Finally, the Infinite Atlas!

David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest is reputed as a bit of a beast in the literary world. In over 1,000 pages and more than 300 endnotes (with footnotes to the endnotes) it’s a journey I have yet to take, but am eager to do… at some point. Just ask me how long it’s taking me to get through Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! right now and you’ll understand.

In the meantime, for those who have tackled the novel, and those of you in progress, this may come in handy: The Infinite Atlas. Powered by Google Maps, the Infinite Atlas project  “is an independent research and art project seeking to identify, place and describe every possible location in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.”  There’s a real(!) map and web guide to Boston with videos and travelogues. Stories and characters are available to search, and each location pinned to the map denotes the page numbers where the location appears, related characters and plot points. Visitors to the site are encouraged to upload photos for each location as well.

Why I’m Curious

So, this is pretty neat use of the Google Maps API. But let’s look beyond the obvious for a moment, and take this idea to another level. As technology adaptation begins at birth, newer generations are unaware of a world sans the digital advances that are commonplace in our world today. As teaching and learning adapts to this curve in technology adaptation, imagine how open APIs can enhance the learning experience: from novels (Absalom, Absalom! comes to mind) to the Revolutionary War, the resources to make learning more interactive and history come to life are increasing. We just need some people with the time, energy and resources to pull it together. Oh, the possibility!


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