Jonathan Harris On “The Web’s Secret Stories”

I just finished watching Jonathan Harris’ TED Talk titled “The Web Secret Stories“. Harris works from the assumption that throughout humanity there is a shared need to express ourselves through various mediums. In the digital age, we have a unique opportunity of charting commonalities and differences in human expressions through innovative ways. Harris has developed some very intriguing visualization tools in this pursuit.

We Feel Fine demonstrates “a madly swarming mass of particles, each of which represents a single human feeling.” All of these “emotional expressions are stated by people”, and it’s amazing to see what is revealed through this visualization tool. By playing with the settings, madness, murmurs, montage, mobs, metrics, and mounds, you can see some really neat results. Although I haven’t checked this for age appropriateness, a tool like this could have amazing potential in getting kids to write, responding to the impetus of a single, real, human emotion.

Universe is also another really interesting visualization tool that aims to “reveal our modern mythology”. I tried a few sample searches in this tool related to education, but sadly, the greater mythology (e.g., politics, presidential affairs, iraq) seems to overshadow anything relevant to my search. However, it is another neat tool. Both of these tools are described carefully in the TED video below.

Although he doesn’t mention it in his talk, Harris is also the developer of the older visualization tool “10X10“. I’ve always thought this was useful. (I believe there is something similar to this, but more powerful, anyone know that that is?)

This TED talk is worth watching if you are interested in visualization tools or looking at new ways of capturing the spirit of the times.

More Great Videos From the Digital Ethnography Group

Professor Wesch and the Digital Ethnography Project, the group that brought us The Machine is Us/ing Us, have released two new excellent videos on Youtube.

Vision of Students Today:

This is a short video summarizing some of the most important characteristics of students today – how they learn, what they need to learn, their goals, hopes, dreams, what their lives will be like, and what kinds of changes they will experience in their lifetime. Created by Michael Wesch in collaboration with 200 students at Kansas State University.

Download higher quality wmv:

Information R/evolution:

This video explores the changes in the way we find, store, create, critique, and share information. This video was created as a conversation starter, and works especially well when brainstorming with people about the near future and the skills needed in order to harness, evaluate, and create information effectively.

These will be excellent videos to show my colleagues and my students.