Mixing the Library (Category: Research, Creative / Artistic)

Name of Submitter(s): Dan Norton
Organisation: independent

The research looked at the value of applying the model of information interaction seen in the activities of a Disc Jockey (DJ) to digital collections of all kinds. The development in BL Labs considered the interface requirements necessary for public and personal systems for interacting with digital collections, which could facilitate retrieval, learning, and creative development with digital content, and which could also promote public interaction and sharing of archived material.
The work done in BL Labs developed a prototype system which allowed articles from British Library collections to be built into personal collections. The system could also be used to add new collection of material gathered outside the British Library. Material from each of these mini collections could then be mixed and combined.
Mixing and combining articles from the personal collections facilitated insight and new ideas and the links between material could be annotated. The system revalued the digital collections, as public interaction by gradually connected and annotated links between articles.
Since the residency in BL Labs, the system has facilitated the development of a new interface built in conjunction with the Universitat Autonoma of Barcelona. This new system is to be housed in the Library of Sant Cugat, Barcelona. It allows access to the library’s digital collections, and encourages users to engage publicly in the collections by annotating links and adding community feedback. Users can build personal sequences and compositions of material, and add their own stories and observations as bridging comments in the collections.
A paper regarding the interface has been accepted for publication in the International Symposium on Electronic Arts 2015, Vancouver. A prototype of the interface was exhibited in Sonar 2015 Music Creativity and Technology Festival, in Barcelona, and the final artwork and interactive tool will be presented in Internet Librarian International conference 2015, in London.

URL for Entry: http://ablab.org
Email: sixpm@ablab.org
Job Title: artist/researcher

Background of Submitter:

Dan Norton is Artist and researcher whose work explores information interaction. He exhibits in a variety of forums, including the Fine Art, Technology and Science conferences, Film and Music Festivals. He completed his doctoral thesis in 2013, as part of the RCUK digital economy program
- Associate Researcher with the Visual Interaction group, Universitat Autonoma, Barcelona.(http://vi.cvc.uab.es/ )
- Co-founder of Waka, an artist led group in Palma, Spain, (http://wakanegra.org )
Teaching Experience:
2014 Leuphana University. Lüneburg. Germany. Visiting Lecturer
2003-9 University of Dundee - Media Arts and Imaging. Lecturer (Teaching and Scholarship)
2003-5 Glasgow School of Art – Fine Art. Visiting Lecturer
2003-4 University of Edinburgh – Landscape Architecture. Visiting Lecturer
Selected Exhibitions and Projects
- Challenge YASUNÍ-ITT. Degrowth Conference. Leipzig September 2014 http://challengeyasuni.net/
- Revaluing Memory. KIBLIX Art, Science, and Technology Festival. Slovenia 2013 http://mfru-kiblix.si/revaluing-memory-prevrednotenje-spomina/?lang=en
- Hangar, Centre for Research and Art, Summer Residency. 2013 http://alturl.com/xhs3x
- Nit del l’art AV performance Alaró Spain. 2013 http://ablab.org/live/
- Made in Britain. British Council Exhibition, Albania, China, Greece. 2010 – 12 http://alturl.com/dddsk
- Dounreay and Atom Town with Gair Dunlop. Interactive documentary. Kassel Documentary Film Festival. 2011 http://www.ablab.org/nuclear_G/
- Supernova. British Council Touring Exhbition, 2005 – 09 http://alturl.com/5zesf
- WAKA Espai d’Art Palma, curatorial project and independent artist-led gallery. Palma, Spain 2009-13 http://www.wakanegra.org/index2.html
- Alt:W. Curatorial Project and performance. CCA, Glasgow 2008 http://ablab.org/jump/altin.html
- ablab_pixl. Pixelazo Media Festival. Medellin, Colombia. 2007 http://pointlesscreations.co.uk/pixelazo
- Williamson’s Generator, Shetland Museum and Archive 2007 http://ablab.org/jump/shetin.html
- Grafitti in the House of Lucretius. Glasgow International. Glasgow. 2005 http://ablab.org/jump/grafin.html
- Pixelache .Media Festival. Helsinki 2005 http://www.thesoundsurgery.co.uk/pointless/pixelache/index.html
- FILE. Festival of Electronic Language. Sao Paulo. Brazil 2004 http://alturl.com/hhdsw (search for “norton”)
- City Strapline Industries. The Baltic, Newcastle. 2004 http://ablab.org/jump/cityin.html
- Ramshack in Zenomap. Venice Biennial, 2003 http://scotlandandvenice.com/years/2003/

