Ars Electronica Highlights 2

I’m sharing more highlights from this year’s Ars Electronica Festival. See part one for more highlights.


Animated restroom sign – The men’s bathroom had the best sign ever! I’ve never been so delighted by a bathroom sign. Playful and fun use of a projector and an animation.


Interface I by Ralf Baecker – A red horizontal line is adjusted up and down the vertical axis to make a fluid line graph irl. The horizontal line seems to be controlled by hundreds of little motors moving thin clear cable up and down. Gorgeously lit and placed in a large dark room.


Single Stroke Structures by Takahiro Hasegawa and Yasuaki Kakehi – make temporary structures (maybe even phone booths!?!) out of strategically crimped, inflated plastic tubing. How amazing would it be to keep a shed in your backpack?





Highlight by Jussi Ängeslavä, Michael Burk, Iohanna Nicenboim – direct light using a lampshade. 3D printing allows for the matching of shade with the room – direct light where you want it.




jPhotosynth printing – print on plants. Mask the leaf and expose the rest to light that causes alters the photosynth process.

Ars Electronica Festival Highlights

I’m so insanely happy to be at the 2016 edition of the Ars Electronica Festival. I’ve wanted to attend for a long time and this year things came together. The festival is as good as I expected.


The scale is large – seemingly endless talks, workshops, and exhibits spread throughout the city of Linz (Austria). I won’t attempt any type of comprehensive overview but will share my personal highlights.




Portrait on the fly by Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau is an interactive piece – stand in front of it (a monitor with a camera on top) and you see an outline of yourself. You quickly realize the outline is made of buzzing flies. The monitor/camera is surrounded by fantastic printed portraits generated by the installation.




Body Pressure (this is a placeholder name until I track down the correct name) – lay down on a large deflated bag and feel it lift you toward another inflating bag. The two inflated forms come together gently squeezing you between. This piece is beautiful.


Face Cartography by Daniel Boschung – a robot moves a camera around to 600 different vantage points of a subject’s face. The photos are stitched together into a tremendously high resolution photo. The shoot takes 20 minutes to produce one portrait – is this a snapshot?



BitterCoin by Martin Nadal and Cesar Escudero Andaluz – an incredibly slow but deeply charming bitcoin miner made from an old calculator.


Loopers by Yasuaki Kakehi and Michinari Kono – 12 magnetic worms crawl back and forth to create rhythmic clicks.

Private Talking Spaces Progress

We’ve been working hard on our Private Talking Spaces effort. Lots of thinking about how to create equity in shared spaces in libraries. Lots of thinking about how to increase focus for folks talking on phones (and maintain the focus of those around them not talking on phones). Lots of thinking about where private talking spaces might be located in libraries. So much thinking!!


Much of the labor has been contributed by our collaborator, Nic Schumann, at Work-Shop. Part of the Private Talking Spaces team – Anastasia Aizman, Matt Phillips, Ben Steinberg, and Tiff Tseng – visited Nic in Providence this week.


We started in Work-Shop’s building and had the opportunity to see what remained of the recent Uncommissioned show



We then played with Work-Shop’s phone booth. Fantastic!!


IMG_5163A quick walk down the street led us to RISD’s Fleet Library. I’m still filled with inspiration a day later



So many thoughtful spaces in the Fleet Library including these little study cubbies



We wrapped up the day by taking the scenic route to the train station. ❤️ Providence.

Summer Fellows Share, Join Us

LIL fellows are wrapping up their terms this week! Please join us for and learn from our Fellows as they present their research involving ways we can explore and utilize technology to preserve, prepare, and present information for the common good.

Over 12 weeks, the Fellows produced everything from book chapters, web applications, and board games ­ and, ultimately, an immeasurable amount of inspiration that extends far beyond the walls of Langdell.  They explored subjects such as text data modeling, web archiving, opening legal data, makerspaces, and preserving local memory in places disrupted by disaster.

