I’ve enjoyed Neil Oliver’s documentaries before and this three part series on the culture and general history of the Vikings is an enjoyable watch. It’s easy to forget how expansive their impact on the world was and how different the world could have been if the Romans ever got into Scandinavia.
Cory Doctorow is a smart thinker when it comes to computers and how they relate to our basic rights. Over the summer he delviered a lecture titled The Coming Civil War over General-purpose Computing and it’s a fascinating look into the future of DRM (digital rights management), firmware, security, openness, and how we as a culture relate to computers.
Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? (1985):
Game developer Gary Carlston, a founder of Broderbund, wanted to make geography fun for learners, so he spearheaded this early educational project. To say it was successful would be an understatement, as it spawned numerous sequels (players could track Carmen through the U.S., Europe, and even time) and a game show in the early 1990s. Play involved chasing down a master thief, the eponymous Carmen Sandiego, around the world and answering geography questions correctly in order to retrieve objects and foil her plans. Its success was not only in its popularity: it also proved that games were the ideal medium for making just about any educational topic, even those that didn’t usually get kids excited about, fun and engaging.
The Toronto Star recently published an article on companies creating serious games and the impact that they are having on education. I was interviewed for this piece about the work we’ve done at Wero Creative. Also interviewed was Jeremy Friedberg at Spongelab and the great work that they’ve been up to, they have a fantastic new web service for connecting educators to good interactive content.
Studying history gives us patterns that we will repeat if we don’t learn from those existing patterns (yup, those who don’t learn history are bound to repeat it). For example ,if we cut funding for social programs that deter gangs then the number of gang-related crimes will increase. That doesn’t take a long time to play out, but we do tend to forget. In the long-view of history we can find time and time again that civilizations that don’t address environmental concerns will eventually collapse, yet here we are in the anthropecene and experiencing insanely radical weather around the world (sadly, we lack the political will to do anything about it, but that’s a different post).
We need to study history in order to survive as a culture and as a species. We can use technology to help people understand the significance of the past, but before we get there we need people interested in history. Let’s use technology to get people at least interested in the past.
There are companies and organizations that are looking into the use of technology to get history on the minds of everyone. This is obviously a positive thing as far as I’m concerned. I’d like to note two recent strategies that I’ve come across this past week.
My City Before is an app for iOS and Android that literally shows the user images from the past. The app geolocates a user and then shows them pictures in their current area. Of course, it’s possible just to browse the collection at anytime.
It shows images with a brief description about the content of the photo, which will hopefully whet the user’s appetite for historical context and inspire them to find out more. I’m sure that the ability to see different time periods will entice people to wonder “what did it change?” and act on their newfound curiosity.
My City Before has a good scalability factor insofar that it’s the same tech applied to different cities; all it requires is a local historian to fill in the details.
In Toronto there is a project using QR codes to get people engaged with history being done by the Toronto Dreams Project. In essence, they are using creative posters with catchy titles to get people to stop and learn. If the person is interested enough they can scan a QR code to learn more.
I like the idea of using posters placed around town to entice people into a more digital and immersive experience than just stoping to read.