M(A)LI – MAL Accessibility Initiative [codename “Mali”]

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014 by kylebickoff

Hi all—what a great class, what a great end of the semester. I was ridiculously impressed with everyone’s finals—it seems to me that we take too few courses where we all have a chance to see that amazing individual work everyone produces for the final project.

Here are a few notes on my own final, and a bit of a further description. When developing an idea for this project, I sought out to make it practical and to create a real impact. I asked, how can my project benefit the Media Archaeology Lab, and how can I use my newly gained knowledge from this course to improve the experience of a researcher at the Media Archaeology Lab?

My project morphed as I continually developed new ideas for MAL improvement projects. What I found was that I really wanted to take this opportunity to work outside the bounds of the work I normally engage in. Within the past few weeks, the MAL has received donations from several different donors, and has accumulated weeks of full time work to add to tasks at hand. My archival work in the lab is very often dominated by accessioning of materials, writing up descriptions of donations, completing documentation for each acquisition, and finally curating these new materials. This sort of work is necessary, but at times such a process prevents one from thinking abstractly about the collection as a whole. Moreover, it can force one to approach the materials from the perspective of the archivist, rather than that of the researcher.

By taking on the perspective of the researcher I have shifted my perspective in the lab. I began by engaging primarily with theoretical approaches to Media Archaeology I have gleaned from Parikka. Moreover, Zielinski’s Variantological approach to understanding Media Archaeology has very consciously shifted my approach to understanding the media in the lab.

As described in my presentation, I continued making cards for each system on display in the lab. I have created 45 of these cards for the workstations. The cards take a minimalist approach to addressing the instant needs of researchers in the facility. Although this may not seem significant, the cards have taken me many hours to make. I have carefully researched each system and tested the software demonstration on each to be sure the descriptions are accurate. This took at least 14 hours. Moreover, adding each fact and the basic “powering on” instructions has taken at least an additional 10 hours (given the 45 systems, and their oftentimes slow speeds). On top of the card layout, design, and printing, I have realized the true difficulty of this process. Moreover, engaging in this process has shown me how much care similar projects at other institutions take.

I have also taken on some additional work in the back room. I have removed the Compaq 386, the Apple Portable, an iBook G3 clamshell, and a PowerBook 165 from display. I have instead improved the aesthetic and placed the OLPC and digital Etch-a-Sketch on display. I have also connected the two Timex Sinclair systems (ZX-81 and 1500) to a television in the back, though it seems that there are still some compatibility issues to work out. Come by the lab and see all the changes!

To take a look at my Prezi, which I presented to the class and created to visually indicate the problems I address and the importance of my project, I’ll include the link here. (http://prezi.com/gjqfnoel26wp/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy&rc=ex0share)

Again all, thank you much!

-Kyle

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