This paper was written for MIAS 250: Access to Moving Image Archives. My group members, Kelle Anzalone, Megan Gruchow and I, interviewed a user subject specialist in order to determine the ways in which the Dance Heritage Coalition’s Secure Media Network website could be improved. One of the major issues that we discovered is that the language used in the site was not user-friendly. Many of the terms used are cataloging terms, which were not useful and, in fact, were quite frustrating to our dance specialist.
At the end of the quarter, our report was sent to the Dance Heritage Coalition, who used our findings in the white paper report on their digitization program.
My main contributions are in the sections on Video Quality, Copyright, and the Conclusions (as noted in the Table of Content with an *).
Report for the Dance Heritage Coalition Secure Media Network Site
Table of Contents
- User Subject Specialist – Bonnie Oda Homsey
- Related Websites
- Works Cited
On the website for the Dance Heritage Coalition (DHC), the mission states that the DHC serves to “preserve, make accessible, enhance and augment the materials that document the artistic accomplishments in dance of the past, present, and future.” One of the ways that this organization is accomplishing its mission is by creating the Secure Media Network (SMN), a searchable database of various dance library holdings in moving images. The “virtual research website” will be a great tool for users to view streamable videos and eventually search through photographs and other materials related to the study of dance such as programs and reviews.
The SMN as it currently stands has several areas to be improved upon. The site’s biggest challenge is that it reads more like a catalog for librarians instead of an online research tool for students, professors, and dance professionals. In order for the site to succeed the DHC will need to find its target audience and understand how researchers will utilize the site. To better comprehend user needs, students in Linda Tadic’s “MIAS 250: Access to Moving Image Collections” met with dance professionals to discuss how they would use the website. Students Kelle Anzalone, Megan Gruchow, and Staci Hogsett met with Bonnie Oda Homsey, founding Director of Los Angeles Dance Foundation (LADF). Her input and advice has been included in this report to demonstrate the important functions needed in the site for a more user friendly approach.
This report will provide suggestions on how to make the SMN more efficient for its users. It will focus on areas in content, cataloging and metadata, search functions, video quality, and general site functionality. The report will also recommend other dance related websites that could help serve as models for the Secure Media Network, as well as discuss possible copyright issues.
USER SUBJECT SPECIALIST – BONNIE ODA HOMSEY
As stated on the Dance History Project of Southern California website, Bonnie Oda Homsey is an accomplished dancer who has performed with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, Ethel Winter Dance Company, and the Hawaii Opera Guild. She has also participated with many foundations including serving as Chair of Dance and Arts Advisory Board member for the Princess Grace Foundation USA. As a strong advocate for promoting dance in an educational setting, Homsey has served on funding panels for the National Endowment for the Arts, New England Foundation for the Arts, California Arts Council, United States Artists, and many more. In addition to these accomplishments, Bonnie Oda Homsey is the co-founder of the American Repertory Dance Company which for the past twenty years has shaped dance reconstructions and performances as a tool for outreach and arts education.
Her published writings in journals and books, as well as a her position as a guest editor for Choreography and Dance, clearly show that Bonnie Oda Homsey is a strong candidate for becoming a potential user for the Secure Media Network website. One of Homsey’s positions that also demonstrates an important user of SMN is her role as the founding director of the non-profit Los Angeles Dance Foundation (LADF). Her work with this organization has led to an involvement in creating the Dance Collections Database (DCDb), a “free, online tool matching dance professionals/companies with institutions to house archival resources and ephemera” (LA Dance Foundation). Developed in 2011 by the Dance Heritage Coalition, the Los Angeles Dance Foundation, and the Arizona State University School of Dance, the DCDb’s goal is to preserve the dance heritage legacies by being an information portal for dance companies and individuals in need of library and archival assistance.
On February 25, 2014, the students in “MIAS 250” met with Bonnie Oda Homsey to present her with the DHC Secure Media Network site and gain user feedback. Homsey’s critiques and opinions of the SMN have helped shape the recommendations for this report. Considering that Homsey is a potential user for SMN, her insights are valuable to the improvements of the site.
At present, the content on the SMN is presented as PBCore records with only 327 entries featuring streamable videos. On the Dance Heritage Coalition website, the organization states that its next steps for the SMN will be to digitize more tapes and eventually “add contextual materials for the digitized moving images – the photos and posters, programs, critical reviews, and other materials essential to study of the moving images.” These future plans will definitely help with making SMN a highly used tool for researchers. In the meantime, there are some changes that can be made to the content of the site that will improve its usability.
