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L595: FlashLight 1- Evaluation

Jump to in this page: J.K. Rowling | Boohbahs | Cosmic Zoom | Compare and Contrast

J.K. Rowling

Photo of JK Rowling.
Date: 18 May 06
URL: http://www.jkrowling.com
Browsers: Camino 1.0 and Safari 2.0.3 (with Mac), Internet Explorer 6.0, Firefox 1.5.0.3 (with \Windows)
Operating Systems: Mac OSX 10.4.5, Windows XP Professional
Flash Version
  • Recommended: None found
  • Used: Macromedia Flash Player 8.0

This is the official website of the author of the Harry Potter books, if you did not know. If you have not seen it, you should. I think it provides a very interesting demonstration of what can be accomplished with Flash.

It has a very clean and easy-to-view splash page upon initially going to the site. It offers versions of the site in many different languages and also an "accessiblity enabled" version- unusual for Flash sites. Once you select your entrance, you will need to turn off any pop-up blocking options on your browser or the site will not let you in. The main page represents Rowling's desk cluttered with interesting and useful items that you can click on (or try to- there are some things you must attempt to catch with your mouse- like the butterfly or spider). Each animation or graphic is very well done and lush with color although somewhat cartoonish but not overtly so.

If you have read any of the Harry Potter books you know that Rowling likes to leave clues about the events in the story and future stories- they read very much like murder mysteries. Her website exudes the same qualities but in real-time interactivity. In other words, her website has many levels and layers that the casual surfer will not find- only true fans who have a knowledge of the books and of the author herself may find secret treasures or hidden rooms. Even when you do find a hidden room you may not be able to enter it immediately because you have not figured out some other part of the site. There is a cell phone in the upper left hand corner that can unlock various secret pages as I understand it. Very entertaining for those who like puzzles as well as Harry Potter fans.

The site worked well on all the browsers I used and both operating systems- I saw no difference.

top of page | J.K. Rowling | Boohbahs | Cosmic Zoom | Compare and Contrast

Boobah Zone

Photo of Jumbah Boohbah.
Date: 18 May 06
URL: http://www.boohbah.com/zone.html
Browsers: Camino 1.0 and Safari 2.0.3 (with Mac), Internet Explorer 6.0, Firefox 1.5.0.3 (with Windows)
Operating Systems: Mac OSX 10.4.6, Windows XP Professional
Flash Version
  • Recommended: None found
  • Used: Macromedia Flash Player 8.0

If you don't know what a Boohbah is then you don't have young children or aren't around young ones much. They are reminiscent of the Teletubbies in a vague way but are for an even younger crowd- and also have a strange appeal to the older set as well (see pic of plush toy above). Unlike the Teletubbies, the Boohbahs do not talk- they just squeal and bleat in happy enthusiasm while dancing about in a psychedelic realm of wonders. The five differently colored Boohbahs (unlike the four Teletubbies) have names as well: Humbah (yellow), Zumbah (purple), Zing Zing Zingbah (orange), Jumbah (blue), and Jingbah (pink). According to Wikipedia, the word "boohbah" means doll in Hebrew but the Judaic connection is far from certain. My two-year-old son loves them to the point I have wondered about evil mind-bending rays coming through the TV...

The site lets you figure out how to explore the clickable bubbles and spirals and what to do from there. One screen that has the Boohbahs dancing allows you to select and add or remove parts of the catchy musical tune that plays while they dance. Another screen lets you bounce people (actual photos of people from the Boohbah Storyworld) on trampolines or match their shoes or any number of things that deal with pre-school skills and patterns. Very enjoyable, entertaining, educational, and strangely addictive for older people, too. The colors and animations certainly add to the site- indeed, it could not be the same without them.

The site worked well on all browsers and operating systems despite the fact that the main page says that the logo should be moving but did not on any browser I used.

top of page | J.K. Rowling | Boohbahs | Cosmic Zoom | Compare and Contrast

CosmicZoom

Photo of beginning of Cosmic Zoom flash site.
Date: 18 May 06
URL: http://sunshine.chpc.utah.edu/labs/cosmic_zoom/index.htm
Browsers: Camino 1.0 and Safari 2.0.3 (with Mac), Internet Explorer 6.0, Firefox 1.5.0.3 (with Windows)
Operating Systems: Mac OSX 10.4.6, Windows XP Professional
Flash Version
  • Recommended:None found
  • Used: Macromedia Flash Player 8.0

Developed by the ASPIRE (Astrophysics Science Project Integrating Research & Education) lab at the University of Utah, this application of Flash hopes to provide us with a better sense of just how amazingly huge our universe is.

This Flash application is just one among many on the ASPIRE site that teaches in simple ways about our universe. The Cosmic Zoom application is based on a book called Powers of Ten which deals with visualizing very large numbers. Frankly, I still find it difficult to conceptualize the size of our Earth let alone the galaxy even after viewing CosmicZoom several times. Reference points are just plain difficult to impossible at some levels and tries its best but fails due to limitations of the human brain. The pictures are actual photos from satellites and telescopes but are sometimes very pixelated or grainy in nature making it even more of a problem to visualize the distances involved. However, I think it is at least a step in the right direction as far as conceptualizing really large numbers or distances.

This can be used for teaching anyone from elementary school students to post-doctoral fellows to expand their mind and help them learn to wrap their minds around extremely large numbers. Even if one cannot read the brief explanation that appears in the left hand window at each logarithmic jump in scale, clicking and then having the picture move outward or inward gives the impact it's supposed to. Beyond general education, this application can also serve to humble you spiritually and mentally. When you see how quickly the figure of the human that starts off in the frame disappears, it truly makes you wonder at humanity's significance in the universe. Like when the Apollo astronauts used to hold their thumbs over the Earth and marvel at how they could cover everyplace, everything, and everyone they'd ever know about with their thumb... Even the cartoon the Simpsons got in on this act when one of their opening sequences featured a pull-out shot that ended up coming full circle to the Simpsons themselves.

The application is easy to use and very striking in what it shows you. As with the other websites, I saw no difference in functionality between browsers and operating systems.

top of page | J.K. Rowling | Boohbahs | Cosmic Zoom | Compare and Contrast

Compare and Contrast

All three sites were very different from one another, each having very different audiences. Rowling's is just pure entertainment for the puzzle-minded. The Boohbahs seek to build the fine motor skills and the conceptual skills of toddlers while entertaining. CosmicZoom has a definite element of entertainment to it but also attempts to convey information about the universe we live in and our proportion to it.

Rowling's site can be used superficially to gain some information about Harry Potter and herself but only reaches its full potential when used by an adult mind in Sherlock Holmsian mode. The Boohbahs site appeals to just about everyone on some level, I think. The sheer simple-minded joy of making Boohbahs disappear by clicking on them or adding and removing parts of the tune they dance to makes this a great example of how Flash can really be used kinetically and to visually stun and attract.

top of page | J.K. Rowling | Boohbahs | Cosmic Zoom | Compare and Contrast

website created by: kevin e. brooks | email kevin at: kbrooks2@bsu.edu | updated: 24 May 2006

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