Academic Impressions at Penn Libraries

Academic Impressions group at EC (Click to view all photos)

This past week Anu Vedantham and I had the opportunity to share thoughts on library service with a broad collection of higher education professionals – from librarians and architects to administrators and consultants – at an Academic Impressions conference here in Philadelphia. With guidance from Patrick Cain, our conference director, we brought the group to tour spaces at Penn Libraries: the Education Commons, the Weigle Information Commons, the Collaborative Classroom and the Kislak Center.

Anu and I led a pre-conference workshop, discussing thoughts on how to effectively provide a suite of services in a library, with examples from the WIC and EC. We discussed the Hoesley and Seltzer programs, equipment lending programs in both Commons, and the EC’s new 3D printing service. We led a discussion about philosophical principles that led to our successful programs: student-centered programming, participatory design, “broken, not dusty” facility management, effective risk-taking and improvisation.

The Mary Idema Pew Library at Grand Valley State University.

Over the next two days of the conference, it was exciting to hear these principles echoed by librarians and administrators from around the country, who said they found the same principles at the center of their work. Lee Van Orsdel described the new library at Grand Valley State University in Michigan and Mary Somerville described the ongoing Auraria Library renovation at the University of Colorado Denver. Joe Fennewald shared innovations from Penn State University including their One Button Studio.

We brought everyone to the EC and the WIC to explore our facilities as we discussed some of our own successes and challenges over the past 3 or 9 years, respectively. Everyone was very impressed, and also had good feedback for how we might be able to improve what we do. Catrice Barrett demonstrated the capabilities of the new Collaborative Classroom, and David Toccafondi shared details about the Vitale Digital Media Lab.

Catrice Barrett facilitates tour of Collaborative Classroom

The conference ended with a wonderful panel discussion celebrating the WIC Program Partners. The panel included Kim Eke from Penn Libraries,  Valerie Ross from the Critical Writing Program,  Sue Weber from CWIC, John MacDermott from SAS Computing, and Lahari Uppuluri, one of our very own interns! The participants commented later on how friendly, informal and relaxed Penn seemed to them.

The discussions at the conference not only made us feel excellent as everyone was so excited about our own spaces, but also led us to exciting ideas on how we might improve. Our visitors noticed aspects of our spaces that I wouldn’t have thought of after living in this space for a few years and becoming used to its quirks. I am looking forward to how I can improve the EC – both with quick projects, and more ambitious ideas that might take just a bit more doing.

Categories: Pedagogy

Hello Dolly!

When you carry a video camera and walk around while filming, the resulting video is often very jerky and can be annoying for the viewer if you don’t follow good technique.  Ideally, we’d all like that smooth camera motion you might get from a SteadyCam, but SteadyCams can get very expensive, they need some customization for the camera you’re using, and they take a long time to learn to use effectively.

So we’ve added a new heavy duty Tripod Dolly to our equipment lending program.  Basically, you can rest your tripod on the dolly, and then wheel it around to get that professional look and feel in your final video.  For obvious reasons, you’ll need to use it on smooth surfaces, so grass, gravel, thick carpets, uneven sidewalks, etc. probably won’t give you the best results, but it works like a dream on regular flooring or low carpeting.  (And even on a slightly bumpy surface, you can always use something like Adobe Premiere‘s Warp Stabilizer to remove most of the shakiness after the fact–just ask a lab consultant if you need help with this!)

Wes and I made a 90 second video on how to use it, which you can view at

Right now we only have one dolly, but if it proves to be a hit, I’ll get more to meet the demand.

Reserve the dolly online at (you’ll find it located in the Tripods category.) If you’re new to borrowing from the Vitale Digital Media Lab, check out our overview of How to Reserve Equipment.

p.s. Thanks to William for the perfect title for this post.
Categories: Pedagogy

Planning better study spaces at Penn

When it’s time to get work done, the right kind of space can make a real impact on your productivity.   We want to know what you think makes a good study space – both for individual and group work.  Where do you currently go to study?  What works well, and what could be improved?

