Sunday, 25 January 2015

Multimedia and the presentation of digital content content.

From our discussion in class last week, I began to think about multimedia as we discussed the number of ways one can provide viewers of online exhibits with information. Multimedia was also term I had noticed earlier the term from the first week of readings. [i] That week, one of the articles had caught my eye and I ended up reading it more than any of the more applicable or academic focused chapters such as archeology. Instead I was drawn to the multimedia chapter as I strongly remember when that term was widely used as a consumer buzzword back in the mid to late 90’s. Multimedia as I remember was huge and a brave new world with not just text but pictures and perhaps even some low quality audio files playing downgraded versions of fair use music. More specifically, this chapter on multimedia reminded me of Encarta 95, the electronic encyclopedia often packaged with Windows 95 OS computers.[ii] I remember thinking that an electronic encyclopedia was probably one of the most impressive things on my home computer. Still, at that point I would say that I was far from being as interested in history or anything academic but it still was really neat having what was essentially a very basic offline Wikipedia at my disposal. If I remember correctly, Encarta 95 also had built in explanations regarding navigation via in-text links a feature that was new to many pc users. Likewise, the ability to open multiple windows of information at once was also relatively new, something that when looking at the online exhibits is assumed to be common knowledge today.[iii]  Additionally, going back to the readings emphasis on multimedia and how information is presented, it is strange to think that back in elementary school it was amazing when your average computer could have decent sound and visuals for a teaching purpose.[iv] I also find it strange to think that the concept of having text and audio was revolutionary for home use when sites like Wikipedia, despite its inherent  open editing flaws, is a huge database of information including, maps, art, audio, clips and video all to presents.[v] All of this made me think about the course project and how one must present information in a meaningful way and how we all need to ensure our projects give the correct information for the appropriate audience.

Quick sidetrack to this week’s readings,
This week’s readings, however, have a different perspective. Instead of focusing on the multimedia aspect of digital humanities which is now pretty much the norm in terms of online resources like Wikipedia, we have more advanced programs looking at the raw data of texts and using special algorithms and codes.[vi] At first, I almost wince in pain thinking about mining text for data but clearly you can come up with some very interesting questions and information from such a project and those practices should definitely not be overlooked in favor of the more flashy appeal of multimedia heavy projects. Not shying away from the unsavory or boring methods of gathering and working with text based data, when the relative candy story of visual and audio aids is right around the corner, is definitely going to be a challenge for me in this course.

[iii] An online exhibit with very simple layout but no explanation as to its navigation as it is assumed to be straight forward for anyone who uses computers.       
[iv] Audio intro to Encarta ’95 which includes a mix of many audio clips contained on the CD.

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