Chrome Experiments: Not your mother’s JavaScript.

The purpose of this essay is to simulate an acquisitions proposal. I have chosen the Chrome Experiments as a possible project for inclusion in a digital library or archive setting. The proposal examines the many Chrome Experiments with focus on “The Wilderness Downtown,” an interactive artistic music video created using recent technologies such as HTML5.

Google Chrome, the Web browser created by Google, has opened the door to Chrome Experiments–an entirely web based collection that was and is being created as a space for highlighting artistic and creative web experiments. Each work is designed utilizing the latest open source technologies and explores the use of  web browsers to new extents. As a web browser Google Chrome is, according to their own description, designed with “speed, simplicity and security,” but more importantly it supports HTML5–a  single mark-up language standard that “extends, improves, and rationalises” original HTML standard. (Tricklebank, & Muniz, 2010) HTML5 includes such elements as; audio and video–allowing for embedding, streaming, and playback. There is also a canvas element– that aids in creating graphics, images, games, and visualizations all without the need for a “plug-in.” (Clark, 2010)

Chrome Experiments consists of over 140 of these creative works of media technology,  all of which are user submitted. They display an imaginative and innovative spirit by demonstrating what can be constructed on the Web.  It is in our interest as a model for preservation and curation that we acquire these works as part of our collection. This acquisition would be an example on our part to  the dedication that the open source movement embrace. The works, the open source movement and the debates that stem from it will be of cultural and historic relevance in our future.We have the responsibility to manage these works of media, art and culture for educational and scholarly use now and throughout time.


Chrome Experiments would be a valuable and dynamic addition to our collection for two main reasons. One– the work is highly reflective of the rapid changing technologies that focus on open source user developed projects. Open source technologies can be seen as an important part of our web based history, and while we may not yet see the outcome of open versus proprietary development– the path it takes to get there will be of important historic significance.

Two–the subsequent material that comes with this collection including such documentation as  screen shots, YouTube video creations, blog postings, spec design, Chrome Experiment creators websites, and even physical artifacts conceived and created by elaborate artist/musician, designer and technologist collaboration and mash-up will allow for significant material to be preserved and curated for future use. The Chrome Experiments represent a unique collection of user created work, that involve many people collaborating and appropriating to create a wide variety of  fun, inspirational, artistic media productions.

The Chrome Experiments incorporate a wide range of subject matter that engage the user at different levels of participation and interaction. After having examined and explored the current 143, and growing, Chrome Experiments I determined the works could be divided into divisions of interest that would be of asset  to our collection including–educational, social media, works of art, nostalgic/entertaining, and experimental.

I have chosen to further highlight  as examples of these categories– particular experiments that deftly demonstrate why these inspirational works are of importance to future use and are worthy of our acquisition and care.


One of the most successful and well known Chrome Experiment is the “The Wilderness Downtown.” Created in connection with the Google Creative Lab, “The Wilderness Downtown”  was written and directed by Chris Milk in open collaboration with Radical Media, B-Reel, Magoo 3d Studios, and a remarkably large group of talented producers, technicians, developers, colorists, editors, programmers and many more dedicated team members. The piece plays out as a journey with a soundtrack by Arcade Fire featuring the single ”We Used to Wait” from their 2010 album release The Suburbs. (Tricklebank, & Muniz, 2010)

“The Wilderness Downtown”  experiment has created more than an open code experiment, it has created an open source experience –one that engages, entertains and creates emotion as it elicits participation from the audience. Behind all the amazing technological achievement is nostalgia and emotion–feelings that can be associated with a work of art. By interweaving multiple browser windows that are choreographed and triggered in time to the music the creators have constructed  an interactive music video in which each separate piece can stand and run alone– but together creates a dynamic whole.

The experiment is created using the most up to date open sourced web technologies including HTML5. 3D canvas was used to create the flocking birds that are seen throughout the works entirety. Video and audio are used in correlation to the music, keeping in time code with multitude of clips. Specialized drawing and sketch tools, some of which are separate Chrome Experiments, such as “Harmony,” created by Mr. Doob, are also appropriated smoothly within this work.

At the core of this work is the use of Google Maps and Google Street View. By utilizing components that make the user a participant in the film they have created a deeper experience  for that viewer. The makers personalize the work for the viewer by asking for the persons childhood address, which then sets into motion–what I interpret as my youth self–a sprint home via the tinted, zoomed, rotated and tiled Google Maps.  The combination of technologies creates and immersive and engaging work “that calls us to participate, to follow up, to stay engaged. It challenges us, inspires us, awes us. “ (Stearns, 2010)

One of the most unique aspects of “The Wilderness Downtown”  is that the creators take this experiment out of the digital and into the physical world as well. Toward the end of the interactive film  the user is again asked to participate by writing a “postcard of advice to the younger you that lived there.” (See Figure 1). The user can type or draw, the words or lines flow like a sinuous tree branches that eventually become engulfed in the continuous flock of birds, as the band crescendos in song  “wait for it, wait for it, wait for it.” What we wait for is our childhood locations to fragment and be bombarded with full green trees that simultaneously destroy and bring to life the location of our childhood. Your created postcard appears at the end along with options for you to share your postcard or film. There is also an option to send your cards to “The Wilderness Machine.”  (See Figure 2).

“A postcard is created by an analog signal: you. This site takes that postcard and converts it to digital. The Wilderness Machine brings it back to analog. Look for it on tour with the band in North America. If you’re lucky enough to get someone’s postcard from it, plant it. A tree will grow out of it.” (Google Creative Labs, 2010)

Fans that attend an Arcade Fire concert will have the opportunity to get one of these postcards which are embedded with birch tree seeds and if wanted they really could plant it.


