Site of the Week
March 6, 1998
How do you navigate a Web site? Through a set of links from page to page, or through a database, or perhaps via objects. Those are the standards. But what about a new matrix, that melds time, objects, the written word, and a content database? That's the ambitious goal behind Revealing Things, a jointly produced site by way of Silicon Alley's Razorfish and Plumb Design, and published by the Smithsonian. Quite simply, this is rethinking the medium at its very best. After loading several files (which moves rather quickly at 56K), a new window opens featuring a spinning 3D navigational helix on the left, a series of icons down the middle, and flash-card like content on the right side. The idea is to take the visitor through historical and cultural artifacts and eras (in this case, the 1900s through the 1990s) in a non-linear way. Following the loosely organized music trope, for instance, brings a user from the Fender Stratocasters of the 1950s to the farmed wood model Gibson Les Paul models of today, even as the visitor observers other cultural icons along the way. It helps that the content, in this case, isn't some Gen X musings on the meaning of urban angst, but the Smithsonian's cool-handed historical perspective. Some of the "trails" on the site are undeveloped. Eventually, users will be able to contribute their own artifacts to the digital matrix -- the new Smithsonian without walls that is taking shape. A larger, fully developed version is under development and should be available as early as spring 1999. This is a prototype, to be sure, but in the increasingly nothing-new-under-the-sun development malaise we seem to find ourselves, Revealing Things is a triumph.
Thinkmap. Visualize Complex Information.