Drawing on history

In a discussion today with a student about how animated drawings can help bring a narrative to life, I sketched the below image onto a whiteboard, describing how over the course of several hours, events in Kiev’s Independence Square led to the downfall of Ukraine’s government.

I realize, looking at it now, that the static image itself contains little of the drama inherent in the tale. Yet the process of drawing it, and telling the story as I did, conveyed a powerfully compelling real-life drama.

My drawing-enhanced narrative told the tale of how Andrei Levus, who represented the protesters in the square, reached out to an deputy interior minister. Knowing armed reinforcements were on their way to the protesters, Levus persuaded the minister that it was best to avoid a mutual armed bloodbath between protesters and police.

If security forces would stand down, he offered safe passage on buses to the police guarding the presidential compound. The deputy minister agreed to a cease-fire, and within hours Parliament had voted to demobilize the police.

Within hours, the police had fled the city, the presidential palace was left unguarded, the president himself fled the capital, and the government had fallen.

The above image can be improved upon in at least two ways. The easy way would be to replace it with an animated sketch that takes you through the tale in order. The hard way (which is much more interesting) would be to give you a complete simulation of the tale, so that you can play with history itself, rearrange its factors, and see what might happen.

For example, wat would have happened if armed reinforcements to the protesters had been further away? If Parliament had not been so obliging as to demobilize the police? If those police had been more loyal to the president? Wouldn’t it be enlightening to have a tool that would let us explore these questions?

Perhaps to truly understand history, it is necessary to be able to customize it.

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