Penn Libraries, College House Computing and SAS Computing are hosting a series of focus groups for students so we can hear your opinions. Your input will help guide the development of new study spaces and improve existing facilities.

Please register by clicking on the link next to a session below. These sessions are designed for undergraduates and we plan to record audio of the discussions.

All sessions include the same content and refreshments will be provided. Please join us in the WIC Seminar Room, Weigle Information Commons, First floor, west side in Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center.

Categories: Pedagogy

That’s One Sharp Monitor

I’ve been wanting 4K monitors in the Vitale Digital Media Lab for a long time.  Most of the machines in the library aren’t powerful enough to drive a 4K display, but our new Mac Pros are, so I figured they deserved a display befitting their abilities.

We now have a gorgeous new 32” 4K Sharp Monitor, pretty much one of the best available as of this writing. (It’s on the workstation right next to the paper cutter.) The lab consultants, some lab users, and I gathered around it last week oohing and ahhing as we watched some beautiful 4K footage we downloaded to put the monitor through its paces.

Please enjoy it, and let us know what you think! If it works out and we’re happy with it, we may upgrade the rest of the monitors later this year.

Categories: Pedagogy

Screening Scholarship Media Festival 2015

CAMRA Festival Poster

We are looking forward to camra‘s annual media festival on March 27 and 28. Our partnership with camra has brought us fun times exploring audio and video. Past festivals have featured student-created videos including the Rubber video from Lisa Mitchell’s class and the great work of our own Lindsey Martin (after two years, we still miss her at WIC!). The Screening Scholarship Media Festival is a great place to meet colleagues interested in new media. As they describe:

"We explore the affordances and challenges of multimodal representational strategies in research, and we interrogate their social implications. SSMF is a hybrid between a traditional academic conference and a film/media festival."

We hope you will join us at the 2015 SSMF – check out the Festival Schedule

Categories: Pedagogy

Lending New Nikon and Canon DSLR Cameras

At the suggestion of a lab user, the Vitale Digital Media Lab recently added some brand new Canon 70D and Nikon D7100 DSLR cameras to our equipment lending program.  These are a significant step up from the Nikon D3100 cameras we’ve had up til now.  This brings us up to 8 DSLRs, which remain the most popular items that we lend.

The new cameras provide significantly better image and video quality, higher resolution, less noise, more dynamic range, better color depth, longer battery life, faster and more accurate focus, and better performance in lower light situations without a flash.  The Canon 70D also has a very useful flip-out LCD screen that you can tilt so you can get better shots when you’re shooting at unusual angles.

The cameras are identified by model number in our lending system so you can reserve the ones you like. If you’re new to borrowing, check out our overview of How to Reserve Equipment.

I hope to add more of these in the future, so please let us know what your experiences with the new cameras are like.  If you have additional suggestions for purchases, please let us know and we’ll do our best to get it.
Categories: Pedagogy

Italian Madrigals on WIC iPads

Image from event website

When Professor Mauro Calcagno submitted a request to borrow 5 WIC iPads, I figured it was for his students to use for coursework, which is typically the case with our iPads in the Classroom Program. However, I was intrigued to find out that the iPads would be used by the Penn Madrigal Singers to perform digital editions of 16th-century composer Luca Marenzio’s work. I was lucky enough to attend the event last week, which was organized by the Penn Music Department, the Center for Italian Studies, and the Penn Libraries’ Kislak Center, and co-sponsored by the Digital Humanities Forum. It was so fascinating to see both the digital humanities project that Mauro and his colleagues are working on and the fantastic performance by the Penn Madrigal Singers!

The event kicked off with Mauro explaining the evolution of the Marenzio Project, or MODE – Marenzio Online Digital Edition. The project, which brings together an international team of collaborators and is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Center for Digital Research and Scholarship at Columbia University, aims to digitize the secular music of influential Renaissance composer Luca Marenzio for many to use and perform. Mauro and his colleagues who spoke, including Dr. Giuseppe Gerbino of Columbia University and Laurent Pugin of the Répertoire International des Sources Musicales – Switzerland, explained how complex of a project it has been to not only find all of the different editions and parts of Marenzio’s music (each part was published separately during the Renaissance, so think: alto, soprano, tenor, baritone, bass), but also to deal with musical scores as digital objects.

