First try at an exhibition proposal

Last week I tried to write up an exhibition proposal literally just half a day before the deadline. And this morning I got the curators’ decision: “Unfortunately we are unable to…” I picked up my proposal in the afternoon and asked one of the curators if the concept was strong, and she said yes. It’s just that there were too many proposals and mine didn’t fit with any other. (And she’d have liked better and more visuals.) Anyway, I hadn’t originally even dreamt of submitting a proposal. I knew it was a long shot. I tried anyway. It didn’t work out. I don’t think I’ll have another chance at trying again with this gallery, though; but I can try somewhere else when somewhere else puts out a call, I guess. “Try things even if you don’t feel confident.” That’s what I myself wrote after dropping off my proposal last week, on a list of advice for new students posted on some bulletin board on the second floor of the main building…

Webfonts and SEO, revisited

Went to see Extensis’ presentation on web fonts, and the two-year-old SEO argument was being regurgitated. As I mentioned two years ago in another blog post, if people had done images correctly (i.e., if they actually followed W3C’s HTML and accessibility recommendations), if would have been a miracle if web fonts had any so-called “SEO benefits.” But anyway, Thomas Phinney from Extensis confirmed my suspicions: There’s currently no way to do CJK web fonts. Web fonts, as it stands, remain just a “gesture” in the larger context. And yes, I totally agree that the death of “web safe fonts” is Microsoft’s fault.

Unexpectedly amazing presentations at @OCADUPress’s Function 4

We talk about people with synesthesia and people with vision loss in class, but none of us has them, and it felt like no one knew anyone who has synesthesia. So imagine my surprise when I went to Function 4 (when I still have stuff to work on) and found out that the second presenter, Greg McRoberts, has synesthesia, and he talked about how some shapes sound, how some sounds are associated with shapes, and, after the presentations, how unnatural some of these custom written ditties on electronic devices feel to him. His blindness in one eye also inspired him to come up with the idea of inventing a “seeing aid” device that does “augmented vision”. Greg McRoberts with his seeing aid device Greg McRoberts’ seeing aid device When I saw the device before the presentations I thought it looked like an Arduino, and, indeed, it is an Arduino. The third presenter, Ibrahim Abusitta, talked about his work that explores an Eastern cultural identity within Western society. I ran into one of my profs right before I headed to the Student Gallery, and he was wondering what the talks would be about. I told him I didn’t know, and I didn’t. But I think everyone in my program should go to these Function series talks.

How should we add alternative text for diagrams?

I’ve mentioned this before to people but never wrote it down: How should we even begin to handle graphs and diagrams? What is the “alt text” for a graph, a schematic, floor plan, infographic, or UML diagram? Just consider this diagram: (A UML diagram used for the discussion) How should we even describe this as an “alt text”? (Let’s ignore text browser users for the moment.) Describing the picture certainly wouldn’t work; what matters are not the visual elements themselves, but their relationships to each other. Even worse: Imagine this being exported into PDF (or SVG, or EPS), then embedded into InDesign. Suppose the InDesign file is going to ultimately end up as an accessible PDF. But the text in the diagram is going to be a jumbled mess. So what accessibility are we talking about? Are we deluding ourselves? This has serious implications: Imagine, for example, a piece of online instructional material full of such diagrams. Under the AODA organizations are supposed to be able to supply this in an “accessible format.” What does it even mean for this to be accessible?

Open letter to the City of Toronto on the Downtown Transportation Operations Study

Date: Sat, 13 Apr 2013 13:16:52 -0400 Subject: Invalid question in the Downtown Transportation Operations Study survey From: Ambrose LI To: (Matt Colwill) Cc: (Andre Filippetti) Hi, I am writing to report that Toronto’s transportation policy is being jeopardized by poor question design in the said survey. In particular, question 6 in the said survey, namely the question “When do you typically make trips to/from/within the downtown?” is invalid for a significant number of survey respondants. I am a student studying in the study area and I typically go downtown in one of the listed time periods, but go back uptown in a different time period, and I know my situation is normal. How are we, students, supposed to answer this question? We are essentially forced to either lie (and you get invalid data), or give up on responding to the survey (and you lose a data point). In essence, to/during/from should either be three separate questions, or the options should be check boxes and not radio buttons. For an important study like this, the questionnaire should be well designed. I cannot imagine how such an obvious flaw would be able to make it into the final version of the questionnaire. -- cheers, -ambrose

