Peter Pavement

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Dissertation summary

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The impact of the networked world upon the evolution of curatorship

by Peter Annhernu, Digital Media Arts, January 2010

Digital media is changing the work and status of the curator. Is this new context a threat to the curator’s professional role or an opportunity to take a new position in cultural production?

Part 1: How did the role of curator come to be what it is today?

To understand where curatorship is going, we need to understand where it came from. The practice of curatorship is something that emerged from the world of the museum during the Age of Enlightenment (17th & 18th Centuries). Although contemporary art and museum curators seem to be quite different now, they share a common history and many of their core activities (research, selection, cataloguing, devising ontology and presentation) are carried out in the same way.

It’s possible to trace a history of ideas about the display of art from the Louvre, to the Berlin museums, to New York’s Museum of Modern Art and back from there to Europe’s contemporary art spaces.

Part 2: The curator’s role in cultural production

To investigate the work of the curator means we need to look at the “supply chain” of art and culture from originator to the “audience”. Essentially this is an investigation into “cultural production”. One of the best thinkers on this topic was the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (1930 – 2002). His work on why way art and culture is valued and how it is consumed is very helpful when trying to understand the roles that curators, artists and other cultural workers play.

Part 3: The practice of curatorship in the networked world

So what is the new world of the web doing for curatorship? Engagement of curators with the web, social media etc is still at a very immature stage. However there are some interesting examples out there – some that enhance traditional curatorship (eg eHive), some that look at digital art production and curation itself (eg Rhizome, CRUMB) and some that seek to “crowd source” curation (Saatchi Online). There are many examples of curators seeking to present work through the web, but the great majority of curatorial output in this medium feels like publishing rather than presentation.

Part 4: The future

The curator’s role has always shifted and expanded throughout its history, and will continue to do so. Advances in technology make it easier to undertake some of the core curatorial tasks, but bring new challenges, especially in the area of effective online presentation. Currently, the art world has a lot of interest in the curator and curatorship but there is also a lot of resistance to the expansion of the role into “authorship”. At the same time, funding is under threat and the concept of curatorship is being “borrowed” by other media forms, particularly journalism. It may be that the practice of curatorship ends up escaping the job of being a curator and instead becomes a set of skills applied by anyone involved in the field of cultural production.


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January 5, 2010 at 9:44 am

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WordPress publishing from an iphone

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Just got an iPhone and downloaded the wordpress app to see how that works. Could be the catlyst to get me posting again.

I’ve added a phto from a client’s building just to test the feature.

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August 12, 2009 at 8:16 am

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Outside In

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The site developed as part of my first MA project is now live


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February 18, 2009 at 3:30 pm

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Finally, an update for my site

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I finally got around to updating my company’s site. To be found at . My main aims were to:

  • Make it simpler – reduce content so we can keep it up to date easier!
  • Be visually quite quirky – just enough to be distinctive, not so much as to be annoying
  • Focus on our projects
  • Do something tricky with CSS (more for my own gratification). See how the pages scroll – certain areas are fixed on the screen, others scroll, but it’s easy to use

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January 21, 2009 at 11:51 am

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Wireframes from my Curator system

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Created using Balsamiq – a great application for knocking up web site wireframes


The ranking screen – shows submitted work and its ‘score’. Users can view rankings and scores by judge or by average and also order the work by other criteria.



The rating screen – shows how the panelists will rate each piece of work submitted.

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January 21, 2009 at 11:34 am

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Flex – Flash that works for me

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Over the last few years I’ve become increasingly frustrated with Flash. I had embraced Flash reasonably early on (at version 4) and produced lots of interesting ‘content’ pieces with it. These included animated comics for the BBC’s teens site, health information stuff and much more. Then I became interested in using Flash as an application development platform and created several content management interfaces (mostly for cultural/heritage sector clients) that way. Eventually, however, creating these in the Flash authoring environment became more and more frustrating – especially when trying to share development work with colleagues.

So the decision was made to reduce reliance on Flash more and more, until it became something I might use a couple of times a month, rather than every day. But recently I’ve been wanting to develop some applications that require the kind of interaction best served by Flash. I instantly became frustrated in the Flash authoring environment so I thought I’d have another look at Flex.

For those that haven’t come across it, Flex is a system for generating Flash .swf files that Macromedia (then Adobe) created to be more RIA (rich internet application) focused. Audience-wise they’re looking at web developers and the corporate sector, but there’s no reason I can’t have a go!

Flex is now open source, and doesn’t even need an application interface at all. You can write code in a text editor and then compile the .swf using a command line in Terminal (the mac command line tool). So it’s entirely free. There are paid for interfaces using the Eclipse application development environment but I couldn’t be bothered with that.

What Flex gives you is a large set of Flash components and a really nice way to join them together in layout, style and most importantly, interaction. You write code that is XML in flavour largely, with style sheets and actionscript. For all the world it seems like hand-coding an HTML web page. Something I do every day.

So now I’ve created my first serious Flex application and I’m really pleased with it. It’s taken a lot less time than using the Flash authoring environment and I’ve run into a lot less bottlenecks. Still loads to do with it though!

Watch this space to see the thing itself!

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January 21, 2009 at 11:30 am

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Things I’ve been researching…

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I’ve been looking at ways of joining up web and print in a visual arts context. 

The process that has emerged from this is that you need to have:

a) A web based application to compose your printed item that needs to be able to receive an image, scale and position it and add text to it. You might also need to be able to add supplementary info such as dates of a show, copyright info, blurb etc

b) A server-based application to take the information from the user’s composition and create a high resolution PDF from it and add things like crop marks etc.

c) A means to deliver this PDF to a print provider

Useful applications for this process might be:

  • An automated mail out that sends a card to a gallery or museum’s mailing list
  • A print on demand system that allows people to order prints of work that they like on a web site (and customise it)
  • Lot of other things!

The next logical step would be to look at ways people capture images of work (if it has not been originated in a computer). Currently the whole process of taking a piece, scanning it, cleaning it up, creating a file, then uploading that file somewhere are fraught with difficulties for most users. Alternatives such as digital photography throw up other problems (with lighting, with ‘squareness’, with resolution). 

Something needs to be done!

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January 21, 2009 at 10:44 am

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