One of the first content challenges is that the site is not very inviting. To change this, the Home page should address the mission and purpose of this site as well as provide information on how to navigate the SMN. There should also be a “Frequently Asked Questions” section which will assist with users in exploring the site for their research needs. A page dedicated to a “Glossary of Terminology” will be beneficial in describing what the search and browse field options are such as “subject,” “genre,” “location,” etc. Currently it is confusing as to what the difference is between “subject” and “genre,” which is why a “Glossary of Terms” could be helpful.
Another consideration for the Home page is to show a sample of the most viewed or most popular records on the site. This display will inform the user of the types of materials on the SMN as well as help guide the user in their research. Perhaps knowing what the most popular videos are on the site will shape the user’s research topic or argument. Since the SMN is for moving images, the site should have more thumbnail images or videos that will help in providing a welcoming feeling for the researcher.
Something that Homsey had problems with when navigating the site was the lack of consistency in each record. It would be helpful to her and other dance professionals if there was standardization to the content listed. She recommended a hierarchy of information for each record that would look something like this:
- Title, year created and if different year filmed
- Length of Piece
- Links to Repository and Company
- Copyright and licensing holders for choreography, music, and recording
In terms of context, there should be an explanation for why the dance was performed. For example, was this piece to commemorate an occasion or is it part of a larger production or is it part of a class or rehearsal. This type of content would be more useful for an outside researcher who is looking for information that is simple and to the point.
Providing links to the dance libraries/archives and to the dance company that performed the piece will also be advantageous in the research process. If the user wanted to visit or contact the library/archive that holds the moving image material, a link to the institution’s website would be an easy way to connect that user. Just as a link to the dance company’s website would help the user if they wanted to find out more information about the company and what else they have performed.
Creating guides like FAQs and Glossaries will provide better ease of access for the user in understanding the site’s function and how they can conduct their research. Providing content like links to repositories and context for each record will also improve the usability. When adding or changing content to the site, the DHC must always be mindful of who their target audience is and how their needs should shape what is offered on the SMN.
CATALOGING AND METADATA
While the choice of cataloging standards cannot be changed at this point, we have discovered through our subject specialist, Bonnie Oda Homsey and our own study of the site that the fields that PBCore provides could be better utilized. Much of the content culled to populate the fields in the database are taken from systems that do not utilize PBCore as their standard. For example, NYPL, one of the larger repositories of dance related materials uses the MARC 21 format of cataloging. This information is extracted and then ingested into the DHC SMN. What results is a wide and inconsistent range of data. For users this is ultimately problematic, since the amount and type of metadata can vary from record to record. As our subject specialist observed, many of the records were inconsistent in the way the information was displayed and what type of information was listed.
Our first recommendation addresses the need to have a cataloger comb through the data and standardize it. As mentioned this data is simply ingested and not moderated in any way. A cataloger perhaps in conjunction with a dance specialist should go through record by record and conform each title to meet the PBCore standard. While this is extremely time consuming considering the amount of data that has already been uploaded to the site, it would be beneficial to its overall usability. Dirty data, or data that is unsearchable is of no use to the end user. Researchers and other professionals rely on the SMN as a way of describing materials that are available at a variety of institutions through remote use. Without clear and concise information for them to view the site misses its mission. Conforming all this data to one clear standard, in this case PBCore, will make it far more streamlined and easier to understand for the end user.
After spending time discussing the metadata with Bonnie Oda Homsey it became apparent that the content had no hierarchy. Information, if it was present at all, was arranged willy-nilly and had no concise structure. Homsey suggested that the information be structured in a uniform and hierarchical manner. She felt items such as title, choreographer, performers, composer were all items that needed to come first in the record. Currently the content is organized by section dealing with Intellectual Property, Intellectual Content and Instantiation. This arrangement is not clear to the average user, in fact the wording used can be confusing to those not well versed in rights issues and copyright terminology. Organizing the information that is more useful to the users will insure the site gets used the way it was intended. This can include either arranging the data in a specific order, highlighting the pertinent information that users look for and/or renaming the subject headings. While some of these suggestions are easier to achieve than others any of them would be better solutions than what is currently offered.
Unlike some sites where clicking the search button will refresh your search, the search function on the DHC SMN site only serves as a place to enter information. In order to clear one search and perform another the information must be manually deleted. Our first proposition is that their be an option that allows the user to clear the search bar of its old content. This will enable the user to do new searches without having to do more work then necessary. In this age of instant gratification users will want to be able to get to the information they are seeking as quickly and efficiently as possible.
