Integrating Presentation Software with Hardware

28 09 2010

After visiting the University of Surrey’s SPLASH space, I was put in contact with a company called Reflex, who is their preferred integrator. Andi Allan, Technical Sales Manager, very kindly answered the following questions:

Q.1. Are there incompatibility issues with the hardware and various operating systems?

No real incompatibilities, but multi-touch (like an iPhone or iPad) is only available with Windows 7. Otherwise the Sympodium and Smart boards are compatible with a decent range of operating systems and any hardware that can run them.

Q.2. Do you have any advice to offer regarding mobility of devices e.g. to share in a large informal group (i.e. sharing the computer by physically moving it around rather than watching or participating in a presentation)?

In general mobile audio visual equipment is always more prone to failure than fixed installations. This can be mitigated by using solid state drives, shock-mounting the hardware and so on.

Q.3. Are there any issues with different versions of Microsoft PowerPoint or Keynote?

The Smart software works ‘on top of’ any other software running, so should be fine with any version of Office or any other PC application. Effectively the Smart system acts as a replacement mouse.

[Andi has asked Smart and will get back to me about restrictions to do with specific software versions.]

Q.4. The University of Surrey directed me to a website with training videos, do you find that staff use the videos or prefer support face-to-face?

I think a mix is most effective. An initial in-person training session (which we can provide via a partner) is good for showing people how to use the technology and to inspire them to use it creatively and make the most of it. Online videos can then be very helpful for reminders, quick reference and so on.


Analogue alternatives to PowerPoint

24 09 2010

Professor Val Williams, Director of the University of the Arts London Photography and the Archive Research Centre based at the London College of Communication, has kindly allowed me to publish her responses to my questions:

Q.1. Going back to the Fashion Photography conference held in June 2005, the presentation that you gave with Alistair O’Neill really sticks in my mind because of the confident use of analogue material and the visual and creative quality this gave to the talk. Please tell me about this.

The presentation Alistair and I did at the conference was inspired by the discovery of a large collection of slides in the London College of Fashion library,these slides were accompanied by a script, which was read for us by Maggie Norden. The presentation was a homage to the slides and to the old style of audio visual presentation, which has produced many amazing productions in the past, particularly at photography festivals and fairs. Also, it is very much associated with Art History teaching (see Julia Roberts in the film ‘Mona Lisa Smile”). it would be very difficult to see this same drama produced by a PowerPoint presentation.

Q.2.a. What technologies or methods do you use to give presentations e.g. unaccompanied, slides, PowerPoint, other?

For presentations I use Powerpoint, but increasingly, for smaller groups, I have begun to use objects: books, catalogues and magazines. I find this much more satisfactory and flexible. I have become increasing less satisfied with PowerPoint, both for my own presentations, and also ones by other people that I have seen. I particularly dislike the use of text in PowerPoint, but I find it impossible to resist the temptation of using it. I now think that slides are more satisfactory and lead to a much more organic way of presenting, but there is often no longer the technology to support this and of course one is always nervous of being thought of as a technophobe, which I’m not.

Q.2.b. Please tell me how you use the technologies or methods in your teaching e.g. for specific purposes?

In a recent symposium we held at PARC*, we asked participants not to use PowerPoint at all, and this resulted in a variety of presentations, particularly by our PhD students, who held up prints and talked about them. This event was very successful, partly, I think because of the variety of the presentations.

*[The UAL Photography and the Archive Research Centre (PARC) Summer Symposium is only open to PARC members, so it is not advertised; it took place on Thursday 17th June 2010.]


iPad Usability by Dr Jakob Nielsen

24 09 2010

This is now a bit of old news, but I thought worth mentioning anyway. Jakob Nielsen’s team have usability tested the iPad, and the following report was delivered via their blog back in May this year:

Key points:

  • The different gestures used (tap, drag, slide, flick, finger spread and pinch, and double-tap) are not used consistently across the different apps available, and it is easy to make an accidental gesture.
  • The user interface caused problems with discoverability e.g. some users didn’t know where to click.
  • Navigation within apps is often lacking a back feature, search, clickable headlines, and/or a homepage.


Limited offer: 20% discount on Bridgeman Education subscription

21 09 2010

The first 50 to register for Bridgeman Education’s updated and freshly designed resource will receive extended trial access and a 20% discount off subscription for the first year. Contact Bridgeman Education for more information.

Bridgeman Education provided me with trial access in order to feed into this research project. The design is definitely fresh; very clean with lots of white space to enable the images to take centre stage. Some of the features I liked the most were:

  • The zoom feature is intuitive and easy to use, and many images can be zoomed to view details such as brush strokes, for a great experience try the following:
    • Gogh, Vincent van (1853-90). 1890. Bouquet of flowers. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.
    • Freud, Lucian (b. 1922). 1991. Leigh Bowery. Private Collection.
  • Search results can be sorted by relevance, image number, artist name, artist nationality or medium.
  • The simple search is useful enough without the advanced search, even though this has been integrated well. I found that once I had done a simple search being able to click on the hyperlinked artist name was brilliant. They have also hyperlinked the keywords field.
  • Good error messages: they have really thought about the user experience and automatic feedback is sent to the developers.
  • The SlideShow feature

    One of the best features is the renovated slideshow experience. Images can be added from thumbnail results page, or core record page. There is a permanent slideshow tool bar at the top right of the screen; when you first login this is a blank square, but when you start adding images, the current slideshow displays a miniature version of the images chosen. This is a very good visual reminder. The toolbar also has very helpful tooltips over the icons to the extent that I did not need the help section at all.