Laurent Pugin, describing digital online editions of music. Photo credit: Mauro Calcagno

Unlike texts, which can be scanned and digitized fairly easily these days with optical character recognition (OCR), there are several steps involved in making readable digital copies of musical scores. With new digital tools and encoding schema, including MEI (a community-based music encoding initiative) and the software Aruspix, it’s now possible to perform digital recognition of scores, superimpose them so that multiple editions can be incorporated, and compare different copies and editions to find variants. This creates a digital object where all scores are together in one place and can be annotated and commented on live, so that various performers can interpret the music in different ways.

Putting these editions on tablets means that the musical scores are responsive, or that they adapt to whichever size interface they are viewed on. Performers can also change clefs with a simple swipe or click, and can directly annotate, comment on, or change languages very easily. The Penn Madrigal Singers did an excellent job with both the difficult music and using the iPads to perform it.

Penn Madrigal Singers performing Madrigals by Luca Marenzio

Overall, the MODE project is an excellent example of how digital humanities scholarship is really advancing research in many fields. This project embraces, as Mauro said, “digital technologies as conduits of culture,” especially in the field of early-modern culture. The MODE project certainly also made innovative use of our iPads, and we always encourage you to experiment with them if you have a similarly interesting project. Many thanks to Mauro, the Madrigal Singers, and all the presenters for an excellent event!

Categories: Pedagogy

New Poster Printer Prices

Due to rising costs, we’re changing our poster printing prices here at the Penn Libraries from 2.5 cents per sq. inch to 3 cents per sq. inch ($4/32 per sq. foot), effective March 7.

A 36″x48″ poster, for example, will now cost $51.84. (The very same poster would cost you $100 at Campus Copy or Kinkos/FedEx Office.)  We continue to accept only PennCash as a means of payment. For more exciting information on printing posters in the lab, be sure to check out our Poster Printer FAQ.

If you need help designing your poster, feel free to stop by the Vitale Digital Media Lab.

Categories: Pedagogy

March 4 – Spring 2015 Majors Dinner

We welcome undergraduate students to join our March 4 Majors Dinner (register now!) here at the Weigle Information Commons. The Commons thrives on student voices. We learn from your experiences, your ideas and your comments. So please share!

We’ll be talking about the Hoesley Digital Literacy Fellows Program (open to current sophomores and juniors) and the Seltzer Family Digital Media Awards (open to current first-years, sophomores and juniors). We’ll also discuss our Ready, Set, Succeed series and our Senior Research Spotlight and highlight ways to share your voice through Spring 2015 activities at the two Commons.

Categories: Pedagogy

Fair Use and Vampires

In honor of Fair Use week, this week, I wanted to respond to a blog that quoted one of my posts recently. In the article, the author, Anthony Hogg, discusses some takedown notices he received and the ensuing legal battles. He also makes an important point: “Fair use is an invaluable safeguard against over-protective and malicious complainants. It’s not just useful for articles like Erin’s ‘Seeking Vampires in London,’ it’s beneficial for all writers, journalists, artists, teachers and students.”

Case in point, take a look at this picture:

From Jason Edmiston

This is a drawing used in one of the PennWIC blog’s own posts. Clearly it is a fair use, mashing up various monsters and in this particular instance used to advertise Halloween programming at WIC. If one had to ask the permission of the Stoker and Shelley estates, or Universal Pictures, this kind of picture would never be created. Additionally, PennWIC’s mashup contest, or even the phenomenon of mashups themselves, would be equally impossible.

Fundamentally, fair use is an essential safety valve protecting our ability to free speech. As Rebecca Tushnet says in Copy this Essay “Sometimes a copy is just a copy; other times it is vitally important speech.”

One of the great advantages of the internet is the open and free commentary that it allows. I am gratified that Anthony Hogg, a person whose work I would likely never encounter in my work as an academic librarian, was able to find my work about fair use helpful and that he was able to quote my work (utilizing fair use) in order to make a point about his particular situation. Though fair use may not be a stake in the heart of copyright, nor should it be, it should remain an important tool for all people who need to use it for the purposes of “criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research” on an open internet and within a free society.

