Is it reliable? Can I cite it? Why not? What even makes a good academic source? Is Google a good source? Whether staff or student most of us have asked ourselves these questions at some point. In many cases we’re told an answer in no uncertain terms, but how much thought has gone into those assertions that Wikipedia is unreliable?
In her book It’s Complicated danah boyd examines they way we look at information online and challenges these assumptions. She also talks about many different aspects of online life, it’s a great book and available free online on her site, you should definitely go and read it.
boyd argues that Wikipedia could be seen as a fantastic source as not only is the information referenced (in most cases) but the decision making process behind how what’s included and what isn’t is openly available too.
So as we here at digifest love a debate and to make things we thought an edit-a-thon would be the perfect way to explore all of the issues surround Wikipedia and produce some nice content. Given that Wikipedia itself is controversial we thought that we could focus our edit-a-thon on controversial pages (eg. hoaxes, alternative medicine, the paranormal, feminism, racism, climate change, contested territories, and religious beliefs). This will force us to examine our own biases and the veracity of the information we contribute, in short, be good academics.
Last week, two of us digifest devotees went guerilla around UCL in search for some cool people to hear their thoughts on techy things. In true spirit of digifest, we were armed with only one tool – a smartphone. Being amateur videographers, basically what we did was point and shoot, but there is so much more to mobile video making than we thought.
Orientation: You might scoff at this but a large amount of self-proclaimed videographers suffers from Vertical Video Syndrome. Shooting videos in portrait mode might be the most natural way to go, but landscape mode is actually more viewer-friendly. The logic behind this is:
Two things to pay attention to are lighting and sound – always let the subject face the light and try to film in a relatively quiet place with little background noise that could interfere. We steered clear of head-pounding drilling going on around the campus, although we still had the occasional rustle of people walking around, but that’s nothing a video editing software can’t fix!
Once we’ve got the footage we wanted, it was time to cut and edit them to suit our theme. Video editing softwares like iMovie for Mac or Windows Movie Maker are enough to do simple editing jobs. A recent update in Youtube has even allowed in-site video editing that you can just publish afterwards.
iMovie editing layout
We then added some text, transitions and music (beware of copyright!) to spice it up into a multimedia video before uploading the final product on YouTube:
It doesn’t take a lot of technical skills to do this, just a little tinkering with some tools that are readily available. The difficult part in making this video is actually in approaching people to film them. In this case it’s about finding the right people – people who are waiting around or sitting in one place, who doesn’t look to be in a hurry… – and approaching them with a big smile and friendly attitude. Fortunately, the people in UCL are a cool bunch, and our gratitude goes to them for making this project a success.
Earlier this year I attended GEUG14, the Google Apps for Education European User Group meet up in York. The conference was great for all sorts of reasons, but it had one particularly neat feature: instead of providing a heap of wordy session abstracts to choose from, the GEUG team had instead recorded a series of short video introductions via Google Hangouts and published them on their Google Site beforehand (click the links in the programme to see the Hangout videos!). I liked the idea so much, I sneakily borrowed it for our digifest purposes.
Video is nice, but what if you don’t like to appear on camera?
I’m quite camera shy myself and will avoid having my mug all over the web at any cost. I still wanted an attention grabbing teaser trailer though, so here’s what I did instead:
I storyboarded using plain old pen and paper to clarify my idea for myself.
Next, I tracked down some suitable images. My preferred search portal is http://search.creativecommons.org.
Once I had pinned down the images I needed, I started building the animation. For this I used the free version of Hippo Studio’s Animator suite. It’s a powerful, yet easy to learn animation tool that exports to GIF, HTML5 or AVI formats.
With the animation assembled, I needed some music to jazz things up. I could have turned to CC Search again, but as I already had FMA (Free Music Archive) open in one of my zillion browser tabs, I ran a search on there instead. It didn’t take long before I struck lucky and found something that seemed suitable for the opening sequence:
[sadly WordPress isn’t playing nicely with the FMA mp3 player]
For my next step I turned to another old favourite of mine: Serif MoviePlus. Why do I like it? It’s way more versatile than Windows Movie Maker, but is still simple enough to use for quick video editing. I have the full fat version on my home PC, but for this project the free download did everything I needed.
I drafted a short script, recorded the voice over, adjusted the timings a little and exported it all to WMV.
Here is the final result on YouTube:
Yes, this was definitely a lot more laborious and time consuming (about 4 hours all in) than if I had just done a quick face to camera piece, but I enjoy twiddling with all these different tools so much more than I enjoy seeing my face on YouTube! 😉
On Thursday afternoon seven of us who work behind the scenes on digifest took a jaunt to the Barbican to see their incredible exhibition, Digital Revolution, and we weren’t disappointed. The first part of the exhibition is a trip down memory lane, with a chance to look at and use all the tech of yesteryear from the first Macintosh and midi synths to the original version of The Sims and Pong. We were then brought right up to date and shown far the digital industries have progress with behind the scenes looks at recent films with jaw dropping visuals, including Inception whose creator is a UCL alumnus and even filmed part of it here.
From the lesson in ‘digital archaeology’ and blockbuster films we moved on to sections about the maker movement and the ways in which the digital revolution has affected the art and music worlds. This is where some of the more well publicised installations lived such as Chris Milk’s The Treachery of Sanctuary, which you can see digifest’s very own Moira participating in below. Using Microsoft’s Kinect your silhouette becomes part of the triptych. In the first panel your body disintegrates into a flock of birds, in the second the birds attack you, in the third you have sprouted your own huge wings and can fly away.
One of my favourite pieces was Varvara Guljajeva and Mar Carnet’s Wishing Wall. You whisper a wish into one of the microphones, your wish appears on the screen and is transformed into a butterfly and flies off to join the other wishes. You can see one of the team’s wish taking wing below:
On the music side of the things there was a slightly terrifying work by will.i.am, Pyramidi, which he calls ‘Mona Lisa times a thousand’. A giant CGI Pharaoh head sings a song Mr am composed specially for the exhibition with three robot instruments playing themselves. The Mona Lisa reference becomes clear when the Pharoaoh’s gaze follows you as you move around the room in a rather unsettling fashion. It seemed to be able to follow multiple participants simultaneously, which was a little mind boggling.
I think the highlight for Janina and Steve was definitely what we dubbed ‘the laser room’ but is actually called Assemblance and put together by the Umbrellium team. In a pitch black room you were able to manipulate dozens of lasers by moving your hands and body. There are some great photos of that here, and we spent ages having fun in there.
All in all it was fantastic afternoon and really engaging exhibition that examined many of the same themes and ideas as digifest, how we use tech to connect, create, and collaborate.
The sunshine on the terrace afterwards was quite nice too…