Wednesday, September 3, 2008

9/2 Ted Talk Tuesday--Jonathan Harris "The art of collecting stories"

Today’s talk was by Jonathan Harris, an artist, computer scientist, storyteller, and internet anthropologist. Harris makes online art that captures the world’s emotions. In this talk he spoke on a topic near and dear to HealthEd, the art of collecting stories. See for yourself at the link below.

Jonathan Harris: The art of collecting stories

Harris looks for stories on and offline and presents them as unique interfaces. He leverages images, words and graphics to tell stories in linear and non-linear formats.

In this talk he presented a few of his projects including the website ‘We Feel Fine’ ( which searches the internet for instances of the words ‘I feel…’ and then presents those instances in a graphical way, displaying levels of happiness or sadness around the world. Corresponding images associated with these expressions were also displayed on the site. The resulting stories were simple, compelling one line narratives and images.

‘The Whale Hunt’ ( another of Harris’ projects, displays photographs of a whale hunt taken at regular intervals. Harris created unique interfaces to display these images as a timeline or in a grid. Users can sort by character, topic, or even color. This allows the viewer to absorb the linear story in a non-linear format by skipping from place to place within the timeline, and focusing on those details which they find the most interesting.

To see more of Harris’s work check out his website:

The group in attendance today agreed that Harris’ presentation of the stories he collects is exceptional. In each of his sites there is inspiration for presenting information in unique ways, which could accommodate a variety of adult learning styles, something that we constantly aspire to do.

Also, everyone who skipped today’s talk missed Barb regaling us with the story of her near death experience at the foot of Mt. Everest in which she was heroically rescued by a Yak in a blizzard…seriously it was a crazy story…ask her about it.

"Jonathan Harris [is] a New York artist and storyteller working primarily on the Internet. His work involves the exploration and understanding of humans, on a global scale, through the artifacts they leave behind on the Web."

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