Doc Media MFA Thesis

Although well underway, it’s time for me to start writing publicly about my thesis process, both project and paper. It has undergone many changes since my original proposal last year, though the themes and participant group remains the same.

Artist Self-Portrait #1, Painting Begins

Working title: Of Self and Home: Portraits of Queer Youth
Format: HD video installation
Project website:
Summary: Of Self and Home is an experimental documentary artwork created with queer youth who have experienced homelessness, which combines painting with video and personal narrative.

Self Portrait, Before and After

Process: Using a custom-built, portable apparatus that holds a piece of clear Plexiglas, each person paints a self-portrait, which is video recorded from the other side. Free to interpret ‘self-portrait’ however s/he wishes, each participant gets one sheet of Plexiglas and, using acrylic paints (with added retardant to slow drying), can make several paintings, washing them off in between, until satisfied with one. All ‘takes’ will be recorded using a Panasonic HVX 200 video camera.

Informal interviews are conducted with each person, during which we discuss what it means to be young, queer and struggling to live in Toronto. These sessions will be recorded (audio only) and edited with the participant’s painting video for the exhibition. Participants are encouraged to contribute other audio, if desired, such as an original song, poem, or musical performance.

Portraits and audio will be collected and composed into a multi-channel video installation (with a possible interactive component if it enhances the work) that will be exhibited in a Toronto art gallery June 2009. Participants will be able to keep their final painting after the exhibition.

Portrait of the Artist #1


100 Images – New Flickr Account

Tuesday 18 November 2008 10:24AM

During my presentation, as I talked about photos from elsewhere in my ‘mikosian’ Flickr account leaking into the pool of 100 images, which I said could be remedied by removing tags from all other photos, the prof pointed out that I could have made a separate account that contained only those images. True enough, if I’d known where I was going to end up. When I first uploaded the 100 images to my Flickr account I had done so merely to take advantage of existing organizing tools and hadn’t thought they would remain there for their final archive/database form. It wasn’t until later that I found TagGraph, which does more or less what I’d envisioned for the final representational form and does it through the Flickr API.

But I’ve been thinking about this and today I created a new Yahoo/Flickr account ‘hundredimages’ (they wouldn’t let me begin a user name with a number) and the DM8305 100 images are uploading as I write. However, I can create a screen name and an easier-to-remember (and type) URL alias that starts with a number:

Of course, this means applying all those tags again…

11:25AM – IMPORTANT NOTE: TagGraph pulls information based on the Flickr *screen name*, not the user name or alias, which I found out when both ‘hundredimages’ and ‘100images’ returned a “(user not found!)” message. Just FYI.

100 Images – URLs

Friday 14 November 2008 1:57PM

It occurred to me as I tested my document links in the previous post that an entry with a list of functional URLs may be more useful than forcing people to copy and paste from a PDF document into their web browsers. So, here they be:

Wikipedia definition of ‘Tag Cloud’

– mikosian’s Photostream
– mikosian’s Tag Cloud
– ‘100 Images’ set

– Batch Organize
– Tag List
– Multi-Tag Search
– Date-arranged Photo Archives

ThinkMap’s Visual Thesaurus

Tag Cloud Generator for WordPress



Visual Complexity portal

– On Visual Complexity website
– Actual interface in operation

– On Visual Complexity website
– Actual interface in operation

– On Visual Complexity website
– Actual interface in operation
– For Flickr user ‘mikosian’, images tagged ‘DM8305’
– Developer website

100 Images – Presentation

Friday 14 November 2008 1:23PM

Yesterday’s class consisted of the first round of 100 Images project presentations and on the roster were:

Mark Laurie, Ryan Gauvin, Tori Foster, Lyndall Musselman, Kate Schneider, Erin Clarke (me), Joanne Loton, and Mark Tollefson (in that order – I may edit later to add notes about each).

For posterity, here are (links to) a screen shot of what my 100 Images final form looks like along with my 100 Images presentation notes, a list of 100 Images-related URLs and the list of categories I’ve been using (in PDF).

100 Images – Plus 70

Wednesday 12 November 2008 11:47PM

Whew! Because I can’t rely on Internet access for my presentation I just spent the last couple hours retracing my process of finding the TagGraph software and making numerous (70!) screen shots, 46 of which are within TagGraph’s navigation of my ‘100 Images’ on Flickr. Of course, the screen shot process results in a lot of images named ‘Picture 1.png’, ‘Picture 2.png’, ‘Picture 3.png’, etc. so I found myself absorbed in a sub-archival endeavour naming and organizing these images meaningfully.

