A programmer friend of mine directed me to an interesting website that may have significant implications for the work of digital historians: http://thewildernessdowntown.com. It’s a website created to host an interactive film based on a song by the Canadian rock band Arcade Fire.
Some of you may have seen it already. If you haven’t seen it yet, you might be prepared to brush this off as a music marketing gimmick (which it undoubtedly is in part), but I think it is also an effective demonstration of (at least) two relevant technological features: HTML5 and the creative integration of Google’s mapping technology.
HTML5 is a new standard for web design language currently under development to be faster, more stable, more flexible and more universal than the current version of HTML (4.01). Specific improvements for websites built with HTML5 include the ability to run multimedia without plugins, an improved ability to drag-and-drop elements, and the ability to run across platforms and devices (i.e., one version for all browsers and all devices). The full version is still a year of so away by some estimates, but some people have started using parts of it. This website will give you a hint of what’s to come.
On a more immediate level, the integration of mapping technology is relevant because we are scheduled to use related technologies (geocoding/geolocation) in our own digital projects. Arcade Fire’s video uses familiar mapping and imaging technology to enhance the viewing experience.
Altogether, it makes me wonder what opportunities and obstacles lie ahead for digital history. Is faster, easier and funner automatically good or bad news for archivists and public historians? Anyway, if you haven’t seen this website, go to http://thewildernessdowntown.com and enter the address of one of your childhood homes. Also, whenever you see a flock of birds, move your cursor over it. You’ll be impressed.
Note: This website only works on Chrome and Safari.