Please RSVP to Gail Harris

Our fellows will be sharing their work these fascinating topics on Wednesday, August 24 from 1:00-3:00 in Casperon Room.


private talking spaces

people want to talk on their cell phones when they’re working in the library. let’s accommodate these desires by providing secure and private talking spacesa31bf2be-eebb-4860-b28d-cee1f084072b

what is the shape of a private talking space in a library? we don’t know, but we’re thinking hard and talking to a lot of different folks that know how libraries are used

maybe the space ends up being a phone booth from the recent past, or maybe it’s a hood that lowers over a carrell, or maybe it’s an interstitial passageway with a sound deadening ceiling, or maybe it’s simply a heavy curtain that you can pull around you, or maybe it’s something else


we’re collaborating with WorkShop to understand how people want to talk on their phones in libraries. once we gain some understanding, we’ll fabricate a solution for the Harvard Law School Library (and beyond!)


we kicked this effort off a few days ago with a charrette and a tour of the HLSL physical space, Langdell hall


please toss an email our way if you know of other folks that have thought about private talking spaces. we’ll keep you in the loop as we think, design, and build 💚

Announcing Summer Fellows

We’re beyond thrilled to introduce our first cohort of LIL Summer Fellows. The following seven brilliant minds will be working here in the Harvard Law School Library (HLSL) for the next 12 weeks, exploring new pathways in technology, law, and libraries.


Fellows, staff, and interns in the Langdell reading room


Neel  Neel comes from the Los Angeles County Law Library where he managed one of the world’s largest collections of foreign and international legal materials. He’s also a dedicated world percussionist. Neel will spend the summer making significant progress on his African drumming laws project, Email Neel at

Jay Edwards@meangrape  Jay will spend his weeks in the Lab this summer analyzing web archives in and recently digitized cases in Free the Law. Jay was the ninth employee at Twitter and was the lead database engineer for Obama for America in 2012. Potentially more exciting 🙂 for the HLSL community is Jay’s eight year old daughter who will be popping in to share her Hebrew cataloging skills. Email Jay at

Sara Frug, @ssfrug  Sara is the Associate Director at the Legal Information Institute, housed at Cornell Law School. She runs the engineering team and helps design tools to make legal texts more accessible, usable and valuable. Her time this summer will be spent applying the techniques she uses with her team here in the Lab, and learning some new ones that she can take back to LII. Email Sara at

Ilya Kreymer, @ikreymer  Ilya currently leads the development of Webrecorder, a tool designed to allow any user to create high-fidelity web archives of any content simply by browsing the web through this tool. Ilya will spend his fellowship working to improve Webrecorder, and working together with the team to solve some of the more difficult problems facing web archiving today. Email Ilya at

Muira McCammon, @muira_mccammon  Muira will spend her fellowship building on her Guantánamo Bay Detainee Library research by writing a narrative nonfiction book about her journey probing the Guantánamo Bay Detainee Library, organizing a two-day, interdisciplinary international colloquium on GiTMO (marking the 15th anniversary of the opening of the detention camp) for Feb 2017, and interviewing a good number of GiTMO defense attorneys, journalists, veterans, and civilian book donors. Email Muira at

Alexander Nwala@acnwala  Alex is a PhD student in the Computer Science department at  Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA. Alex will spend the summer studying and building solutions in the personal and event centered digital archives space, Email Alex at

Tiff Tseng, @scientiffic  Tiff will spend her time in the program working with makerspaces in libraries to help patrons skill share and connect over common interests using Spin, a documentation tool she created as part of her PhD work at the MIT Media Lab. Email Tiff at


The fellows have had a whirlwind first week sharing their research plans, running the first ever LIL fellows hour, and touring the HLSL.


Muira and Jay


Jack, Ilya, Paul


Sara, Alex, Anastasia, Neel

Adam talks LIL on the Lawyerist Podcast

This May, Managing Director Adam Ziegler was a guest on the Lawyerist podcast, discussing recent goings-on at the Library Innovation Lab.