Happy Fair Use Week to all!

For more information:

Fair Use Week –

Copyright Office –

Penn Copyright Guide on Fair Use –

Stanford Fair Use Site –

Categories: Pedagogy

3D Printing at the Education Commons!

The Education Commons has just acquired a few 3D printers! We have one 5th generation Makerbot, and 2 Makerbot Minis. We’ve been testing the printers and our procedures over the past week, and the printers will open for campus use on Monday, February 16. We’re excited about offering the printers for all Penn students, faculty and staff. Penn’s campus has a number of 3D printers already, including the School of Engineering’s AddLab. The printers at the Biomedical Library and here at the EC are open for any use you might be interested in.

We’ll start with printing objects and then move to training people on how to use the printers. There are a number of sites with pre-made 3D printing objects set up on them that you can check out, such as Thingiverse, 3D Warehouse, and Smithsonian X3D. We’ll offer workshops soon where you can learn the basics of the software to create your own 3D objects for printing. Keep an eye on our workshops calendars at the Education Commons and Weigle Information Commons to find out about workshops.

Aside from these nuts and bolts about the printers, we’re very excited to see how people will end up using the printers. We certainly expect a good number of academic uses, and I can’t wait to see some of creative uses you all will think up for these machines. Whether you want to make yourself a Penn logo, something for your club or athletic team, or just anything else you can think of, we’re happy to help you out. Most of us have heard of 3D printing in some form or another by now, and while we’re not quite ready to help you print a lawnmower or replicate some of the Ben Franklin statues on campus (though maybe in miniature?), these printers can definitely help you with rapid prototyping, printing out your own art, making floor plans, or anything else you can think of that fits in the Makerbot’s build volume (about 11x6x6 inches).

This is a new service so please let us know what you think as you start to work with the Makerbots. If you have comments you can email us at or just let us know right at the EC desk. We’ll definitely be paying attention and improving our process over the coming weeks. For more information about how to request a print job on the Makerbots check out our 3D printing page.

Categories: Pedagogy

New NVivo Resources

Demand for NVivo has grown quite a bit in recent years. We find it is a great tool for analyzing video and audio interviews, surveys, journal articles and even tweets. We first wrote about NVivo in 2012, and our lit review post from 2013 is in the top-five list with over 2,000 views. In 2014, we wrote about Charlene Wong’s research and Rosie Frasso’s teaching with NVivo. Lately, we receive requests each week for NVivo training, and then we really miss Shimrit Keddem, our former presenter who created our wonderful NVivo guide.

We’re glad to announce that staff from QSR International, the makers of NVivo, will present a NVivo for Literature Reviews webinar just for Penn on February 19 – register now!

QSR will also hold a two-day fee-based hands-on workshop here at Penn on March 9 and 10. Since Penn Libraries is hosting the workshop, QSR has provided a few complimentary seats. (To be considered for one of them, please complete our online form.)

Categories: Pedagogy

Hoesley and Seltzer Programs: Apply now!

We are accepting applications from undergraduate students for the Hoesley Digital Literacy Program and the Seltzer Family Digital Media Awards through March 16.

We accept a cohort of about 15 students each year to the Hoesley program. We welcome applications from all current sophomores and juniors. The program aims to demystify technology, provide hands-on training and a website building project, and foster career connections. You can browse related blog posts.

We select five to six students each year to receive Seltzer awards. Each student has the ability to purchase $1,000 worth of equipment (both hardware and software) for use on an academic project for one year with a faculty supervisor. At the end of the year, the equipment is made available to all of campus through our equipment lending program. You can browse related blog posts here.

Please feel free to stop by to ask us questions about the two programs and join us on March 4 for our Spring SAS Majors Dinner.

