[TOOLS] Walters Art Museum opens up digital collection with new free API


Image from inside Walters Art Museum

New API allows digital content creators to incorporate elements of the Walters’ collection of 10,000 objects into their own programs

The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore just announced the public release of an API (Application Programming Interface for you non-coders out there) that allows creatively-minded programmers and artists to access their collections via a wide range of parameters including items from the collection, their location in the Museum, specific exhibitions, geography or origin, and many other parameters (name, keyword, catalog ID, etc.).

“So what?” you might be asking. Fair question. Basically this new API allows people to build custom web-based apps (or, with a language like Processing, even stand-alone apps) that draw their content from the collection or allow users to make customized searches through the Walters’ huge collection of 10,000+ objects that literally spans thousands of years of human history. Rather than have to “scrape” content off of the Walters’ site and risk broken links and difficult-to-manage code, people who want to incorporate art from the collection can query the database directly. Better still, everything’s available under a public license that merely requires those who tap into the database to credit the Museum.

Should be pretty interesting to see what people come up with!

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[CULTURE] Fedora Shaming as Discursive Activism

Picture of guy wearing a fedora

Fedora Haters, Unite!

The seemingly universal hatred of fedoras that’s cropped up in social media circles over the past year or so has always seemed somewhat inexplicable. After all, what’s so bad about a hat that millions of men used to wear every day? Of course, the real reason that they’re hated isn’t so much the hat itself as the people who wear them.

An interesting new paper published in Digital Culture & Education by Ben Abraham entitled (not surprisingly) “Fedora Shaming as Discursive Activism” sheds some surprising light on the issue of fedora-hating and how sites such as Fedoras of OK Cupid (highlighted here in a blog post) that shame particular fedora-wearers who express particularly misogynistic attitudes (and other irritating people who post pictures of themselves in the hat) actually fits well into a long history of feminist discursive protest in online communities.   To quote the introduction:

In the following paper I present new research into a genre of feminist activism conducted on the social media site Tumblr, involving the curious choice to shame wearers of a certain type of hat. This choice might seem bizarre at first, but Fedoras of OK Cupid (FOOKC)1 belongs to an emerging form of feminist discursive activism that seeks to attach affective shame to the tropes and cultural objects associated with sexist and misogynistic attitudes and behaviours. Foundational research into online feminist activist communities has been done by Francis Shaw, who contextualises her research into “feminist discursive activism” within a larger challenge to theories of online publics and the problematic utopian ideals of participation.

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[GAMES] Apparently Germans are REALLY Excited About the PS4

CAUTION: minor NSFW language (mostly in German) and loud Metal soundtrack. You might want to watch this with your speakers off.

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[TRENDS] 10 Most Shared Video Ads of 2013

Social video company Unruly has just released its list of the 10 Most Shared Video Ads for 2013. We thought it’d make a perfect diversion to ease you out into the Thanksgiving holiday. Here they are, in order:

Dove “Real Beauty Sketches”

GEICO “Hump Day”

Evian “Baby & Me”

Kmart “Ship My Pants”

Coronetto “Yalin”

Budweiser “Clydesdales Brotherhood”

Pepsi Max “Jeff Gordon Test Drive”

MGM “Telekinetic Coffee Shop Surprise”

Ram Trucks “Farmer”

Volvo Trucks “Jean Claude Van Damme Epic Split”


You can also view them in a YouTube Playlist. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


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[BUSINESS] Bitcoin Demystified

Bitcoin logo

Mystified by Bitcoin? You’re not alone.

If you’ve been following the news at all, you’ve probably heard heard a lot about something called “bitcoin” lately. Typically it’s billed as a “virtual currency” or, less generously, as an “alternative payment system.” Stories about Bitcoin are usually accompanied by at least one of two other elements: 1)a breathless reference to how the “anonymous currency” is the new currency of drug dealers, arms traffickers, and other criminals; and/or 2)how a lucky few people who got in on the whole Bitcoin thing before it was cool are now discovering, thanks to the incredibly volatile Bitcoin market,  that they’re Bitcoin Millionaires. If a pseudoanonymous, open source, distributed, global, virtual currency could be considered hip, Bitcoin is the new “It” coin.

Unfortunately very little of the buzz around Bitcoin actually takes the time to explain what the heck it is. How is it created? How do you get it? Where can you spend it? Is it really “money?” How the heck does the whole thing work? All in all, Bitcoin is more than a little mysterious.

Luckily there are people like Alexandra Berke out there who are able to bridge the gap between the tech-know-it-alls and the rest of us by providing a remarkably clear explanation of the inner workings of Bitcoin. In the first part of her two-part series “Bitcoin Demystified: A Hacker’s Perspective,” Berke  lays out the basic vocabulary of Bitcoin, how Bitcoins are created, how you own them, how you spend them, and how the built-in features of the virtual currency virtually guarantee that it can’t be counterfeited. It’s a great primer for anyone who’s been confused about Bitcoin. Let’s just hope she writes part 2 soon!

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[CULTURE] Nominet Trust 100 inspiring digital ventures for social change

Nominet Trust logo

Nominet Trust names top 100 digital innovations for social change

If you really want to get a good idea about how advances in digital technology are impacting culture, check out the Nominet Trust 100 list. Billed as “a list of inspiring ventures that use digital technology as a tool for social change,” the site offers a wonderful overview of companies, organizations, and inventions that are changing the world. Check it out and be inspired…and amazed!


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[EVENTS] Unravel the Code: An international exhibition that uses art & design to examine digital technology and social media

Image of students learning Processing language

Students in class work to Unravel the Code

When: December 11th, 2013  4pm-7pm

Where: Gallery Q, Milton S. Eisenhower Library, Johns Hopkins University, Homewood Campus


Unravel the Code is an international exhibition that deciphers digital technology and social media through textiles, interactive experiences and graphic design. Navigating through new landscapes of tweets, posts and pings, the work examines the realities and fictions of our identities, online and beyond. Unravel the Code is a collaboration between students from MICA in Baltimore and the Willem de Kooning Academie in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, with special assistance by Kendal Ackerman, JHU Whiting School of Engineering.

More Information: See the official web site for more details about the exhibition and the collaboration that inspired it.

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[CULTURE] New ad campaign uses Google autocomplete to demonstrate sexism around the world

Images from ad campaign

New ad campaign uses Google autocomplete to illustrate sexist attitudes around the world

A new advertising campaign from Ogilvy and Mather seeks to demonstrate the levels of rampant sexism around the world by combining the results of Google’s autocomplete feature with images of women. Google’s autocomplete feature brings up the most common searches containing the phrase a user is typing. Type in a search such as “Baltimore Ravens are” and Google will autocomplete the search with often hilarious phrases such as “baltimore ravens area rug” or “baltimore ravens are from which state.”

Unfortunately, as the O&M campaign points out, typing in phrases such as “women need to” and “women cannot” when in some countries outside of the US (the campaign conducted its searches in Dubai) brings up phrases such as “women cannot be trusted,” “women need to be controlled,” and “women should be slaves.” The campaign counters these shockingly sexist results with alternatives such as “women shouldn’t suffer from discrimination anymore.”

Read more about  it in Fast Company.


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