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T R E A T M E N T
It Can Happen Again... was a project built on interaction with the audience. The design for this project was based on needs assessment conducted during the play Genericide, in interviews with historians in Israel, and in contact with a number of Holocaust centers worldwide. Content development was a mixture of availability and of materials that the person or peopled interviewed deemed important. The developer did not try to control this process, but asked those experts and audience members what they would like. He also asked them what they could donate to the project, because access to the diversity of materials would have required an enormous amount of copyright clearance if done without their assistance. Interaction provided the benefit of content being driven by the audience's choice, but was also undermined by the financial realities that many needed materials were owned and inaccessible. The audience-centered content arose as much out of the need of the developer as the desires of the audience.
The project began in the Summer of 1993 with a trip to Israel to interview historians. Needs assessment and the play Genericide were completed in August 1994. The survivors' videos were provided in November 1994, which dramatically altered the entire approach after a year and a half of attempting to access them. Programming, graphic design, and content development began in June 1994 through a planned deadline of June 1995.
The content was gathered by the developer through:
Interviews with historians in Israel in 1993;
Production of the play Genericide (August 1994), where music and video created by students were integrated into the CD-ROM;
Gaining permission for use of four survivors' videos from the Northern California Holocaust Center and Bill Graham's Oral History Project of the Holocaust in November 1994;
Internet text, music, and pictures which were donated subject to the provision that they be distributed electronically without profit;
Dachau Concentration Camp educational materials; and
Paintings and poetry created for three years by the sixth grade classes of Anne Williams, a teacher in Paradise, California.
Theatre was an interesting component of this approach. While the play was, like many creative ventures, the viewpoint of one individual attempting to share it with an audience, it was also a means of sharing multimedia development. The cast of Genericide were trained and coached using multimedia materials on the Macintosh. They were given choices of materials to read, view, and interact with. The feedback provided an important source of learning for the developer, who understood various points that weren't being addressed. The audience provided the final key, with questionnaires demanding to hear the survivors' stories. While this feedback fit in well with the developer's intent to draw on audience input, the staging of a play about the story of a survivor admittedly created bias. Asking someone what they would like to learn while showing them what may be created undermined the reliability of the results.
Despite the inherent weakness in the theatre-driven development, the desire to hear survivors' stories became the driving force. The expressed need for oral histories, coupled with the difficulty of presenting video on CD-ROM, led to an audio-based design. The stories of the survivors were the central navigation point around which the experience was centered.
Multimedia development requires this duality of roles, of participant and observer, listener and creator, because the power lies in the collaboration with other imaginations. The live interaction with an audience, that changes each night, was an invaluable experience. By engaging the audience and finding several points of missed communication like any playwright, the resulting CD-ROM attempted to correct those problems and integrate the feedback via questionnaires. These tools were effective because they involved the developer in a direct, one-to-one relationship with his audience. The goal to create an educational and entertaining CD-ROM benefited because most of the work has been done with the audience. Whether collecting content in Israel or performing for an audience in Chico, the variety of viewpoints expressed have built a foundation of content. The true measure of this approach will be evident in the final CD-ROM, which will not be formally evaluated. These descriptive ideas can only share the production of the CD-ROM, not the results. Ultimately the value of this approach and piece can only be tested by the responsiveness of others to the learning materials.