Since Bob knows about my interests in zoomable user interfaces, he pointed out Prezi, a slick new flash-based interface for building your own zoomable presentations. They’re still in private beta, but somehow i managed to score an account.
These tools quickly separate the artistic from, well, people like me: start with this nice introduction, and afterwards, look at the showcase to see some better examples of what Prezi can do. At first, the zooming and spinning feel a little like the flashing text and animated GIFs of the early web: cool for a minute, but then quickly annoying. But i’m really interested in the possibilities of breaking the Biblical text free from static, horizontal rows on a page, and letting it become much more alive. At a minimum, the brain science says that people retain more information when it’s presented in a dynamic, visually-appealing fashion. And Prezi makes it possible to make things very dynamic and image-rich.
Depending on your browser and set-up, this player may show the fruits of my labors, or you can follow the link below. Use the buttons in the lower-right corner to move forward and backward along the defined path. You can also click on anything to zoom in on it (like the OT quotations), click and drag to pan, or use the space bar to zoom out.
It takes a while to figure out the editing process, but eventually you get it, and it works. The harder challenge is learning to design and think in a way that shows the zooming to good effect and doesn’t make you dizzy: i’m not there yet. And i found myself wishing there were more options for styling the text in particular.
But i see great potential here: maybe not for brainstorming (as they suggest: it still feels a little too heavy-weight for that), but definitely for crafting really different presentations. One major drawback here (that’s also true of the ubiquitous PowerPoint): since it’s Flash, your text is effectively hidden from search engines, which can be a significant downside. However, they have made it so you can link to specific spots in the presentation. And for making a flashy “prezi” (apparently the Hungarian short-form for “presentation”), Prezi seems like a great choice, provided you’ve got enough time and artistic sense to make it work.
PS: if you’re interested in this technology, come join my Twine on Zoomable User Interfaces.