A Random Walk through the 20th Century

I wanted to post something about this since a long time ago, but never got down to it. A random walk through the 20th century is an old narrative/hypermedia system, dates back to 1996, realized by a bunch of people in MIT around the influence/direction of Glorianna Davenport.

This hyper-portrait introduces the audience to a remarkable man whose life centered on science, government, ecucation and issues of cultural humanism. Early in his career, Jerome Wiesner developed an audio recording laboratory at the Library of Congress and travelled extensively throughout America, capturing folk music by native performers. He directed MIT’s Research Lab for Electronics during the Cold War, served as National Science Advisor to John F. Kennedy, and eventually became President of MIT. After the end of World War II, Wiesner became a prominent advocate of disarmament and was a key player in negotiating the first Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

In this hyper portrait (which runs on the World Wide Web), we invite viewers to explore the Twentieth Centurey through an extensible collection of stories about and recollections by the central figure. We also invite viewers who knew JBW to share a memorable story with our growing society of audience.


Screenshot from "A Random Walk through the 20th Century"

The flash-looking navigation interface kind of catches the eye, I must say. A few things moving on the left hand side, a matrix inspired selection menu gives pretty well the idea of some machinery combining different resources into a new narrative. It’s all realized in Java and it combines video, audio and textual resources. However, apart from the technological issues (wonder what these guys think, nowadays, about ontology-based navigation) the choice of not presenting to the user the rationale of the narrative chosen can be a limitation.

Is the sequence of resources ordered according to an explicit purpose, or what? Moreover, sometimes the resources have no caption or description, and that makes it even more difficult to contextualize them within the whole.

The site is really worth having a look at, though!!



One Response to “A Random Walk through the 20th Century”

Used John Deere Tractors…

I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you….

Used John Deere Tractors added these pithy words on May 16 08 at 6:12 pm