Categories: Pedagogy

Voice-over PowerPoint for Beginning Japanese

Back in November, some of us WIC staff members found ourselves listening intently to a room full of Japanese speakers in Goldstein Electronic Classroom for an entire day. No, we weren’t there to learn beginning Japanese. Rather, we were teaching students in JPAN 011 how to use voice-over PowerPoint to present themselves and their interests in a new final video project for the class. Although we’ve assisted many other classes with video projects, this was the first large-scale language class we’ve supported working solely with voice-over in PowerPoint. It was a great success for all involved!

The whole process began in fall 2013, when Suyu Kuo, the course coordinator for JPAN 011, took a voice-over PowerPoint WICshop to improve her skills for using technology in the classroom.  This academic year, she received a grant to develop a new multimedia project, called “Japanese Self-Introduction Video Clip thru Voice-Over PowerPoint,” and called upon WIC to help develop the assignment and teach both the course instructors and students how to do voice-over PowerPoint.

After teaching Suyu and the other faculty members, Sachie Koizumi and Kenji Endo, how to do voice-over in October, we discussed the assignment parameters: how long each video should be, what should be included in the videos, and where students could upload and view each others’ work easily while keeping their work private. WIC created a Google Doc tutorial explaining the voice-over process and uploading videos to each class section’s Canvas discussion board.

In mid-November, we met with each class section for a total of 50 students. For the first part of class, we taught students how to make a voice-over PowerPoint and let them practice with sample slides. The instructors had prepared an excellent example presentation in Japanese to model what a successful end project should look like; students practiced on this sample, using a well-developed script in Japanese. They were then ready to get working on their projects, with both WIC staff and their instructor there to help.

At the end of the semester, students uploaded their final projects to a Canvas discussion board for their section and were able to view and comment on their classmates’ projects. Students also completed a Google Form survey with questions including: how they liked this assignment, how the technology did or did not improve their language skills, and whether they had known how to do voice-over before this class, among other questions. Many students enjoyed the assignment and thought it was a good way to enhance their speaking and listening skills, while also learning a new feature of PowerPoint that many had not known about before this class. We even got to view an exemplary student video, which we’re hoping to add to our Student Work Showcase.

This experience with voice-over PowerPoint provided a valuable opportunity for both faculty and students to engage with technology for language learning. In Suyu’s words, “This video project allows students to compose their messages in a creative way through ‘multimodal’ communication that includes the textual, aural, and visual resources.” Working with the JPAN 011 faculty and students also provided an excellent example of how WIC fits into library course support from beginning to end.

Here at WIC, we’re seeing more and more video projects crop up in language classes and are excited that we’re building a bank of projects and ideas in this area for all faculty and students to share. If you have an idea for a project involving new media and need a sounding board, we are always happy to help! Feel free to fill out a training request or get in touch with us at and we would be eager to work with your class. Thanks to the JPAN 011 faculty and students for a great fall semester project!

Categories: Pedagogy

‘R’ from a Design Perspective

Hi! I’m Oforiwaa Pee Agyei-Boakye. I’ve been an intern at the Weigle Information Commons since last fall but this is my first blog post. So far, the internship has been exciting as my involvement with educational technology at the Weigle Information Commons connects with my work at the School of Design. The Weigle Information Commons and the Vitale Digital Media Lab support students with their visuals (which is of grave importance to me as a designer) and assist students with up-to-date statistical software programs.

Coming from the School of Design, specifically the City and Regional Planning department, I have explored software including PhotoShop, Illustrator, AutoCad, Indesign, ArcGIS, and R for my projects. Although projects in the School of Design sound like they may be only visual, we engage with statistical data analysis as well.

Over the years, data analysis has evolved through various stages as the volume of data has increased. Technology kept pace with that and developed R; in fact, most data analytics have switched from Excel to R. R is a free open source statistical program with a steep learning curve, and it is getting increasingly popular. It has Mac, Windows and Linux operating system versions. Students and professionals whose work involves lots of data use it extensively. An advantage of R is the fact that it can be used to do increasingly complex models.

In city planning, R is mostly used for data correlation, regression modeling and logit modeling. I used it in my Quantitative Methods classes, Introduction to Transportation Planning last fall, and currently am using it for a Planning by Numbers class this spring. A basic familiarity with descriptive and inferential statistics helps to make better and more effective use of R.

