M U L T I M E D I A D E S I G N P L A N
- Information Design
- Creation of the CD-ROM Learning Environment
- Interaction Design
- Knowledge Gathering Challenge
It Can Happen Again… was a CD-ROM created as a means of teaching the Holocaust. With such a difficult subject to teach, the need to work with the audience in defining the nature of the learning materials was essential. Feedback during the design phase pointed to a desire to listen to the survivors. Using oral history as the basis of delivery, the project was designed around the temporal quality of sound.
Sound production has more in common with radio than television or film, with a contemplative atmosphere encouraging the act of listening. Listening is an act, one without physical movement but requiring concentration. By designing an environment around the voices of the survivors, the focus had to be on the aural instead of the visual. The atmosphere that resulted was a mixture of:
Such a difficult subject as genocide required an approach that was both simple and encouraged the collection of information. For those motivated enough to study the subject, such efforts might seem embellishment. The stories themselves were so powerful and compelling that the use of multimedia tricks and effects would undermine the focus on the voices. Yet this project aimed at more than the motivated audience. The attempt to introduce and motivate people to learn about the Holocaust required a means to encourage exploration.That means was defined as the discovery of the secret to Never Again, a motto that developed from the Holocaust. The title It Can Happen Again…. was a warning heard throughout the developer’s research into the Holocaust, from historians in Israel to Eli Wiesel’s speech in Chico, California. Yet the notion of a warning implied that this capacity of human beings was always to be watched for, was always a threat. While a valid statement, such validity undermines the willing suspension of disbelief that perhaps a different future and history can be learned from the Holocaust, one summed up by the title, Never Again.Never Again was found to be a commitment to never allowing another Holocaust to happen. Such a construct involved a belief, and literary license to believe, that a different future could be created by human beings.
The spirit of the survivor Helen L. influenced this design, a woman who suffered and witnessed horrible events but emerged in her own words, “a better human being”. The audience was challenged to emulate this outlook by searching for the keys to evolving from a world of warning and fear of the capacity for evil, into a world driven by the belief in the capacity of good. Such an approach may sound naive, but the cynicism of the opposite belief left little room to approach the subject. Space of thought, movement, and listening were the primary design elements that shaped this CD-ROM.
Space to Think, Move, and Listen
Multimedia is often conceived and delivered as a spatial design, focusing on numerous choices and graphics to provide rapid delivery. The emphasis on speed, surfing through screen choices, and the physical design of the screen is built on the assumption that the room to move around and test things out is paramount. Interactivity is often viewed as a spatial behavior, conceived solely in terms of moving a mouse and clicking.By such a spatially-based design, multimedia puts a burden of thought in the act of movement. A learner must first learn to manipulate the interface before moving through the layers of information. The means of organizing that information and moving through it provides further challenges. All together, the spatial nature of multimedia undermines its effectiveness by the use of the interface as a shell of information. Inherently, interface design requires a spatial approach to organize the information. If that interface becomes a focus of learning, it impedes the ability to think, listen, and interact, by thought, with the information. Interaction is based on the thought of navigation, unless the interface is simple enough to understand intuitively.
The primary resources of this project were the voices of survivors, videotaped by Bill Graham’s Oral History Project. These treasures of experience are meant as a form of passing down history. Given the inadequate capabilities and memory constraints that video provides, the choice was clear. The audience wanted to listen to the stories; audio files were the best means to deliver them to the widest audience. Yet one cannot see voices, cannot click through them to cohesively hear a story.
The space to listen was a tradition that storytelling and oral history had created. Sitting down with someone who shares their past experiences is an interactive experience, drawing in the performing quality of live theatre with the power of transmitting history. Storytelling, not multimedia technology, was selected as the influence for this CD-ROM because the space to listen, move, and think was found in the stories. The transformative nature of the survivors’ experiences could be heard in their words. The screen used a black background with blue Hypertext as a simple focus on stories, titles, experiences, and access to those voices. Unlocking the stories was a case of finding the blue (or green words, if selected more than once) Hypertext.
