Join me for an art project/workshop at Conflux 2009!

If you're not doing anything this Saturday morning at 10am, come join myself and artist An Xiao (@thatwaszen) for our workshop/art project/research project at the Conflux 2009 festival.

The project, E-Dérive: Psychogeography and the Digitial Landscape, will focus on creating

anonymous data visualization "portraits" of the participants' wanderings online, which will then be displayed in an online gallery.

I've always been interested in the way people consume content online and navigate the abundance of information on the internet, but data visualization is a recent obsession I'm just beginning to explore. While I lack the technical skills to craft custom data visualization tools just yet, I am lucky enough to have talented friends. An and I were able to come up with a few crafty hacked solutions using free visualization tools, but interactive designer Kevin Sweeney took this project to a whole other level by offering to build a tool for us.

So, here's what we need from you:

- Your presence

- A wifi-ready laptop

- A week's worth of your browser history (don't worry, the final "portrait" will be anonymous and nobody will know it's you)

- A potential $5 donation to Conflux

Why should you come?

- Because sleeping in on a Saturday is overrated

- Because art projects are fun any time of the day

- Because if this thing is a complete disaster, you'll want to be there to witness it

- Because we'll be providing coffee and some breakfast type snacks to sweeten the deal


RSVP to the Facebook page so we know how much coffee to bring.


More details below:

Informed by the psychogeographic strategy of “derive,” we will be creating data visualization maps, or “portraits,” of a sample group’s virtual meanderings. These portraits will then be displayed in an online gallery.

Please note: Wifi-ready laptops are required to participate in this workshop.


“In a dérive one or more persons during a certain period drop their usual motives for movement and action, their relations, their work and leisure activities, and let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there…”

The topography of the digital landscape—an intricate web of links and nodes—promotes the kind of randomized exploration and discovery that psychographers find so intriguing in the urban environment. As we traverse the web’s information channels, we are far more willing to put aside external motivators and stray off course, to let ourselves wander and submit to the whims of our curiosity—our sense of discovery and awareness of our “surroundings” is heightened.

In this workshop we will be using a variety of tools to track participants’ travels online and then map each trajectory with data visualization tools. Each map will serve as a psychogeographical data “portrait” of both the participant’s and the group’s unique experience navigating the web for a period of time.


Conflux Festival is the art and technology festival for the creative exploration of urban public space. Produced by Glowlab in New York since 2003. More info at

Julia Kaganskiy is a freelance social media and digital strategist. She is also the founder and organizer of the Arts, Culture and Technology meetup in New York City. Her work focuses on exploring the ways new media is changing the way people interact with cultural materials and helping institutions understand how to communicate with their audiences and reach new ones. She can be found online at and @juliaxgulia.

An Xiao was recently listed in The Guardian’s “who’s who” of the Twitter art world - she has shown her award-winning photography and digital media in publications and galleries internationally, including the Brooklyn Museum, Yale/Haskins Laboratories, The New York Times and ARTNews. She founded and directs @Platea, a global online public art collective, and blogs on art and social media technology for Art21. She can be found online at and @thatwaszen.

Special thanks to Kevin Sweeney for his interactive design skills!




I Search, Therefore I am: Envisioning a search-powered museum experience

Lately, I’ve been delving into the Semantic Web a bit. This came about partially out of a conscious desire to learn more about it, but also because I seem to be encountering it, in some manifestation or another, at every turn. The book I’m currently reading, “Shaping Things” by Bruce Sterling, envisions a “Synchronic Society” where everything is mapped, tagged, and searchable. Objects are now “spimes,” the next evolution in technoculture and design. Spimes are data-encrypted with information about their history (where they were made, how, by whom, etc.), as well as sensors that log information about their use and interaction with their environment. This log is self-updating and the data in it is crunched by powerful processors, creating a searchable database—an index, an “internet of things.” (He describes it better. It’s a great read!)

I also just watched a video of Wired’s Kevin Kelly talking about Web 3.0 and the Semantic Web. Even though the video is more than a year old—Kelly gave this talk at a conference back in February of 2008—as with any visionary train of thought, it seems to only grow more relevant, impending even (and all that implies). Again, the common train of thought here seems to center around increased access information, mapping, tagging and then, ultimately, being able to search it all (and, consequently, create a customized experience).