City Planners use it to assess planning and urban policy data in order to address a planning problem or question. Applications of R in City Planning include: (i) analyzing population, economic, and settlement patterns across Metropolitan and Statistical Areas; (ii) understanding the determinants of housing and real estate prices; (iii) understanding mortgage foreclosure patterns; (iv) identifying the characteristics that explain travel behavior and mode choice; (v) identifying the factors contributing to Presidential election wins; and (vi) understanding the determinants of homelessness by metro area.

For example, to analyze Philadelphia housing, rental and real estate demand, R studio will be used to analyze housing and census data. Housing census datasets such as how many Philadelphia residents live more than one person per room, how many structures are dilapidated, or what rent prices run these days, can predict that.

R used to analyze average number of trips across counties in Philadelphia – Delaware Region for various income groups.

The R language is not easy to learn initially, but once you grasp it data analysis is simple. R also integrates nicely with other visual design programs that WIC provides assistance with – from poster creation to PhotoShop and Illustrator, and general help in the Media Lab. The Commons can help with R software support (see library guide!), and custom workshops – or stop by to see our statistics tutor, Doug Allen, for specific questions on Tuesdays and Wednesdays this semester. Be on the lookout for more about R at the Commons this semester!

Categories: Pedagogy

Welcome Wes Martin and Chris Vandegrift

I’ve been waiting until the semester gets going and activity in the lab picks up a bit to start posting, but I want to introduce our newest lab consultants, Wes and Chris.  Please stop by the lab to say hello!

Wes Martin started working in the lab last semester, and filled the position left vacant by Tayarisha Poe.  He comes to us from Connecticut, where he worked as a graphic designer.  He is also a recent graduate of the Art Institute of Washington.

Chris Vandegrift worked both here in the lab and the Music Library previously as a student worker, but he comes to us most recently from SAS Computing. He is a writer and new media artist whose work has been exhibited internationally, and he has also been active as a member of CAMRA. His first day was January 5.

Categories: Pedagogy

Representing the Complexities of War Online: Dyana (Wing) So, C’16 and her summer in Israel

Last summer,  Dyana (Wing) So, a college junior majoring in Visual Studies, visited Israel to work on an IIP summer internship sponsored by Penn. In an interview with Blake Cole and Manda McElrath from SAS Frontiers, she talks about her experience there. She discusses her interest in comparisons between virtuality and virtual reality, and shares how being on social media shaped and reshaped her world view.

While she was in Israel, and as part of her internship duties, she wrote for an online news website,, focusing on technology. She has continued writing for them upon her return, and her latest two pieces are on cyber security and green gardening.

In her video interview, Dyana said that one of the most valuable lessons she learned in the process of her internship is actually how quickly research moves along. In order to further her understanding of virtuality, she read philosophical texts on the definition of virtual. But the virtual itself in the form of social media was moving and changing so rapidly that Dyana observes that research happened much faster than she had expected or was prepared for. She was doing the primary reading for her research, while also monitoring social media, and she discovered much more than she bargained for: the hostilities between Hamas and Israel worsened quickly while Dyana was there. Of the experience, she says:

“being in a foreign place shaped the text I was reading.”

So, apparently, did being on social media during the struggle that happened last summer. The combination of both doing the background reading and seeing things unfold on social media locally led Dyana to her main research question for the summer: How does social media sharing shape the impact of war?

Dyana cites Betaworks’ Girard Lotan as a current practitioner of the social media research model which interests her. Logan wrote a piece about his work in the Huffington Post in July. In “Israel, Gaza, War & Data: Social Networks and the Art of Personalizing Propaganda,” he says of social media:

“Not only is there much more media produced, but it is coming at us at a faster pace, from many more sources. As we construct our online profiles based on what we already know, what we’re interested in, and what we’re recommended, social networks are perfectly designed to reinforce our existing beliefs. Personalized spaces, optimized for engagement, prioritize content that is likely to generate more traffic; the more we click, share, like, the higher engagement tracked on the service. Content that makes us uncomfortable, is filtered out.”