    Once you have added images to the slideshow more features can be accessed. Cropping images is easy, and can be reset with the click of a button at anytime, the slides can be organised into twos or fours, and there are a few other viewing options. There is a choice of Artist Name, Title, and one editable field called Caption.

    Slideshows can be downloaded as a PDF document, or in a zip folder, which once extracted works like a small website. It would be great if it was possible to add additional images to the slideshow from other image libraries or collections. The XML file that is provided with the zipped download can be edited to do this, I have tried and can report that it works, but depending on the number of images this could be time consuming.


Free SlideShare iPad app

20 09 2010

The new app for iPad is called ‘Slide by Slide’; it is powered by the SlideShare API, and its features are listed in iTunes as:

  1. Conveniently search for presentations from
  2. Enjoy the presentation ad-free and distraction-free while in landscape mode
  3. Also see the description along with the presentation when in portrait mode
  4. Keep a history of slideshows visited
  5. Easily share presentations using facebook, twitter, or email
  6. Change background colour while going through a presentation in landscape mode for viewing pleasure

There is currently one comment listed, that it would be good if you could also access your SlideShare account through this app as well. I have to agree.


  • SlideShare: share presentations, documents, and professional videos
  • Slide by Slide on iTunes: browse presentations from SlideShare
  • iPad: experience the web, email, photo and video with just the touch of a finger

Continuation of research outputs 2010-2011

17 09 2010

I have been awarded a 2010-11 Learning & Teaching Research grant, by the University for the Creative Arts, to disseminate my 2009-2010 grant about image presentation software/tools that fit existing pedagogic practice.

This fits in well with my current work at the Visual Arts Data Service (VADS), a research centre at the University.

The new grant will enable me to publish my research in two papers, and to present my findings at a research seminar, and three conferences, one of which I will be organising to take place in May 2011.

Image databases and presentation software

17 09 2010

Catherine Worrall, Image Collections Co-ordinator at the University College Falmouth, has given her kind permission to publish the following review. She discusses how the University College Falmouth use three databases to provide images and presentation software to their staff and students, and why it is important for them to use all three in combination.

1. ARTstor

Although I don’t demo the ARTstor offline viewer, I have looked at it and think it’s useful, although it doesn’t have all of the functions that the online viewer does, including adding text/notes to the images, I think you have to do this in the online one, which then transfers across. But it is good though in that you can add your own images and combine them with ARTstor’s images.

Teaching students how to use these various image databases has been an interesting experience as they vary greatly in their functionality. ARTstor I feel wins hands down in most categories, it’s very intuitive, it’s functions are excellent, in particular the zoom feature is the best that I have seen. It now features a PowerPoint download option, which is really easy to use, and simply downloads an image group directly into PowerPoint in a few clicks. Although I try to encourage staff and students to use ARTstor’s slideviewer, as it is really good, users tend to get stuck in their ways and often resort to PowerPoint (which I think is a shame, as it was never really meant for images). The only downfall with ARTstor is the subject coverage, it has an American and art history bias, and is lacking in design history, however students seem very happy with it for research, and staff here are also impressed with it mostly because of its sophisticated functionality.

2. Bridgeman Education

Bridgeman has a more European and British bias, compared to ARTstor and provides access to images which are more obscure or from private collections. Bridgeman has recently upgraded its functionality, with big improvements to their slideviewer and zoom features. Demonstrating Bridgeman has been fine and both students and staff navigate the interface with no problems, and there has been positive feedback regarding its subject scope.

3. Madison Digital Image Database

MDID2, which is the version we’re using currently, although we will migrate to MDID3 when it is available in the autumn, has been great. It’s given me a place to store images and metadata, and is easy to upload both images and metadata. We will be launching it in the autumn, so I have limited experience of demonstrating it to others’, apart from a few staff members involved in our pilot. Compared to ARTstor, its functionality is not as sophisticated, but it serves a purpose, it’s somewhere users can store their own images and combine them with others both in MDID and elsewhere to create slideshows/groups of images. For us, it is a place to keep unique local collections such as Cornwall Artists and Designers and Degree Show work, and I’m sure it’ll be useful when it is launched. The slideviewer is pretty easy to use and staff liked the lightbox viewer in particular, as it reminds them of viewing slides.

Overall, for now, it is important for us to have all 3 image databases, as they work as a team, and each has its pros and cons!


Start of the new term, and new research

9 09 2010

This blog was quiet over the Summer, but will start getting more active again now I am back to term-time. I am waiting to hear about a bid for funding that I have put in to the University for the Creative Arts to extend my research. I am also going to be writing two papers for a conference and a journal.