Imaginary Landscapes and Literary Maps

Did you ever wonder which of your favorite literary characters lived in the same street or were actually neighbors? Now you can find it out.

Visit the Literary Map of Manhattan to see where some 100 imaginary New Yorkers “lived, worked, played, drank, walked and looked at ducks.” In my opinion this is the best combination of maps and literature so far.

Looking at ducks (c) www.nytimes.com

Across the Atlantic you can find a similar project called Books in London marking the location of more than 400 books either set in, or about, London.

Mapping the books. (c) www.getlondonreading.co.uk

The creators of Books in London also provide a free iPhone app of their literary map.

Augmented reality by bike.

Still another way to explore maps and literature is Gutenkarte. The so called “geographic text browser” is intended to help readers explore the spatial component of classic works of literature. Gutenkarte downloads public domain texts from Project Gutenberg, and stores all the geographic locations it can find locations in a database, along with citations into the text itself.

Tagging the world of War and Peace. (c) www.gutenkarte.org

You can also browse historical literary maps at the Library of Congress. This collection of maps was part of an exhibition entitled “Language of the Land“, a breathtaking journey through the literary heritage of the US.

The historical point of view. (c) www.loc.gov

Augmented reality is reality. And I am eager to see what is coming next.

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Forget About Heavy Textbooks – Here Comes Smarthistory

Pictures of an exhibition. (c) www.smarthistory.org
Pictures of an exhibition. (c) www.smarthistory.org

Smarthistory.org is an incredible resource for all people interested in art history: museum visitors, travelers, informal learners, teachers and students. The website is more than a replacement of expensive and heavy textbooks. It uses multimedia to deliver a personal voice through unscripted conversations between art historians while looking at works of art. This is much more than a textbook or a usual audioguide can provide. Smarthistory makes information about art accessible, entertaining and engaging.

Beth Harris and Steven Zucker started Smarthistory as a blog in 2005, featuring podcasts that could be used as free audio guides. They later organized the podcasts stylistically and chronologically and began adding text and images.

In 2008, they received a grant to redesign the site from the Kress Foundation. Now the site itself is a masterpiece of usability. Last year Smarthistory won the renowned Webby Award, “the Internet’s highest (official) honor for excellence” as The New York Times put it, for the best education website.

Visitors can enter and explore smarthistory using several navigation paths, depending on their needs and interests: by timeline, style, artist, and theme, or by using a prominent visual navigation in the center of the homepage or at the bottom of post pages. It’s a a lively, entertaining and even playful approach to art history.

Start (re-)discovering art history with www.smarthistory.org

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Everyone is an artist

Joseph Beuys’ famous slogan “Everyone is an artist” showed his belief in the central role of creativity in everyone’s lives. We should not see creativity as the special realm of artists, but everyone can apply creative thinking in his or her own area.

Now a team of Russian designers made it easier to see the art in your everyday computer activities. Their free little Java application MousePath, which was renamed recently and is now known as IOGraph, captures your mouse movements and draws them on a blank canvas. Have you ever wondered what your mouse is doing when it’s moving around imperceptibly? Now you can see it!


The developers Anatoly Zenkov and Andrey Shipilov say: “IOGraph is intended to brighten up your dull work, computer related routine and, hell yeah, it makes you an artist.” Run IOGraph, then forget about IOGraph and do your business as usual. When you come back after some minutes or several hours you will see what you have done. The lines in the picture are movements, the dots occur where the mouse is stopped. With IOGraph you will see your computer work from a different  perspective. Try it out!

Download IOGraph for free (Windows, Linux and Mac OSX) at www.iographica.com

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Goodbye, Rainbow! – UK’s New Department for Curtains and Soft Furnishings

dcsf-old-logoWhat may be a new beginning after UK’s election is rather a paradoxical situation: UK’s new education secretary Michael Gove has quickly renamed his department the Department for Education. The former department for children, schools and families (DCSF) came under fire for spending millions on designer furniture and logos. The Conservatives, when in opposition, nicknamed the department the Department for Curtains and Soft Furnishings.

The DCSF’s branding – a rainbow emblem and cartoon characters nicknamed “munchkins” – were taken down on May, 13th. The re-branding also includes a redesign of the website. The situation is paradoxical because the new name and look can be seen as a protest against the department’s re-branding and new logos under Mr Goves predecessor Ed Balls.

What will the new education secretary do with the furniture? And what does all this mean for education, children, schools and families? Vistit www.education.gov.uk for further information.


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23+1 Chatrouletters. Don’t watch this video! Or watch it twice.

This Video-Performance is banned from Youtube. So please be careful! You might find the performance by artist duo Eva and Franco Mattes aka 0100101110101101.ORG offending. But if you watch it you can find out a lot about online social interaction.

“No Fun” was performed on chatroulette.com, a website that pairs random strangers for webcam-based conversations. What would you do watching a hanging man on chatroulette? Well, in the beginning you might believe what you see isn’t real. But then…

Call the police? Take a picture? Play the guitar? Or put on your sun glasses?

The performance’s set up is quite disturbing because the artists’ webcam captures the observer when the latter is looking at a suicide. The spatial structure and positioning of the screen and camera reminds of Diego Velázquez’ Las Meninas. As in Velásquez’ painting “No Fun” creates a deeply uncertain relationship between the viewer and the viewed. In fact, the one who is watching is being watched. Don’t watch this video! Or watch it twice.

Someone is watching you! - Diego Velázquez, Las Meninas (1656)
Someone is watching you! - Diego Velázquez, Las Meninas (1656)

(thank you @MrsBunz and 0100101110101101.ORG)

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