Problem / Challenge Space:

DJs have used large digital collections since the early 1990s, and their practice has radically transformed the way we listen to and produce new music. Does the DJ’s model of information interaction offer a valuable system for working in digital collections of all kinds? Does the model of information interaction provided by the DJ offer a fundamental tool for research, develop and creative interaction in collections ? Can a platform be developed from the DJ’s information interaction, which is useful for accessing public library digital collections?

Approach / Methodology:

The research residency in BL Labs was a development from Dan Norton’s doctoral thesis which examined the interaction of a DJ with digital collections. The research methodology of the doctoral studies used interviews, and a diary study, and engaged in practice-based research, which built a software interface from the functionality of DJ’s interface. This allowed data gathered from the aforementioned interview and diary studies to be analysed by reorganisation, and annotation, “mixing” (re-contextualisation and playful examination of the information).
The research was further developed at Hangar, Centre of Art and Research, Barcelona, in conjunction with the Faculty of Library and Information Science at the University of Barcelona, where possible confluences where explored between library and information science, and the DJ’s creative model of information interaction.
During a residency in BL Labs, the interface requirements of a system where explored, which could be used to access, organize, mix, and share links between (and narratives through) digital articles and collections.
Following the practice based research at BL Labs, the work was developed into a artwork which allows the general public to access digital collections in the Library of Sant Cugat, and to revalue these collections by adding their stories and comments across the collection. The installation of this artwork will next provide valuable feedback from user studies, which will lead to the next period of research and development planned to be carried out with the Visual Interaction group of the Computer Vsion Centre, Barcelona.

Extent of showcasing BL Digital Content:

My project in BL Labs showcased:
- Material from the endangered archives project, EAP209: Survey on surviving dongjing archives in Jianshui, Tonghai and Mengzi.(http://eap.bl.uk/database/results.a4d?projID=EAP209 )
- Material from the collection of Ordnance Survey drawings (http://gallery.bl.uk/viewall/default.aspx?e=Ordnance%20Survey%20Drawings )
- Material from the collection of Accents and Dialects of the UK (http://www.bl.uk/learning/langlit/sounds/index.html )
furthermore, the system developed with BL Labs combined personal collections developed by the artist which include:
- an audio collection of Ingmar Bergman monologues
- a collection of quotes from John Cage’s book Silence
- a collection of quotes from Berger’s book, Ways of Seeing.
The current system being developed for the Library of Sant Cugat, Barcelona combines a collection of Spanish Civil War posters, with a collection of contemporary sound recording from Catalunya.

Impact of Project:

The research and development has led to a publication being accepted in ISEA 2015 (International Symposium of Electronic Arts) to be held this year in Vancouver.
The Interface development is to be installed in the Library of Sant Cugat, where it will be used as a “digital memorial” and will access the library’s collection of digitised Spanish Civil War posters, and a collection of contemporary field recordings from Catalunya.
The interface was recently shown in Sonar Festival 2015 in Barcelona, in Sonar +D Creativity, Technology, and Business.
The interface will also be showcased, along with an academic presentation in Internet librarian international conference 2015 to be held in Olympia Conference Centre, London.
The development project is now going to be developed further, working with the Visual Interaction group of the Computer Vision Centre, Barcelona.

Issues / Challenges faced during project(s):

One challenge is introducing new methodologies to different research communities. The volume of digital information available to researchers necessitates new methods, which incorporate retrieval and the creative development of logical relationships. Introducing new methods, such as the DJ’s method of interacting with an archive of music as a valuable method for working in public archives of all kinds, is a gradual process. Collaboration with professionals from other fields, such as engineering, library science, or political science requires time, patience, the ability to learn, and humility. With these it is possible to develop artworks through transdisciplinary practice, which may function as interactive tools to facilitate new ways of seeing and understanding, and may provide new methods for developing knowledge