Professor Plum in the ballroom with the candlestick (or interactivity for historians)

Although Joshua Brown notes how the games Myst and Doom provided some  conceptual influences for “The Lost Museum” project, I have to admit that as I worked my way through the site I was more reminded of a cross between Clue and Choose Your Own Adventure books. The Lost Museum focuses on the interactive aspect of piecing together who the museum’s arsonist might have been and exploring the reconstructed museum space. As Lindsey points out, one of the limitations is that many interesting items or images aren’t clickable or connected to further information. The project also provides a standard fully searchable archive and educational tools to help teachers and students maximize their experiences.

Brown is highly critical of what he perceives as a narrowness of narrative choices in trying to find the museum’s arson, which he believes limits the viewer’s appreciation of the multiple perspectives involved. In contrast, I think that what he perceives as flattened narratives is more a function of the project’s frameworks and desire to provide an optimal interactive experience. Although, another factor could have been wanting it accessible and structured for younger students. This raises questions for me of what is optimal with regards to interactivity–within linear and non-liner narratives–and issues of accessibility, which we discussed as a class last week. For example, there are some audio clips to accent the content presented and transcripts are available by clicking on a link called “huh?” However, as far as I could tell (and I might have missed it) that information wasn’t provided in the How to Use section of the site. What does this do for hearing or sight impaired viewers, and what, if any, accommodations should be made?

I find that this concern bother me less than what I think is the disconnect between the archive and background essays with the 3d interactive experience. The choice to include the archive came at a later stage of development when project managers realized that deeper analysis and conclusions could only be possible with a clearer connection to contextual information and sources. In my experience, the archival material pops up in a separate window where I wish it was visible in closer proximity to the item in the interactive area to provide a more immediate connection.  Another pet peeve of mine is background music/sounds that can’t be easily turned off, not just for one page but for the entire site. It’s atmospheric for some, but I have always found it at the least distracting and at worst horribly cheesy.

Designing clever interactive elements is clearly a good way to get people interested in history as well as communicate information, but what does that mean for me as I turn my attention toward my design assignment and final project. I’m thinking about using basic Zoomify so viewers can explore the images in greater detail and some kind of area for discussion and comments, but beyond that I’m stuck and would appreciate any suggestions.

Addendum: this week I commented on David’s and Lindsey’s blogs.

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