UEB and Unicode, revisited

While working on my term paper, I suddenly realized that some differences between UEB and Unicode that I thought were there aren’t really there. Mind you, that still doesn’t mean Unicode can be reliably converted into UEB: I still don’t think the process is reliable. There still are discrepancies in semantics, and there still are cases where human judgement (or very good artificial intelligence) is required. Sure, the specific example of gross incompatibility that I thought I observed isn’t really there; but, as far as I can tell, there still are incompatibilities.

MOOC vs U, U wins

A few days ago one of the MOOC’s that I had signed up for sent me an email saying the course (one that actually relates to my program of study) was coming to an end—I did hardly any work in that course. Today I got another of these emails, from the other MOOC I had signed up for—and I literally did not do any work in that course. So when I signed up I was already suspecting that I wouldn’t have time for any of these MOOC’s, and my suspicions turned out to be justified. Even though I could not feel the semester (and I still cannot feel it, even though I can feel its deadlines), I did not have time for the MOOC’s. The ironic thing was how detached I have been feeling with this semester’s courses. I just logged into ATutor, trying to find information about how to write my term paper that I needed to turn in in slightly more than a week: I could not find any information, but instead found a dozen or so lectures that I could not even recognize. Such is the disconnect between me and my courses. So how in the world am I going to finish writing this paper? Having spent nearly 10 hours on Behance today, I suddenly realized that I have probably already finished the other half of the assignment, the portfolio artefact. But after staring for half an hour at the Word file that is to become my term paper, I still have no idea what to put in it. (And Iridescent is out: it does not currently have an open call for submissions. My term paper will remain just that, a term paper.) On Monday, I’m going to drop into the Writing and Learning Centre…

Post-show, pre–post-mortem random thoughts

Now that the crazy week is over and the ceramics studio is not firing anything any more this semester, I’m hit with imminent multiple deadlines. I sure hope everything will be ok. My professor said if our installation has held up for the duration of an exhibition, we are already doing better than many scientists. A comforting (and shocking) revelation notwithstanding, I am still not too satisfied that the (engineering part, so to speak, of the) design had not been conceived better. William was calling me an “artist” today. Naturally I brushed it off. I know what we were called in the past week. But for multiple reasons that should be obvious, I still find this rather ironic. We were chatting with Alex from IAMD last night at the closing reception (I believe “we” were myself, Brandon, and our prof), and Brandon and I told her “We don’t even have a studio.” Naturally, she was shocked…

So long

Got here at 4:30pm (having missed my class at 12:00pm) and found that things were already being taken down. I used to really hate exhibitions being taken down before their advertised closing time; I guess I still hate it, but have to acknowledge that such is reality. I just wish if people are tearing down at 4pm, they should have advertised today’s gallery hours as 12:00–4:00pm and not 12:00–5:00pm.

Old media requires lubrication

“Old media requires lubrication.” This was one of the answers to the fake questionnaire I was given at Night Kitchen during last year’s Nuit Blanche. Back then the answer didn’t really make much sense to me, and in fact I thought the answer was bizarre. But of course, I hadn’t been involved in any “old media” creation that would have required lubrication. Imagine how I felt when I had left the installation turned on for the night and then discovered bits of the sprocket wheel on the wooden frame. I was so glad the wheel had not been destroyed. So I guess I can now sympathize with that answer to that fake question: Old media does require lubrication. It probably requires daily lubrication, even. But does that mean our installation, with such a strong electronics component, is still “old media”? So “new media” is virtual only? I don’t know if I can side with this conclusion, yet.
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