Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Lecture 2: Mary Flanagan (posted 12/3/10)

For my second lecture, I watched a YouTube presentation by artist Mary Flanagan, guest speaking at Columbia University (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OmkTdKKRYA4). I really don’t like watching lectures on YouTube but would rather be present in the flesh. However, because most approved lectures this semester occurred during my other classes or work, Joe Delappe was kind enough to allow me to use this YouTube lecture instead (Thanks Joe!).

Mark Tribe introduces Mary Flanagan as a “researcher in experimental cultural practices” instead of an artist and Mary agrees. She is also the Webmaster and creator for “Adventures of Josie True” (http://www.josietrue.com/), which is a fun and free online game and tutor for girls age 9-11 in the subject of math and science.

Mary titled her lecture “Artistic Processes and Art Work”. In her introduction she stated that she’s very interested in Web and network art. One point she brings out is that many aspiring artists tend to be a little disgruntled by digital art because the tools used are either too difficult to learn or are always changing (which I’ve also found to be true).

During her lecture, Mary used a PowerPoint slideshow to show examples of art work that she or other artists created and she did a great job using the PowerPoint presentation to make her point.  She transitioned nicely from one slide to the next. Unfortunately, the camera used in the YouTube video but never turned to the screen until seven minutes into her lecture, and even then the viewer could only see the bottom left of the screen. I know that the camera was capable of focusing on the screen because 26 minutes into her speech, it would focus very briefly on the entire screen.

In all honesty, if Mary wasn’t a great public speaker, or if I was blind, this YouTube video lecture would have caused me to fall asleep. And although she was a great public speaker, I would have retained more of what she spoke about had the camera turned to the screen more often. The good news is that I decided to do a Google search for Mary Flanagan and found her Web site: http://www.maryflanagan.com/. Had I discovered her and her works weeks sooner, I would have chosen her for my final paper.

I wish I could have been at her lecture in person because some of the works sounded very interesting. I would have liked seeing the art work that combines pieces of HTML files. In her lecture she says at one time she was a computer scientist. I did find her piece titled “Search” on her Web site http://www.maryflanagan.com/search. Below is a picture of this piece. If you click on it you will be taken to its Web page. Most of her work seems to deal with one or more aspect of computer science, usually involving text.

Overall, even though this presentation was not a failed lecture to the people present; it was a failed YouTube lecture. It was not a failed YouTube lecture because of Mary Flanagan, the speaker. It was a failed lecture because the person behind the camera did not turn the camera to the screen showing her PowerPoint presentation. It’s a good thing I found her Web site instead.

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