This week, let’s discuss the visual storytelling experiment undertaken by Jonathan Harris, an artist and writer who combines “elements of computer science, anthropology, visual art and storytelling.”
Go to The Whale Hunt and explore the site. There is no right way to enter or progress through the site; you should look around and pay attention to how the story being told there unfolds for you.
“The purpose of this project was threefold:
First, to experiment with a new interface for human storytelling. The photographs are presented in a framework that tells the moment-to-moment story of the whale hunt. The full sequence of images is represented as a medical heartbeat graph along the bottom edge of the screen, its magnitude at each point indicating the photographic frequency (and thus the level of excitement) at that moment in time. A series of filters can be used to restrict this heartbeat timeline, isolating the many sub stories occurring within the larger narrative (the story of blood, the story of the captain, the story of the arctic ocean, etc.). Each viewer will experience the whale hunt narrative differently, and not necessarily in a linear fashion, constructing his or her own understanding of the experience.
Second, to subject myself to the same sort of incessant automated data collection process that I usually write computer programs to conduct (in previous projects like We Feel Fine, Lovelines, Universe, 10×10, and Phylotaxis). Much effort is spent making computers understand what it’s like to be human (through data mining and artificial intelligence), but rarely do humans try to see things from a computer’s perspective. I was interested in reaching some degree of empathy with the computer, a constant thankless helper in my work.
Third, to take an epic personal experience from the physical world and translate it optimally to the Internet, so that many people can share it.”
How does Harris’s work differ from the storytelling we’ve been reading thus far? How is it similar? What do you think of his approach?