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.