Old institutions and new media in Piccadilly (April-June 2016)

Two famous institutions of the Piccadilly area, one dedicated to the arts– the Royal Academy founded in 1768 – and one dedicated to sciences and technology – the Royal Institution founded in 1799 –, have put websites in web 2.0 to publicise their heritage.

The Royal Academy is using web interactivity so as to support its creative spirit.

  • In connection with the Giorgione exhibition (12 March-5 June), the webpages on the exhibition offer numerous approaches to Renaissance paintings, in various forms such as articles and interviews or short films, ‘How to read a Renaissance painting’ (Lucy Chiswell) or ‘Venice in the 16th century’ (Sarah Dunant) https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibition/in-the-age-of-giorgione

The ‘Portrait Debate’ section (By Per Rumberg, Peter Humfrey and Paul Joannides) contains voting options, where the visitors may give their opinions on questions of attribution, in one specific case – vote for Giorgione or Titian as the author of  a disputed painting, the Giustiniani Portrait of a young man in Berlin’s Gemäldegalerie – and on the general issue of attribution – is it useful to know the author of a painting to appreciate it ? https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/article/giorgione-debate-does-attribution-matter

It offers a blog  and visitors’ discussions.

  • The current digitisation project of the RA http://from-the-ra.tumblr.com/ helps us to focus on form in drawings: the digitisation includes an animation of drawings of a series of carved figures in Llandaff Cathedral (Cardiff) by Hugh Amstead, or the reverse of drawings ‘showing practice strokes and abandoned drawings. Out of context, they could be abstract works on their own.’ It also focuses on on verbal description since each entry is tagged. It suggests colour as well as drawing : engravings are placed on line for the public to colour according to their fancy.

The Royal Institution

  • One of the highlights of the RI, The Faraday Laboratory, is explored virtually with the ‘thinglink’ platform  described as a combination of image and narrative ‘Images are the new storytelling platform. Allow users to unlock narrative elements, directly from your image.’ http://www.rigb.org.uk/our-history/michael-faraday/magnetic-laboratory On a photo of the laboratory, you may click to explore each of the iconic objects. Among others the electro-magnet is linked to a photo on Flicker https://www.flickr.com/photos/67474303@N06/10819285763/  The photo is an example of what photos should be: it mentions the camera settings for the photo, the  EXIF (e.g. f/7,1 –focal length 17 mm, exposure  time 1/80, ISO125, no flash), to allow us to account for the interpretative visual process imposed on the object by the photographic settings.
  • In the ‘Learn’ section,  you will find ‘Interactive Games’, a ‘range of educational games and quizzes to learn more about science, engineering and the natural world’, which you may filter by Chemistry, Engineering, Human Body, Microsites, Natural World, Physics’ .If we select Engineering, we shall find a game  where you have to design a robot, a lifting machine with two joints activated by pistons and controls ; you play the game by moving sliders to control the robot. http://www.rigb.org.uk/education/games/engineering/shifty-the-robot

The webpages are tagged with the names of the subjects discussed: engineering, joints, machinery, and they have links to other games on related subjects –‘joints’ or ‘gravity’, showing the interconnection between topics.

The microsites are adapted from past ‘Christmas lectures’ – the famous annual event of the Royal Institution since 1825: ‘Discover the secrets of computer science from the  2008 Christmas lectures’, presented as the exploration of an island to find the components of a computer, in games on the ‘Communication Exchange’ and ‘Digital Intelligence’ where the player has to trace a missing component to complete the computer. http://www.rigb.org.uk/education/games/microsites/microsite-hi-tech-trek

You may watch the lectures, have links to the transcript of the lecture and further information on the topic, such as ‘Learning from probabilities’ on the uses of Bayes’s theorem (18th century) in present-day computer science. http://www.rigb.org/christmaslectures08/html/under-the-surface.htm#lecture5