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Archives & Museum Informatics



Living with Fire: A Web-based Kiosk for On-site Interactive Installation

Steven Allison-Bunnell, Natureboy Media, USA

Session: Demo Session 1

The "Living with Fire" CD-ROM web site was created for the Smokejumper Visitors Center operated by the US Forest Service in Missoula, Mont. It was first installed during the Summer 1999 season. Developed for Internet Explorer and installed on a standard Windows95 PC with a touch-screen interface, "Living with Fire" is an interactive game that allows the player to make real choices about managing wildland fire in the Northern Rockies, and see the consequences of those choices using output from visualization tools developed by the USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station Fire Sciences Lab.

In terms of its content, "Living with Fire" illustrates how technical simulation software can be used to tell a compelling story accessible to a middle school and older audience. The multi-layered game communicates a complex message through user exploration rather than linear lecturing. A set of more thematic stories are available from the game pages for users not wanting to follow the entire game scenario.

Technically, "Living with Fire demonstrates the advantages of web-based on-site exhibits for museums and visitors centers, which include:

1) Performance and user experience comparable to high-end multimedia platforms (i.e., Director).

Current-generation HTML 4.0, Cascading Style Sheets, and JavaScript allow a rich, responsive multimedia experience via the web browser. A touch-screen and Internet Explorer "Full Screen" mode allows operating a secure kiosk without extra software. Script-controlled navigation allowed creating multiple pathways through the game scenarios without duplicated pages required by hyper-link only navigation.

2) Shorter and lower-cost development cycle than other CD-ROM platforms.

Staff or contractors already trained in web production can create sites without investment and training in other more expensive production tools.

3) Ease of review and collaboration between developers and subject experts in iterative design environment.

An in-progress web site offers access to the entire product while it evolves, allowing corrections and modifications throughout development without costly reprogramming or distribution of beta versions on CD.

4) Ease of future modification.

Editing single web pages allows minor updates or expansion of the product to be made by non-technicians without recourse to original production tools. The separation of images, media, and text simplifies asset management.

4) Leveraging content to wider audience.

Web format allows publishing the product on the Internet with minor modifications to accommodate bandwidth issues. Products developed in other platforms require rebuilding for web delivery.