Saving installation art

How do we conserve installation art and more specifically how do we allow audio-visual installation art that uses parochial hardware and software, video tapes, computers, DVD players and the like for future generations who will inevitably have other incompatible devices and gadgets for their art and entertainment? Part of the answer must lie in curation and documentation of the artefacts used according to a study published in the International Journal of Arts and Technology.

Federica Bressan and Sergio Canazza of the Department of Information Engineering, University of Padova, Italy, are worried that much of the installation art that flourished and was appreciated widely will succumb to a short life expectancy because the technology many installations used has a limited lifespan of its and the devices and media quickly become obsolete. An art installation that uses VHS tapes and a television based on the cathode-ray tube, for instance, may well not be reproducible in its original form once those devices, or their components, fail and no replacement is to be found. Moreover, the recording itself may fail at any point and be lost irretrievably. This problem may be even more acute if one considers interactive art installations that rely on non-proprietary devices and software, for example.

It is important, Bressan and Canazza suggest, for art conservationists to be aware of such future problems and to categorise and catalogue such installations with relative urgency. The team has described a multi-level approach to categorisation that will support conservation, documentation, academic study, re-installation at new exhibitions, novel interpretations and tributes, for instance.

Bressan, F. and Canazza, S. (2014) ‘The challenge of preserving interactive sound art: a multi-level approach’, Int. J. Arts and Technology, Vol. 7, No. 4, pp.294–315.

Better protection against floods

Hurricanes are devastating. Aside from the high, sustained wind speeds, they usually bring with them heavy rain, which can quickly lead to the breaching of flood defences in susceptible areas. Now, US and UK researchers have reviewed hurricane flood defence barriers and technologies with a view to helping engineers find improved designs.

Writing in the International Journal of Forensic Engineering, Haijian Shi of Pepco Holdings in Washington DC and Kong Fah Tee of the Department of Civil Engineering, at the University of Greenwich, in Kent, UK, explain that barriers can protect property and save lives during hurricane season. Flood walls, gates and joints are the mainstays of their design, however budgetary constraints, geographical limitations and constructability often limit the implementation of the most effective barriers in some regions.

The team has surveyed the T-walls, I-walls, Pile-braced wall systems, sluice gates, and sector gates that are commonly used in hurricane flood defences. From their analysis of the civil engineering and construction of these defences, the team has devised a six-point checklist for the design of hurricane defences that should be implemented to make the most effective barrier. These six factors should be considered when designing and constructing hurricane defences: seepage analysis, global stability, short-term and long-term settlement (or subsidence), soil structure interaction, fluid structure interaction, durability.

“Hurricane protection barriers can be effective in preventing surging water from breaching and flooding cities,” the team reports. “They can also mitigate erosion to the shore and thereby can help maintain the stability of the shore.” An optimised and informed approach to the engineering of these defences can make vulnerable sites much safer within the budgetary and geographical constraints of a given coastal region.

Shi, H. and Tee, K.F. (2014) ‘Review of design and construction of hurricane protection barriers’, Int. J. Forensic Engineering, Vol. 2, No. 2, pp.144–151.

Social networking during a campus emergency

Emergencies at educational establishments are on the increase in recent years and campus officials are beginning to recognize that better communications with their students are now needed. Writing in the International Journal of Business Information Systems, US researchers describe how social networking sites might be exploited when an emergency situation arises to help safeguard students as well as keeping those not directly involved in the situation informed of events. The same insights might be applied in the business environment too.

Wencui Han of the Department of Management Science and Systems at the University at Buffalo, New York and colleagues, explain how in the last two decades criminal incidents such as shootings on campus, assaults and robberies, natural disasters including tornadoes, hurricanes and snow storms and disease outbreaks have put students and staff at risk. While sensationalist reporting in the media of some events increases anxiety for all those in education, it is true that there has been an increase in frequency of lethal shootings in recent years, for instance.

The occurrence of such events, whether criminal, environmental or health related seems random and, as such, there is no predicting when the next emergency situation might arise. Han and colleagues argue that campus officials need to have their response plans in place and that such plans should, in the era of almost ubiquitous mobile connectivity and social networking, accommodate these new communications tools.

Of course, campus administrators have already adopted a variety of emergency notification technologies, including campus radio and TV, warning sirens and even text and email announcements for their students and staff. Each of these channels should continue to be employed, but Han and colleagues argue that they all have their limitations and that social networking sites might counter such shortcomings for today’s always-connected students. One might imagine that almost every student on a US campus has a Facebook page, while not all will be regular listeners to the campus radio station nor viewers of its TV channel. Moreover, it is common that Facebook users are compelled to check for new notifications on their smart phones and other devices regularly.

The team explains that there will be little cost to establishing a social networking presence via Facebook or Twitter that could be promoted to students on enrolment and accessing the page or updates encouraged throughout campus life. These outlets, which might also include the likes of LinkedIn and other tools, could be actively maintained to provide additional useful information and guidance for students during normal times as well as during and after disasters or emergency situations.

Han, W., Ada, S., Sharman, R., Gray, R.H. and Simha, A. (2015) ‘Factors impacting the adoption of social network sites for emergency notification purposes in universities’, Int. J. Business Information Systems, Vol. 18, No. 1, pp.85–106.