The complex nature and interactions of history surrounding the Holocaust made it virtually impossible for a single teacher to address. Fewer than 8 states in the U.S. required that it even be taught. For most students, learning about the Holocaust meant a perfunctory reading of Anne F. and a dose of bodies being bulldozed. Interactive multimedia promised to go beyond the myths into an integrated lesson plan controlled by the student. This project aimed at a custom design based on evaluation and feedback by students during development to create the final product.. The result was a project based on storytelling and listening, with interactivity meaning the freedom to sift through the stories for clues to light a candle, to change the title of the project to Never Again.
Content development began as a collection of black and white photographs depicting the horror of the Holocaust. The overwhelming presence of dead bodies, evil Germans, and victimized Jews created a mythology that inhibited learning for those without a specific interest in the subject. While this approach was meant to show the atrocity and to implant it in the memory of the viewer, the desensitization that resulted often created the opposite result. In the face of so much horror, the choice to shut off was easier than the choice of looking at it.
The initial attempt to go beyond the black and white photos was the collection of historian interviews in Israel. By sitting down in a room with a video camera and having a dialogue with those who taught and wrote about the Holocaust, the developer began the interactive role of multimedia development. The interviews with Yehuda Bauer of Hebrew University, Shalmi Barmore of Yad Vashem, Ely Ben-Gal of the Diaspora Museum, Uri Aloni of Lochmei Hagetaot (The Ghetto-Fighters’ Museum), and poet/filmmaker Chaim Gouri showed a need for content that didn’t try to explain or specifically teach a lessons. The interviews shared a single viewpoint; that recreating experiences or trying to provide explanation was fruitless. The only means to humanize, to address the Holocaust on the terms of the individual, was the enormous collection of survivor testimonies.
Upon returning from Israel, the developer spent a year and a half pursuing access to such videos. Interviewing survivors was difficult; most did not want to talk about it in front of a camera. Many had donated their interviews as a contribution to the Jewish community to remember. Not being Jewish and respecting the wishes of those already interviewed not to have to be interviewed again, the developer was given access to four videos by the Northern California Holocaust Center in November 1994. These videos were created by Bill Graham’s Oral History Project as a means of preserving history.The content developed around their voices, focusing on the stories they shared. Four paths represented the four survivors – Helen L., Walter F., Paul S., and Lucille E. – which composed the main elements of learning. A Path for Historians was created, with QuickTime movies and sound files of the interviews conducted in Israel. A path for Students incorporated the efforts of Chico State students in trying to learn about the Holocaust. The play Genericide was included, as well as the music for the play which was also used as a soundtrack for the CD-ROM.
Yet the most compelling part of the Students path was the art of sixth graders from Paradise, California. A teacher, Anne Williams, had encouraged her classes to create art and poetry about the Holocaust as a means of using imagination instead of explanation to learn history. Their efforts were included in this path and formed the illustrations for the survivors’ stories. All of the survivors had been children. By illustrating the stories with the art of children, the metaphor of learning moved from a content centered on horror to one looking at history through a child’s eyes.
Designing an interface that emulated a child’s viewpoint required the elimination of busy backgrounds and overwhelming graphical elements. The information was the stories of the survivors. A black background was selected as the space for the stories to occur. Black is the absence of color, which on a monitor allows the eyes to relax. It was also selected as representing a subconscious viewpoint of looking into something that could not be recreated. The Holocaust was a subject that required the space to listen, to contemplate, and to remember. Blue hypertext was selected as the means of navigation, since the titles of the stories and the words were those of the survivors. Stories were the basis of information design. Yet the design of the main screen required an atmosphere of thinking and remembering, with few graphic elements and a focus on listening.
The graphic metaphor selected for the project was a Menorah, a traditional Jewish item with seven candles lit in memory of the past. The candles represented the paths available for the audience to explore. Six of the candles were already lit:
Four survivors candles, for Paul S., Lucille E., Walter F., and Helen L.;
A Historians candle, representing viewpoints of explaining the Holocaust;
A Students candle, representing the efforts of Chico State students to create this project and learn about the Holocaust.
