Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

History alive!

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on July 21, 2009

The world shared a very important anniversary this week: 40 years since man landed on the moon.

Some call it the biggest single moment of the 2oth century; they all call it a day history was made.

But what does history have to show for it? It is a subject in decline, both academically and in the mainstream. That, however, could be changing and the moon landing anniversary has spawned a project which I think symobilises history’s rebirth as a popular subject.

Wechoosemoon1

We Choose The Moon began a week ago, and lets its visitors follow the Apollo 11 mission in real time. At it’s centre: a beautiful 3d animation showing key sequences including the Apollo launch (above). Original audio recordings from mission control and the lunar module let you relive the event. At certain stages you can click around an interactive multimedia display to look at video, pictures and audio.

You can follow history in real time, in not one – but 3 different twitter accounts.

It is a fantastic – and rare – example of multimedia being used creatively and with innovation, not to tell news stories, but the news stories of the past. And I really think there’s a future in this.

Wechoosemoon2

There is another one I’ve found, albeit on a newspaper site. Ted Kennedy: A Life In Politics, set in the same iconic era as We Choose The Moon is a multimedia biography of the brother of the man who uttered that immortal space-race phrase.

Less innovative than the moon landing story, it is still packed with beautiful images and video. What I really like is the carousel at the bottom of each chapter, giving you access to original documents from the past.

TedKennedy1

Could this be the start of a much needed retelling of history? I think history is a fantastic subject for multimedia storytelling to embrace. History is already leaving the dull theoretical debates behind for the academics; for the average punter I think an exciting new fascination awaits: focused on using video, original archive material and interactivity to tell amazing stories. It’s a heady mix of surprising facts, gripping narratives and great personalities. There might even be money in it.

Who’s with me?

Presidential mashup

Posted in Broadcasting and Media, Journalism by Adam Westbrook on January 24, 2009

A fantastic piece of ‘history 2.0’ from the New York Times this week.

They’ve produced tag clouds from each of the 44 US presidents inaugurual speeches, and then arranged them in an interactive timeline.

Like the tag cloud on the right of this blog, the words which appear most often are larger. Those which appear more than the average are highlighted in yellow.

New York Times

Copyright: New York Times

It’s fascinating to see the word “country” and “people” as the popular words, slowly replaced by “nation” and “America.” Note how Obama’s big words are the same as Clintons.

And a brilliant use of web 2.0 to help understand the past.

Hat tip: Cyberjournalist.net

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