Digital Time Capsule

On October 10, Yahoo! launched the Yahoo! Time Capsule project, a brainchild of the artist Jonathan Harris. For 30 days, Yahoo! users worldwide can contribute photos, writings, videos, audio files, and drawings to this innovative digital anthropology project. On November 8, the collected files will be entrusted to Smithsonian Folkways Recordings in Washington D.C., and the data will be preserved as historical artifacts.

The time capsule is organized around ten themes: Love, Sorrow, Anger, Faith, Beauty, Fun, Past, Hope, Now, and You, each of which was chosen to encourage a broad range of submissions. In addition to creating a historical record, the time capsule's design is intended to foster online community building. Users can submit original content, view other submissions, and engage in conversation about submissions with other users.

Harris's recent work has focused on the exploration of humans through the artifacts they leave behind on the Web. His background as an artist/techie/anthropologist makes him an ideal candidate to mold the project's creative vision.

As he wrote in his artist's statement, " . . . the Yahoo! Time Capsule sets out to collect a portrait of the world – a single global image composed of millions of individual contributions. This time capsule is defined not by the few items a curator decides to include, but by the items submitted by every human on earth who wishes to participate. We hope to reach a truly global expression of life on earth – nuanced, diverse, beautiful and ugly, thrilling and terrifying, touching and rude, serious and absurd, frank, honest, human. The Time Capsule itself is realized digitally so that the maximum number of people can have access . . .

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."

With only 6 days, 8 hours and counting, there's not much time for procrastinating. Go and contribute now.