The seventh candle represented the chance to say Never Again, the words first clicked on by the end user at the introduction to the CD-ROM. This candle could be lit only when the individual had explored and gathered knowledge at sites located throughout the CD-ROM. The clues gathered form a lesson for the user to consider, challenging an inspection of the materials. By gathering knowledge and lighting the candle the individual was brought to a new path created by discovery, involving a few questions and the challenge not to let such events occur again. The candle would then be lit and the title of the CD-ROM changed to Never Again. The student could continue discovering after this event as well.
Creation of the CD-ROM Learning Environment
The goal of the project was to create an environment of listening to survivors’ stories, a temporal-based approach that used the stories to create the atmosphere. By setting up stories in a simple interface, where the student was never more than a step away from the main screen, the developer aimed to simplify interface problems in deference to the power of oral history, of storytelling. The audience interviewed during the process constantly pointed to the need to hear the human beings who lived, instead of the historical horror show presented by many teachers.
The environment that was selected depended on the creation of a contemplative atmosphere. The candles burning were often used in memory of those who had passed away, but also brought a metaphor of looking for the lights in the darkness. The darkness was what the Holocaust represented, a difficult subject to find meaning or definition for. The lights represented the memories of the survivors, the stories that would provide the views and the light. The main screen offered a choice of clicking on one of the seven paths, or selecting “exit” at the bottom left of the screen and a “?” at the bottom right for help. The exit and help symbols stayed in the same place wherever the learner ventured in the CD-ROM.
The construction of the learning environment transcended to the survivors’ paths. Each was introduced with a QuickTime video of a story. This story was selected both for its brevity and ability to convey character through actions and objects. For instance, Paul S.’s story was titled “My Backpack”, relating to a story of a gift he received as a five year old and which he carried throughout his journey through the Holocaust symbolized his character through an object. This object became the main screen of his story.Each survivor had a similar symbol for their main screen. To the right of the screen were a list of six to seven stories, which when clicked brought a list of sub-stories in the same location. By clicking on the word stories the learner could go back to the main screen and choose another story. The actual screen design would not change, only the words to the right and the images in the center of the screen.
At the top left hand corner of the screen was the title of the story. Above the stories on the right hand side was a picture of the survivor and her/his name. On the bottom right hand side were the words:
History: Clicking here would bring up six to eight choices of relevant history on the center screen, each clicked on by a blue Hypertext word;
Journey: A map would appear and the learner moved the mouse over hot areas to see where the survivor had gone;
Text: This word led to a text of the survivor’s story being spoken;
Random: This word would automatically jump randomly between stories. When clicked, the learner would be provided a random choice of stories to offset the linear nature of the storytelling model.
A QuickTime controller would appear above these words each time a survivor’s story was being told. The learner could use this to go back or forward within each story. Finally, a button in the shape of the Menorah was included at the bottom right to allow a return to the Main Screen. This button was surrounded by a blue box, like the Hypertext color, to indicate a hot area.
The Historians Path was a simple design based on grayscale imagery. Here a background of a door provided the metaphor. The four historians – Uri Aloni, Yehuda Bauer, Ely Ben-Gal, and Shalmi Barmore – were shown by a picture at the bottom of the screen. Clicking on a historian brought up six to eight choices of history that they would share. Some of the historians material was also included in the History section of each survivor.
The Students path was an interactive theatre design, influenced by the play Genericide and the work of Brenda Laurel’s book, Computers as Theatre. The middle of the screen was a blue background with a Holocaust sculpture; in front was a stage. To left of the blue screen were the choices:
Genericide: Clicking here would show art, QuickTime movies, and information about the play;
Michael Dunn: This would tell about the development and some artwork created during the project;
Gudrun Fehrer: This would show artwork created by the Art Director of the project;
Paradise children: Choosing this would lead to a gallery of art and poetry by the children;
Luis Santos: The musician for Genericide name would lead to sounds and music he created; and finally
The Maiers: A message from the contributors of the Holocaust Cybrary, the text portion of this project.