The search functions are as additionally problematic as the search bar. The options provided do not allow for a thorough narrowing of content. In other words those fields which are intended to make the results fewer and fewer are too broad and do not do an efficient job of weeding out those results which do not match the terms. As Bonnie Oda Homsey mentioned people want to be able to get to what they are looking for in as few clicks as possible. So what are viable solutions to this problem? First, search terms could be renamed. Currently some of the topics are vaguely worded and some titles could reflect more than one definition. For example, “Location” on the SMN site means where the video was originally shot. Location could also be taken to mean where the tape currently resides (i.e.: what institution holds the original copy of the tape). While this information is covered in the term “Collection” it is also not a good word to describe where the content is held. This term could be changed from collection to “repository”. Repository better describes that the content is held at that specific space.
Another search term that Homsey had an issue defining was, “depicted work”. She felt this wording was vague and did not easily explain how the user could further shorten their search. This term is not well understood by the users who are generally dance specialists and not information studies professionals or catalogers. Bonnie suggested that this word be change to simply, “work”. Work would more better explain that what is being listed is the specific work or piece. “Depicted” in the description may confuse the user since it doesn’t clarify what the term means.
In assessing the video quality of the DHC’s Secure Media Network our user subject specialist, Bonnie Oda Homsey, did not have any comments outside her concern for the lack of metadata. It appeared that the entries including videos contained significantly less metadata than those without video. While, after further searching, this appears to not be the case, we believe that there should be more metadata concerning intellectual content and property than there are for some videos on the site.
Considering that many of the transferred videos came from videotape sources, we believe that the video quality for the SMN is acceptable. In the DHC’s “Digital Video Preservation Reformatting Project” report, the authors state that “the expectations of quality must be scaled to the original and to be efficient, any approach for preservation must be similarly scalable” (18). Thus, the quality of the videos in the DHC website will never be of a higher quality than the originals and the quality of the current videos appears to be sufficient for use of the site.
Also contributing to the video quality of the transfers is the usability of the digital file, one aspect of which must be the ability to freeze-frame. As stated in the “Digital Video Preservation Reformatting Project” report, the ability to freeze-frame is important “since users must be able to view single frames clearly, to study details of choreography” (16). The video player allows viewers to pause the video in a way that makes the frame clear and easily viewable. However, when paused the play symbol in the center of the video appears, making it difficult to see whatever is in the center of the screen. While video quality for the SMN is adequate, the player functionality could be improved to assist researches.
As many of the videos are quite lengthy, and some contain multiple routines, we feel as though the addition of certain video player functions would benefit the users of the DHC website. For instance, if a preview were to be allowed on the time bar of the player it would allow viewers to see still images of the video and, therefore, permit them to navigate the video more easily. When re-watching a particular part, for instance, the researcher would be able to rewind to the specific part they need without any guesswork. Websites such as YouTube or Netflix currently allow for thumbnail previews before or after the point at which the user is watching. As many of the videos of performances include footage of the curtain before it goes up, or of dancers getting into position before rehearsal, this would make it easier for users to get to the parts they need for their research.
GENERAL SITE FUNCTIONALITY
Something the DHC should consider is how long it will take a researcher to find the information they need on the SMN. Is the process quick and easy or is it time consuming? The functionality of the site is an important factor in the design. In order to not scare its users away or cause frustration, the SMN must be clear and simple in its navigation and layout. For Bonnie Oda Homsey, a mother who was running a dance company while getting her MFA, a fast and efficient website is crucial in doing research for the short time she has free. Currently, the font size, face, and color of the text make it difficult to read the information on each record. The light pink font color for the search options is too soft and doesn’t stand out, making it complicated for the user to find what they need. If the background color is to remain white or a light color, then the font color of the text should be darker colors like black. The small size of the record entry content and title headings is probably a factor of the web screen design. The content of the site is positioned to the middle of the screen, with a large amount of negative space on the right and left side. The SMN needs to make the most of the space by spreading its content out over the entire space of the web page, which will therefore make it easier to make the font size bigger.
To make the site more visually appealing, SMN should make the titles and key names more pronounced and viewable. Larger font is a way of making this possible, as is using bullet points for the different categories displayed in a record such as information on the performers and the video format. Presently some of the records have their information just listed which appears run together and difficult to pin point certain data. An example is the “Dance Theatre of Harlem 25th Anniversary Gala (Kennedy Center)” record. It lists several descriptions of the ballet footage, but the font color and style and the way the information is displayed are distracting to the eye. Perhaps having some of the information indented instead of just one straight line down the left hand side might help.
