Folkways in Wonderland: A Cyberworld Exhibition of Sound

Folkways in Wonderland (FiW) is a collaboration between Professor Michael Cohen and doctoral student Rasika Ranaweera at the University of Aizu, Professor Michael Frishkopf and folkwaysAlive! at the University of Alberta, and Smithsonian Folkways at the Smithsonian Institution.

Folkways in Wonderland  is (cyber [world) music], an immersive, collaborative virtual reality environment facilitating a new way to browse curated music of the world. FiW users are represented by avatars inhabiting a giant cylindrical map, in which a carefully curated selection of geotagged Smithsonian Folkways track segments are embedded as virtual speakers generating spatial sound. Users can navigate freely, listen to tracks together, browse metadata, communicate with one another via text or voice chat, or enjoy preprogrammed tours.

FiW is built with Open Wonderland, a 100% Java open source toolkit for creating collaborative 3D virtual worlds. To run FiW you must install  Java on your computer.


A typical Folkways in Wonderland session: In the upper-center window, the user browses metadata for the track (located in Puerto Rico) selected in the left window; buttons allow the user to view liner notes, listen via virtual headphones (excluding competing sounds), locate the track on the Smithsonian Folkways website, teleport to the track’s origin, search for other tracks, or view track location on a zoomable Google map (upper right). The user may also embark on a tour, using a window such as that shown in the lower right.

Running Folkways in Wonderland:

  • Click here to access the FiW page.
  • Then click the “Launch” button to download the file Wonderland.jnlp.
  • Make sure you have Java (versions 7 or 8) is installed, and that “” is added to your Java Security > Exception List.
  • Then double-click Wonderland.jnlp to download and run the FiW cyberworld client on your computer. Note that the first time you run Wonderland, it will take a while for the application to download.
  • You will be asked to log in. Your username will become your name in the virtual world. No password is required.

Navigating Folkways in Wonderland:

  • Click on your avatar, then use the up and down arrow keys (or W and S) to move forward and backward, or page up and down (fn arrow on a Mac) to move up and down (hold down shift to run). Use the left and right arrow keys (or A and D) to step left or right.
  • Scroll to zoom in and out, and control-drag to look around.
  • Change your view by using the View menu to select a camera type.
  • Use the Tools menu to determine whether Collision or Gravity is enabled (if not you can move through solid objects or defy gravity).
  • The Help menu provides additional resources, or consult the Useful Links below.

Useful Links

Articles and academic papers:

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