Tuesday, September 07, 2010

"Hope that something pure can last": "The Wilderness Downtown," on-the-fly web videos, and Atlantic Yards nostalgia

The Arcade Fire and Google have teamed up to create "The Wilderness Downtown," a platform for custom web videos based on the song "We Used to Wait." The goal: provide a nifty new angle on nostalgia for your childhood home.

But it works, just as powerfully, for any place, especially any lost place, like addresses in the Atlantic Yards footprint.

Plug in an address (assuming it's in Google's Street View) and see street scenes incorporated into multiple browsers. (Use Google Chrome and close other browsers.) You can write a letter to your younger self, as per the lyrics:
But by the time we met
By the time we met the times had already changed

So I never wrote a letter
I never took my true heart I never wrote it down
So when the lights cut out
I was left standing in the wilderness downtown
Looking back at the Atlantic Yards footprint

At Prospect Heights activist Peter Krashes's suggestion, I plugged in the address for the Ward Bread Bakery. It's pretty eerie.

Ditto for Krashes's suggestion of Daniel Goldstein's building. (The images move quickly, but I did get a quick screenshot of the corner at Fifth and Flatbush avenues, one image from the on-the-fly video.)


And I decided to take a look back at Freddy's Bar & Backroom on Dean Street, which, on the video, is weirdly intact, rather than demolished.


The screenshot below gives a hint of the mushrooming trees that fill the screen at the end of the video.


A prescient line

One lyric seems prescient and pregnant:
Now our lives are changing fast
Hope that something pure can last
The beginning of a trend?

Wired reports:
If music videos were invented for the web, rather than for television, they might look something like this. The project uses the web browser itself as an artistic medium, showing off the HTML5’s potential for interaction and multi-paned viewing rather than just using the browser as a frame for a plain, television-style video.

The whole thing works on a number of levels — in part due to the song’s lyrics, which are a paean to the analog days of writing letters and waiting for them to be delivered, speculating about what might happen if the electronic wonderland we’ve created for ourselves should disappear some day.
Blogger Josh Stearns observes:
At it’s most basic, what the “The Wilderness Downtown” does is point out a new way of telling stories online. It is beautiful, immersive, and engaging. It calls us to participate, to follow up, to stay engaged. It challenges us, inspires us, awes us. All of these are qualities we need in the news.
Some browser cautions

Wired warns:
A word of caution: Several browser windows open and close during the video, so resist the urge, if only for a few minutes, to alt-tab over to your e-mail or any other browser window. We ran this “Chrome HTML Document” successfully using both FireFox and (of course) Google’s Chrome browser, but Microsoft’s Internet Explorer failed to run it — a failure Google pins on Microsoft’s insufficient support for HTML5.

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