Now I just have to summarize key points of my process thus far and squeeze it all into a presentation that will only take ten minutes.

Edit (2008/11/13 1:45AM): Oops, make that ‘Plus 104’ – I forgot to grab images from the Taglines app, which was the first Flickr image tag visualization example I came across. I made (and cropped) 34 screen shots to give an impression of its (non-interactive) time-line format. I’m probably doing way more than I need to but I want a lot of visuals. I have also been making point-form notes of the various stages I have gone through in this process so far.

100 Images – Presentation Form

Wednesday 12 November 2008 5:34PM

OK, it’s down to the wire. I’m presenting tomorrow. I was originally scheduled for next Thursday but I’m participating in an all-day workshop that day, so I switched to tomorrow.

I know what ‘d like my final form for this image database to be (I discussed before a 3-D tag cloud that shows the images), though I lack the skills to implement it overnight, but that hasn’t stopped me from searching for other people’s software projects that might come close. At first I thought of downloading the Thinkmap Visual Thesaurus to have a working demonstration of the navigational interface. Then I thought I’d look a little more to see if some open source project might fit the bill (and save myself US$39.95, though I’d likely use the thesaurus beyond this course – I check online dictionaries and thesauri semi-regularly as it is) and I found this Visual Complexity website that has collected an impressive array of software projects related to data visualization. A project called Flickr Graph (accessible via the Flickr Graph web interface) is getting closer to what I had in mind, except that it maps user relationships, not tags within sets or collections of photos… and for some reason it does not display my images in its grid (nor my Flickr user image).

Here’s a cool navigational interface for a repository of videos: TED Sphere (AKA VideoSphere).

Back on the Flickr tag track, I found TagGraph. The TagGraph web interface is similar to FlickrGraph but – oh yes! – it displays images and tags. Best part is that you can look at all photos for a given tag or, most relevant to my purposes today, by Flickr user – here is the TagGraph for ‘mikosian’ images tagged DM8305. If you click on ‘+ more images’ eventually all tagged images will be displayed. Then click on ‘+ related tags’ to see connections between images and various tags. This is where some of my tags (e.g. nyc) that are shared by photos outside the 100 Images set get pulled in, thus muddying the data pool (but not too much). I could go and remove tags on all other images to isolate the 100 Images set (since I can’t choose just that set through this interface), but that might be more work than necessary to illustrate a point (as opposed to actually implementing a digital photo archive navigational interface).

I had planned to create my own non-interactive (i.e. static) visual representation in Photoshop because the wireless network is so unreliable in our class room, but maybe now that I’ve found a working implementation of what I had in mind, screen shots will suffice. I only have to present for ten minutes, after all.

100 Images – Working With Tags

Sunday 9 November 2008 10:11PM

After taking a break to stretch my legs, get some fresh air, eat dinner and spend a couple hours on another assignment (for Sound Design class), I returned to my not-yet-ended tagging process, deciding to approach it from another angle, namely my Flickr tag cloud. Immediately I noticed another inconsistency, ‘adult’ and ‘adults’ tags, which made me a little concerned about the various meanings of ‘adult’, especially applied to images. Good thing it is easy to call up all the images tagged thusly so that the singular ‘adult’ tags can be edited to the originally-intended ‘adults’. However, the changes were not saved. I tried twice. Perhaps I need to delete the ‘adult’ tags and add new ‘adults’ tags.

Actually, I think it did save changes and I was looking at cached info. I also found a better way to change a tag than editing it in each individual image. When you click on a tag from the tag cloud, on the page that comes up is a ‘Change this tag?’ link where you can edit the tag and have the change applied to all photos with that tag.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be a way to isolate tags for just the ‘100 Images’ set (i.e. have a tag cloud just for one set), at least not that I’ve discovered. The ‘NYC’, ‘Brooklyn’ and ‘Manhattan’ tags do not apply to any of the ‘100 Images’ photos (well, except the WTC images that I tagged with ‘NYC’). Fortunately I have been a neglectful tagger in Flickr up until recently, so most of the tags are ‘100 Images’ tags. It’s also a good thing I have a two-digit number of tags, since the cloud only displays the most used 150.

There is, however, a way to select photos by multiple tags in the multi-tag search. More usefulness!

Oh, and I forgot to mention that Flickr has its own date-arranged archive view of one’s photos.