Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Creative Commons Licensing

Perhaps you are a scholar looking for images to use in teaching, on a web site, or in a publication. You may be an artist wishing to create derivative works based on appropriation. Or, you might create work that you wish to share with others without giving up all of your intellectual property rights. The Creative Commons (CC) licensing system provides an alternative to full copyright; it meets the needs of creators who wish to share their work while retaining the rights of their choosing. Creative Commons, a non-profit 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable corporation, provides free licenses that address "the spectrum of possibilities between full copyright — all rights reserved — and the public domain — no rights reserved." The Creative Commons web site offers a simple online tool for creators to define their rights. The conditions they can apply include attribution, noncommercial, no derivative works, and share alike (which allows others to distribute the work only under a license identical to that which governs the work). Those seeking content with Creative Commons licenses may search the CC web site. Flickr also provides a search tool to find CC images available on its web site. The "some rights reserved" movement is an important development in the world of intellectual property. It provides more content to more people, helps build collective knowledge, and preserves the rights of creators who are willing to share their work.

Image: Sheryl Dee, Hirosaki Castle, 2008. From Flickr, some rights reserved under a Creative Commons license.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

16 Billion Pixels

Have you seen the 16-billion pixel reproduction of Leonardo's restored Last Supper? Created jointly in 2007 by the Italian Ministry of Cultural Assets and Activities, De Agostini, and HAL9000 (a high-definition photography company), this image boasts pixel dimensions of 172,181 x 93,611. One can zoom into areas as small as a square millimeter to reveal minute cracks and chips that are invisible to those viewing the painting in situ. While the imaging company's ubiquitous and perhaps unavoidable watermarks may detract a bit from the experience, one can still study the Apostles' toes, the tablecloth, and the landscape in the background in close detail. The Last Supper is the most famous of HAL9000's high definition projects, but the company's web site also features an 8.6-billion pixel  image of Gaudenzio Ferrari's 1513 Life of Christ, from S. Maria della Grazie in Varallo Sesia, and a 9.8-billion pixel image of Andrea Pozzo's Glory of St Ignatius Loyola (1691-1694), from San Ignazio in Rome.

Image: Leonardo da Vinci, Last Supper, ca. 1494-1498, Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan, Italy.  From Wikimedia Commons.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

QTVR (QuickTime Virtual Reality) Resources for Art, Architecture, and Related Fields

QTVR panorama images allow one to view an environment as if surrounded by it. This interactive technology can be especially useful in teaching disciplines such as art, architecture, archaeology, museum studies, and other fields where the important relationships between space and objects are difficult convey with traditional still images.

ARTstor features over 900 QTVR files depicting a broad range of images. These include contributions from Columbia University's QTVR Panoramas of World Architecture, as well as the Mellon International Dunhuang Archive. The images may be found in ARTstor by using the search term 'QTVR.'  To view the files, click on the blue QTVR letters appearing beneath the thumbnails in your search results.

A number of other web sites offer QTVR files depicting art, architecture, and related materials. These include the World Heritage site from UC Berkeley, the Metis Catalog of ancient Greek sites from the Stoa Consortium, and virtual tours of the Louvre. I have begun to compile a list of links in my del.icio.us account, which can be viewed here.  Please feel free to e-mail me with any other QTVR links you may know about.

Image: Tonio Vega, Façade de la cathédrale de Rouen, 2007. From Flickr, some rights reserved under a Creative Commons license.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Image Management Software

As personal digital image collections grow, the need for image management is key. Whether you are organizing your images for lectures, portfolios, job applications or grad school, a well-organized image collection makes the work much easier. There are quite a few image management software programs available for consumers, a selection of which appears below. Some of these programs offer simple image organization, while others offer more sophisticated image editing and database capabilities. Please explore the following links for more information.

For both Mac and PC platforms:
Microsoft Expression Media (formerly iView Media): $299
Photoshop Elements: $99.99
Photoshop Lightroom: $299
Extensis Portfolio: $199.95

For Mac platforms:
iPhoto (bundled with Mac OSX)
Qpict: Standard $35
Aperture: $199

For PC platforms:
Google's Picasa: free
Windows Media Center: bundled with Windows Vista Home Premium or Windows Vista Ultimate

Some free online options for image sharing and backup:
Picasa Web Albums

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Intro to Second Life and Art Education

You have probably heard of Second Life, but you may be surprised to learn about the magnitude and scope of  this rapidly growing 3-D virtual world. The 2 million residents of Second Life (SL), represented "in-world" by customizable avatars, can buy land, construct buildings, run businesses, and communicate using text or voice. Created in 2003, this multi-user virtual environment (MUVE)  offers just about any activity or service that you can imagine in our "real world." There are daily live concerts and performances, shopping malls, role playing sites, international embassies, dance clubs, art galleries, and sex shops. Among the more intriguing developments for teaching and learning in the arts is the rapid growth of sites within SL devoted to education, art, and librarianship. Many universities are purchasing SL properties and offering courses and other resources to their students and the public. An example is Vassar College's virtual recreation of the Sistine Chapel, which allows the viewer to experience the interior of the chapel in the context of space. To visit, one is first prompted to create a free (basic) SL account, then link to the "sURL" that transports users to the site. A growing number of museums have also created an SL presence, such as the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden's Old Masters Picture Gallery of the Dresden State Art Collections.  Visitors who are unable to travel to Dresden can view the 750 permanent pieces of the collection in a true-to-scale clone of the museum.  But Second Life does not lack controversy and criticism.  Educational administrators are expressing growing concerns about ethics and legal liabilities.  Others long for more innovative and revolutionary ways to articulate space and display visual works, which would not be bound by the limitations of real life physics and practices, nor simply replicate real world places.  The tools are in their infancy - much like film mimicked theater in its early days, these virtual worlds are largely expressed with real-world conventions.  It will be fascinating to see how they develop in the coming years.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Online Image Sources

Mining the Internet for images to use in teaching and learning can be daunting and frustrating.  One of many efforts to streamline this process is a wiki created by  Hollin Elizabeth Pagos for the Visual Resources department of Wellesley College.  The Digital Images Collections Wiki is a "resource of Free- and Fair-Use digital image collections that are available for anyone to use for personal or educational purposes."  It consists of a directory of links to web sites containing images, organized primarily by period and geographic region.  The image quality and size vary by source.  Projects such as this are increasingly common, and search results will improve over time as technology provides new tools.  Professional organizations, such as the Visual Resources Association and the Society of Architectural Historians, are working toward shared image resources for academic use.  The VRC maintains a page of image resources for teaching and research, with links to directories, guides, search engines, selected digital image collections.  Suggestions for links are welcome!

Image: Pellegrino di Mariano Rossini, Death of the Pharaoh, ca. 1450, © Kathleen Cohen, worldart.sjsu.edu.