I’m also reading Koven Smith’s paper about the use of handheld devices in museums, and the combination of all three has me trying to envision what a museum experience informed by the Semantic Web would look like. Koven does a pretty good job outlining one, but before I finished reading his paper to find out what he proposed, I put it down to write out my own version:

A mobile, multimedia museum experience informed by the Semantic Web (to me) would look like:

I’m walking through The Whitney Museum, checking out their Claes Oldenburg/Coosje van Bruggen exhibition The Music Room and I stop in front of “Soft Viola.” It’s a sculpture I’ve never seen before and I am immediately intrigued. Maybe it’s the musical ties which speak to me, or the sad, melancholy way the viola sags there, mounted on the wall, but I feel an affinity for this particular object and I want to know more about it.

I take out my iPhone (or other multimedia device with wireless capabilities) and search for the object. The search brings me to the object’s landing page, which itself is searchable. [An interesting model for something like this, which I also recently encountered, is WolphramAlpha] I type in a keyword, say “inspiration,” which leads me to other potential links of information about what external factors, be they societal or personal, could have informed this artwork.

Maybe I find out that the work was created in response to something going on in their personal lives, or a critique of the deterioration of popular music—who knows? The point being is that I am able to gain added context through which to interpret and understand the work. More importantly though, the ability to customize that context—to be able to access additional information about it that is relative to my relationship with and interest in the artwork—makes the experience that much more powerful for me as an art viewer.

Koven takes the experience even further by suggesting the search engine also provide recommendations in the vein of, Amazon or Pandora; as well as map out routes to those objects within the galleries themselves. In particular, I really enjoyed his thoughts on how this type of handheld museum experience would enable the user to “slice-and-dice” all of the museum’s available objects on display the same way he might filter the virtual collections information online.

“Having textual data available for every single object opens up the possibility to search, filter, and group objects. Our users have come to expect this ability on the Web; now give them that same ability in the physical space. Ad hoc grouping means that visitors are no longer restricted to highlights constructed by museum personnel – visitors can, in effect, create their own highlights, based on criteria they set.”

A museum experience of this sort would indeed be a lofty, ambitious and costly project for any institution to take on, but I think it would be a worthwhile one in the long run. For one thing, though museums may not be in a position to be innovators—that type of work is better left for nimble, risk-taking startups and entrepreneurs—they are in a position to analyze the trends and make calculated judgments of valuable technologies to explore and finance. I think search and customizable user experiences are the topics to pay attention to, and a handheld device is the perfect “form” to experiment with this kind of functionality. Not to mention, think of the potential to learn about your visitors and how they interact with the museum materials! All these search queries and paths are trackable and can be mined for insight that could be used to shape better, more user-friendly museum exhibitions and programs.


IMA's ArtBabble: Get your babble on

Art-Bab-ble [ahrt-bab-uhl]
noun; verb (used without object) -bled, -bling

1. free flowing conversation, about art, for anyone.

2. a place where everyone is invited to join an open, ongoing discussion - no art degree required.


After talking about video in the previous two posts I wanted to highlight an exciting new experimental video undertaking by the Indianapolis Museum of Art: It’s still in private Beta, but if you’re interested in checking it out, I’ve got about 50 invites to give away. Just leave your email address in the comments.

ArtBabble can best be described as a social network based around high-quality art video content. The video content is not itself art; rather, it is educational and expository in nature. It ranges from forthright interviews with the artists featured within IMA’s walls (In the Factory), offering users insight into the artist’s sources of inspiration, creative process and vision, to staff profiles (Employee Profiles) and recordings of museum talks (Talks). There is also a series of webisodes shot on location at the Louvre highlighting the Louvre’s Roman Art collection and discussing the pieces in the context of Roman history (Roman Art from the Louvre).

