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 Trekhelps 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.


Cyberpunk: 1990 Documentary Featuring William Gibson & Timothy Leary Introduces the Cyberpunk Culture

“High tech and low life”: never have I heard a literary genre so elegantly encapsulated. I repeat it whenever a friend who finds out I enjoy reading cyberpunk novels — or watching cyberpunk movies, or playing cyberpunk video games — asks what “cyberpunk” actually means. We’ve all heard the word thrown around since the mid-1980s, and I seem to recall hearing it several times a day in the 1990s, when the development of the internet and its associated pieces of personal technology hit the accelerator hard. At the dawn of that decade, out came Cyberpunk, a primer on the eponymous movement in not just literature, film, and computers, but music, fashion, crime, punishment, and medicine as well. That time saw technology develop in such a way as to empower less governments, corporations, and other institutions than individual people: virtuous people, sketchy people, everyday people, and that favorite cyberpunk character type, the “gentleman-loser.”

We recently featured No Maps for These Territories, the 2000 documentary starring William Gibson, author of novels like Neuromancer, Idoru, and Pattern Recognition and the writer most closely associated with the cyberpunk movement. Cyberpunk describes him, a decade earlier, as  “the man who may be said to have started it all,” and here he shares insights on how the literary form he pioneered made possible stylistic development within and the importation of elements of the wider literary and artistic world into the reactionary “golden ghetto” of the science-fiction industry. We also hear, amid a farrago of glossy, flamboyantly artificial early-1990s computer animation, from a number of cyberpunk-inclined artists, musicians, scientists, and hackers.

This lineup includes psychologist, LSD enthusiast, and NeuromancePC game mastermind Timothy Leary, in some sense a progenitor of this whole culture of self-enhancement through technology. How has all this worked out in the near-quarter-century since? It depends on whether one of Gibson’s darker predictions aired here will come true: if things go wrong, he says, the future could in reality end up not as a grand personal empowerment but as “a very expensive American television commercial injected directly into your cortex.” Fortunately for cyberpunks the world over, we haven’t got there yet. Quite.

(And if this documentary gets you wanting to jump into cyberpunk literature, you could do worse than starting with Rudy Rucker’s Ware Tetralogy, two of whose books won the Philip K. Dick Award for best novel, all of which come with an introduction by Gibson, now available free online.)

Cyberpunk will be added to our collection, 285 Free Documentaries Online, part of our larger collection, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, Documentaries & More.

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Did the Wayback Machine Catch Russian-Backed Rebels Claiming Responsibility for Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17?

Screen Shot 2014-07-19 at 11.16.42 AM

If you’re a long-time reader of Open Culture, you know all about Archive.org — a non-profit that houses all kinds of fascinating textsaudiomoving images, and software. And don’t forget archived web pages. Since 1996, Archive’s “Wayback Machine” has been taking snapshots of websites, producing a historical record of this still fairly new thing called “the web.” Right now, the Wayback Machine holds 417 billion snapshots of web sites, including one page showing that “Igor Girkin, a Ukrainian separatist leader also known as Strelkov, claimed responsibility on a popular Russian social-networking site for the downing of what he thought was a Ukrainian military transport plane shortly before reports that Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 had crashed near the rebel held Ukrainian city of Donetsk.” (This quote comes from The Christian Science Monitor, which has more on the story.) Girkin’s post was captured by the Wayback Machine at 15:22:22 on July 17. By 16:56, Girkin’s post was taken offline — but not before Archive.org had its copy.

To keep tabs on this story, follow Archive’s Twitter and Facebook pages.

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