We all know that content on the web changes constantly. How do we maintain a track of that content change? How do we play back history? Zoetrope points the way.
The Web is ephemeral. Pages change frequently, and it is nearly impossible to find data or follow a link after the underlying page evolves. We present Zoetrope, a system that enables interaction with the historical Web (pages, links, and embedded data) that would otherwise be lost to time.
Zoetrope uses technology to search and analyze data in an Internet archive. The search can be on a specific section of a web page (say, for example, a news headline section on a web page).
A zoetrope is a device that produces an illusion of action from a rapid succession of static pictures. The term zoetrope is from the Greek words zoe, “life” and trope, “turn”. It may be taken to mean “wheel of life” or “living wheel.” (Wikipedia)
The search can be then correlated with other contemporary (to the original search) searches and a picture of the search domain at that point of time becomes available.
Of course, this picture is as fallible or accurate as the web content can be.
What does this kind of technology imply for education? There could be multiple applications. I could trace the way the world political map has evolved or how a city’s traffic system has evolved by simply playing back such images from the Zoetrope system. I could investigate multiple factors affecting a certain economic situation which occurred 20 years ago. The possibilities are enormous. The technology then becomes a guide through digital memory and the playback a conversation that the “guide” could have with a student.
Interestingly, this is the second time in a few weeks that the term “playback” has crossed boundaries for me. First it was Google Wave that played back email conversations temporally, now Zoetrope.
What would be lovely is to have digital visual immersion into the past as well (or sensory at some point!). The context for the learner would be considerably enhanced by virtualizing the past rather than reading it from a book/online or listening about it from a teacher. This in turn would create vastly more effective learning environments. (Add Project Natal and we could even “be” in that world!)
The power of this technology may also manifest itself in forecasting. When engines become powerful enough to traverse this huge database and generate many more relationships/variables hitherto unavailable in research, temporal data could be modelled to generate predictions of future behavior using time series or other advanced analyses.