Monday, October 27, 2008

Interface for Storytelling: Jonathan Harris

I came across Jonathan Harris in his Pop!Cast from the Pop!Tech conference. In this podcast, which is featured below, Jonathan shares his passion for creating storytelling platforms. These "platforms" are innovative interactive interfaces that enable the "listener" to engage in the story on multiple different levels. The two of these platforms that I have explored offer different approaches to storytelling that are reflective of the different nature of the content itself. They are unlike the more common interactive storytelling approaches embodied by YouTube's annotation feature.

The Whale Hunt (link to site)
The Whale Hunt storytelling platform was developed to document the nine days that Jonathan spent living with an Inupiat Eskimo family in North West Alaska. This voyage was captured in thousands of photographs, approximately one photograph was taken every five seconds. The design of the website enables users to interact with the story in many interesting ways, supported by the story's content and medium.

Users are able to: see a graphical representation of the excitement level felt by Jonathan throughout the timeline of the story; select sections of the story based on the context (village or artict ocean), content (whale hunting, traveling), and color of the picture; view substories related to other "cast" members. Check out how Jonathan describes his own interface, where he provides a brief overview of the challenges he faced.

We Feel Fine (link to site)
The We Feel Fine storytelling platform differs considerably from the Whale Hunt. This difference is driven in large part by the type of content featured on each site. Whereas the Whale Hunt features content that is extremely detailed and specifically created for the purpose of the storytelling site, the content on We Feel Fine is harvested from blogs across the world. Each sentence is selected because it contains the world "feel".

These snippets of copy are analyzed to capture the "feeling" being expressed and are then compiled with data regarding each blogger's gender and age, and local weather information. Finally they are made available via a truly unique interface, here is a quote from the description of the interface by Jonathan, and co-creator Sep Kamvar: "The interface to this data is a self-organizing particle system, where each particle represents a single feeling posted by a single individual." (check out the full description here.)

Jonathan Harris - Pop!Cast

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