Civil War Conscription

Every war in all history has a different character that defines it. Much of that character is defined by the war fighters themselves. The morale, commitment, and ideology of the soldiers in a conflict dictate the course of the war.

The Civil War was the first war in American history that saw a military draft. Conscription, being the forced military service of all men fitting the qualifications, was prevalent in the Civil War because it was such a contentious conflict. Both the Union and Confederacy had conscription laws that forced tens of thousands of young men into the fight. The introduction of the drafts caused many people to lash out against their governments. It caused problems even within the respective armies as conscripts were perceived as unreliable and disloyal. Desertion was common, and executions were also common as a result. There were however loopholes, clauses, and exemptions that allowed some to avert service. Dodging the draft in any of these ways was looked down on and caused resentment from the men and families who could not avoid conscription.

Conscription is important to an art piece like the Night Before the Battle because it casts light on the mindset of the troops. Any soldier in a such a situation faced with death will naturally question the reason for their mortal danger. Many such soldiers would find the answer was that they were forced against their will on pain of death to fight a battle their had no personal stake in. Something so overbearing is critical to a fighting man, and to the artist trying to capture that fighting man’s struggle.


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Fun Theory

According to the New Media Consortium Horizon Report: 2011, many modern museums face the following problem with advancing technology: 

Greater understanding is needed of the relationships, differences, and synergies between technology intended to be used within the museum and public-facing technology such as websites, social media, and mobile apps. Too few in museum administration see the opportunities that virtual museum visitors might be bringing for fundraising, philanthropy, and specialized marketing. The dichotomy between the physical and virtual museum visitor is blurring rapidly, and both audiences have high expectations with regard to online access to services and information. Still, the notion that museums must provide comprehensive information and services online is a genuine challenge, especially for smaller museums. For larger institutions, however, providing such services has risen to an expectation from the visiting public.

When looking at how address the different connections and perspectives of museum pieces, I think of how I reflect on what museum pieces enthrall me most. Usually when examining an exhibit I find myself mentally evaluating it against other pieces I have encountered, either in the same museum or in past experiences.  I also usually get feedback or recommendations from people about museums or exhibits that they believe would interest me. Often times I get great recommendations, and other times I find it difficult to follow up on a recommendation either because I have forgotten or had trouble finding the suggested exhibit.

All of these seemingly connected components of my museum experience could be enhanced by a technological ability to expound my museum findings (and look at others’). This led me to imagine a technology platform that could provide the public museum visitor with a very interactive and customized experience. I began to imagine a system that integrated across multiple media platforms, specifically: websites, mobile applications, and social media.

This system would be similar to a Yelp! or Google Maps system; where users could provide feedback on their experience with a particular exhibit (or piece in an exhibit), the feedback would be available to the public, and it could be used to make connections to other exhibits/pieces (or even other museums!). Each user could at any point during an exhibit find a placard associated with the item in question, on it would be a digitally readable identifier (possibly a QR Code) which would access a digital indexing of that item on their mobile device. There others will have posted opinions or related recommendations. The user could add their own feedback on the spot, or they could use the mobile application to find other exhibits in that very museum that are similar or in some way related to what they are examining. The application would give concise directions to the other exhibit so the user could find it. Each step of the way the visitor would be able to leave their own advice and promote advice others had given that helped them. The system can also interface with social media by affording users the ability to ‘share’, ‘tweet’, or ‘check-in’ at an exhibit or piece. This would be visible to their social media connections and could possibly draw outside attention through free social marketing.

For the ‘virtual’ visitor they would see the result of ‘physical’ visitor’s actions. They would be able to look at a specific museum on a webpage and read up on different pieces before visiting the museum. They could plan out a travel path through the museum to make sure they see only the pieces they are interested in. They could plan ahead and purchase tickets in advance (ease of purchase means more visits for museums). Users would also be able to sift through other visitor’s opinions, and follow connections made by visitors to find other pieces of interest. The possibility exists that they may end up visiting a different museum than originally intended based on the recommended connections of a past visitor. And in the typical social media fashion, users could promote other peoples recommendations they found helpful or insightful; further reinforcing high-quality feedback.

There are obvious concerns, as always, with internet interactions and marketing. It needs to be moderated to ensure that users are putting up appropriate and germane information. This is an obvious obstacle that the respective museums would have to evaluate before opting to use this interactive museum system.