Dyana sums up what she learned from Lotan nicely in her video interview:

“Facebook is a reality space that filters all of our interests.”

Back at Penn in mid-January, Dyana will spend time time puzzling over her experiences in Israel and how it connects with her major. To help her along the way will be skills she learned in our Hoesley Digital Media Literacy Fellowship. Through this fellowship, in coordination with Penn Libraries staff, Dyana designed a personal website. She uses her website to bring together more traditional media pieces with her writing and digital art. She also uses it to blog and connect with the “digital reality” which she’s dedicated herself to studying. My email interview with Dyana follows:


JME: Could you talk more about what virtuality and virtual reality mean in the context of your work?

Dyana: It’s difficult to define virtuality and virtual reality because, as I found in my research, it varies across disciplines. But for the purposes of comparing them, I did have to define the terms. Virtuality is defined as “the state of being enough, relative to reality.” Virtual reality refers specifically to the common conception of games played and human-to-human interactions/exchanges carried out through a digital platform — specifically social media. I consider social media to be a kind of virtual reality because it acts as an extension of real social experiences, as inspired from and in constant reference to real events. It’s the way we communicate and interact; it’s ‘real enough’ that it suffices and thus, it also becomes part of our reality. I used Gaza and Hamas conflict as a case study because it was in this particular conflict where social media interactions not only became part of the real-time war narrative, they were impacting the war experience (the latter was inspired largely from my own experience abroad in Israel while the conflict was taking place).

JME: Why are you interested in digital media in particular?

Dyana:  I am interested in digital media because its dynamism as crowdsourced, manipulated, interactive, rapidly reproduced, and highly adaptive visual content raises interesting questions about the capacity of human digital literacy and what seeing/knowing really means. My major, visual studies, constantly asks these questions and I am personally interested in the ‘cultural’ aspect of vision – how does what we see shape who we are? I was brought up in the digital age, but it was in having worked first in traditional media then transitioning into digital (in design, photography, and video) that I realized how my experience has informed how I read our largely digital world.

JME: Why do you continue to write for even though your internship has ended?

Dyana: I continue to write after NoCamels because I realized how much I enjoy articulating my thoughts and informing others. Writing for NoCamels taught me to be more direct and to write for an audience that wants to learn more. That was very inspiring and it empowered me to polish my areas of interest further and exercise the power of the pen/keyboard — of research and opinion — more. Since NoCamels, my writing (outside of school work) is housed in a currently-private blog where I type up my thoughts and literary reviews of sources and news articles I read. I blog occasionally on my own website but that kind of writing is more personal and reflective towards my own life.

JME: How do you see your major informing your continuing work on social media and virtual reality?

Dyana: Visual Studies informs my work in helping me study areas of interest through a specific lens. On the surface, the sense of sight appears so commonplace and inevitable to the human daily experience that it’s almost negligible. But it’s in the differences of the human mind and how it develops that so many varied perceptions are gleaned from a common viewing experience — whether that is ten people looking at Van Gogh’s Starry Night in person, or whether it’s 100 people responding to a photograph about the conflict between Hamas and the Israel Defense Forces.


Categories: Pedagogy

Join the Early Books Collective!

The Early Books Collective officially begins on Wednesday, January 28, 3:00 p.m and continues on Wednesdays throughout the semester:  Vitale II Media Lab, Kislak Center, 6th Floor, Van Pelt Library. Register in advance or drop in.

We invite undergraduate students (and all interested parties) to join the collective to learn the TEI encoding language and to transcribe the the 17th century text: The Booke of Prittie Conceites–very merry, and very pleasant, and good to be read of all such as doe delight in new and merry conceites.

Why join the collective?

We will be working with the Early English Books Online (the EEBO database) Text Creation Partnership (TCP).  If you are interested in Early Modern or Renaissance studies from any discipline, love books and deciphering unusual print and typography this collective is for you. EEBO is an important database for primary texts from the 15th through 17th century. You’ll become close friends with the “long s” and an expert at deciphering ambiguous spelling and creative abbreviations.

