Archive for October, 2009

October 19, 2009

Adventures in xml and cascading style sheets.

This is a basic webpage I designed for LIBR 240 Information Tech tools and Applications. This was an initial assignment that consisted of a basic XML and CSS structure to create the site.

Curatorial
Statement

by James R. Hugunin for

Discipline and Photograph: The Prison
Experience

The Peace Museum, 314 W. Institute Pl., Chicago, Illinois

13 September – 16 November, 1996

Policeman
and his collared Captives
(1870),

anonymous
(collection of Stanley B. Burns, M.D.)


This exhibition—opening
on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Attica Prison Uprising — focuses mainly
upon work by Morrie Camhi, Dawn Dedeaux, Lloyd DeGrane, Lucinda Devlin, Jeanne
C. Finley, Robert Saltzman, and Marshall Weber. Historical balance is given
by including Cinda Firestone’s film documentary Attica (1971), preserved
on video, and Danny Lyon’s images from his photo-book Conversations with
the Dead
(1971), in addition to related historical items, such Richard Lawson’s
prints from glass-plate negatives in “The Joliet Prison Photographs 1890 – 1930”
(1981).

Click to go to Lawson's website.

Mugshot,
No. 7213
(c. 1915) from Richard Lawson’s

“The Joliet
Prison Photographs 1890 – 1930” (1981)

The contemporary
image-makers featured here each present a different strategy and perspective
concerning The Prison Experience. Like the proverb about the Blind Men who
each describes an elephant based upon touching one part of that large beast,
these image-makers’ representations, albeit sincere, are partial, imperfect
constructions of the carceral. As diverse as their approaches are, their vision
is still that of an outsider looking in, they are not In the Belly of the
Beast
as the title of inmate Jack Henry Abbott’s boasts and as depicted
in the imagery of inmate-photographers reproduced in the photo catalogue Photography
from Within
(1974) on display here — but neither is their vision merely
naive.

Nelson
Rockefeller is put (symbolically) behind bars

(gelatin
silver print, 1976) by Robert H. from the catalogue

Photography
Within
(The Floating Foundation of

Photography:
New York, 1977)

Even as their work
“speaks up” for the inmate who is often denied an empowering visual representation,
they subtly question the naive belief in the veracity of the photographic
image and critique those who would knowingly or not perpetuate the stereotyped
B-movie image of “the vicious con.” Thus, the works in this show deal with
the politics of representation; they point to, despite their outsider status
and difference of approach, the ideological construction of the repressive
image of “the con” for the con it is.  Paradoxically, in so doing, their
imagery overlooks the violent, chaotic conditions that obtain in maximum-security
prisons. To photograph such would risk producing images that could be misread
by the average viewer, those unfamiliar with the prison experience, as confirming
the B-movie stereotype. Why? Because the source of that violence and chaos
would mostly likely be perceived as originating wholly from the “corrupted
natures” of the inmates, rather than seen as an innate structural aspect designed
into such an institution. The infamous high-tech, high-security units where
inmates are isolated in their cells most of the day are the latest, most “rationalized”
attempt in this regard.


“An
Unwilling Sitter for a Police Record,”

The
Graphic
(woodcut, 1873), Sir Luke Fildes


Furthermore,
one must recall that these images were obtained only with the permission of
the Prison Authorities; the limits of representation had already been laid down
by the warden, as well as inflected by what the inmates themselves felt comfortable
with the photographer seeing. Moreover, absent here are those high-security
units — such as Marion Prison in Southern Illinois and the notorious Pelican
Bay facility in North California — and “chain-gang” labor that are being increasingly
employed as regressive punishments toward inmates (disproportionately people
of color) who are increasingly being dehumanized in the popular media as monstrous
Others deserving subhuman treatment. 


Physiognomy
and Phrenology—Pseudo-Sciences

Using
the European Caucasian as the norm of perfection, these supposed sciences
of the cranium and the face claimed they could specify deviancy from that
norm — either the genius or the idiot, the saint or the criminal — by a careful
study of those physical features. These methods were also used to specify
racial differences and reenforce racial stereotyping. The idea was to be able
to read character by mapping the invisible mental/moral qualities onto the
visible physical features of the subject. Photography was used to lend “objective
visual data” to underwrite this supposed science in two ways:


1) specify individual peculiarities (the Bertillon Measurement mugshot
system as developed in France by Alphonse Bertillon);

Bertillon
Measurement Mugshot
(1923), Chicago Police Department

Bertillon
Measurement System as used at Joliet Prison (ca. 1890)


2) reveal common characteristics among a group (of geniuses, mental defectives,
criminals, etc.) by compositing (printing one image over another, over
another, etc.) several identically posed mugshots until, supposedly, archetypal
traits emerged and individual differences blurred out. This method was
called the Galtonian Composite after its French inventor Frances Galton.
The physical stereotype of “the con” rose to public awareness through these
erroneous methods. Photography was used repressively to further these dubious
studies. Hence, mugshots were not only a means of identifying specific
criminals, but also a way to display the general criminal type that society
was to identify and protect itself against.


