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Historian Phillip Thurtle on Why We Don't Have Wings

Submitted by Roneva Keel on November 17, 2016 - 4:20am
Professor Phillip Thurtle
Professor Phillip Thurtle

Historian Phillip Thurtle draws on genetics, comics, film, and a vast array of cultural mythology to probe a question that haunts our collective past: Why don't humans have wings? Bridging science and humanities, Thurtle's digital showcase, Gothic Wings, invites viewers to explore his argument in whatever order they choose. Thurtle's innovative, multimedia project uses Scalar, a platform developed by the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture at the University of Southern California, which allows for flexible nonlinear storytelling.

As Jon Hiskes describes the project, "The landing page presents a human arm skeleton overlaid with a bird-like wing that flickers at the motion of a mouse, suggesting the fluid nature of evolution. From there, tangled pathways open up, embedded with excerpts from the X-Men, The X-Files, fantasy fiction, ancient sculpture, and biology texts. They present a playful mosaic of what Thurtle calls 'developmental paths not taken.'"

To learn more about Gothic Wings and Thurtle's digital storytelling approach, see the featured story on the Simpson Center's website.

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