Home > Uncategorized > The Fire’s Beginning to Start in the Wilderness Downtown

The Fire’s Beginning to Start in the Wilderness Downtown

If the new interactive film and music experiment from the Canadian indie rock artists Arcade Fire hasn't come up in the RSS feed or social media platform of choice, it is time to recalibrate or adjust priorities. Because this experience is engaging, challenging, and everything that social media should be. 

Upon traveling to the experiment site via the band's website or other portals users are met with an interesting price of entry: "the address of the home where you grew up." In an era of privacy concerns a user might balk at such a request; but it's worth it. The experiment then goes on to use Google Street View information tied to the given address to propagate the scenery of the interactive film. Immediately users have engagement via relevant images on the screen; this is the user's world as the palate for the media. 

While it's easy to get caught up in the "Hey that's my house" aspect of the interactive film there is also an element of challenge. While net neutrality is still fresh in the collective unconsciousness, only the early adopters of the HTML 5 variety can come play these reindeer games. The development channel and stable versions of Google Chrome are recommended as the film is a Google HTML 5 experiment. So while a browser might need to be upgraded or downloaded it is important to note that experience is the offered incentive here, and what an experience it is. The website itself puts it best by calling it "choreographed windows" – the images beautifully collect, converge, and collapse while interweaving locations from the user's immediate world. 

Choreographed windows, interactive flocking, custom rendered maps, real-time compositing, procedural drawing, 3D canvas rendering… this Chrome Experiment has them all. "The Wilderness Downtown" is an interactive interpretation of Arcade Fire's song "We Used To Wait" and was built entirely with the latest open web technologies, including HTML5 video, audio, and canvas.

But upon several viewings what resonates is that this is what the internet and social media should be for users. An interest in the music or some aspect of the interactive experience spurs engagement on the part of the user. The experiment then takes data relevant to the user's life in the form of street images and "advice to a younger self" and weaves it all into the overall work. The effect is simultaneously unsettling and compelling. For in this world images flow from window to window and style to style all while building an audio/visual message. Once this message is crafted the user can then choose a new starting point from which to renew the experience, or share what they've done with others. is this not a suitable approach to learning also? 

While the debate surrounding whether Flash or HTML 5 is the superior format rages on one thing is clear; all future notions of literacy must contain a visual component. This video experiment provides an outlier of what social media use could be. A great deal of talk in the educational world attempts to encompass what exactly 21st Century Skills are while struggling with whether textual or visuals elements should have prominence in instruction when the answer is simply "yes."

It is fitting that one of the first singles from Arcade Fire's album is entitled "Ready to Start." As a recent review of the album notes: 

The Suburbs delivers a life-affirming message similar to Funeral's: We're all in this together.

This is what art does; it shows what can be possible in the world of those that behold it. Everyone's in this, change is here, and one must be ready to start. Below is a version of the experiment tailored to this writer's environment. What's yours like? 

Categories: Uncategorized
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