The
Deep Structure of the Carceral Narrative

In
studying scores of articles, photographic books, inmates’ writings, and so
forth, I have discovered a common underlying structure to the stories being
expressed, a mythic structure identical to what Structural linguist Jurij
Lotman pointed out as underlying all folktales. This thesis developed in detail
in my unpublished text which inspired this exhibition: Discipline and Photograph:
The Prison Experience
(1994). The plot-space is divided by a single boundary
— an obstacle — such as the prison cell, wall, fence, or formidable gate.
This obstacle produces two textual zones:

1)
an internal sphere (the cellblock) and,

2)
an external sphere (“free” society).
Two
types of characters confront this obstacle:

1)
the mobile investigator (often a benefactor, such as Danny Lyon, Robert
Saltzman, or the members of The Floating Foundation of Photography who
taught expressive photography of New York State inmates) who enjoys freedom
in regard to the carceral plot-space and mediates between inside and outside;
and,

2)
those who are immobile (the incarcerated inmates) who represent a function
of that plot-space and can only overcome the obstacle (the civil death
and invisibility that follows upon one’s incarceration) with the assistance
of the mobile investigator.
Their
are, however, extraordinary instances where the inmates have been empowered
— albeit through the efforts of a mobile individual who mediated between inside
and outside the prison — to make their own images:

1)
Warden Percy Lainson of the Iowa State Penitentiary at Fort Madison permitted
inmate-magazine staff-photographers in the 1950s to work freely within
the walls;

2)
The Floating Foundation of Photography’s artist-photographers held in-prison
photography courses, training the inmates (both men and women) to express
their situation behind bars, helping them arrange an exhibition and catalogue
of their work;

3)
in Robert Saltzman’s collaborative work with inmates at New Mexico State
Penitentiary where this narrative dialectic of inside/outside is objectified,
showing how his outsider’s view becomes enframed and commented upon by
the insider’s response to his image and this carceral situation.


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October 17, 2009

Digital Storytelling

According to Wikipedia “digital storytelling” stems from the ideas of “grassroots” movements. It incorporates the concepts of traditional oral tradition of relating ones story or a story important to them, but for the most part a “true story.”

The definition of what “digital storytelling” must be a loose interpretation, based on the technology and human connection. With the range of tools combined with the range of human creativity storytelling can vary widely as should the definition.

Digital storytelling can incorporate multi-media capabilities to tell any ones story. Music, editing, imagery, song, and spoke word combined to create a modern digital version of the art of storytelling.

In the web site The Elements of Digital Style the authors, Nora Paul and Christina Fiebich, detail five elements of “digital storytelling;” media, action, relationship, context, and communication. This project from, Institute for New Media Studies at the University of Minnesota, is working to undertaken and explain the connections between, user (storyteller), the media/medium and how we as viewers/participants respond or react to “digital storytelling” by applying it to the five elements.

They define five elements as thus:

  • Media: the actual material/medium used to crate the Digital Story, within this they cite for criteria used to analyze the media. Configuration, the relationships to the media; type, the media used; curentness, the delivery; and time/space, dealing with editing of the work.
  • Action: this deals with the movement taken by the producer and then by the user. They further describe the types of action that can be within these works.
  • Relationship: deals with the relationship between the story and the user, which they claim can be and open or closed based on five criteria; linearity, customization, calculation, manipulation, and appendage.
  • Context: “that which surrounds, and gives meaning to, something else.” This is achieved through”linking” related information, which they also utilize a set of consideration when analyzing the digital story.
  • Communication: which can be one-way or two-way, with factors including configuration (directionality), type (method(s) utilized), currentness (delivery), moderation (editing), and purpose (the reason).

The best site I found for truly touching human “digital storytelling” is the CDS: The Center for Digital Storytelling. The featured work example what can be considered as the “art of storytelling.”

In her “digital story” Tanya by Monte Hallis utilizes four of the five elements. The one she, and many others I viewed did not use was the “context” element, there was not much linking to the outside. Hallis used media to the enhance the story of finding and losing a friend, by using flash imagery, clips, music and her own voice over for the narration. She used action of the still shots to create a strong visual movement that gave viewer the sense of loss. The relationship Hallis created was a closed one, not open to the user, but still effective. And, lastly the story “Tanya” uses communication in a one-way method to communicate to the user the loss of her new friend. It is a very powerful story told in two minutes.

Tanya by Monte Hallis
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