Media Timelines: Understanding the future by studying the past

Charles Holbrow


The world wide web was conceived 30 years ago. What will internet media look like after another 30 years? Should we expect it to be mostly the same? Or will it evolve rapidly in the coming years?

To gain insight into these questions, I have been studying the evolution of other media technologies, and identifying ways that they are both similar and different from the internet.  

Media Timelines packages parts of this research in an interactive application that makes it easy to observe and compare the evolution of sound recording, film, and internet media technologies.

By employing a contextual zoom interface, Media Timelines makes it possible to effortlessly zoom from a high level historical overview of 20th century music and technology, to a detailed timeline showing the exact day that a music album was released. The interface exposes a growing database of information, details, and historical anecdotes on art, music, media, and history.

This technique for interacting with historical media content led to some surprising conclusions about the current state of internet media, and some interesting hypotheses about the future, both of which will form the foundation for my PhD dissertation.