The Internet as a Ball of Thread

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The concept is simple. Provide an easy interface so that people from around the world can upload photos, drawings, movies, sounds, and writings to a time capsule. The inbox is open until November 8th and after that will entrusted to the Smithsonian as a snapshot of our time until it’s opened up again in 2020.

The project organizers are calling it a “digital anthropology project.” In terms of sheer volume, I’ve often thought that future civilizations will look back upon this period as one of the most richly documented times in history (where else are you going to find 500+ photos of insects having sex?). The cost of capturing events has dropped to the point where the biggest problem is going to be sifting through everything to pull out some kind of meaning.

Since the Yahoo! Time Capsule was opened on October 10th, over 27,000 submissions have been published and categorized with the most popular theme being Love (7,988) and the least popular being Anger (391). Other interesting stats on the Facts page.

For highlights of the most interesting submissions, visit the timecapsule blog.

From the artist behind the Time Capsule, Jonathan Harris, on the About page.

The aesthetic of the Time Capsule is that of a ball of thread, spinning like a globe, its shifting surface entirely composed of words and pictures submitted by people around the world. The thread ball concept relates to threads of memory and threads of time, where threads are taken to be any continuous and self-consistent narrative strand. When the Time Capsule opens, it displays the 100 most recent contributions, which form the spinning globe. The ten themes orbit the globe in a pinwheel pattern. At any moment, any individual tile can be clicked, causing the globe to fall away and the selected tile to expand, revealing detailed information about the tile and the person who created it. Using a search interface, viewers can specify the population they wish to see, exploring such demographics as “men in their 20s from New York City”, and “Iraqi women who submitted drawings in response to the question: What do you love?”. There are an infinite number of ways to slice the data, and each resulting slice then becomes its own thread, which can be browsed independently, tile by tile, like a filmstrip.

Oh, and keep your contributions to just the good stuff because we’re going to beam this stuff off into space just to see if anyone’s listening.

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