Friday, December 3, 2010

More Bouncing Balls for Friday

Heather Cox Richardson

Awhile back, I wrote a post about a video representing changes in four empires over the past two hundred years. The empires were shown as balls, growing, bouncing into each other, and finally exploding after WWII. Reactions to that video were mixed—one person wrote that watching it was like watching paint dry.

Nonetheless, I remain unbowed.

Here is another video of history through bouncing balls. It is a fascinating representation of statistics, along
with their strengths and weaknesses.

I think this one, even more than my earlier, more sedate bouncing balls, would need to be used as the start of a conversation in a classroom, rather than without comment. It is, of course, an entirely Whiggish version of world history. That itself would be an interesting starting point for a class discussion.

It also remarks on the dramatic changes in life expectancy after WWII without speculating about why they happened. This could be productively interrogated in a classroom, too, since much of that change should probably be attributed to the heavy use of petrochemicals in commercial fertilizer and transportation systems, a use that many believe to be both unsustainable and potentially so environmentally destructive it will ultimately wipe out huge populations. It might be useful to juxtapose some of the historical questions of technology and environment alongside this cheery version of the last two hundred years.

It’s also notable that the narrator insists he is showing a triumphant progress, and indeed, for his own field of global health, he is. But change along the axis of wealth is notably small for Africa. That, too, could be productively discussed in a classroom, in terms of world history, national history; systems and exceptionalism.

Anyway, it’s a cool video for a Friday.


Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

Rosling is a darling of the TED Talks ( ); partly because he seems to reconcile the world of technology and consumption with some type of sustainable future that appeals to the silicon valley audience at those events. Even makes them feel like they're somehow involved. "Next up, Dean Kamen riding a Segway, and a sneak peak at his water purifier in the last 30 seconds..."

I was left wondering whether the people in the top righthand corner ever considered what the movement would have looked like in the bottom left if they hadn't gone in and moved all the resources from the periphery to the center?

Jonathan Dresner said...

I had fun showing this to my World history students as an end-of-semester review, but I couldn't help but point out the fallacy of scale involved in ignoring the sorting at the beginning and how it mirrors the sorting at the end. Good discussions.