The content is masterfully produced, engaging and informative. It’s not the kind of dry, academic, dusty tweed jacket content one would expect from a museum. One of the Roman Art webisodes is called “I love the A.D.’s” and is inspired by the popular VH1 series “I love the 80s.” In it, scholars discuss Roman-era fashion and epicurean trends. Their sage commentary is spliced with hilarious asides by a toga-wearing J Noland (a young IMA staffer?) like, “Juvenal, ah, the Roman scholar! I believe it was Juvenal who said, ‘Girl, you look good. Why don’t you back that a$$ up. Wobbidy, wobbidy.”

My favorite feature, however, is the additional links tab that appears on the right-hand side as you watch any video. The links direct you to any number of additional resources meant to supplement the video content and enrich your viewing experience with additional information and a deeper sense of context.

While watching the video on Orly Genger and her project “Whole,” for example, I was directed to Orly’s IMA blog post about the work, the IMA’s Flickr set on Orly’s installation, as well as a short YouTube video of Orly’s previous work, “Mr. Softy,” in which Orly pants and heaves as she struggles to crawl under the massive, heavy rope structure while ice-cream truck music plays in the background—an image at once mesmerizing and strangely unsettling. There are also some cheeky, seemingly random clips, like one of Arnold Schwarzenegger in his Mr. Universe days and a look at the Earth’s layers (this all makes sense in the context of the video, I promise).

ArtBabble’s design is slick and easy to navigate, allowing users to easily download videos onto their iPods, share them on external social media platforms and embed them on their blogs. As far as social networking capabilities though, the options are kind of limited at the moment. Users can post comments on videos both within the video stream and in comment boxes below it, but there doesn’t seem to be any way for one user to friend another or to engage in a conversation beyond the comment stream. It’s also unclear whether users can upload their own videos, or post things like video comments, though this type of functionality may be in development.

Overall though, it’s an interesting project and a great educational tool. Kudos to IMA for taking the initiative to try something new and building a space where people can have intelligent conversation centered around smart art videos. I’m looking forward to watching this project grow!


Online Video and what it means to be "vitterate" (Pt.2)

In the previous post, I outlined several interesting statistics I picked up at Social Media Week NY. Now, I'm going to relay a few the content creation tips. I'll then look at some examples of good uses of video in a following post. does online video apply to cultural institutions?

If people like Andrew Rasiej are right in their predictions that the rising “vitteracy” rate could eventually make video the predominant mode of communication online, cultural institutions would do well to experiment with video now while they have an opportunity to find their “voice.”

With the advantage of a built-in audience of patrons, scholars, students and art enthusiasts, they can test out different approaches to online video—Should the content skew more educational or entertaining? What’s the appropriate balance for online? And does it vary from platform to platform (ex: iTunes “vodcast” vs. YouTube video)?—these are just a few of the questions they should be asking themselves.

If there’s one thing cultural institutions have the opportunity to excel in, it’s in the quality of their content. Even if the videos are shot on a Flip camera (which, by the way, has a program that provides non-profits with free cameras), the information and research will naturally be top-notch, and if it also happens to be conveyed in an captivating manner, it will absolutely be watched and appreciated. It may never go “viral,” but that’s ok. Getting a steady 100 or 200 views a month still makes the effort worthwhile in the long run by building awareness, generating exposure, engaging with your audience where they live and in their preferred “language,” and further cementing your institution’s reputation as an authority and valuable resource.

A few content creation tips from SMWNY:

1) Create content that adds value to your target audience’s life. Of course, if you haven't yet, you’d have to first identify your target audience and determine what kind of content will add value to their lives. Beyond the traditional modes of demographic research—surveys, focus groups, etc.—some interactive ways of collecting and tracking questions and impressions from patrons could be useful here. Perhaps setting up a Ning network or using Twitter could be effective here. Or trying something like the Mattress Factory’s SMS campaign and video confession booth, or the Brooklyn Museum’s electronic comment kiosks.

2) Story-based content is better at engaging an audience. Use video as an opportunity to tell stories and create a rich contextual image as opposed to just presenting dry factual information. Personal stories give the audience something they can relate to and are magnetic for that reason—if nothing else, we are usually transfixed by humanity on display (ahem, reality television?). If story-based content doesn’t fit with your project, consider at least implementing a conversation-based model where the information is communicated via a casual dialogue— does this really well.

