Welcome the Diaspora-Artists.net feedback blog

The feedback period for diaspora-artists.net via the blog has now ended. Please direct any comments to us via info@diaspora-artists.net

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We hope that this space will provide an opportunity to broker further discussion between users during this testing of the project.

As the digitisation process continues, more emphasis will now be placed on writing further biographical outlines on the artists/writers/curators. At the present time, only a minority of those represented on the site have entries written on them, with no way for users to know (without clicking on individual names) which of the artists/writers/curators have the most substantial biographical entries. So the following is a list of some of the recent entries, should any of the user group wish to get a sense of the nature of the biographical outlines: Mowbray Odonkor, Chila Kumari Burman, Denzil Forrester, Aubrey Williams, Bashir Makhoul, Dr Petrine Archer-Straw, Faisal Abdu-Allah, Godfried Donkor, Hassan Hajjaj, Johannes Phokela, Keskidee Centre, Lesley Sanderson, Michael Forbes, Permindar Kaur, Said Adrus, Ronald Moody, Saleem Arif, Shaka Dedi, Sonia Boyce, Tony Phillips, Tracey Moffatt. More biographies are of course being added on a week-by-week basis.

Similarly, there is still a considerable amount of material yet to be inputted. Much of the material yet to be inputted exists in the collection, though it has to be acknowledged that an amount of material will need to be sourced, in order to make the site truly comprehensive and authoritive. To this end, we’ll be soliciting material to address the gaps that no doubt exist. In years and months to come, we intend to broaden the scope of the site by incorporating the material relating to artists from South Asia, Africa, African America, Aboriginal Australia, and so on.

What we hope to gain through the testing process is a sense of how functional the site will be when subjected to the whims, curiousity, and rigours of its future users. All of us have had the experience – often frustrating – of using sites that don’t quite function as we’d like them to. Karen, Paddy Uglow (who has in effect and with great diligence built the site), all the others involved in developing diaspora-artists.net, and myself: all of us are keen to ensure that the site is as useful and as functional as possible. So to this end we are keen to take note of your comments. We also have an idea that this blog space can in some way serve or function as an ongoing aspect of the site, in which ideas, debates, and arguments about the collecting and the archiving of visual arts material can generate and indeed, germinate.

One other thing. The site will, we hope, eventually function as a gateway to the actual material itself. Of course, users in search or in need of specific material, are free to source books, catalogues, press articles etc from whatever libraries, archives, book shops are most practical to them. Indeed, on that note, diaspora-artists.net should ideally be seen as an addition, or a supplement to whatever provision already exists. Likewise, the site can and should in some ways function as a prompt for bookshops, libraries and archives to increase the attention they pay to pluralising art’s histories and providing greater access to material that pursues this objective and serves this purpose.

Eddie Chambers

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10 Responses to “Welcome the Diaspora-Artists.net feedback blog”

  1. Dr Adele Patrick Says:

    Thank you for inviting me to feed back on this new web resource. This will be an invaluable website for staff and many of the learners, enquirers and users of Glasgow Women’s Library and other arts, cultural diversity, equalities and academic organisations in our network. I found the website to be extremely accessible and well designed and the content has been very impressively marshalled and organised. Thanks for all the efforts that have clearly been involved. This is a much needed web resource that I immediately wanted to send to colleagues although I am aware that you are roadtesting on a small scale at this stage. Please do keep us in the loop.

  2. Eddie Chambers Says:

    Dr Adele Patrick, many thanks for your prompt and very useful reply.
    Your positive comments are indeed gratifying. As you correctly sense, at this time, we would ask you not to make the site’s existence more widely known to your colleagues. The site is as you know currently going through a process of user-testing, and we are keen to iron out any bugs or gremlins that we may possibly have missed. When the site is ready for wider use and access, Karen will let the user group know.

    If you have any other comments about navigating the site, we’d be keen
    to hear them.

    Eddie Chambers

  3. Ugochukwu-Smooth Nzewi Says:

    Dear Karen,

    I appreciate your invitation to help test-run the website. This is really a very significant contribution in creating an easily accessible research resource on Black Arts.

    One thing I have to say quickly about the Images section. Is there a way the pop-up articles can be made more legible for people who may
    want to read the them? While the description provided below each
    article is good, I think it would work better if the article is legible.

    I also hope to contribute further feedback subsequently.

    Best.

    Smooth

  4. Eddie Chambers Says:

    Smooth,

    Thank you for your initial feedback. You raise a valid concern.

