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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University December 1, 2008 | Vol. 38 No. 13
JHU, MICA Students Give Arts Journal a New Life Online

In a nod to the original journal that didn't have a set logo, the students have created numerous versions that appear randomly.
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By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

An avant-garde publication that chronicled Baltimore's thriving arts scene has been reborn online thanks to a group of students from Johns Hopkins and the Maryland Institute College of Art working together in a new cross-institutional class made possible through an Arts Innovation grant.

The Arts Innovation initiative, launched at Johns Hopkins in 2006, is designed to help faculty develop undergraduate interdisciplinary courses — across departments, divisions or institutions — that create new educational opportunities in the arts for Homewood students, and to help undergraduates create new co-curricular activities in the arts or significantly increase the impact of existing ones within both the university and Baltimore communities.

The class was listed in the Johns Hopkins Film and Media Studies curriculum as Arts, New Media, Community: Creating an Online Arts Journal for Baltimore. The class exists at MICA as Interactive Spaces and is listed under its Interactive Media program.

The three-credit course presented the dozen students who enrolled an unprecedented opportunity to collaborate with both each other and local artists to create and produce content for Radar Redux, a new online journal of arts and culture. The "beta version" of the site,, went live last week and will be tweaked throughout the remainder of the semester.

The site gets its name from Radar, a quarterly pocket-sized journal published by the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance from 2002 to 2005. At its height, the journal had a circulation of 10,000.

Viewing the Web as the communication tool of the future, the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance decided that if it were to relaunch Radar, the Internet was the way to go. The GBCA also wanted to tap into the talent pool at area universities.

Linda DeLibero, associate director of the Film and Media Studies Program, said that when she and Joan Freedman, director of the Digital Media Center, first learned of the plans for Radar Redux, they immediately knew it was a great fit for Johns Hopkins students. Freedman came up with the idea of applying for the Arts Innovation grant and, after the two brainstormed, DeLibero wrote the grant proposal and worked with Jack Livingston of GBCA, who came up with the course outline.

Like its predecessor, Radar Redux shows off the diversity of the local arts scene through interviews, reviews and features on artists, venues, festivals and the cast of characters that populate the city's cultural scene.

The students haven't stopped there, however. The site also features blogs, photo essays and audio/video content that give a flavor of the local arts scene and allow contributors to showcase their own work. One student documented the drive along I-83 with a film using a sepia tone technique. A group plans to podcast an interview with Rebecca Alban Hoffberger, founder and director of the American Visionary Art Museum. In the future, the site could feature live broadcasts.

Livingston, who serves as the class instructor, said that the goal of the course was to empower students through classroom and real-life experience to become "active innovators in the field of socially engaged interactive media."

He said the content blurs the line of journalism. In addition to traditional reviews and features, contributors can post essays and commentaries on culture, such as the practice of Buddhism.

"We wanted to give the site's visitors a sense of the arts scene here in a broad sense," said Livingston, who serves as the site's executive editor.

Livingston said that the site is a good example of the next generation of Internet use, commonly referred to as Web 2.0. He said the students were influenced by Pacifica Network, the pioneer of listener-sponsored independent radio, and student-run radio.

"Both are democratic and at times messy," he said. "We are less interested in perfection than in exploration. What will this medium do? We have chosen the lens of arts and culture because it is the area that expresses the community in a vibrant and diverse way."

The students engage in all aspects of the site's development.

"They write the articles, design the site and create and upload all of the content. They have ownership of these ideas and this presentation. It's been like a think tank," Livingston said.

The site's design allows the contributors to post multimedia elements and shape the look of the content.

"In a sense, it allows them to self-publish and have a lot of control over how the final product looks," he said.

The class meets every Wednesday at a lab on the MICA campus. Livingston describes the classroom time as an editorial/design meeting where students can brainstorm ideas and collaborate.

Tom Smith, a Johns Hopkins sophomore majoring in cognitive science, said he enrolled in the course to pursue his interests in Web design and writing.

Smith said he likes how the class allows the students to build upon their strengths and benefit from the expertise of others. The students were broken into two teams, editorial and design, and given a great range of freedom to self-direct.

Smith said that the huge degree of freedom caused a bit of culture shock in the beginning.

"Most of us were used to coming into class the first day and [being] given a clear outline of what is expected of us in terms of homework, papers and exams," he said. "But in this class we were asked to roll with the punches and shape the project as we went along. The experience has been really nice, especially interacting with the MICA students and benefiting from their perspectives."

Smith said it's also rewarding to leave a course with more than just a grade.

"We are creating something from the ground up that will become a source of information for the people in Baltimore, hopefully for years to come," he said.

Livingston said he plans to build on Radar Redux in the future with other classes and with previous students who choose to stay on board. The course has already been extended to the spring, when a new crop of JHU and MICA students will further shape the site. The course name at Johns Hopkins has been changed to Practicum in Online Media/Journalism.

DeLibero has kept in close contact with Livingston and the students this semester to check on their progress.

"I know they are loving the work and are very excited about the journal, and the chance to get out into the community," she said.


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