Interested in the digital humanities?  The TEI encoding language is the encoding language used to transcribe and encode the texts in the Text Creation Partnership. This will be a valuable skill for your digital humanities toolbox.

We already mentioned the opportunity to work closely with  16th and 17th century texts–you’ll be reading and recording every word. Enjoy the language and style of early modern English.

Do you enjoy puzzles and challenges? Learning TEI means we’ll be working through problems and being creative with problem solving together.

Finally, make your mark on an important scholarly tool. We’ll be contributing our transcribed text back to the EEBO database and the Text Creation Partnership.

Join us! We’re looking forward to working with you.

Categories: Pedagogy

Got Tableau?

Tableau is a professional-level data visualization and analysis software. It’s easy to learn, easy to use, and 10-100x faster than existing solutions. It represents your data table like a spreadsheet. So if you are familiar with Excel, the way Tableau organizes data will feel adaptive. Once you have imported data into Tableau, you can easily create graphs, filter data dynamically and go deeper into your data with built-in statistics functions.

What makes Tableau so outstanding? It can help people to see and understand their data in a more straightforward way. And more importantly – it is extraordinarily user-friendly. You don’t need to know anything about coding, just simply connect your data with Tableau, then pivot with dimensions and measures, shift between views with drag-and-drop technology to build graphs. Here are some examples!

Personally I like Tableau because of its efficiency and good looks . I have used it to visualize large datasets, which Excel can struggle with. There are always millions of ways to tell stories about your data. Tableau allows you to try different graphs easily. Simply drag your data to the corresponding columns/rows and choose chart types, you can easily get an initial chart for your data. Once you have found an idea you like, Tableau provides various options to polish your chart.

Tableau provides great support on new users. In addition to training videos on their website, they have weekly training sessions on how to visually analyze data. If you have particular questions regarding this software, their online community is prompt to respond.

Try Tableau Public first, it’s powerful and free! What’s even better? If you are a full time student in Penn or at other accredited schools, you can  get a 1-year student license of Tableau Desktop for free! Contact me for a demo – I will be available at the desks of the Weigle Information Commons and Education Commons all semester.

Also, if you are interested in exploring more data visualization tools, Penn Libraries’ Digital Humanities LibGuide can provide your more ideas!

Categories: Pedagogy

Lucky You: A Primer for Next Week’s Workshop “Unexpected Discovery: Serendipity in the Research Process”

Universities abound with stories of serendipity: finding the text that transforms your research while waiting in line to check out books, not cleaning the beaker fast enough and growing a new scientific solution, discovering a surprise letter in a folder in the reading room, leaving your recorder on only to notice later that you hold a previously unheard sound. Researchers collect and prize and share these stories, to guard against the toil scholarly work entails and to remind themselves of the possibilities of breakthrough. Serendipity, it seems, is just what a budding researcher needs to harness.

Training for serendipity might seem like a ridiculous proposition. Isn’t the point of unexpected good luck that it is unexpected? Isn’t the whole proposition of serendipity that we happily stumble upon a new avenue, a new solution, a new vision that was previously not there?

Researchers who study the phenomenon in scientific discovery, innovative scholarship, and creative production resoundingly say, “no.” (See, for example, “Making My Own Luck: Serendipity Strategies and How to Support Them in Digital Information Environments,” by Stephann Makri, Ann Blandford, and Mel Woods, or “I’m feeling lucky: Can algorithms better engineer serendipity in research — or in journalism?” by Liam Andrew.) It turns out that being prepared to make use of the unexpected can be encouraged by our environments and facilitated by our mindsets.

Next week, we are offering a workshop that explores some ways the serendipity can be encouraged within various research resources (Artemis, HathiTrust, StackLife, and the stacks). We’ll talk about serendipitous research encounters and spend the majority of the session exploring various tools that allow for unanticipated insights and outcomes in research.

Unexpected Discovery: Serendipity in the Research Process
Monday, January 26, 2015, 10:30am – 12:00pm
Collab. Classroom, Rm 113, Van Pelt-Dietrich Library
More information and registration (not required):

Categories: Pedagogy
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