One of the errors that makes searching a time consuming process is the difficulty in returning back to the main search function. When Bonnie Oda Homsey was trying to search for a certain dancer, she was confused as to how to get back to her search results. Besides just relying on the back and forward arrows on most web browsers, having a menu at the top of the page or a side bar with a tab for returning to the search results, might make it easier for users like Homsey to easily navigate back and forth.
When searching for a performance or dancer, users sometimes misspell which can lead to a no results search. In case this happens, it would be helpful if instead of just listing “Nothing Found” to have a “did you mean___?” function similar to Google searches. For example, if the user typed in the search engine “Swaan Lake,” the search results could come back with “did you mean Swan Lake?” Suggesting possible search options when users come up with “Nothing Found” might be more helpful and less discouraging.
As emphasized before, it’s important to remember who the user of this site is. Dancers are visual people and therefore the website should reflect that by being more visually friendly in its layout. In order to create a website that is user-friendly, it must first understand and appeal to its users and thus change some of the functions like color scheme, font, and navigation. Viewing other dance sites could help in determining how to change the layout of SMN into a more pleasing design.
Two sites that were suggested by our subject specialist were the Music Center of LA ArtSource Curriculum and Eiko and Koma. She felt these two sites were excellent examples of use of space and visual resources.
This site is well structured both visually and organizationally. It offers units for educators to use to instruct their students on various types of music and dance throughout the decades of the 20th century. Each unit, once selected offers a short description, a video and or sound clip as well as a ArtSource PDF for educators to use in class for instruction.
While the search capabilities are not very advanced the site offers a strong example of a well-arranged and visually interesting webpage. The space is well used and the fonts are appropriately sized. These are both things that are lacking from the DHC SMN site. Their site uses what space they have inefficiently and have no thumbnail images to better illustrate what information they may be describing in the record. While we realize that much of the metadata on the SMN site represents content for which there are currently no available videos an image illustrating the content would help the end users to better conceptualize the item and the metadata they are looking over.
The Eiko and Koma website offers information regarding the Japanese born choreography duo. The site design is basic but effective and gives the eye plenty to look over. The purpose of this site is similar to that of the Music Source LA site in that there is no cataloged metadata. However, much like that site it is an excellent example of how to use all the space allotted. Areas of interest are listed on the left side of the page and are easily searchable. Several of the categories breakdown further to help shorten the search time.
The Shoah Foundation’s website is perhaps one of the best examples of site functionality that we have yet seen. With access to the full site (which is unfortunately limited) users are able to effectively reduce their search through selecting various additional search terms. There is also capability to search within an individual’s testimony. While the metadata on this site is good, it varies for each type of video and has been customized to the benefit the end user. The strongest aspects of this site are its search functionality the ability to locate specific testimony within a video.
After reviewing the DHC’S Fair Use guidelines, it became apparent that the Secure Media Network does not always conform to the guidelines that are laid out, and that some of the guidelines themselves are vague and may not advise correctly for the fair use of dance materials. Looking at the four factors weighed in a fair use argument for copyright infringement, as laid out in Copyright Law Section 107, the Secure Media Network may be on shaky ground. Of the four factors, the SMN has a strong argument for their limited effect of the market value of the work, as many of the videos are of live performances and were never commercially available works in the first place. Also, the purpose and character of the use that the SMN is making of the items is educational and not commercial, making that factor strongly in favor of fair use as well. However, the items in the DHC collections also consist of both published and unpublished works. Unpublished works being more protected by copyright law, much like creative, fictional works, of which category dance collections would also fall under. Finally, the SMN’s use of entire videos and dance works makes this project at risk for copyright infringement. By looking through the “Statement of Best Practices in Fair Use of Dance-Related Materials,” we have come up with some suggestions for the DHC to revise their list to better ensure against copyright infringement for the Secure Media Network site.
The DHC’s guidelines for use of copyrighted materials in public exhibition and capturing copyright materials in recorded presentations are largely unproblematic, provided that the DHC ensures that its members are informed of the legal ramifications of copyright infringement of the materials on their site, and that the SMN is secure enough that there is little risk of illegally downloading recording the materials from the website (10-13). However, the first section laid out in the Best Practices document, which calls for the allowance of the replication of materials for preservation purposes, raises some issues. The DHC recognizes that many of their institutions may not qualify for Section 108 of the Copyright Law, in which libraries and archives are allowed to create up to three copies of an audiovisual item for preservation purposes. Were Section 108 to apply, it is still problematic, as it requires that the carrier to be obsolete, or for the videotape to be showing signs of degradation before preservation copies can be made. As many of the dance materials are incredibly rare, this is problematic in that there may not be any other records of these dances anywhere else in the world and waiting until they begin to degrade can put these rare materials at even more of a risk. Also, when using Section 108 to allow for preservation, the material cannot be shown outside the library or archive that preserved it, something that the SMN would violate.
