Witness to the Future


Session Title:

  • Short Paper Presentations

Presentation Title:

  • Witness to the Future



  • Witness to the Future is a model for media art and activism with interactive technologies, incorporating CD-ROM, experimental videoart documentary with reference to full transcripts, over 500 updateable Internet links, user friendly multimedia notepad, curriculum resources, and the first electronic publication of Rachel Carson’s environmental classic “Silent Spring”. An extraordinary portrayal of the transformation of “ordinary” citizens into activists, Witness to the Future focuses on three U.S. environmental catastrophes: Hanford Nuclear Reservation, San Joaquin Valley, and “Cancer Alley”. Representing diverse unrepresented voices including workers, mothers, whistleblowers, farmworkers, African, Native and Mexican Americans, Witness to the Future portrays the struggles of individuals who discover the power of collective action. The presentation will demonstrate electronic artwork designed as truly interactive space: empowering users to make change in their bodies, communities and world. Critiquing the “Information Revolution’s” myth that rapidly expanding amounts of information delivered through interactive technologies promise more informed audiences and empowered users, Witness to the Future contrasts application of new media technologies for military, industrial, and entertainment sectors. Shifting the discourse to voices not ordinarily heard, such as political and cultural activists from communities and the streets, users are transformed into revolutionary communicators and technological producers. Witness to the Future provides an electronic arts tools for new generations of community activists such as Wilfred Green from “Cancer Alley” to unite worldwide in revolutionary action. He states, “I’ll give up when I’m dead. Then I can’t fight any more. But hopefully, I will have put something in my children, who will carry on what I believe.”

    A Call for Environmental Action
    Voyager’s release links CD-ROM content to hundreds of Web sites, creating a powerful hybrid multimedia. An extraordinary portrayal of the transformation of..ordinary citizens into activists, an innovative teaching tool, and an inspiring call to action, Witness to the Future is based on Branda Miller’s powerful video documentary about environmental catastrophes in three communities: Hanford, Washington; the San Joaquin Valley in California; and Cancer Alley, Louisiana. This CD-ROM investigates the roots of the environmental movement, beginning with Rachel Carson’s motivational call to action in 1962 with the publication of Silent Spring. Witness to the Future is a powerful teaching tool. In order to relate environmental history to the current events that will most interest students, this CD-ROM weds Web links directly to the disc’s content, and makes it possible to add new links and even remove outdated links through a designated Web site. Another technical innovation “a multimedia notebook” encourages students and activists to take written notes about the information they find, and to link their notes to visuals, audio, and text on the CD-ROM. Additionally, curricula are included to help teachers and community leaders easily integrate Witness to the Future into their classes and workshops. Currently, the curricula are being used at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as part of the course “Introduction to Science, Technology, and Society”. The Witness to the Future video documentary by Branda Miller portrays the struggles of citizen activists against radioactive waste contamination, pesticides, and toxic chemicals. In order to protect their families and homes, citizens were forced to become experts and discovered that by working with their neighbours in a unified effort they could better address the threat to their communities. This CD-ROM provides tools for a new generation of experts to learn about their communities and to unite with their neighbours worldwide in continuing to protect themselves by defending the environment.

    Updatable links to more than five hundred related Web sites The complete fifty-minute video documentary Witness to the Future The complete text of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, the book that launched the environmental movement A unique multimedia notepad that allows users to create true multimedia presentations, personal guided tours, or ON to use visual, audio, and text references to track extensive research on the CD-ROM Background on each community and transcripts of all the interviews in the video A section on youth activism created by young people Supporting curricula for teachers and community leaders
    The multimedia notepad and updatable Web links were programmed by Joe Annino, a junior double-major in Electronic Media Art and Communication (EMAC) and Computer Science at Rensselaer.