Visualizing stories

Jonathan Harris spent 9 days with the Inupiat Eskimos in Alaska, documenting their way of life, and their Spring tradition of whale hunting. He methodically took a photo every 5 minutes, even going as far as to use a chronometer to keep his camera going while asleep. The results are shown on this amazing web site.

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He’s trying to use the images and the data associated with them (time of day, theme, “cast members” etc), to explore and develop new interfaces for presenting and navigating narratives. The site is beautifully executed, with some really nuanced interaction devices and visualizations (particularly those exploiting time, like the pinwheel timeline shown below).

 

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It’s a hugely inspirational site, with a lot of beautifully executed ideas. In the rush of user interfaces, though, I feel like the story is lost, somehow, and that this scientific an approach to storytelling leaves the “reader” a little adrift. It’s somehow a bit cold from a human point of view, like a beautiful illustrated Victorian scientific catalogue. Even so, it’s great to see him reaching so far and testing this approach so rigorously, and with such a keen eye for execution.

The Whale Hunt / A storytelling experiment / by Jonathan Harris

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