Jan 24, 2009

Digital Storytelling Platforms and Multiple Perspectives: A look at the work of Jonathan Harris - Food for Thought for Interactive Timeline Design

I'm in the process of creating an interactive timeline, and as I revisited my links and bookmarks, I came across a link to a video of Jonathan Harris discussing his ideas regarding digital storytelling, overlapping threads, and multiple perspectives.

Jonathan explores real-life stories and celebrates the interconnections between events, ideas, feelings, and people. Linear narrative and linear time lines do not do justice to the richness and complexities of human experience
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"Combining elements of computer science, anthropology, visual art and storytelling, Jonathan Harris designs systems to explore and explain the human world."



"Jonathan Harris is redefining the idea of what it means to tell a story. Take a ride through an arctic whale hunt and plunge headfirst into the feelings Harris finds running rampant in cyberspace as he describes what he calls “storytelling platforms.” "

Below are links to two story-telling platforms described in the presentations. The Whale Hunt is organized so that the user can explore the story through a variety of perspectives and interfaces, and at different points in time.

The first screenshot shows how the user can select one of the "cast" members to see how the story unfolds from that person's point of view.





"Every few minutes, the system searches the world's newly posted blog entries for occurrences of the phrases "I feel" and "I am feeling". When it finds such a phrase, it records the full sentence, up to the period, and identifies the "feeling" expressed in that sentence (e.g. sad, happy, depressed, etc.). Because blogs are structured in largely standard ways, the age, gender, and geographical location of the author can often be extracted and saved along with the sentence, as can the local weather conditions at the time the sentence was written. All of this information is saved...The result is a database of several million human feelings, increasing by 15,000 - 20,000 new feelings per day. Using a series of playful interfaces, the feelings can be searched and sorted across a number of demographic slices, offering responses to specific questions..."


Jonathan Harris also presented at the December 2007 EG Conference. The video and related information can be found on the TED website.

Jonathan Harris: The art of collecting stories


If you have some time on your hands, explore Jonathan's Universe project:

http://universe.daylife.com/common/statement-universe.gif
This photo depicts the nine stages of the Universe environment.

"Universe is a system that supports the exploration of personal mythology, allowing each of us to find our own constellations, based on our own interests and curiosities. Everyone's path through Universe is different, just as everyone's path through life is different. Using the metaphor of an interactive night sky, Universe presents an immersive environment for navigating the world's contemporary mythology, as found online in global news and information from Daylife. Universe opens with a color-shifting aurora borealis, at the center of which is a moon, and through which thousands of stars slowly move. Each star has a specific counterpart in the physical world — a news story, a quote, an image, a person, a company, a team, a place — and moving the cursor across the star field causes different stars to connect, forming constellations. Any constellation can be selected, making it the center of the universe, and sending everything else into its orbit."

Universe was created using Processing, which is an open-source software that is used by people from all sorts of disciplines to create interesting interactive information visualizations and more. The data used in Universe is from Daylife. For more information about Daylife, visit the Daylife Labs.

Sidenote:
Jonathan Harris collaborated with Sep Kamvar on the We Feel Fine project. Sep Kamvar teaches classes like "Social Software" and "Computational Methods in Data Mining" at Stanford University. Sep is part of the Stanford Human Computer Interaction (HCI) Group.

Stanford's HCI group's weekly seminars highlight a variety of interesting speakers. Current and previous talks are available via Stanford OnLine. You can link to current presentations and videos from the Human Computer Interaction Seminar website. If you are curious, past presentations/abstracts can be accessed on-line alphabetically or by date, going as far back as 1990.

Dan Saffer, author of Designing Gestural Interfaces, presented "Tap is the New Click" on January 23rd, 2009 at Stanford.  You can access the
video directly.

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