As the DHC cannot use Section 108 to justify preservation of dance materials, the main justification that they use for Fair Use is that the preservation is, in itself, transformative. As dances are generally performed live, the preservation of the recorded dance is considered a different purpose (Jaszi 9-10). We feel that this is not a strong enough argument to support fair use as, if dance is a fleeting thing as the best practices guideline states, then the initial recording of a dance performance is the transformative aspect, and not the preservation itself.
Also problematic is the fact that the DHC does not set out guidelines for the number of copies that can be made. According to the DHC Best Practices, “the number of preservation or access copies produced should be appropriate to the current and reasonable projected needs of the institution” (10). Although Section 108 does not apply here, that part of the copyright law restricts institutions to making only three copies of a work for preservation purposes. It would seem, as that is the limit for libraries and archives, that it should also be a limit for DHC organizations. Admittedly, when it comes to digital preservation three copies is not enough. With any luck, the US Copyright Law will be revised to take into consideration the need for more copies in order to properly preserve audiovisual material. In the meantime, the DHC should take care to advise its members to limit their duplications to only three copies.
The preservation section for fair use laid out by the DHC allows for organizations to create preservation copies of their commercially available materials if the commercial copy available is of a lesser quality (10). This also does not align with Section 108, which does not address the quality of the unused replacement, and only specifies that the replacement be unused and fairly priced. This is an especially problematic section of the DHC Best Practices for Fair Use as it may be considered to have an effect on a currently marketable item. We recommend that, in this case DHC institutions contact the distributor to see if it is possible to acquire a reasonably priced, higher quality copy before choosing to replicate or preserve their copy.
The SMN is perhaps most closely affiliated with the DHC’s argument for fair use for academic support. In this section, they claim that making dance materials available is fair use when used to create access for scholars, due to the transformative nature of making a primarily entertainment medium into an academic study (14). However, further on in their Best Practices, the DHC states requests for materials by scholars be “justified in relation to their purpose, and appear reasonable in size and scope” (15). When using the SMN, there is no process by which users request materials, the videos that are available are always available, and the videos are posted in their entirety. Thus, the SMN website is in violation of the DHC Fair Use Best Practices.
For fair use of dance materials to be used on websites, the use must be in such a way that increases or adds to the value of the material (Jaszi 17). While the SMN makes dance materials available on the Internet, there are no outside resources that would add value to the materials. Again, the DHC uses a transformative argument for the use of the materials but we are skeptical as to how transformative the uses of the materials on the SMN actually are at present. Another issue is that to qualify as fair use, the materials posted online must be properly attributed and identified, something that certain metadata records do not do (Jaszi 17). In the cases where information is lacking, such as a missing composer or set designer, the website could potentially be in violation of fair use. Therefore, it is essential that the metadata records for the materials be as complete as possible.
To ensure that DHC’s SMN is safe from any copyright violation or legal issues, we recommend that they limit the length of the videos posted on their website. Despite having a strong argument for two factors in US Copyright Law Section 107 it is our belief that a judge could weigh against fair use because of the amount of the work used. In order to protect the SMN from legal repercussions we recommend either gathering copyright permissions from owners, or placing restrictions on some materials. We would also recommend that the DHC takes steps to properly warn its users about copyright violations by including a statement about copyright on the SMN website and by ensuring that there is a sufficient amount of contextual information for each video. With these changes to the site, we feel that the Secure Media Network, and the Dance Heritage Coalition and its member organizations will be better protected against copyright violations.
In order for the Dance Heritage Coalition’s Secure Media Network website to become a valuable resource for dancers and dance scholars, the DHC needs to first and foremost keep the user in mind. If a website confuses or does not appear helpful to users, the site will not be used. The SMN as it is now is bewildering and alienating, and could possibly discourage use of the site. We recommend that the DHC reformat the website, making it more visually friendly and making better use of the space that they have. Also, simplifying the metadata and removing any extraneous information will help to encourage use, by dance professionals and students of dance alike. We hope that the suggestions we have proposed are helpful to the DHC and will assist in making the Secure Media Network a valuable and much needed resource for the study of dance.
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