After thinking about Dunstan Orchard’s panaroma feature I blogged about, I’ve been thinking about ways to embed other ambient information into web sites. I found some references about ambient information and ambient media and found a good definition from the Ambient Display Research Group:
Ambient displays normally communicate on the periphery of human perception, requiring minimal attention and cognitive load. Perceptual bandwidth is minimized; users get the gist of the state of the data source through a quick glance, aural refocus, or gestalt background ambience.
What I’m interested in is ambient information on web sites. As an example, Dunston’s web site displays the current weather in Dorset as an image at the top of the page. It’s ambient, because you don’t have to read or click on anything to know what the weather is like, just a quick glance gives you the information.
I started noodling about other bits of information that could be conveyed in a similar fashion What I came up with was using color to convey the age of posts on my blog. The box at the top of my website fades from green to black as the age of the most recent post increases. If the blog is “fresh”, the color of the box at the top matches the menu bar on the right side of the page. If the latest post is over 4 days old the box will be black. The colored bar on the post title also fade at the same rate.
I used a WordPress plugin to do this.