    Within the Images section, I doubt if there is a way the material can be made more legible for people who may want to read it. This is due to issues of copyright. As you can imagine or appreciate, much of the material is subject to copyright by artists, writers, publishers, or others. We cannot make this material available for printing, downloading, or even clearer reading as it would invariably be a breach of copyright. The images and scans you refer to are there primarily as a visual reference to the material in question, and not as material to be properly read, downloaded or printed.

    Of course, such material that becomes copyright-cleared can be made available for downloading and printing, but that is a longer-term rather than a shorter-term prospect.

    I hope this clarifies things and addresses your question.

    We look forward to you contributing further feedback subsequently.

    Regards

    Eddie

  5. Richard Hylton Says:

    This is an excellent project which can on current evidence only go from strength to strength. I think the simple layout of web pages make it a thoroughly enjoyable and engaging virtual archive. I think you are all doing a really good job in bringing to a wider (or at least interested) international audience a fascinating collection of material. I think the headings/categories work well and though I am aware that the monumental task of inputting material has some way to go, the project is really taking shape. I should also like to commend you all for the attention to detail given to material and the style in which biographies have been written.

    One thing, whilst this is a virtual archive, I am conscious that visiting it should not be deemed a surrogate for visiting an actual archive, is this something that should be raised within the website? This might be a side issue, but with the amount of material (correct or erroneous) found on the internet, ‘proper’ research cannot be conducted remotely or simply via internet and this is not a replacement to visiting an archive. As I say, this might be a side issue, but thought I might raise it.

    Richard Hylton

  6. Sophie Orlando Says:

    Dear Eddie Chambers, Dear Karen Di Franco,

    I would like to come back to you with few elements of responses about
    Diaspora-artists.net.

    First of all, I am repeating myself saying, I really like the project as a
    whole, I consider it as responding to a need and an expectation for
    institutions, curators, artists, art critic and art historians. Where some
    attempts had been done to create an archive in the past, through the AAVAA
    you set up, Eddie or through InIva library and archive for instance, or
    other small projects, nothing was really made with such a digital ambition.

    On a very general level, I find the website very accessible, simple to use,
    clear, well designed and enjoyable. Any person interested in British artists
    will find a place for him/her, as the scope is very large and as it gathers
    art critic, curators, artist interlinked with place, space and time. What
    interests me more in that project is the building of a thought about British
    art history, which reaches the particular, the detail, the fact, the
    document and so, scientificity.

    I have tried to look for positive and possibly negative aspects of the
    website in order to give a constructive feedback. It doesn’t mean I felt the
    navigation difficult or that I myself regret the presence or absence of
    elements.

    The idea the preside to the selection of type of archive material works for
    me: Britain as a link between artists coming from different migrations,
    stories, identities allow to develop a coherent archive while it divides
    itself from an ethnic specificity. It works also in rewriting the history
    and the role of these artists in a broader scheme of British art.

    About this point, I would like to ask if in the making of input related to
    books or exhibition’s contend you will add the list of other artists which
    take no part in the diasporic artists experience (it doesn’t need to lead to
    a development, it can just be a list of names without generating a proper
    data)? It would also be interesting to recognise relationship, role, place
    and visibility of diasporic artists as you define it, into the general
    History of British Art. At least, it asks this question of relationship
    between diasporic artists and other British artists.

    I am very enthusiastic about the networking aspect of the website. It is
    clear and easy to use, and it is not just a design. It actually defines the
    network and any user will integrate the idea of the network as a base to
    understand diasporic artistic presence in Britain. I also find practical to
    insert external links into each articles. It opens the website to external
    productions, case by case and it acknowledges others data and input, as part
    of a similar process towards understanding, access to other facilities. It
    extends it own map.

    I also have few questions about the networking aspect.

    Will you develop a kind of description concerning the exhibition policies of
    the different venues?

    Will you develop a description about the role that one exhibition played in
    the general history of British art or Diasporic art in Britain?

    I am saying it as I am thinking about lambda visitors of the website trying
    to figure out a sort of narrative. It is also interesting in terms of the
    set of a new view on art history where the facts, events, publications or
    exhibitions receive a same space, and are not filtered by a hierarchy of
    values.

    I would like to say that the design in itself is very efficient, in terms of
    visual orientation, use and understanding. I really like the idea of new
    post or “latest addition” as it leads to a navigation through curiosity. The
    same would be said about the image section.

