Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Yahoo! Time Capsule: One World. Many Voices

You and what matters to you.

Like everything Yahoo! does, it’s about you – our amazing users. We think there’s no one better suited to teach future generations what the world was like in 2006. For 30 days, from October 10 until November 8, Yahoo! users worldwide can contribute photos, writings, videos, audio – even drawings – to this electronic anthropology project. This is the first time that digital data will be gathered and preserved for historical purposes.

In addition to submitting your own content, you can view, read, or hear the images, words, and sounds contributed by users from around the world.

You can also comment on the content you and others have submitted – and engage in a digital conversation that is just as revealing and important as any of the content you’ll witness.

And by November 8, you will have helped create a digital legacy of our times, a mosaic of revealing snapshots that will be sealed and entrusted to Smithsonian Folkways Recordings based in Washington D.C., officially taking its place in history.

Finally, to thank you for your contribution to the Time Capsule, you’ll be asked to help us select how Yahoo! will donate $100,000 to seven global charitable organizations.


Why will future generations chant your username?


What will you save and what will you share? Your self-portrait. That home video clip that always makes you smile – or cry. A Top 10 list of predictions for the future. Perhaps the single photograph you could never live without. A list of what makes you angry. A special letter to yourself or to your children – just in case. A special class project. A letter to your lost love or to your boss that you’ll never send. The URL of your favorite blog, web site, or podcast. Perhaps it will be something banal. Perhaps it will be something beautiful. This is your time capsule.

So let’s review. You’ll be part of history and witness what other are saying and saving. You’ll have your handiwork presented to Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, projected on one of the most famous relics on the planet, AND then beamed along a path of laser light into space. This will definitely be something to email the grandkids about someday.



Jonathan Harris
Time Capsule Artist's Statement


A tradition as old as cave art, one of the most primal human traits is the need for self-expression. We make drawings and paintings, take photos, sing songs, write stories and poems, keep blogs, build and decorate houses, buy and wear clothing, write memoirs. We do these things to become individuals, to fight anonymity and the passage of time.

These days, life is lived in short bursts. We dart madly from the house to the car to the train to the office. We check email, voicemail, headlines, and stocks. We absorb web sites, TV, radio, music, movies and gossip, desperately try to keep up. We maintain this crazy pace, tumbling through our 80 years, obsessed with the present, rarely pausing to consider the full arc of life, much less the arc of many lives, lived across many generations. As we dash through our days, expressing ourselves in countless ways, leaving thick trails of footprints, we seldom stop and think about those footprints. We rarely consider the legacy we are leaving behind. But what if we did? What if we were each to choose a small handful of precious thoughts and artifacts to represent our life – a few words, a few pictures, perhaps a drawing or two – and were to put them away somewhere safe, as keepsakes for the future?

It is this ability to shape the way we will be remembered that makes time capsules so appealing. Time capsules have a storied past, stretching back to the first known literary work, The Epic of Gilgamesh, which opens with a hunt for a manuscript hidden in the walls of Uruk. The great pyramids of Egypt and Mexico are also time capsules of a sort, containing relics of ancient eras. The ruins at Pompeii, buried in ash for more than 1,600 years, formed an unintentional but impeccable time capsule depicting city life at the height of the Roman Empire. The modern time capsule was born amid preparations for the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City, when Westinghouse constructed an 800-pound metal ball, which it then filled with everyday items and buried underground. More recently, a satellite time capsule named KEO, to be sent into space for 50,000 years, has been proposed but not yet launched.

Building on this colorful heritage, the Yahoo! Time Capsule sets out to collect a portrait of the world – a single global image composed of millions of individual contributions. This time capsule is defined not by the few items a curator decides to include, but by the items submitted by every human on earth who wishes to participate. We hope to reach a truly global expression of life on earth – nuanced, diverse, beautiful and ugly, thrilling and terrifying, touching and rude, serious and absurd, frank, honest, human.

The Time Capsule itself is realized digitally so that the maximum number of people can have access. It is organized around ten themes, chosen to illuminate different corners of the human experience. The ten themes are: Love, Sorrow, Anger, Faith, Beauty, Fun, Past, Hope, Now, and You. Each theme harbors an open-ended question: What do you love? What makes you sad? What makes you angry? What do you believe in? What’s beautiful? What’s fun? What do you remember? What is your wish? Describe your world. Who are you? People respond to these questions in five simple ways – with words, pictures, videos, sounds, and drawings.