The interactions were limited to clicking on the blue words and the QuickTime controller to direct the storytelling. The goal was to reduce physical interaction and rely on the stories. When a story was being told, the screen might change according to the story, but the essential atmosphere of space developed by the black background was preserved. Interaction was focused on listening to the stories and allowing the assimilation of the information to create the interaction. Like a book, this approach trusted the reader/viewer to think about the stories, where movement was the thought process. Physical movement was limited to allow easier access to the stories.
Knowledge Gathering Challenge
The CD-ROM opened with a view of a child, painted by a Paradise child. The story introduced the notion of a survivor who has learned and of a world that lives with the warning, It Can Happen Again…. The irony of this warning being the title of the CD-ROM was undermined by the challenge to learn what the survivor had learned, the key to evolving from the Holocaust. This was hidden in a small, locked box with the words, Never Again. The learner was informed that clues, symbolized by keys, had been hidden throughout the story. A number on the box counted the number of clues collected, with a total of 20 needed to open the box. The challenge was to provide motivation for going through the stories, with a minimum number set. The learner would have to listen to these stories to gain access to changing the title of the story.Once inside the box, the roles of victim, perpetrator, survivor, and bystander were shown behind doors. Each door had a series of questions. The only one with the answer was the survivor door. Clicking on it and answering the questions led to a screen where the Never Again candle could be lit. By choosing this, the candle was lit and the title changed to Never Again/Stories of Children, Survival, and the Holocaust. The user was free to continue exploring after this event. This simple game structure was designed to provide a reason for listening and collecting clues. The knowledge would lead to an understanding shared by the survivors.
Goals and Objectives
Given a selection of survivors’ stories and educational experiences to choose from, the student will be motivated to explore the cultural, historical, and conceptual elements of the Holocaust, resulting in the final creation of a unique historical view of the Holocaust based on listening and imagination. The final goal is to light the Never Again candle, signifying a change in perspective that completes the lighting of the Menorah and changes the title of the CD-ROM to Never Again/Stories of Children, Survival, and the Holocaust.
- 1. Creating a “feel” of the student being the center of knowledge generation and interactive participation with the history of the Holocaust, which will motivate the learner to explore issues.
2. Deliver a concise history that invites the user to listen to the surviving voices of history and relate their experiences to the present.
3. Produce an interactive product based on stories that the user can move through freely, while at all times being able to access other stories and textual information.
4. Motivate the student to change the title of the CD-ROM by gathering clues hidden in the stories and lighting the final candle of the Menorah metaphor, Never Again. By creating an environment based on listening rather than movement, the affective domain focused on the need to communicate and explore the true stories of the survivors, rather than rely on historical interpretations of those who weren’t there.
Summary: Narrative Description
The CD-ROM will open with a challenge to change the interpretation of history. It Can Happen Again… establishes an acceptance of history, that the motivations to create the Holocaust are always present in humanity. The user is challenged to change this perspective by clicking Never Again, highlighted in blue to indicate Hypertext. Choosing not to do this will only allow access to the Historians and Students paths. Never Again is always available to choose and change this choice. The user is challenged to gather a series of clues which will assist in lighting the Never Again candle.
The CD-ROM is designed for simple navigation. A Home Screen is the central point, with an exit button on the lower left hand side of the screen to leave the project; a question mark on the lower right hand side of the screen for help; and blue text indicating hot points to click. The use of Hypertext and a QuickTime shuttle bar are the sole means to navigate through the stories and listen. Other options are also indicated in blue for a hot spot, green for a hot spot already selected. The Help screen is minimized by this simple interface. Once through the Introduction, there should be few navigation questions.
Space is a consideration rarely considered in screen design. Multimedia is driven by spatial representations and filling space with either backgrounds or buttons, too many choices indicating a game or too few indicating a passive viewing. The crowding of space aims to enhance the delivery but unlike a paper stock background, computer backgrounds involve the eyes in work. The primary content of the CD-ROM is audio recordings of the survivors, so a temporal setting demanded a relaxing and meditative screen design with a few select elements.