This system is an interactive way to voice your opinion of museum content, but also to help others find what they are seeking in a museum. The hope is that you help yourself in the long run by bringing more visitors/friends to museums who can provides solid recommendations that improve your experience. By posting our great experiences on social media we bring attention to a part of society that is being left behind by advancing technology and we refocus a waning interest. This will bring more donations, revenue, visitors, discussion, and (hopefully) progress to the entire museum/gallery community.

The Madness of Roland

The Madness of Roland is an early example of interactive and branching narrative. It is written with multiple perspectives of a single event. For reference it can be found at

To start, The Madness of Roland looks and feels very dated. Its navigation and styling makes understanding and following the story very difficult.

Beyond its organization and technological shortcomings lies a relatively engaging story. What is interesting is that while the different characters use the Siege of Paris as a background for their narrative, the story arc is focused solely on the character of Roland.

The Madness of Roland’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. Each story, or perspective of the story, has a very unique feel that is in many ways in direct opposition to other accounts. Normally the fresh perspectives would improve the dynamic story, however the different accounts lack adequate introduction which can confuse the reader.  Without knowing the setting for the account, the characters involved, or the time frame; connecting the ideas from one account to another can be difficult.

The Madness of Roland uses good language and strong dialogue. The individual stories themselves not only provide a different account of the Roland character, but the manner in which each account is delivered literary unique. The first account is given by a minor character who narrates his interaction with the major character Mandricardo. This is in a way a second-hand account because the perspective is Mandricardo’s viewpoint, but it is chronicled by his companion.  Roland gives his side of the story in a narrative form as though he is retelling the account to someone or logging it in a journal. It’s clarity and insightful nature provide a completely different view of Roland’s character than all other accounts. Charlemagne’s fevered and rambling account gives small pieces of background while maintaining the focus on Roland. The account from Angelica was given as a stream of conciseness narration of a very brief event.

Separate perspectives give an understanding of not only Roland’s character, but of the mindset and personality of each person giving an account. Readers can recognize different biases and irregularities from each character and it will facilitate the formation of a clearer understanding of the Siege of Paris and Roland’s involvement.

The Madness of Roland has strong writing and a good foundation for branching narrative. However its obsolete and troubled system of delivery (and acting) make enjoying the story more difficult than necessary.

Music as a Metaphor

Language tells us that music is a tangible object, beyond a simple experience.

The comparison is often drawn that, music while being mere air pressure fluctuations, has a tangible nature that can be manipulated and  experienced by the listener in a manner that they would interact with other physical objects.

People often say:

‘The music washed over the audience.” As though the music were water.

“The musician wove a masterpiece.” As though the music were a fabric.

“The composer built a beautiful symphony.” As though the music was a monument or structure.

All people who have heard or listened to music agree that the experience possesses physical attributes similar to other human sensations;  and its composition and structure shares qualities with common constructs of society/humanity.

Take for example the oft remarked observation that, “The music washed over the audience”. Music possesses qualities much like water. Music has peaks and troughs like the movement of water. People relate the moments of quiet and calm punctuated by quickened tempo and climatic crescendo to the tides of water. Continuity in music mimics the continual motion of water.

People often liken the composition and writing of music to the different constructive exercises, the notes and melody of a song must be timed, placed, and positioned to create a cohesive tune. This practice is much like the interweaving of fabrics and threads when creating clothing. Similarly composers must properly utilize different sections of his symphony to piece together a concerto. Each section has qualities and strengths that when tempered with others work much like the building blocks of a super structure.

Music also has a very visceral mental/physiological stimulation for listeners. Listening to music (that one enjoys) has many neural responses; many of which are similar to the sensation of touch (due to not only the actual air pressure variation, but the mental connections associated with sound) and genuine elation. Such elation is often compared to relaxing and pleasurable sensations, similar to the feeling of water over the skin. Music illustrates the Descartes’ duality of merging physical sensations of the body to mental and ethereal experiences of the mind.

Music is in many ways an abstract experience, for listeners with limited understanding of language or vocabulary it is often hard to describe what they are feeling when the listen to music. This confusion leads to simpler and more relatable explanations for music.

That often means using other real life examples as a comparison or metaphor.