Jonathan Jennings Harris was born on August 27, 1979 in Burlington, Vermont — and spent his childhood summers at High Acres Farm.
He attended Episcopal School and St. Bernard’s School in New York City, then Deerfield Academy in western Massachusetts, and then studied computer science at Princeton University and interactive art at Benetton’s Fabrica.
After keeping physical sketchbooks for many years, he was robbed at gunpoint in 2003, prompting a shift in focus to the evolving early Internet.
He was among the early pioneers in the field of “data visualization” through projects such as WordCount (2003), 10x10 (2004), and We Feel Fine (2006).
In 2007, he began to explore algorithmic approaches to storytelling that straddled the physical and digital worlds — inventing precise rule sets for himself to follow.
These projects, such as The Whale Hunt (2007), Balloons of Bhutan (2011), and I Love Your Work (2013) were among the first “interactive documentaries,” and helped to establish that burgeoning field.
In 2009, starting on his thirtieth birthday, Jonathan began a simple practice of taking a photo and writing a short story each day, and posting them online each night before going to sleep. He continued this ritual for 440 days, calling the resulting project, Today — as described in this short film by Scott Thrift.
Today evolved into Cowbird — a free (and ad-free) online storytelling community that attracted nearly 15,000 authors from around 150 countries, who shared almost 100,000 stories using the platform beginning in 2011.
In 2017, with the rise of screen addiction and attention economies, Jonathan decided to close Cowbird to new contributions, while keeping its stories online as an historical archive. Further responding to the effects of widespread Internet use on society, he created Network Effect in 2015 with Gregor Hochmuth.
Since then, he’s been exploring what he calls “Life Art” — using the creative application of ritual to shape his experience of life at High Acres Farm.
In Fragments (2021) is his first new work in six years — to learn about its origins, please see his essay, Working with Life.
More information is available on his website — with updates via his newsletter.
You can contact him at .