Monday 29 October 2007

Never Ending Supper

So the last supper is the latest painting to be digitised at high res and made available via an online zoom/pan interface, by HAL9000. 16bn pixels in total. Doesnt bother to say what the original dimensions of the painting are, so we cant work out an equivalent dpi.

This is an interesting example of problems of currency between the way that industry talks about megapixels to describe photographic detail, whereas the library, archive, and memory institute sector are wedded to the dots per inch model: and for good reason, given that the size of artefacts various so very much, and there is no way to tell from the digital surrogate what the original dimensions are.

Still, its an interesting project. Even if they slap their logo over the image repeatedly, which as you know is one of my big bug-bears. An interesting thing to see if just how poor the condition of the original is - which is a story within itself (there is lots of information and there are lots of rants about this online).

And the language used to describe digital media still baffles me. Check out the bbc's coverage of this project. Spot the weird phrasing. In what way is a larger image "stronger" than one of a lower resolution - its not weaker or stronger, its just a different representation. And no mention of the fact that such large format works are rarely captured with one picture of a 10MP camera.
Which matters, as the bbc is a "true" source for many people out there. *sigh*.

Monday 22 October 2007

Laser Hair... restoral?

Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa originally had eyebrows and eyelashes, a French inventor has claimed after digitally scanning the painting.

Interesting (if a little gimicky) bbc news piece about the kind of information that infrared and ultraviolet scanning can provide art historians.

What's in a name?

The British Museum have recently changed their domain name from, and, to the more compact, and less academic (The old URLs redirect, natch).

Hard to say what this means in the big scheme of things - but interesting to ponder nevertheless.

google article

.. from the Sunday Times, worth a look.
But as it prepares to celebrate its 10th birthday, Google has developed serious engine trouble. A series of missteps have left it facing claims that it has gone from a benign project – creating the first free, open-all-hours global library – to the information society’s most determined Big Brother. It stands accused of plotting some sinister link between its computers and us: that it wants, somehow, to plug us into its giant mainframe – as imagined in The Matrix or Terminator.

Monday 15 October 2007

new browser

Flock aims to be the "social web browser" - integrating all that f'book, flickr, twitter activity into one handy (hyperactive?) web experience. The rhetoric is hard to follow though - I'll aim to test this later and report back.

Obituary: Roy Rosenzweig

Roy Rosenzweig, a historian and passionate advocate of the need to store digital ephemera (email, etc), recently passed away. The washington post carries an interesting overview of his life's work.

Wednesday 10 October 2007

No news is good news

Its term time - and my time to look at things on the web is much depreciated. But I've been having fun playing with websites I refer to in lectures. (This year, as an experiment, I've been putting all my links up on my delicious page, as I refer to them in lectures. Two weeks into term, and I've already pointed my students to 212 websites. The students seem to like it - spare minutes at the end of a lab session can be spent browsing this "extended set reading", and its a nice record of the large spread of material we cover, even just in passing).

Todays choice, in particular, is the Bridgeman Art Library website. I'd recommend it as a place to idle away those art historical yearnings. Crowding round a slide cabinet all trying to see miniature slides of Giotto all seems another lifetime away - only a few years on since I remember elbowing Zoe in the ribs to try and get a better look at the annunciation. The Bridgeman has 323 images by Giotto alone available online. (Maybe having resources like this available would have improved my student essays!)

Monday 8 October 2007

Faking It

Results of the latest photoshop contest.
The rules of this game are thus: You will take any famous painting or artwork (any period is fine) and alter it in such a way that it is obviously a forgery... As always, quality is a must.

Tuesday 2 October 2007

Vicipaedia Latina

Time to brush up those primers, for a dose of trivia. In latin [link].

Books by the Foot.

Why bother reading those pesky things when you can have an interior designer choose which "style" suits you? [link]

Zoo Redux

... but I have various issues with the project, below. Because I didnt get the image, below, from the Zoo. I saw it on the BBC website, nice and clear without a huge copyright logo across it. The zoo itself features images, as above, with a large watermark.

Now, I understand that you dont want pesky people downloading stuff off the Internet and making money selling teatowels or christmas cards of your nice historic photos. But low grade, small jpegs? is there any reason to contaminate them with the ugly copyright mark? Pray tell, what are people going to do with these images? Thats right - maybe feature them on their blogs and publicise the service, like I am doing? (The images are copyright ZSL, by the way).

The ZSL print service is clearly a money-making effort for the Zoo - fair enough, they do important work, and could do with more funding. But I cant feel that they have missed a small trick here. The site concentrates on selling these images as mousemats, fridge magnets, photographs: there is very little metadata describing the who/why/where of the photographs. And branding them in this manner makes them almost unrecognisable, in some cases.

Watermarking digitised images was all the rage 10 years ago, when we didnt know if we could trust those pesky interweb users. Even then it was noted that
Safeguards are nearly always imperfect. The most realistic objective is to make misuse economically unattractive. [link]

But by now we should realise that digitisation is like making wine. Give people a free glass and they may buy the case. Show of your wares (at low res), and provide contextual information. They may leave with the mousemat. Treating people as if they are about to hack into the site and steal the images (who, me?) isnt the way forward.

We're all Going to The Zoo, 100 Years Ago

London Zoo (or more properly, The Zoological Society of London) have just put up a collection of historical photographs of the Zoo, in their print store. See what the zoo was like in 1914! Look at the zebra's pulling a cart! etc. An interesting selection, and worth a peek.

This photo: Lady with Chimpanzee, 1928. [link]

Monday 1 October 2007


Had to happen. Check out the facebook spoof...
Crackbook is an addictive social utility that makes you feel you're connecting with people when actually, you're just not.