NAM web development overview and update 30/04/2012

To develop an innovative resource for teaching and learning that will integrate images, audio, video and multimedia pieces into an innovative resource. The site will seek to draw connections between different areas of practice around the issues of the ethics of war reporting and the media’s role in covering and representing conflicts.

The development Methodology follows agile principles, rapid prototyping, targeting known problem areas, user testing and regular reviews of progress. Reviews will consist of workshop style meetings with the project stakeholders and live site participation and testing.

Objectives

The CONFLICT AND MEDIA website would consist of two connected sites:

  • Create a formal library of archived content from three archives ‘THE NAM ARCHIVE
  • Create an integrated dynamic ‘EXPERIMENTAL RESEARCH AND DISCUSSION’ section, which encourages users to experiment with the content from the archives and their own research.
  • Detailed user functionality specification please see here (user workshops) - http://blogs.arts.ac.uk/conflictandmedia/?cat=5
  • Users would not like the site overloaded with functionality
  • User would like the site to engage with as many ages as possible (accessible)
  • The functionality of the site will take advantage of the UALs existing http://process.arts.ac.uk/ site, which is based on Drupal.

Technical Development

Why Drupal? The initial consultations with staff and students at LCC helped define the web development approach at an early stage in the project, reasoning for many of the technical development choices can be seen here: http://blogs.arts.ac.uk/conflictandmedia/?cat=5. The stakeholder workshops identified site functionality very similar to UALs existing http://process.arts.ac.uk/ site, which is based on Drupal and is available for reuse, so we decided to take advantage of this adapt and develop the code. The key advantage of adapting the process.arts code was using a site and functionality that had been tried and tested in the development of rich media content communities, this was key given the predicted server constraints the project could face.

Constraints: The in-house team has first hand experience of UAL constraints having developed similar projects in-house before and had a trusted relationship and experience of working with all relevant key UAL staff.  It was acknowledged early in the project that the primary constraint for this project would be UAL server access and support.

Why an institutional server? An in-house server provides a safe and stable ‘affiliated institutional space’, which supports early stakeholder confidence and longer-term participation and contribution. Previous in-house projects working with institutionally supported IT services have encountered problems setting up internally funded server spaces, the primary problem is the amount of time it takes to agree server provision. Once these obstacles have been navigated there are further constraints with sites going live e.g. IT support, server access, security and firewall etc.

The Archives

The web team worked closely with the archive owners and explored the best possible solution to compiling the three archives together and including the research space. The transferring and presentation of the archive content was an important consideration, together we developed a generic metadata standard, which could be adapted by each archive to include archive specific data fields. We also introduced a ‘research tag field’ for researches to contribute to the crowdsourcing of data for archive items. 

Agile development

Having an existing live and agile development such as process.arts to work with, trial and demonstrate site functionality proved essential. The earlier workshops with students indicated students were unclear regarding their involvement with the ‘site’ after they have contributed their research, gained their 10 grades and left the course, a majority did not see themselves as needing or wanting to contribute to the site again unless their research demands. We arranged a follow up meeting December 8th 2011 with the students to show progress and demonstrate tools and concept, this was the end of their course and many of the students at first appeared to be not too interested. As we demonstrated the concept, tools and participatory elements of the site there was a significant sea change in interest, towards the end of the session the majority if not all participants felt a sense of ownership to the project and wanted to have personal accounts in order to contribute, manage and develop their original research content.

The NAM web team managed to source a local ‘private’ hosting environment to run small pilot testing on although this was not ideal. The NAM team continued to try and agree a permanent UAL server space without success. In March 2012 still without a NAM server we made the decision to take advantage of an existing UAL server space, which was offered to us by another project as a temporary home (our current server). This enabled the team to rapidly develop the site based on previous testing and development and the pilot live site was online mid March 2012.

Next steps

The site has lots of potential for further development but at this stage needs to be developed in collaboration with all stakeholders involved. The current site has a firewall preventing access form anyone outside the UAL, this is helpful as we need time to work together to agree functionality, user permissions and sensitive licensing issues.

Outstanding development list in order of preference:

  1. Budget review (see how much we can do within the remaining budget and people resources)
  2. Nam web development team to walk through pilot site functionality to NAM project team, students and archive owners
  3. LDAP authentication integration

 

  1. Test site needs to be moved onto permanent NAM UAL server
  2. More archive content needs to be added 
  3. URL (conflictandmedia.arts.ac.uk) needs to be pointed to the site
  4. Site links will need to be modified (no one to use the site until this and LDAP has been implemented,
  5. Project team and stakeholders approve the site content and feedback
  6. Archive owners to approve, understand and agree permissions, security and risk levels of how their content can be viewed/used
  7. Firewall to be lifted (clarify with IT the processes involved in doing this)
  8. Terms and conditions need to be agreed and posted
  9. Management and administration of the site need to be agreed before engaging wider stakeholder engagement.
  10. Training needs to be provided to admin and site stewards
  11. Plan for ongoing agile development and design of the site, budget dependent.

 

 

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This Work, NAM web development overview and update 30/04/2012 , by cfollows is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.
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