Wal­lace Col­lec­tion

Roy­al Acad­e­my of Arts

Nation­al Gallery

Sculp­ture in the City




Rijksmu­se­um Twen­the

Lit­tle Beaux-Arts

Museo Cor­rer

Museo San Dona­to (MPSArt)

The State Her­mitage Muse­um

The Pushkin Muse­um of Fine Arts


Down­load Smar­ti­fy for Mac or Android.

via Dezeen

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Google’s Free App Ana­lyzes Your Self­ie and Then Finds Your Dop­pel­ganger in Muse­um Por­traits

1.8 Mil­lion Free Works of Art from World-Class Muse­ums: A Meta List of Great Art Avail­able Online

Where to Find Free Art Images & Books from Great Muse­ums, and Free Books from Uni­ver­si­ty Press­es

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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