Sputnik Observatory: A Repository That Shows How Big Ideas Are Connected


Jonathan Harris, one of today’s most brilliant interactive designers, has just revealed his newest project: Sputnik Observatory, a video Web site loaded with 200 interviews, with some of the greatest minds of our day.

The tagline captures it: “Extraordinary minds shaping modern thought.” They feature big brains such as Will Wright, the inventor of The Sims and Spore, talking about the future of sensory input; Vint Cerf, the guru that led the creation of our internet protocols, about futuristic bio-interfaces; and Bruce Sterling, the science-fiction writer, talking about how medicine and cybernetics will evolve.

But what’s most interesting–and where Harris’ interactive know-how comes to bear–is that the videos are linked by theme, so that you can hopscotch between the big thinkers. Using that hyper-linkage, you can create a choose-your-own adventure of the intellect, populated by visionary ideas. Even cooler, the site offers curated paths that leap from one video to another, highlighting particularly interesting contrasts.

Harris has been on the cutting edge of interactive design for a few years now. One of his projects, I Want You to Want Me, is a touchscreen that let users to sift through the romantic preferences that people listed on dating sites, and filter results based on demographics. Another, We Feel Fine, was similar, but it allowed you to explore people’s emotions, using data mined from blogs. Thus, you could see what people in Baghdad, for example, were saying about their emotional state.

Check out Sputnik Observatory here