openLab Recap

This past Wednesday, metaLab hosted its Spring openLab at the multi-tiered Arts@29 Garden space to demonstrate the progress and interconnection of projects underway by the core metaLab team, students, and affiliates

The upcoming metaLABprojects publications were out for preview. Core provocations from one, The Library Beyond the Book, were remixed in a derivative playable card deck while Library Test Kitchen’s inflatable mylar reading room, receipt printer spewing forth the U.S. Constitution, and custom 3D View-Masters encouraged discourse about library space and content interaction. All the while reels of Cold Storage, an interactive documentary about offsite storage through examination of the Harvard Depository, played out not just the library beyond the book, but the library beyond the library.

Cold Storage is complemented by a humanities studio course, one of two to debut this semester (along with Homeless Paintings of the Italian Renaissance). Existing outside a traditional departmental structure, these interdisciplinary courses have stressed a team-teaching dynamic and learning through experimentation in order to grapple with new materials, problems, and developing approaches to solving those problems with constant and critical evaluation of the process. In Cold Storage, a student may wireframe a web interface to host a staggering body of multimedia content or produce a tightly-focused video or audio piece that is part of the featured content itself. In Homeless Paintings, a student may investigate painterly representation of religious themes or design an algorithm to help identify a lost painting’s present whereabouts.

The lost paintings come from Bernard Berenson’s monochrome photo archive of Renaissance art, which concurrently is the pilot collection of Curarium—a web platform that ingests collection metadata and media to enable both item-level annotation and macro-visualizations that showcase and tell stories about the relationships among objects. Looking forward it seeks to also enable and enrich the kinds of stories that can be told about the relationships among multiple collections most immediately adding content from the Harvard Art Museums and the Arnold Arboretum.

Approaches to visualizing data from the Arnold Arboretum is the focus of The Life and Death of Data, which brought a series of projections and a topographic foam cut to openLab in order to map spatial and temporal acquisition patterns of plants and shrubs. The project is also slated to develop an online interactive documentary experience.

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All of this merely scratches the surface of openLab, which also featured student work in data narrative, digital ethnography, and adversarial design from Mixed-Reality City and Connections, projects from the History Design Studio, work from Palladio at Stanford, and the bioluminescent Luminosities. Check out the video for a feel of the event.