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Below The Surface

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Tale of a Table

Earlier this week (ok, I admit it, it was a month and a half ago...) I mentioned I would be writing a followup post all about some mysterious room in the Newseum, back when I was attending WebWise 2009 in Washington DC. I've been a bit busy since then, but I wanted to get back to that before I moved on to other things. Here's the story:

The room I'm talking about is the The Bancroft Family Ethics Center - located on Level 2. The large object in the center is a table with computer screens rear-projected onto the surface. It's part of a game in which you grab little reporters who are roaming around the surface, drag them to your editing area, answer a question about an ethical situation, and, if you get the answer right, contribute a story to the paper in the center. There are two teams, and the first team to fully complete their paper wins.

For example, when I was playing with the table, I dragged over a question similar to "You're the editor of Paper X, and learn that the reporter you've assigned to cover a story about a corrupt mayor is now having a romantic relationship with him. Do you pull her from the story?". Having watched a few too many James Bond movies, I said no, got the question wrong, and all the little reporters booed me. Oops.

So, what does any of this have to do with Voices for the Lake? Well, as our primary video editor, I frequently have to ask myself... if I find out that one of our video contributors is having a romantic relationship with invasive fish, do I pull the video?

Actually, no. I mean yes, I'd probably pull the video (This is one video topic I've yet to come across... although I'm sure it will come up eventually.), but that isn't why I'm interested in the room. I'm more interested because, as part of the Voices for the Lake project, we're building a giant, interactive map of the basin - to show where all the great stories we're collecting are talking about - and we don't know where to put it. Part of the trouble of finding out where to put it is that we also don't know what it will look like, and one of the ideas that has been tossed around is that it should be built into a giant interactive table.

Rather than touching the table itself, all you have to do is wave your hand over it, as you can see in the picture. When your fingertips (or camera... basically any point) gets close to one, they hook on, and you can drag and throw them around. A camera above the table, combined with IR lights IN the table, work together to make it all happen. To find out more about how it works, check out this Video Blog from the Newseum itself.

Also located in the ethics center are little workstations with touchscreens, speakers, and headphones. In their case, the activities on these workstations are seperate from the table. In our case however, I can't help but imagine navigating around a map on our table, finding a cool story that you want to watch, and then dragging that story over to a workstation. Once you've done it, you walk over to the workstation, and begin to watch the video. After you watch it, you could then be presented with the ability to signup with one of our stewardship partners for more information, or to actually get involved with a solution.

For example, I walk up to our map table, look around, find my house, find my favorite little swimming spot on Lake Champlain, and see that, nearby, someone has recorded a video about a toxic bluegreen alge bloom they saw. I drag the video over to workstation #1, and then walk over to the workstation to sit down and watch it. When it's done, I'm given the option to request more information, where I can enter my e-mail address and get a message with some more details on bluegreen alge. Or, one of the options at the end of the video might say "Learn how you can help monitor alge blooms." If I click it, I get another video, recorded by a scientist, talking about how citizens can signup to collect samples all around the lake, with information how how to get started. From story to stewardship.

Apparently, the key to frequent blog posts is keeping them short. On that note... "Publish Post"

~ Travis Cook, Information Technology Coordinator

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sounds cool! I think a screen built right into the floor would be fun - or into the bubble tower!