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  • AccountKiller 7:01 pm on March 2, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Best of the Web   

    The City of Horrors 

    Institution: Center of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (CCCB)
    Designer: Ignasi Rifé
    URL: http://www.cccb.org/laciutatdelshorrors/old.php?l=en [Old version of the website (participation open to submit and vote photos)]
    http://www.cccb.org/laciutatdelshorrors/ [(Recent version of the website (participation closed and mosaic completed)]
    Category: Exhibition

    This past year, the Center of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (CCCB) held an exhibition regarding urban and human landscape of the cities of Barcelona, Valencia, and Palma. Part of this exhibition showed the effects of urban planning corruption and tourism on the cities, and sections were created from the results of a participatory project, “The City of Horrors.” This was a two part project, the first of which was a website, where visitors could submit and vote for photographs of ugly places (horrors) in those three cities, and the second of which was a mural at the CCCB that was created from those images that were voted the ugliest.

    There were many reasons why I liked this site. First off, I love the idea of mixing the virtual world with the physical world, and allowing virtual users to have an impact on a very real, physical exhibition that took place at CCCB. Second, the design of the site is very appealing. It is intuitive and very easy to use; there is only as much text as is necessary, icons like arrows and “X”s are universally understood. The site is extremely interactive; hovering over images changes them from black and white to color, you can add your own images, as well as vote. Feedback is also great: after voting, the number of total votes is displayed, as well as the percentages of how people voted, and “Vote counted correctly. Thank you for taking part.” This is very reassuring, as people want to know that their votes count! Finally,

    Of course, there were also some aspects that frustrated me. One problem I had was that there is a question mark in the upper right hand corner, which I assumed would either lead me to help or to more information about the project. Instead, I got nothing, just black space with a big “X” at the bottom, which led me back to the main page when clicked. For English users (the site was viewable in either English, Spanish, or Catalan), the intro to the mural was in Spanish, and some text was cut off (“Do you want to contribute to an exhibition at the”).

    My major concern has to do with the search functionality, which was very limited. One could search by city, by category (monuments/buildings, squares/parks, streets/avenues, furnishings, lettering/shop windows, or all), or by location (residential zone, old town, extensions, harbours/beaches, suburbs/periphery, neighborhood or all). There was no keyword searching; before uploading an image, the user has to choose from the vocabulary offered before submitting, and cannot chose their own tags. With the exception of searching by city, I found the categories that I was given to choose from not all that helpful. For example, under the category of “furnishings,” there were all kinds of photos, most of which had nothing to do with furnishings (e.g. a statue of a lion, a balcony, a bike, some barbed wire, a utility box on the outside of a building, a wall). The same goes for the options under location, many of which seemed to overlap, and from which many categories seemed to missing (business district, for example). Additionally, you could not use the arrows to get you from image to image within a certain set of search results; the arrows would only work to get you from one image to another within the entire set of images.

    I found it pretty fascinating to see what people uploaded as being horrifying, and found it fun to vote to see how other people voted. It became clear to me that people have very different opinions of what horrifying means.

  • Beanbag Amerika 4:48 am on March 2, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Best of the Web, contemporary culture, research, theory   


    The Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona is, as the name pretty much tells you even if you don’t speak Catalan, is a museum-like institution in Barcelona dedicated to contemporary culture. At the end of 2009 the CCCB created the CCCB LAB, a new “department…dedicated to research and innovation in the cultural sphere, paying special attention to the evolution of formats…” The LAB consolidates the CCCB’s various research projects (including conferences and exploratory symposiums) and acts as an R+D-styled incubator for new thinking about the things cultural institutions do.

    Though the evolution of CCCB’s virtual exhibits is a focus of the LAB, its own website is essentially only a blog (not entirely available in English translation), but an interesting one. Inasmuch, it has the typical blog functionalities: categories, (free text) tags, archives by date and author, a single-button search box that does a simple full-text search of posts and returns a list in reverse-chronological order, and links to relevant projects elsewhere on the web.

    In addition, there is fairly extensive documentation of the LAB’s mission and working philosophies. As well as a calendar of “projects” which includes conferences, festivals, and their semi-monthly I+C+i sessions. I+C+i, which is described as the public face of the lab, is an ongoing series of presentations, panels, interviews, and discussions with “artists, exhibition directors, designers, technologists, scientists, journalists, architects, historians, stage directors, art theorists and programmers … working on innovative and pioneering projects” in the “research, development, and innovation … concepts into the domain of culture.” On the I+C+i website (unfortunately for most of us, only in Catalan, aside from a translation of the “què és” text) these events are thoroughly documented in text, video, photos (on Flickr), links, Twitter hashtags, &c.