Every Chrome Experiment title page contains detailed documentation about the work. Each work has a title, date, author, location, tags, and notes from the author about the creation of the work and the technology used to produce it. Each experiment also contains social media details attached to the work that allow the user to interact with the work–such as ways to “share” the experiment through networks such as Google Buzz, Twitter and Facebook–as well as a comments section. This information could be invaluable in our preservation process, with these attributes already present in the work it will make for a ready made curation project. The comments enhance the curation aspect of the work by providing key information about the work from a users perspective.

A by-product or perhaps characterization of the open source movement is the wide variety of supporting documents pertaining to the creation and use of these works. These documents can be found linked and connected through the works themselves and on such social media networks as blogs, YouTube and, an increasing number of scholarly texts analysing the movements of open source technologies and the future of the Web as we know it.

For our purposes this plethora of documentation will benefit our project immensely, providing us with supporting material detailing the importance of this work, and may even exist in a greater extent of time than the experiments themselves.

Many of the experiments include a YouTube video ranging from detailed descriptions of how a work was created to visually documenting the outcome of the experiment. Ricardo Cabello AKA  Mr. Doob, is a creator of many Chrome Experiments and a major contributor to the technologies utilized on “The Wilderness Downtown.” He created, among many, sketch style programs,  in particular one called “Harmony“–which is the basis for the postcard text in “Wilderness Downtown.” He also fabricated a “Multiuser Sketchpad“–allowing multiple users to work together to create a sketch. On the Multiuser Sketchpad site there is an accompanying YouTube video that features information about the work which can be used as documentation detailing the capabilities of this program. (see figure 3).

By incorporating Chrome Experiments into our digital library we can provide a wealth of material for use now and into the future.While the technologies and the works created will always be changing we can work to preserve what will be an important part of the open source movement and computer history. The HTML5 code is accessible for examination and migration. The amount of supporting documentation for these works will aid in our curation methods by providing an abundance of material about the works from inception, to launch and then to user feedback. The manner in which these works are created are noted in detail and more importantly the community in which they are created is open to further creation, exploration, exhibition and preservation.

Chrome Experiments in correlation with HTML5 technology blurs the boundaries between the Web and how we now use it. These works are an important aspect of what is happening now and in the future of media technology. Barriers created by a proprietary market are being rapidly dissolved with the use of open source technologies and have begun to open a portal for the Web to be used in an entirely different way.

HTML5 is inherently an “evolving standard”  allowing for new features to become part of our experience in using the Web.  Creators of works like “The Wilderness Downtown”  will now be able to add a deeper level of meaning to how we connect to emerging technologies. We will see a new level of interactivity, creation and participation. It is my anticipation that works like those created for Chrome Experiments can bring together a collaboration of artists, creators, technologist and users that generate a higher context to our web experience–creating “context to the content.”(Sterns, 2010)

As curator of culture and history the acquisition of the Chrome Experiments would be a highlight to our digital collection and should be considered inclusion for future use, study and exhibition within our institution.

Chrome Experiments examples by subject
Educational
20 Things I Learned About Browsers and the Web
Color Piano

Social Media
A World of Tweets

Art/creation
Harmony
Multiuser Sketchpad
Sketchpad
Impressionist

Works of art
Browsermation
The Wilderness Downtown

Nostalgic/entertaining
Astroids
Browser Pong
Walking w CSS3

Experimental
Normal Mapping – open code experimental

Details

DFigure 1. Postcard Created using my Grandmother and Grandfathers address. Created  2010, December 03. http://www.thewildernessdowntown.com/#Quince+St,+Denver,+CO,+USA

Figure 2. The Wilderness Machine

Figure 3. Mr.Doob’s Chrome Experiment Multiuser Sketchpad

Tags
JavaScript, HTML5, Canvas, SVG, Google Street View, and Maps API

References

Cabello, R. (2010, September 17). Mr. doob’s blog. Retrieved from http://mrdoob.com/blog

Campbell, M. (2010). New code blurs boundary between computers and web. New Scientist,     206(2758), 19. Retrieved from MasterFILE Premier database.

Chrome experiments : not your mother’s javascirpt. (2010). Retrieved from
http://www.chromeexperiments.com/

Clark, J. (2010). HTML 5. (cover story). Online, 34(6), 12. Retrieved from MasterFILE Premier     database.

Creativity. (2010, September 02). Behind the work: arcade fire Retrieved from http://creativity-online.com/news/behind-the-work-arcade-fire-the-wilderness-downtown/145696

Duncan, Initials. (2010, September 03). The wilderness downtown. Retrieved from
http://theinspirationroom.com/daily/2010/the-wilderness-downtown/

Google Creative Lab, Initials. (2010, October 08). The wilderness downtown. Retrieved from     http://www.chromeexperiments.com/detail/the-wilderness-downtown/

Tricklebank, B, & Muniz, N. (2010, September 02). Behind the work: arcade fire ‘the wilderness downtown’. Retrieved fromhttp://creativity-online.com/news/behind-the-work-arcade-fire-the-wilderness-downtown/145696

Stearns, J. (2010, September 03). What the arcade fire’s wilderness downtown experiment can teach journalism. Retrieved from
http://stearns.wordpress.com/2010/09/03/what-the-    arcade-fires-wilderness-downtown-experiment-can-teach-journalism/

Why use google chrome?. (2010). Retrieved from http://www.google.com/chrome/intl/en/more/index.html

YouTube, Initials. (n.d.). Google chrome channel . Retrieved from
http://www.youtube.com/user/googlechrome#g/c/00B23118B00B404C

Anissa Malady
San Jose State University
LIB 284 Seminar in Archives and Records Management:
Characteristics and Curation of New Digital Media,
Fall 2010
Dr. Henry Lowood
December 8, 2010

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