6 Billion Human Beings (6 millards d'Hommes)


of an Exhibition

by Jim Spadaccini

Published on May 16, 2007, Modified on June 12, 2007

  • Description:

    After seeing the online version of this exhibition, I knew that I needed to see the physical one as well. At the time, I was working for the Exploratorium and was lucky enough to be in Europe on museum business. I remember thinking to myself that this was the first time that I had sought out a physical exhibition based on something I saw online!

    As the name suggests, the exhibition focuses on population growth. A series of interactive electronic kiosks along with artifacts (traditional clothes and other items from various parts of the world) help tell the story. The interactive exhibits were much like those I encountered on the Web site. What made them memorable was their emphasis on the visitor and the personalization of the information presented.

    For example, an interactive exhibit would ask your age; you were then instructed to “Guess how many people were on Earth when you were born?” For example, by entering the age of 41 into the program, you receive the response, “When you were born there were 3,268,225,000 people on earth. It has increased since then by 103%.” A running total of the population count (right now at 6,669,641,000) appeared in the exhibit and on the Web site.

    This simple, but powerful concept of placing the visitor at center of the interactive experience was a constant thread. Since the exhibit is about “us” (and our population problem) it makes sense that the focal point is “us.” More than that, visitors are always interested in themselves. This approach not only made the exhibition easier to understand (“we” provide the context), it made it more interesting (“we” are interested in ourselves).

    Since I visited the exhibition, I’ve looked for opportunities to personalize the exhibits that we’ve developed. Obviously, it doesn’t work in every topic or in every instanceĀ–but when it does, and it is done well, it can help create a very compelling exhibit.

Latest Comments (11)

6 Billion Human Beings

by Beth Redmond-jones - May 20, 2007

I was so intrigued by the concept of this exhibition, that I went on-line on do it for myself. It is daunting to see how quickly our population has grown, and where we are headed for the future. We need to conserve our resources and not be so consuming focused if we are going to be able to maintain in the future. This is a great exhibit, one I wish everyone would see.

The online version also has a link to updated information (http://www.ined.fr/en/everything_about_population/ ) with nice animations, population atlas and a population game.

Thanks Jim for sharing this site.

anyone interested?

by Kathleen Mclean - May 21, 2007

I have been wanting to do an exhibition on population for a very long time. I’d love to put together a team and try to make it happen. I don’t know if America is ready to hear about it yet, but we can’t wait much longer. I wonder how well this exhibition would play in the U.S. Nonetheless, who’s game to do this? K

I'm interested

by Beth Redmond-jones - May 21, 2007

Kathy—Count me in. This is definitely something that needs to be seen and discussed in the US. Maybe Population Connection www.peopleconnection.org (formally zpg.org) would be interested in collaborating. beth

3 Things

by Paul Orselli - May 23, 2007

1) The “population explosion” is not so easily quantified. For example, Paul Ehrlich’s 1968 book,
“The Population Bomb” greatly overstated the case. Ehrlich’s book predicted that “in the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death.”due strictly to overpopulation.

In fact, in many countries, including the US, the population rate (excluding immigration) is actually decreasing.

On a lighter note:

2) http://www.miniature-earth.com/


The Population Bomb

by Jim Spadaccini - May 23, 2007

I totally agree that the “population explosion” is not easily quantified (just look a Japan’s shrinking population). Still, the problem of population I think has become more urgent now that we’re aware of global warming. As the developing world develops carbon emissions will increase, along with the population. These changes in climate could then have devastating consequences for the entire planet.

Also, I have to say I wish Ehrlich’s book was never written. It is always used by the far Right to decry any predictions concerning pollution, population, diminishing resources, or climate issues as exaggerated or overblown.

Ehrlich Redux

by Paul Orselli - May 24, 2007

Happily, not being far right of anything, another way I’ve viewed Ehrlich’s early work as a “warning bell” that might have (in a small way) raised people’s awareness about population issues.

Interesting to compare current responses (or lack thereof) to global warming issues.

Half Full

by Jim Spadaccini - May 25, 2007

You certainly see the glass as half full! I guess my point of view is shape from times I’ve come across comments about global warming like, “We heard this before about population growth and it turned out to be wrong,” as if the predictions today about global warming have any association with Ehrlich book.

Another great resource for the topic of population is World in the Balance. The program is excellent. Their website borrows from 6 Billion Human Beings. I do like the counter of how many “Babies born since you loaded this page..”


I’m with Beth and Kathy—this topic would make a fascinating exhibition!

Tech rot

by Bryan Kennedy - May 28, 2007

I think this project is also a good example of technology rot. I visited the old website to find many of the interactives hard to use if not completely unusable due to change in our more modern web browsers.

I was excited to see that they had updated everything at the new site listed above and even added in new information (and got the guts to mention abortion). However, this should remind us when making multimedia materials around concepts like this that will continually change, to build in mechanisms for the updatability of content. We also must keep an eye on the multimedia technologies we choose for they will all be obscured by time.

Check out the new stuff

by Bryan Kennedy - May 28, 2007

Do make sure to check out the new site with the updated animations. They are really wonderful.



by Carolyn Levi - June 06, 2007

It’s great that they’ve migrated to the new site.

I dabbled in this area a while back — in ’97 I developed the population growth section of an interactive kiosk for an exhibition about impacts on coastal ecosystems. I co-authored related speeches and papers after that.

Anyhow, I’d like to play, too. The subject begs for more exposure, especially now with impacts from climate change setting in.

social explorer

by Eric Siegel - July 05, 2007

There is a great web site made by Andy Beveridge, a prominent social scientist here in NYC. It is called socialexplorer.com, and it makes all the american census data available in a very usable form. For example, if you want to see the composition of your neighborhood in terms of income, ethnicity, family composition, etc, you can create a slide show showing how that has changed over the past century.

We have been talking with him and a major data analysis software company about making a museum-friendly version of this.

About 5 years ago, we got Keyhole to lend us their software, and we built a kiosk version. Keyhole was bought by google to make google earth. People were fascinated to be able to zoom into their house (hey is my mom home?). I have a feeling that with the appropriate interface, we could make something similarly attractive about changing demographics, particularly in diverse, quickly changing communities like NYC.

This might be an interesting, and less abstract, component of an exhibition about population.

Whaddya think Kathy? We are probly going to get funding to do this kiosk using social explorer sometime over the next several months, and it would be great to put it in a broader context.

Eric Siegel

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