Interactivity is a tricky thing to accomplish on the web. That’s what I learned from this week’s reading at least. It seems like it would be very simple to make sure your site is interactive, but as usual there’s much more involved on the back end than I realized before. By nature, websites are interactive. People click around on them, read text, watch videos, or look at images. For me, I figured it wouldn’t be hard to make my site interactive. Apparently, I wasn’t thinking hard enough, or perhaps creatively enough. I’ve been working on the basics of interactivity, but as the reading and website visit from this week showed, there’s much more people can, and should, be doing on a website than just reading and clicking.
This week we looked at the website The Lost Museum. I was happy to do this because when I took the first Clio course back in the fall 2013 semester, I actually reviewed this site. It wasn’t until after I made my selection on which site to review that I discovered I chose the site that the professor, Dr. Michael O’Malley, had helped create. Lucky me. When you visit this site the first thing that stands out is how dated it is. It was created over ten years ago at this point, and it shows. The site overall is a bit cheesy. I think that’s the biggest risk that historians encounter if they want to make a site like this. The Lost Museum tries to mimic the appearance and interactivity of computer games. That’s a tough task because those games are constantly updating and are more focused on graphics and game play as opposed to making sure the user learns something. When I presented my review to class, Dr. O’Malley affirmed these thoughts. He said they had a tough time determining just how to make a website both fun and educational. I don’t envy that task, as I am struggling just to make my website educational.
I really enjoyed reading the article by Joshua Brown that accompanied this web visit. That article gave me a chance to really see what the creators’ intentions were for this site. I like the idea. Learning should be fun and they tried to merge video games with learning. While the idea is excellent, it’s clear that the results were lacking. As Brown notes, “the narrative outcomes were preordained, confirming only the predominance of designers over users–as demonstrated by ‘test’ audiences of teachers and students who gleefully clicked on different 3-D exhibits but professed utter bewilderment about the significance of what they found.” I remember some history classes in high school where the teachers had us use some type of learning game like this. And I’m pretty sure I fell into the pattern Brown describes of not really learning much. Nonetheless, I certainly applaud the effort to make an immersive history site. And I really like feature they added that allows the user to search the archive for specific terms and data. But the fact that this site is so “corny,” (this might be too harsh a word) takes away from the information it presents. For the generation who grew up with video games and computers, this type of site might actually prevent learning, rather than encouraging it.