Exhibit Evaluation: City Memory
I have chosen to review a digital project that we are all familiar with, City Lore’s “City of Memory.” The reason I have decided to evaluate this project is that it was the inspiration for my group’s final project, “360° of Memory.”
The City of Memory [COM] project is essentially an interactive map of New York city, which contains curated, and user contributed “stories.” These stories range from important historical events to personal anecdotes about the culture of NYC. City of Memory, boiled down, is a digital-spatial manifestation of collective-memory–or is it history? The official description of the project, found on the FAQ page associated with the site, describes the project as “an online community map of personal stories and memories organized on a physical geographical map of New York City.”
To keep this review succinct I will use the review criteria provided by the Museums and The Web, Best of the Web contest. Using this review model I will consider 5 basic criteria: content, functionality, interface, interactivity, and overall/personal impact. Before you continue with this review please consider taking some time to explore the project (a link can be found in this review’s opening paragraph), in order to keep this concise and to avoid dwelling too much on describing every detail; for the same reason, here is a screen capture of the project:
The first category for this review is content. The content of COM is a mixture of curated and uncurated user generated “stories” which appear as dots or points on the scale-able and scroll-able map of NYC. Curated stories are represented by orange points, and uncurated user generated points by blue. After exploring a number of both types of points I have come to the conclusion that the content of the site is engaging interesting, and, most often, appropriate to the project. Almost all of the curated points provide some sort of historically or culturally relevant information about the city, and many points are even linked, which allows the user to follow related stories around the map. The uncurated points are often very personal, though offer a taste of of the culture of the city all the same. Obviously the site encourages contributions, and seems to do a nice job making sure only relevant material makes it in. The latest story was added in 2009 I believe so it is not entirely up to date. Overall the content is really really successful, especially considering the very broad aim of the project.
Functionality/Interface–I’m lumping these two together–of the site is phenomenal. I encountered no glitches or “broken” links, videos, images, etc… navigating the various forms of media is intuitive, and easy to follow. The aesthetics are clean neat and simple. This is a big thing for me, as I feel anything but simplicity–lie using a satellite image for the map–would have resulted in a much too “busy” user experience. Once you start exploring the stories, it really is hard to stop. The various forms of media and the different “voices” help break up any monotony. The contributions interface is also very streamlined and easy to follow, the directions being very clear. The audience for this project being very wide–pretty much anyone living/or interested in NYC–being wide, this is a good thing. Well done on this point as well.
Interactivity is pretty much the cornerstone of this project. All/Most of COM’s content is contributed, and as I mentioned its hard not to stay a while once I have arrived. There is not much else to say here, as the project clearly speaks for itself.
Overall I found the project to be very impactful, and it accomplished its goal: for never having been to NYC I definitely feel I know a little bit more about the place, the culture, and the history. I know this has been a pretty positive review, but if I could make a suggestion to the people in charge it would have to be: to establish some sort of more narrow scope for the project. Yes it is fun to read about the group of choir kids who got trapped in an elevator, but what do glean from that anecdote about the city–granted this was an uncurated story. But, I think the project would only become more interesting if a more specific “mission statement” were adopted. This could be implemented as a header or even open in the contributions window when people go to submit their stories. Doing this, opposed to more strict curating, might serve as a sort of auto-curation. The project, however, in my opinion is a great success.
Source: Museums and the Web 2012 (MW2012): Best of the Web: Categories.