Sam Glover and Adam discuss the future of law, its challenges and how the Innovation Lab endeavors to address these. is chiefly discussed, along with H2O and the Free the Law project.

Listen here!

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The Lawyerist Podcast is a weekly show about lawyering and law practice hosted by Sam Glover and Aaron Street.


IIPC: Two Track Thursday


A protester throwing cookies at the parliament.

Here are some things that caught our ear this fine Thursday at the International Internet Preservation Consortium web archiving conference:

  • Tom Storrar at the UK Government Web Archive reports on a user research project: ~20 in person interviews and ~130 WAMMI surveys resulting in 5 character vignettes. “WAMMI” replaces “WASAPI” as our favorite acronym.
    • How do we integrate user research into day-to-day development? We’ll be chewing more on that one.
  • Jefferson Bailey shares the Internet Archive’s learnings ups and downs with Archive-It Research Services. Projects from the last year include .GOV (100TB of .gov data in a Hadoop cluster donated by Altiscale), the L3S Alexandria Project, and something we didn’t catch with Ian Milligan at
  • What the WAT? We hear a lot about WATs this year. Common Crawl has a good explainer.
  • Ditte Laursen sets out to answer a big research question: “What does Danish web look like?” What is the shape of .dk? Eld Zierau reports that in a comparison of the Royal Danish Library’s .dk collection with the Internet Archive’s collection of Danish-language sites, only something like 10% were in both.
  • Hugo Huurdeman asks an important question: what exactly is a website? Is it a host, a domain, or a set of pages that share the same CSS? To visualize change in whatever that is, he uses ssdeep, a fuzzy hashing mechanism for page comparison.
  • Let’s just pause to say how inspiring this all is. It’s at about this point in the day that we started totally rethinking a project we’ve been working on for months.
  • Justin Littman shares the Social Feed Manager, his happenin’ stack to harvest tweets and such.
  • We learned that TWARC is either twerking for WARCs or a Twitter-harvesting Python package — we’re not entirely sure. Either way it’s our new new favorite acronym. Sorry, WAMMI.
  • Nick Ruest and Ian Milligan give a very cool talk about sifting through hashtagged content on Twitter. Did you know that researchers only have 7-9 days to grab tweets under a hashtag before Twitter only makes the full stream available for a fee? (We did not know that.)
  • We were also impressed by Canada’s huge amount of political social media engagement. Even though Canada isn’t a huge country,[Ian’s words not ours] 55,000 Tweets were generated in one day with the #elxn42 tag.
  • Fernando Melo of pointed out that the struggle is real with live-web leaks in his research comparing OpenWayback and pywb. Fernando says in his tests OpenWayback was faster but pywb has higher-quality playbacks (more successes, fewer leaks). Both tools are expected to improve soon. We say it’s time for something like to make this a proper competition.
  • Nicola Bingham is self-deprecating about the British Library’s extensive QA efforts: “This talk title isn’t quite right because it implies that we have Quality Assurance Practices in the Post Legal Deposit Environment.” They use the Web Curator Tool QA Module, but are having to go beyond that for domain-scale archiving.
  • We’re also curious about this paper: Current Quality Assurance Practices in Web Archiving.
  • Todd Stoffer demos NC State’s QA tool. A clever blend of tools like Google Forms, Trello, and IFTTT to let student employees provide archive feedback during downtime. Here are Todd’s [snazzy HTML/JS] slides.

TL;DR: lots of exciting things happening in the archiving world. Also exciting: the Icelandic political landscape. On the way to dinner, the team happened upon a relatively small protest right outside of the parliament. There was pot clanging, oil barrel banging, and an interesting use of an active smoke alarm machine as a noise maker. We were also handed “red cards” to wave at the government.

Now we’re off to look for the northern lights!

LIL at IIPC: The Story So Far

We’re halfway through the International Internet Preservation Consortium’s annual web archiving conference. Here are just a few notes from our time so far:
Jack, Genève, and Matt

Auto-captioned photo of Jack, Genève, and Matt — thanks CaptionBot!