    I find contends very useful, as the catalogues are described by its skeleton
    and with full details. As an art historian I find it extremely important and
    it is very satisfying to get a clear idea of the archive, as if we were
    ourselves touching it. In this sense, the website is also a success, being
    able to give a sense of presence and reality to its user. On this
    perspective, it would be just magical if we could also read the document,
    when it is a review in a paper or short article, or even to see it closer.
    We cannot zoom on the document, which is a bit frustrating sometimes. Is
    there such thing as a copyright or a technical limit that prevent to access
    the several documents?

    I hope I have been useful with these few commentaries. I will be using it
    again, so I will come back to you shortly if I find other comments to
    develop. Before that I would like to congratulate you for all the work done,
    and to thank you for doing it.

    Best wishes,

    Sophie

  7. Katie Davies Says:

    Hi Karen,

    The site is fantastic! I have been trawling around it for ages today and really felt like the structure of the site and the way it is so easily navigable really does the content justice. I have used the site to find out about the practices of artists I knew little or nothing about and so then found myself expanding the search outside of the diaspora-artists.net site for images, video, sound and more info. I know that the content from the site comes form Eddie’s collection, both physical objects and ephemera and it’s a great starting point from which to then find external links that lead to other content about the artists for video, sound and reviews. I have found it hard to find any faults with the site or anything I would change so instead hoped it might be helpful to let you know that I was using the site in this way and hope this may help with your review of how the site is used.
    I will continue to use it for my research and wish you all the success with the project in the future.

    All the best,
    Katie

  8. Jane Connarty Says:

    Hi Karen and Eddie

    Just to say that I did manage at long last to get some time to look at the website tonight – and apologies for the delay.

    It is looking really great – and you have managed to pull together a really impressive and expansive body of material so congratulations to you both for getting it to such a developed stage.

    I really like the clear layout and design of the site and ease of links between pages works really well.

    A few thoughts – and I think these are mostly already raised on the blog – the first would be a slight frustration at not being able to properly read copies of articles – although I do appreciate the copyright issue – but when you see the image of the page it is natural to want to zoom in and read. (perhaps this is something that could be made clear on the home page?)

    The other suggestion is to use the home page to make more clear the role of the website as a portal or companion to the physical archive. This is I think covered in the ‘About’ section but as most people would go firstly to the Home page it might be good to have a short ref to that relationship up front?

    A minor point – I wondered whether it might be useful to include links to artists’ galleries – where they are represented by a private gallery?

    Overall I think it provides a really interesting mapping resource as well as detailed focus on particular projects or artists.

    Hope this is of some help.

    All best wishes

    Jane

  9. Kim Collins Says:

    First, thank you so much for including me in this user-test. I think the content of your diaspora-artists.net web site will be VERY useful to the academic community.

    I tried to wear my “librarian hat” when reviewing the site.
    i. I really LOVED the right hand column of “Latest Additions, Related Exhibitions, Related Venues”….this will be a very helpful tool for researchers to get more out of the website.

    ii. You write, “The site will, we hope, eventually function as a gateway to the actual material itself.” One thing I thought would be helpful is a LINK to a Worldcat record (when available). For example, you provide a citation and a description of “Alien nation”, but if you link to WORDCAT, I could use their “Find a copy in the library” search and my zip code to find the closest copy to me. I am not sure of the actual technology to make this happen, but I could find out. Perhaps it is this: WorldCat links with embedded search terms Create Web links to WorldCat results for one or more subject, author or title keywords. There is also a LibX browser function for ISBNs, but not all your catalogues have ISBNs and I think that LibX must be installed by the user.
    iii. On a similar note, if a researcher wants to get access to your physical archive collection, would they just contact eddie@eddiechambers.com? Is this discouraged?

    iv. A small, nit-picky comment is that I would alphabetize without articles…so that “A Fashionable Marriage” would fall under “F” and “A Place Called Home” under ‘P”…, rather than ‘A”…or, at least, a cross-ref to both.

    v. Glad to see you have an Advanced search option, and I appreciate your “disclaimer…”The Advanced Search only matches text in names and titles, not in descriptive text. To search all the contents of Diaspora Artists, including all descriptive text, use the search in the top right corner of any page.” I might actually repeat this at the top of your search form…”Please use the form below to…”

    Overall, I am very impressed and look forward to promoting this site to students and other librarians.
    Sincerely,
    Kim Collins

  10. Eddie Chambers Says:

    Dear Kim,

    Thank you very much for your very useful comments and opinions on the site. Your comments are greatly appreciated. We’ll look into implementing your suggestions.

    One note, if a researcher wants to get access to the physical archive collection, they would just need to contact eddie@eddiechambers.com. I’ve never discouraged this, though it’s subject to scheduling a mutually convenient time. Oftentimes, queries can be dealt with or attended to via email or the postal system.

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