Takacs on children’s multimedia

As motion and zooming may direct children’s attention to a detail of the illustration in a similar way as an adult pointing at the detail and providing comments or explanations, multimedia may be just as beneficial in supporting story and language comprehension as interaction with an adult explaining the meanings of the story and sophisticated words in the narration.

Marsh on contemporary digital cultures

[...] contemporary digital cultures provide rich opportunities for the promotion of play that is rooted in children’s everyday experiences. This is not [...] an inferior form of play; rather, it sits alongside more traditional play activities and is important for creative development

Yuill on shared e-books

We believe that designers could think more about how [e-books] can be designed for sharing [...] Book Trust figures report a drop from 86 per cent of parents reading with their five-year-olds to just 38 per cent with 11-year-olds. There is a possibility that the clever redesign of e-books and tablets might just slow that trend.

Literature and storytelling games

When a technology is surpassed, and we can see the book as a form of technology, it is rarely rendered entirely obsolete. Often, it becomes a niche concern or finds that its very limitations are strengths. The simplicity, clarity and imaginative capacity of literature offers something that games, which immerse the player in immaculately-rendered environments, can lack.

Games like 80 Days, for instance, have revived the tradition while others like Firewatch have incorporated aspects of text-based adventures. And while games like Gone Home and Tacoma are spatial explorations, there are traces of literary mysteries within them, in the way clues emerge, stories unfold and the player becomes increasingly absorbed. The balance of storytelling and interactivity is key. We want to feel we discover things, even when they were placed there for us to find.

Flewitt on iPad use

[...] well planned literacy-related iPad activities stimulated children’s motivation and concentration, and offered rich opportunities for communications, collaborative interaction, independent learning and enthusiastic learning dispositions. [...] immediate feedback, along with tangible and satisfying end products, motivated children to engage deeply with iPad-based literacy activities, which as one practitioner commented, attracted their attention like ‘bees to a honeypot’


Snow Crash “Earth” app

Reading Snow Crash (1992) and keep being surprised at how spot-on Neal Stephenson is sometimes. Like this description of the protagonist looking at not-Google-Earth in the Snow Crash metaverse:

If he were in some normal, stable part of the world like lower Manhattan, this would actually work in 3-D. Instead, he’s got to put up with two-dimensional satellite imagery.

Neal Stephenson
Snow Crash (1992)

Sounds very familiar...

I remember seeing a tech demo of something looking like Google Earth when I was a kid, and it completely blew my mind. I haven’t seen it since, but remember it as showing the Earth in space, then the camera zooms in all the way to a three-dimensional view of a Florida beach. Impossible!

It’d be a stretch to say that the Google engineers must have been inspired by Snow Crash when developing Earth, but I wonder: how much of our current technology has been directly inspired by sci-fi? Like, nerds reading awesome novels and going: “By the power of Greyskull, I’m gonna make that happen for real.”

Update: The tech demo must have been Intrinsic Graphics’ prototype from the late 1990s which would later become EarthViewer by Keyhole Inc, and even later: Google Earth. One of the developers, Avi Bar-Zeev, talked about 3D-globes in an interview with Cartographica (PDF) in 2008, and they do mention Snow Crash and other sci-fi:

Some people have mistakenly said that the Metaverse itself was the inspiration, but it wasn’t for any of us as far as I know. John [Hanke] has publicly stated that the panoptic 3D “Earth” application from Snow Crash was the actual inspiration for him. Mark Aubin has said that the Powers of Ten movie and flipbook were an inspiration to him. I’d honestly been toying with the idea of 3D globes before I read Snow Crash around 1994. So I think this is more a case of multiple people converging at the right place and the right time with similar ideas.