3) Involve the audience in the creation process. By “crowdsourcing” your content ideas, you increase the engagement level of your audience and give them an opportunity to become invested in the project. Your viewers become collaborators and their contribution in your project gives them a stake in the content, as well as a feeling of importance and recognition.

4) Pair your content with a relevant topic of discussion and become part of the conversation. Is there some sort of controversy or heated discussion happening in an area related to your field? Use video as an opportunity to join in the conversation. Create a short video response, or a podcast that provides additional information or context to the discussion. Joining the conversation further establishes you as a member of the community with a valuable contribution. 


This is not, by any means, an exhaustive list. Please add your own tips and examples!


Online Video and what it means to be "vitterate" (Pt.1)

[Note: I've been writing this blog post for-freaking-EVER. I started it the week after Social Media Week NY--and that was about two weeks ago! Granted, preparation for (and anxiety over) last week's meetup didn't leave much time for writing. Still, it's pretty clear I've hit a bit of a road block, so in the interest of getting things moving I'm just breaking it up into two posts in the hope of generating some inertia.]

I’ve wanted to write about video for a while, but didn’t really feel myself qualified to do so. I’m not a vlogger, and though I manage the YouTube account at work, I don’t produce most of the content that goes up there, save for a few random quirky videos from around the office. Still, I haven’t been able to shake the topic and it seems like these past couple of months, I can’t enter into a conversation about social media without it inevitably turning towards online video.

There’s no denying it: video is HUGE, and if you’re not paying attention to it, you definitely should be.

Two weeks ago I attended a few panels during Social Media Week NY (SMWNY). As can be expected from a conference bearing that name, online video was on everybody’s lips. Some interesting facts that I picked up:

The number of searches being performed on YouTube each day is second only to Google. People are searching for entertainment, yes, but also for practical information, how-to’s, educational videos, etc. Having a slice of that pie, even if it’s just a tiny sliver, should be part of every institution’s online marketing strategy. (via For Your Imagination's Social Entertainment panel)

There are 15 hours of video being uploaded to YouTube every minute. The pace at which video is becoming one of our most popular modes of communication is astonishing, and nowhere is this more apparent than online. I can’t tell you how many times I have wished, or even contemplated, sending a video instead of answering a particularly lengthy question via email—idea courtesy of Saul Colt of Freshbooks, who actually does answer client emails with video responses occasionally. Let’s face it, watching a 2-minute video is far quicker, easier and arguably more engaging than reading a 1,500 word blog post. At the Innovation in Politics, Policy and Social Change through Social Media panel, Andrew Rasiej posited that as communication platforms online are evolving, it’s possible that video could eclipse text as the preferred medium as our society becomes increasingly “vitterate.”

The average number of views for a video on YouTube is two a month. Considering all the videos with views in the hundreds of thousands and millions, this means that the majority of content on YouTube is unwatched. This raises questions (at least for me) about the nature of the majority of content populating YouTube (What is it? What purpose does it serve? What purpose was it intended to serve and has it succeeded?), the sheer volume of content you will be competing with means it’s got to be good to get noticed. For cultural institutions, which are serving a clear-cut niche audience and typically have a much higher standard of excellence than your average YouTube user, I think this particular statistic need not be a deterrent. If they create and distribute the content, chances are it will be seen, even with little or next to zero promotion.


Ok, so now while I fine-tune the second half of this epic post and work on getting over my writer's block, I'm going to leave you with the video footage from the Innovation in Politics, Policy and Social Change panel. It was without a doubt the best panel I attended at SMWNY. I highly recommend watching it. I believe Rasiej's comments are in the second portion of the video segment.

Please let comments or questions below! Answering them might be just the thing that helps me get out of this funk.

Social Media Week NY: Innovation in Politics, Policy, and Social Change through Social Media Pt. 2 from Panman Productions on Vimeo.

Social Media Week NY: Innovation in Politics, Policy, and Social Change through Social Media Pt. 2 from Panman Productions on Vimeo.