    As a “Best of the Web,” I wouldn’t vote for the CCCB LAB site. There is much of interest buried within and linked from it, and it’s certainly a blog that I will continue to read. Potentially some of the sites for LAB and other CCCB exhibitions and projects that issue from the LAB may be worthy of a best-of. In fact a few were also among this year’s nominated sites. In time perhaps these explorations will inform their own virtual presence.

  • Erin Murphy 4:42 am on March 2, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Best of the Web   

    The New York Botanical Gardens’ educational website Plant Hunters (http://www.nybg.org/planthunters/) is an interactive learning tool for students that presents plant life in both scientific and cultural contexts. There are 2 ways to navigate through the site: users can test their knowledge by playing game-like Plant Challenges or simply explore the collection of plant specimens through an illustrated and narrated virtual tour of the NYBG’s Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. The designers of the site, Second Story, describe the site as “an immersive experience to introduce students to the wonders of botanical science.” As a user successfully progresses through the Plant Challenges, he/she may start out as a Beginning Botanist and end up as a Professional Plant Hunter. Some of these challenges also teach the cultural significance of certain plants. If simply browsing through the Plant Explorer, the user can learn the scientific name, origin, and use of particular plants.

    The weaker aspect of this site is that it is not easy to navigate back to a previous page. For example, once you’re on the tour – or hunt – you lose the ability to navigate back to the start or home page. There is no home button. In the Plant Challenge areas, it asks the user to assign certain plants to certain categories such as leaf-shape and edible parts, with the option to click on a plant for more details to make this determination. However, after viewing more details, one cannot navigate back to where he/she left off in the challenge in order to complete it. It would have to be started over (though it does remember what has been correctly identified). In addition, the Plant Hunters site lacks a search function and external links to NYBG’s primary site (other than in the footer). The absence of these things makes the site feel self-contained and with predetermined paths, similar to a software game. Perhaps with those flaws, there are some benefits – students may be less likely to get distracted or derailed from the task of learning.

    The strongest aspect of this site is its interactivity and its fun design and spirit. The comic book-style illustration of the virtual tour is an unexpected and fresh interpretation of the panoramic virtual tour. All of the illustrations on the site are very crisp and lovely to look at and manage to do so without compromising the informational content. The site does a good job of encouraging users to explore and learn by making the interactive experience very appealing. Overall, the site lends itself quite well to exploration and discovery, but does suffer a bit from the lack of a conventional navigation structure and search function.

  • margaritamirabal 3:35 am on March 2, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Best of the Web   




    This interactive site belongs to the category “Exhibition.” It was created for the MoMA temporary exhibit “William Kentridge: Five Themes” on display from February 24 to May 17, 2010. The website basically consists of still images and excerpts for animations. It also includes artist’s biographical information, explanations about his more frequently used techniques, and artist’s comments about his work.

    The objects are shown in thumbnails view, all of them connected to the theme they belong to. The themes are joined to one another in chronological order. The ramifications around each theme and the sequential order of them resemble a sort of ontological web model. The site can be navigated randomly through the web of thumbnails. It has a very appealing layout that satisfactorily fits into the visual imagery of Kentridge.

    Descriptive and administrative metadata slightly fluctuate based on the specific characteristics of the media. Each film excerpt includes elements from the object like series, title, year, length, material (ex. 35 mm, 16 mm), provenance, technique (ex. Stop-motion animation), description, and elements from the creator like, director, editing, production, sound design, and music. Information for printmaking images includes series, title, year, technique (ex, linoleum cut), measurements, publisher, printer, provenance, and description.

    Metadata elements and values are extracted from MoMA’s main collection database (DADABASE)


    By opening one of the DADABASE records related to the show, the page source shows the XML based language encoding for HTML: !DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN”
    html xmlns=”http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml” xml:lang=”en” lang=”en”

    The major success of this site is the accomplishment of two goals: it renders a fair tribute to Kentridge’s stylistic approach to art, and it has well developed tools for users’ navigation and information retrieval.

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