Active Essays

Computers make possible a new form of narrative expression, in which manipulable computational objects are embedded within text. Alan Kay coined the term active essay to describe this new form of expression.

Until recently, Web pages contained only "passive" objects, such as text, graphics, and video. But now, new tools such as the Java programming language and the MicroWorlds Logo plug-in are turning the Web into a good medium for active essays. It is now possible to mix "active" objects, such as user-controlled animations and simulations, with other media forms on Web pages.

This combination opens new possibilities for creative expression. For example, the text description of a scientific concept can be connected to a simulation that enables the reader to explore that concept. In this way, "reading" a text can become a truly interactive experience.

Going in Circles is our second active essay. You might want to try out our first active essay: Exploring Emergence.

Go to the start of the Going in Circles active essay.

Mitchel Resnick and Brian Silverman
Epistemology and Learning Group
MIT Media Laboratory

Last modified: November 17, 2003
by Rupert Russell