This project focused on space using a traditional text model. Open space is taken by black, allowing the eyes to easily focus on the blue text and to eliminate the glow of the screen. A darkened screen is suggested in the introduction notes to the CD-ROM to take full advantage of the viewing. Space is needed with such a difficult and transforming subject like the Holocaust, a place to rest the eyes and contemplate. Black was selected as the absence of color and information, as well as representing the unconscious factors that absorb learners when dealing with the Holocaust. Like a desktop publishers uses white space to enhance the message, black was used to focus the delivery of stories and voices through the historical past.
The design of the CD-ROM is based on creating a listening environment, with limited choices subject to stories. The orientation of the user is subject to being in four basic environments. The Home screen is the menorah, where stories are accessed. The Four survivors settings are similar in look, except for the pictures and Stories. The Students path resembles an interactive theatre, with a few Hypertext choices. The Historians path is presented in grayscale only, representing the black and white choices of history. The Hypertext is presented at the bottom of the screen, indicated in blue as the only color in this path.
The home screen is a Menorah with seven candles, representing the paths to be chosen. Four of the paths are for the survivors: Paul S., Lucille E., Walter F., and Helen L.. The two end candles represent Students and Historians. The middle, seventh unlit candle is Never Again, which will either take the student back through the Introduction or if not chosen at the beginning, will allow access to the survivors’ stories. The only other elements on this screen to click are the exit and question mark at the lower left and right hand corners, respectively. These remain in the same place throughout the presentation. The space between them are used for messages to the user, including hints as to proceeding with the collection of clues.
Each survivor candle leads to a similar looking path. The screen turns immediately black and begins with a QuickTime movie of the selected survivor. Video establishes character and significance of the story; the picture of the survivor is placed at the upper right corner after the video finishes. Below the picture, with the name of the survivor, are a list of six to seven stories to choose from. These are indicated in blue text. The user clicks on a story, which then moves up under the Survivor’s name to become the sub-title with six or seven stories.
In the upper left hand corner of the screen is the title of the survivor’s story. Below that, in the middle of the screen and to the left of the story lists, is the place where pictures are presented, on a simple background over the black. When the user clicks a story to listen to, a QuickTime controller appears that must be clicked on to start the process. The user can stop, start, and move through the stories using this controller. The exit and question mark buttons are in their places, joined by several other Hypertext links. Between them is a place for messages to the user, including the collection of clues so far.
The History hypertext link allows the middle screen to change to a series of six to eight historical facts that are referred to by the survivor. This button is left on when clicked and is closed with a closing click on it. The Journey hypertext link provides a map, where the user moves the mouse over certain hot areas to follow the journey the Holocaust forced on the Survivor. A Random hypertext link is also available, which allows random sampling of stories that chooses what will be presented. All the user has to do is click this button and the screen change for him, eliminated the linear movement of the story list, but the QuickTime controller must still be clicked to listen. Finally, a Text hyperlink is available to read the word that the survivor has or is telling. It will also allow a link to the Cybrary, a separate Acrobat program with over 1500 pages of searchable text. The following are the survivors’ stories:
- Paul S.: Traveling with My Backpack
- Lucille E.: We Found Out
- Walter F.: Journey to Shanghai
- Helen L.: This is What is Happening
The students path is represented by an interactive theatre, with a blue screen in the middle. To the left and right of the screen are choices of students names, showing the projects completed while creating the CD-ROM. Artwork, music, Genericide, and the Paradise children’s art and poetry will be available. The path does not change from the theatre presentation.
The Historians screen is represented by a grayscale doorway. The four names are listed at the bottom; when clicked on, four to six hypertext links are made available to look through.
Lighting the Never Again candle
The final screen, for those who gather all the clues, will be a dark space with only the single candleholder showing. The user will be given a series of questions to think about, resulting in the lighting of the candle, changing of the title, and eventual return to the Main Screen where further discovery may be undertaken.