Re-creating the Crucible of the Classroom through Electronic Publication

  1. 1. Pierre du Prey

    Queen's University

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Re-creating the Crucible of the Classroom through Electronic Publication
Pierre Du Prey

The classroom is a crucible. The active ingredients in it are normally the lectures of the professor, the interventions of the students and the interaction between the two. To this quasi-chemical equation teachers in the visual arts add the factor of images – usually in the form of slides or actual works of art, but increasingly in the form of digitized images on a monitor. This paper seeks to analyze the mixture in the crucible with special reference to the history of architecture and an electronic publication in progress devoted to the Classical tradition from Antiquity to the present day. By discussing certain story-boarding techniques, familiar from the art of the cinema, the paper shows how the classroom's stimulating but unpredictable atmosphere of inquiry can be electronically approximated through the appropriate juxtaposition of words and images. A prototype presentation will accompany this paper, and relates to others in the same session. Under the working title, A History of the Classical Tradition in Architecture, the first phase of the current project has been underway for almost 8 months as part of a three-year research grant funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). The primary source material consists of lecture texts from an introductory course to the history of architecture formulated over the past six years. In addition, about 1500 of the projected 2500 slides have already been photographed by the author and some have been digitized. The images also include material from the rare book, prints and drawings collection of the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal, which is a partner in the venture. In this way, and because of the special copyright status of buildings, the electronic publication will be relatively free of copyright restrictions.

To facilitate "navigation" through the document, the electronic publication relies heavily on geography, a natural enough choice when dealing with works of architecture. Buildings discussed are located in time and space and are interrelated to one another to form an integrated, balanced, and harmonious whole, as suits the Classical subject matter. A principal path through the material permits users at all levels of interest and computer literacy to read the text and images much as in a book. But numerous "alleyways" off to all sides of the principal path form the heart of the interactive and specifically electronic nature of the publication, and challenge the more adventurous user. Some of these interactive techniques currently under exploration include the following:

split screen comparisons of two or more images
historical documents category giving archival information, photographs or other images, that illustrate artistic process or deterioration but free the principal path from too much documentation
critical sources category providing pertinent bibliography, original source quotations (visual and sound), as well as alternate critical opinions to those presented in the principal path
maps and time lines to orient the user at all points along the principal path
"magic carpet" displays that roll out multiple images of a single building or place in order to convey three-dimensionality more fully
periodic tests or quizzes
illustrated glossary of architectural terms "hot spotted" directly to images as well as to the text
possibility of "zooming" in on selected details
gazetteer of places mentioned in the text
analytic index arranged by concepts as well as names of architects, places etc.
full list of illustration sources where not already mentioned on the individual captions
cross referencing whereby the user may search backwards and forwards in time for related images by architect, building type etc.
assembling images to create architect profiles or illustrate specific cityscapes
summaries that recapitulate in point form the principal items covered in a chapter
"you were there" techniques using sound and images to recreate the sense of historical context.
Throughout the publication the interactive capabilities remain in balance with the demands of the textual narrative. Neither one overrules the other, nor restricts readership. For a beginner the publication opens the doors to the enjoyment of architecture. For the armchair traveler the text and images provide happy recollections or excite anticipation. For the experienced student, architect or scholar the publication creates challenging new ways of looking at architecture, its creative process, and the relevance of past to present and future. In the final analysis, the publication also reflects the personality of its author: his education; his travels; his publications; his enthusiasms; and last but not least the impact of electronic publication upon his way of writing.. (The principal path has not been a one way street.) By taking into account the flexibility of the electronic medium, the material is arranged with unheralded ease, thus bringing to light overarching and even unexpected typologies or themes. In this way the new medium actually suggests new ways of looking at familiar material, because the interpolation of text with images has a rationale all its own. The reader is invited to question these themes, to explore them in new ways, and thereby to become increasingly engaged in the subject of architectural history. Above all, by using the electronic medium creatively, the present project underscores both visually and verbally the publication's central thesis of continuity within the Classical tradition.

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Conference Info

In review


Hosted at Queen's University

Kingston, Ontario, Canada

June 3, 1997 - June 7, 1997

76 works by 119 authors indexed

Series: ACH/ALLC (9), ACH/ICCH (17), ALLC/EADH (24)

Organizers: ACH, ALLC

  • Keywords: None
  • Language: English
  • Topics: None