Alex Horak, led the project’s design and development together with Krystelle Denis. Having worked on diverse projects with prominent museums, research labs, archives, schools, libraries and cultural initiatives, the team has amassed years of experience with and insight into digital collections and cultural data building pedagogical tools and designing ontological frameworks. The studio offered a unique blend of creative design strategy and proven technical competency informed and augmented by their critical perspective of the social and philosophical ramifications of their work and process.
Denis and Horak established the overall approach, concept and technical layout of the platform in collaboration with the team and technical scope, development of the data feed and usability of the digital platform. Since the earliest phase of the project, they helped develop a collaborative workflow between the technical development, object research and novel Benin-centred historical and oral-history data. They conducted the necessary design, server architecture and data structuring research and, in collaboration with the data engineer, set up frameworks for structuring and relating the data provided by disparate institutions worldwide in a functional manner which at the same time avoids colonizing the data anew. They developed a client-server architecture, designed and developed the interface and operational flows of the public client and its admin client, and all the while ensured the use of trusted and reliable software frameworks and practices. From the beginning of the project, they set up the framework that research will inform the development of the platform’s data, documentation, linking, weaving, usability and mobile friendliness. They immediately developed twelve internal, custom-built software tools for the research and linking of the data received for the project before prototyping, testing and developing the back end and front end. Their focus on mobile use and experience led to the development of the platform in its current state and to the technical documentation for the long-term host.
Alex Horak is a software engineer and designer with a background in human-computer interaction. He has worked across various disciplines, from research in the fields of Science and Technology Studies (STS) and brain-computer interfaces at the University of Michigan, to chief technology officer at the software productivity company Fetchnotes. Most recently, he has helped grow social movements like the Dear Black Women Project, a strong community of affirmation-based support, as well as brought to life humanitarian research such as SMS Pantry, which provided resources to people with food insecurity in the USA. He also worked at the Japan Disasters Archive which documents stories and resources relating to the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, as well as on experimental museum curation while working for metaLAB at Harvard. He now co-runs Behavior/time, a multidisciplinary design and development studio.