Saturday, July 4, 2009


Digital visualization wunderkind Jonathan Harris has just launched his latest art and technology effort. Called the Sputnik Observatory for Contemporary Culture, it's a Web site and blog that grew out of a two-year collaboration with New York-based Sputnik, Inc., an organization that documents contemporary culture through intimate, previously unpublished video interviews with hundreds of leading thinkers in the arts, sciences, and technology.

A range of innovators, including Vint Cerf to experimental geographer Trevor Paglen, game designer Will Wright, science writer Philip Ball, and theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, among others, share "some of the most provocative human ideas to have emerged in the last few decades," Harris says. [Harris, himself, is featured, explaining his 2005 "We Feel Fine" project, a real-time survey of human emotions on the Web.] Adds Harris:

"The central premise of the Sputnik project is that everything is connected to everything else, and that topics and ideas that may seem fringe and even heretical to the mainstream world are in fact being investigated by leading thinkers working in fields as diverse as quantum physics, mathematics, neuroscience, biology, economics, architecture, digital art, video games, computer science and music. Sputnik is dedicated to bringing these crucial ideas from the fringes of thought out into the limelight, so that the world can begin to understand them; the site itself aims to highlight the interconnections between seemingly disparate thinkers and ideas, using a simple navigational system with no dead-ends, where every thought leads to another thought, akin to swimming the stream of consciousness."

Harris says there are about 200 videos on the site, and will be thousands more added over time. [Sputnik is a Russian word that means "co-traveler." It was the name the Russians gave to the robotic spacecraft missions they created in the 1950s to launch, in 1957, the first human-made object into Earth's orbit.]

(Illustration from Sputnik Observatory site)

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Anonymous john said...

The Sputnik site is a truly beautiful site, kind of like a scratch on the surface of some really interesting and deep stuff. Thanks for writing about it!

July 8, 2009 at 9:55 AM  

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