April 12

  • Andy Jackson kicks the conference off with “Have I accidentally committed international journalism?” — he has contributed to the open source software that was used to review the Panama Papers.
  • Andrea Goethals describes the desire for smaller modules in the web archive tool chain, one of her conclusions from Harvard Library’s Environmental Scan of Web Archiving. This was the first of many calls throughout the day for more nimble tools.
  • Stephen Abrams shares the California Digital Library’s success story with Archive-It. “Archive-It is good at what it does, no need for us to replicate that service.”
  • John Erik Halse encourages folks to contribute code and documentation. Don’t be intimidated and just dive in.
  • There seems to be consensus that Heritrix is a tool that everyone needs but no one is in charge of — that’s tough for contributors. A few calls for the Internet Archive to ride in and save the day.
  • We’re not naming names, but a number of organizations have had their IT departments, or IT contractors, seek to run virus scanners that would edit the contents of an archive after preservation. (Hint: it’s not easy to archive malware, but “just delete it” isn’t the answer.)
  • Some kind member of IIPC reminds us of the amazing Malware Museum hosted by the Internet Archive.
  • David Rosenthal notes that Iceland has been called the ”Switzerland of bits”. After being in Reykjavik for only a few days, we sort of agree!
  • Jefferson Bailey of the Internet Archive echoed concerns about looming web entropy: there is significant growth in web archiving, but a concentration of storage for archives.
  • Nicholas Taylor of the Stanford Digital Library is responsible for the most wonderful acronym of all time, WASAPI (“Web Archiving Systems API”).
  • The Memento Protocol remains the greatest thing since sliced bread. (Here we refer to the web discovery standard, not the Jason Bourne movie.)
  • We chat with Michael Nelson about his projects at ODU, from the Mink browser plugin to the icanhazmemento Twitter bot.

April 13

  • Hjálmar Gíslason points out that 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube each minute. It would take 90,000 employees working full time to watch it all. Conclusion: Google needs to hire some people and get on this.
  • Hjálmar also mentions Tim Berners-Lee’s 5-Star Open Data standard. Nice goal to work toward for Free the Law!
  • Vint Cerf on Digital Vellum: the Catholic Church has lasted for an awfully long time, and breweries tend to stick around a long time. How could we design a digital archiving institution that could last that long?
  • (Perma’s suggestion: how about a TLD for URLs that never change? We were going to suggest .cool, because cool URLs don’t change. But that seems to be taken.)
  • Ilya Kramer shows off the first webpage ever in the first browser ever, running in a simulated NeXT Computer, courtesy of
  • Dragan Espensch says Rhizome views the web as “performative media” while showing Jan Robert Leegte’s [untitled]scrollbars piece through different browsers in Sometimes the OS is the artwork.
  • Matthew S. Weber and Ian Milligan have been running web archive hackathons to connect researchers to computer programmers. Researchers need this: “It would be dishonest to do a history of the 90s without using web archives.” Cue <marquee> tags here.
  • Brewster Kahle pitches the future of national digital collections, using as a model the fictional (but oh-so-cool) National Library of Atlantis. Shows off clever ways to browse a nation’s tv news, books, music, video games, and so much more.
  • Brewster encourages folks to recognize that there is no “The Web” anymore: collections will differ based on context and provenance of the curator or crawler. (What is archiving “The Web” if each of us has a different set of sites that are blocked, allowed, or custom-generated for us?)
  • Brewster voices the need for broad, high level visualizations in web archives. He highlights existing work and thinks we can push it further.
  • And oh by the way, he also shows off Wayback Explorer over at Archive Labs — graph major and minor changes in websites over time.
  • Bonus: We’re fortunate enough to grab some whale sushi (or vegan alternatives) with David Rosenthal, Ilya Kreymer, and Dragan Espenschied.

Looking forward to the next couple of days …