u_topn picture
rub_wc picture

Beyond Interface

The state of art on the Net.

Child's Play

The CIA reaches out to a new generation of spies.

Multicultural Lite

A multimedia "essay" has technology serve humanity, and vice versa.

Do-It-Yourself Adventure

"Interactive fiction" moves to the Web.

The "Why?"s Have It

For a nation of strangers, the simplest questions can help bridge the widest distances.

Dances With Words

Experiments in "information choreography."

Non-virtual Communities

Competing visions of post-suburban life give new meaning to the "global village."

For more, see the complete Web Citations Index.
May 13, 1998

Big population Every second the number in the corner of the screen increases by three: 5,961,214,173 ... 5,961,214,176 ... 5,961,214,179. The effect is quietly but profoundly unsettling: the numbers represent humanity's relentless proliferation. No discussion of burgeoning birth rates or limited resources can match the power of this simple illustration.

Such is the approach taken by the Paris Museum of Natural History's online exhibit titled "6 Billion Human Beings." The site's designers have made optimal use of an array of Web technologies to create a lively, interactive exhibit about the current state of the world's population.

Dried up resources Despite its title, the emphasis in "6 Billion Human Beings" is on the site's individual visitors -- who, as they progress through the exhibit, are asked such questions as, How old are you? Are you male or female? What part of the world do you live in? The result is an individually tailored educational experience. One can learn, for example, what percentage of people born in one's own birth year have since died, how many people in the world are older or younger than oneself, and by what factor the world population has since increased. The opportunities for learning about population growth, birth control, family size, death rates, and geographical differences are legion.

For all the information that one takes away from this site, however, one does not feel barraged by an onslaught of facts and statistics, or as though harangued by an impassioned environmentalist. Visitors are propelled through the site by their own curiosity, and learning seems to be an almost incidental by-product. The result is that a visit to "6 Billion Human Beings" not only teaches us about our population -- it also teaches us how to teach.

Discuss this Web Citation in the Digital Culture forum of Post & Riposte.

Copyright © 1998 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
Cover Atlantic Unbound The Atlantic Monthly Post & Riposte Atlantic Store Search

Click here