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New program will offer students hypermedia visit to Berlin

Berliners, residents of the emerging new/old capital of Germany, are the focus of a new multimedia project being undertaken by Ellen Crocker and Kurt Fendt.

"Berliner sehen" is a CD-ROM-based hypermedia documentary being co-authored by Ms. Crocker, lecturer in German in the foreign languages and literatures section of humanities, and Dr. Fendt, Max Kade Scholar and research associate in the section. It will immerse students of German in the daily lives of current residents and the rich social, political and cultural history of that formerly divided city. The title of the project connotes two intersecting ideas: "Looking at Berliners from the outside" as well as "Berliners looking at each other from within."

Ms. Crocker and Dr. Fendt have chosen the characteristic Berlin apartment complex known as a "Mietshaus" as the main setting for conversations and stories involving Berlin residents. Students will be able to listen in on dialogues between neighbors, access related current and historical topics, and make their own paths through the many links and levels of intersecting information available to them in the hypermedia structure of "Berliner sehen."

Next June, a Berlin-based award-winning video artist will film key residents of the "Mietshaus" in conversations engaged in work, at home with their families and during their leisure hours. These filmed segments will then be integrated with a vast collection of pictures, additional film clips, sound and text documents to create the hypermedia structure.

In "Berliner sehen," students will be able to manipulate the various types of materials provided on the CD-ROM to create their own mini- documentaries. Eventually, students will be able to access related material via links to the Internet and pull them into their own work spaces or "multimedia notebooks," Dr. Fendt explained. Students will thus gain insights into the history, current issues and daily life in Germany as seen and experienced by its residents.

Permeating the material will be the changes experienced by Germany and its people as they continue the process of reunification within the larger context of the restructuring of Europe. "It's a very interesting location from which to be looking at German culture," Ms. Crocker said.

The first stage of the project, which will result in a prototype in two years, has been awarded initial funding through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Consortium for Language Learning and Teaching.

A version of this article appeared in the December 7, 1994 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 39, Number 14).

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