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The Foundation's MediaText™ project explores means by which dance scholarship may be enhanced by the use of digital technology.

Our investigations have shown that there are today two major issues that greatly inhibit the study of "dance history and theory " in typical academic institutions: (1) the limited availability of key source materials, and (2) the difficult integration of multi-platform materials into coursework. We believe that dance scholarship would be substantially enhanced for educators, students and practicing scholars by addressing these problems systematically.

Screenshot detail from MediaText Demo

We are working on the development of an Internet- or intranet-based system, entitled MediaText™, which would provide (1) a central repository of materials to be used for scholarly purposes by students, faculty and working scholars, and (2) a set of software tools that will facilitate the research, analysis and presentation of information by them in a time-based format that is appropriate to dance.

As now envisioned, MediaText™ would enhance accessibility by the aggregation of various types of source materials, such as video, music, music and dance scores, commentaries, photographs, prior scholarship and diaries in one digital and integrated “meta” collection. Dance educators and scholars have uniformly agreed that the availability of such materials in one format could fundamentally and irrevocably change dance scholarship, thus changing the place dance holds in our culture.

In addition, MediaText™ would provide a set of software tools to make it possible for users (e.g., teachers, scholars and students) to more effectively organize, analyze and create coursework, essays and multimedia lectures. For example, it would be possible to search videos of complete dance performances for specific segments, to hyperlink or embed moving images or audio to support a particular dance-related thesis, and even to compare or contrast various representations of the same performance.

We are also acutely aware, in part from the recent mistakes of many pioneers in the digital content and archiving area, that issues must be addressed that go beyond the mere building of the technology. Indeed, the Mellon Foundation’s recent study of multimedia educational tools (see confirmed initial conclusions by emphasizing that a slew of user, legal, educational and project-sustainability challenges must be resolved and addressed in a comprehensive strategic plan before fully investing in or building this type of technology.

Thus, a sustainability model must be developed that is realistic in its approach to costs, rights clearance, organization and content development, as well as other complex factors. We have attempted to learn from and incorporate the successful components of already existing working models into our work.

Based on a “Resources for Change: Technology” grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, we undertook the development of a stand-alone prototype, that could be used to demonstrate to potential partners the value of the project.

Screenshot detail from MediaText Demo

If you would like more information on MediaText or would like to make a contribution to this project please contact The George Balanchine Foundation.


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