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Word and Image Synchronized

Module by: Hilary Ballon, Mariet Westermann. E-mail the authors

Existing digital publications have failed to serve art history well. This is understandable: no other discipline attaches the same value to the image—its quality and interactivity—or requires the tight interlocking of image and text. Most e-publications, both books and journals, are in pdf format, reflecting their origins in print. Under these conditions, image quality deteriorates, the page is static, and special viewing tools can not be deployed. The clickable in-page images in some recent e-publications are an immense improvement. Clicking on the thumbnail image enlarges it and allows for zooming and panning, but the full-frame image on a white backdrop fills the entire screen and the text disappears.

The substitutional relation of word and image may suffice in some fields, but not in art history, where images are integral to the investigation, not purely demonstrative. Text directs your attention to the image, and the two interlock. On the printed page, layout constraints often cause text and image to fall out of sync; reading involves a multifinger procedure to bookmark scattered illustrations. This constraint need not exist online, where a simultaneous on-screen presence of text and image can be maintained. The relationship of word and image might be rethought for the computer screen to take advantage of its horizontal orientation. Today, screen displays remain beholden to the printed page, leaving empty space on the margins of an on-screen text page. The width of the computer screen could be usefully harnessed to allow for split screens with adjacent but separately maneuverable pages of text and image.

The ARTstor offline viewer offers exemplary features that could be the basis for a parallel text-image display. A screen could be divided in two parts, a text window next to an image window equipped with ARTstor's array of viewer tools to zoom and pan, view QuickTime videos, and perhaps in the future 3-D models, animations and other simulations. This split-screen arrangement would allow the reader to read the text while moving the images backward and forward as warranted by the author's argument and the reader's curiosity. An additional window might have thumbnail slides as a navigational aide through a large illustration program. Tk3 Author software also offers flexible screen layouts and permits assemblage of multimedia. However, its polytextuality—the mixing of multiple media—lacks the specific emphasis on high-quality images and image viewing tools that distinguish ARTstor and are demanded by art and architectural history.1

ARTstor is likely to be vital in developing the full potential of electronic publishing in the arts. Although not a publisher, ARTstor offers a sophisticated viewing tool and is the dominant provider of digital images. Its successful strategy of eliminating redundancy by building a central image repository also pertains to electronic publishing where the high hurdles in art history have had the demonstrable effect of barring scholarly journals and publishers from entering the field, and where the formidable challenges and costs specific to art history are too great for underresourced journals and scholarly societies to meet individually.

Footnotes

  1. The art historical community has a stake in screen display not only as an instrumental matter and extension of the disciplinary interest in visual appearance but also a conceptual issue. The Albertian conception of the picture as an open window informed the development of the virtual window of the computer screen. Anne Friedberg argues that "the 'Windows' trope in computer software has become emblematic of the collapse of the single viewpoint, relying on the model of a window that we can't see through; windows that overlap, obscure." See her essay, "The Virtual Window," in Rethinking Media Change, 347, a prelude to her forthcoming book of the same title (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2006).

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Definition of a lens

Lenses

A lens is a custom view of the content in the repository. You can think of it as a fancy kind of list that will let you see content through the eyes of organizations and people you trust.

What is in a lens?

Lens makers point to materials (modules and collections), creating a guide that includes their own comments and descriptive tags about the content.

Who can create a lens?

Any individual member, a community, or a respected organization.

What are tags? tag icon

Tags are descriptors added by lens makers to help label content, attaching a vocabulary that is meaningful in the context of the lens.

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