Website broadens access to traditional Chinese arts, culture
The collaborative education effort between the U.S. and China now allows easier posting of content by scholars and others with an interest in China.
ChinaVine’s re-imagined website, ChinaVine.org, launched February 15, adding interactive dialogue and more robust social media elements to the six-year-old project that seeks to educate English-speaking audiences about China’s cultural heritage.
Scholars and students contributing to ChinaVine come from the fields of folklore, art, humanities education, linguistics, and cultural policy, among others, in the United States and China. Principle investigators are UO Arts and Administration Program Professor Doug Blandy and Kristin G. Congdon, a University of Central Florida professor emeritus and alumna of the UO art education department.
“While ChinaVine’s original website was rich in content, it contained few possibilities for direct interaction between visitors and/or the scholars associated with ChinaVine,” Blandy says. The redesigned website now permits ready access to content on the site as well as links to ChinaVine’s supporting social media. It also allows for interactive dialogue through text, audio, and visual materials.
The UO’s Interactive Media Group redesigned the website with a new content management system that allows easier posting of content by both scholars and the general public. A sophisticated tagging and search structure is also now available.
The redesign was done within a content management system (CMS). “Changes to content no longer requires knowledge of HTML, CSS, or Flash,” says Kirstin Hierholzer, director of the Interactive Media Group in the UO Libraries Department that facilitated the redesign. “This is an essential change when you want to create a site that promotes participation and collaboration to a nontechnical audience. Ultimately, though, the greatest strength of implementing a CMS is that content can be presented and accessed in a number of ways, serving both the casual browser and the focused researcher.”
Another advantage of the redesign, Hierholzer says, is that “we customized the administration tools for users based on their roles and privileges. When a public contributor logs in to ChinaVine, they see a simple interface that allows them to post to the "participate" blog and interactive map. ChinaVine scholars, on the other hand, have the ability to create artist profiles as well as scholarly pages about Chinese folk art traditions, cities, and provinces.”
Above: A screenshot of ChinaVine’s “Art” page shows the broad range of art forms the team has researched throughout China.
Elements of the website focus on eleven villages in Shandong province, folk artists in Beijing, and festivals and performance centers in four villages in Guizhou Province. In development are volumes on the Yi language in Sichuan province, the Song Zhang arts district in Beijing, the Gaobeidian Folklore Village in Beijing, and contemporary artists and musicians who incorporate traditional cultural aspects into their work.
ChinaVine consists of the website ChinaVine.org as well as a constellation of social networking sites in the U.S. and China including Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud, Vimeo, Flickr, Instagram, Weibo, and Toudou. The website’s name reflects this –"Vine" was combined with “China” because of the fluid, ever changing, and winding ways of culture.
Also associated with ChinaVine are two interactive blogs, EduVine and VineOnline. The mission of EduVine is to engage students in an online environment where they can explore their individual and cultural identities as they learn about the diverse and complex lives of the Chinese. VineOnline’s mission is to pique interest in participating with ChinaVine by posting stories on a number of topics.
One thrust of ChinaVine focuses on how teachers can use the website and related social media to help students understand how they learn about themselves and their own identity as they learn about others. “Our approach focuses on teaching participants how to successfully live in our global world,” co-investigator Congdon says.
The web-based project exists within the context of the “free culture movement,” which advocates that creative works should be freely available for distribution and modification. ChinaVine’s open content position allows participants access to most materials on the site. (While “open source” refers to the free use of software, open content refers to the free use of text, sound, and images.) ChinaVine content is licensed through Creative Commons.
Above: The “Welcome” page explains ChinaVine’s mission, introduces visitors to the projects and artists, and includes links to various topics the website explores.
The UO ChinaVine team, led by Blandy and AAD Assistant Professor John Fenn, includes Ed Parker (A&AA web services); AAD adjunct instructor Scott Huette; visiting folklore scholar Cuxia Zhang; Jonathan Liederman (community arts and cultural policy graduate research fellow); graduate students Nan Yang, Emily Dobkin, Yue Liu, Megan Lallier-Barron; and undergraduate student Ying Tang.
The IMG team led by Hierholzer includes Jon Bellona, Joe Depauw, Mark Hazen, David McCallum, Max McNally, Azle Malinao-Alvarez, and Keith Stedman.
The project connects with universities including Beijing Normal and the University of Maine; government entities in the United States and the Peoples Republic of China such as the Library of Congress and the Center for Ethnic and Folk Literature and Art; nongovernmental organizations in China such as the China Folk Literature and Art Association and the Beijing Folk Literature and Art Association; U.S. nonprofits such as South Arts and the International Research in Arts and Sustainability; and professional associations including the American Folklore Society and the Chinese Folklore Association.
Support for ChinaVine at the UO comes from the School of Architecture and Allied Arts, the Arts and Administration Program, the Center for Community Arts and Cultural Policy, The UO Library, the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies, the Confucius Institute, and the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.
A recent National Endowment for the Arts grant supports ChinaVine.
Above: The “Map” page shows where ChinaVine’s research is focused and allows user interface to learn more about each area.
Story by Marti Gerdes