The aesthetic of the Time Capsule is that of a ball of thread, spinning like a globe, its shifting surface entirely composed of words and pictures submitted by people around the world. The thread ball concept relates to threads of memory and threads of time, where threads are taken to be any continuous and self-consistent narrative strand. When the Time Capsule opens, it displays the 100 most recent contributions, which form the spinning globe. The ten themes orbit the globe in a pinwheel pattern. At any moment, any individual tile can be clicked, causing the globe to fall away and the selected tile to expand, revealing detailed information about the tile and the person who created it. Using a search interface, viewers can specify the population they wish to see, exploring such demographics as “men in their 20s from New York City”, and “Iraqi women who submitted drawings in response to the question: What do you love?”. There are an infinite number of ways to slice the data, and each resulting slice then becomes its own thread, which can be browsed independently, tile by tile, like a filmstrip.

The contribution process is designed to be simple and universal, using minimal gestures to create words and drawings, and to upload files. Though translated into ten languages, there are very few textual instructions anywhere in the piece, so the experience is necessarily one of exploration and discovery. A clock counts down constantly in the bottom left corner, approaching the moment the Time Capsule will close.

The presiding message of the Time Capsule is: “One World. Many Voices.” The piece attempts simultaneously to express the differences between individuals, and to illustrate the shared ground between people of all ages, races, backgrounds and cultures.

- Jonathan Harris
New York City, September 27, 2006


Jonathan Harris

Jonathan Harris is an artist working primarily on the Internet. His work involves the exploration of humans through the artifacts they leave behind on the Web. He was awarded a 2004 Fabrica Fellowship ( www.fabrica.it ), and is the creator of such projects as We Feel Fine ( www.wefeelfine.org ), 10x10 ( www.tenbyten.org ), WordCount ( www.wordcount.org ), Phylotaxis ( www.phylotaxis.com ), and justcurio.us ( www.justcurio.us ). In 2005 he created the Yahoo! Netrospective, a look back on the first ten years of the Internet. He studied Computer Science at Princeton University, where his thesis was a system that automatically gathers and clusters similar news articles from a large number of online sources. The winner of two 2005 Webby Awards, his work has also been recognized by AIGA, Ars Electronica, ID Magazine, and the State of Vermont, and has been featured by CNN, Reuters, BBC, The Guardian, USA Today, NPR and Wired. He currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, and works as Design Director of Daylife ( www.daylife.com ), a global news service. His website is www.number27.org

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

(Sorry for the random-ness of this post)…

Four months ago I posted on many blogs, letting everyone know that we were trying to start a podcast (Rabbit Hole Daily) by people who had emigrated to other countries…

I thought it would be interesting to share all of our “misadventures” and news… I had hoped to get a contributor to/from every continent (i.e., a Brazilian in Japan, a Japanese person in France, a French person in Australia, etc.).

People leave their respective home-countries for all kinds of reasons; some people marry a “foreigner” and leave their country, some people take a job or do academic research out of their country, some are forced to leave for political reasons, some do it for the adventure. The podcast was designed to welcome all of these points of view. We’ve been working with mixed success to get all types of voices…

Podcasts are a great way to get complex stories out that would never make it onto tv or radio, and we’d like to use the medium to create something that’s informative, eclectic, and interesting, all voices and topics welcome (provided they’re well-written)!

At any rate, I’m writing to renew my call for contributors and say that we’re still around. We were accepted by itunes, we’ve been publishing consistently, and although we’ve had some technical concerns (people write articles, read them into a mic, then get them to me via internet or skype; getting it all edited evenly has been a challenge), we’ve just received some equipment donations by listeners that will make it possible to produce with ever-better audio quality.

Please consider listening to the podcast, and more importantly, contributing articles. (Articles are 2-3 pages, submitted 4-6 times per year, contributors are featured on our “contributor profiles” page, rules for contributing can be found on the “contribute here” portion.) If you know someone who has emigrated from their country of origin and is a good writer, please pass the word!

Thanks!

Bradley.

www.freewebs.com/rabbitholedaily
rabbitholedaily@hotmail.com