User Interaction

Josh Brown and the Lost Museum are of a time in which user interaction looked significantly different than today’s web. Then Flash websites could provide some interaction in slow loading and clunky websites. Online gaming was in its infancy and the major ways people interacted with websites was through “guest books” or the very young social web where Myspace was king. In this world, the Lost Museum was novel and somewhat sophisticated. Yet, Brown’s self critiques ring true, the site lacked the unrestrained and immersive world of Myst, its inspiration. Now even virtual worlds like Second Life are passe. It seems that the historical web has had trouble interacting with public audiences compared to other disciplines. There have been marginally successful “crowd sourced” projects, and commercial sites like Ancestry.com are popular. Yet, historical websites frequently lag behind in allowing users to interact with sources, maps, or documents.

One area in which new technology could provide some of this needed interactivity is in javascript charting languages like D3. Where Jquery makes websites scroll smoothly and look more professional (but reduce accessibility), D3 provides users the opportunity to fully explore a project’s data. This is used to great affect with Lincoln Mullen’s Maps of Slavery’s expansion. The article provides a clear argument, but users can still interact with the underlying data by changing dates, hovering over specific counties, or playing with a variety of other options. This becomes a model for more active learning because users can see how changing options affect the population of slaves and free blacks across time and place. Plus it just looks cool!

My comment on Ben’s site.

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