The Paleontology of Chris Wildrick Is Overrated: Species-a-Rama, interactive performance, 2008-present, performed at the Museum of the Earth, in Ithaca, NY; the Redhouse, XL Projects, the Art School in the Art School, and a fourth grade class in Syracuse, NY. Exhibited at the Redhouse, XL Projects, and Museum of the Earth.


This was a simple contest: participants were asked to name as many dinosaur species as they could in one minute. (There were also 5 minute and 15 minute categories, although nobody ever did the 15-minute version!)

This was a written, not oral, challenge, so just writing the names alone took a fair amount of time. Contestants could play as many times as they wished.

The idea was to study dinosaur popularity by finding out how many dinosaurs a normal person knows well enough to know their names. The analysis not only counts how many times a species was named, but where in the list. In other words, in a timed, high-stress environment like this contest, people are going to name the dinosaurs they are most familar with first, and get around to less-familiar dinosaurs later on. For instance, by looking at whether Triceratops tended to be named at the top of the list or at the bottom, we can learn not only how many people put it on their lists, but how quickly it came to their mind in comparison with other dinosaurs on the lists.

It should be noted, incidentally, that what people were really listing were dinosaur genera (Triceratops, Stegosaurus, etc.), not species. Chris called it Species-a-Rama! because it sounds better, and because most people are more aware of the idea of species than they are of genera. Once Chris hooked people into playing, he took the opportunity to explain the difference (as well as the difference between, for instance, dinosaurs, pterosaurs, and the various marine reptiles of the time, many of which people put on their list).

The book, below, contains the most extensive analysis of the results.


Documentation:

Contestants and their results:

Name

Time Limit

Number of Species

Richard A. Kissel 5 minutes* 60
Samantha Sands 5 minutes*

33

Kathia 5 minutes 11
Joanna 5 minutes 9
Sarah 5 minutes 9
Juan 5 minutes 8
Judy Meighan 5 minutes 8
McKinley-Brighton team #1 5 minutes 7
McKinley-Brighton team #2 5 minutes 6
McKinley-Brighton team #4 5 minutes 6
McKinley-Brighton team #3 5 minutes 4
Samantha Sands 1 minute 13
Wally Kirschler 1 minute 12
Maureen 1 minute 10
Denise 1 minute 10
Andrea 1 minute 9
Liam 1 minute 9
Minseok (2nd try) 1 minute 9
Kevin Wang 1 minute 8
David Fleischman 1 minute 6
Dan Lukas 1 minute 6
Billy Kepner 1 minute 6
Michael 1 minute 6
Susan 1 minute 6
Minseok (1st try) 1 minute 6
Liz 1 minute 5
Brandon Wilson 1 minute 5
Adrian 1 minute 4
Alexander Strauss 1 minute 4
Alicia 1 minute 4
Jonathan 1 minute 3
Sue 1 minute 3
Tomer 1 minute 3
Dyan 1 minute 2
Mamo 1 minute 2

* These two contestants were playing in the 5-minute category, but due to a mistake on Chris' part, "time" was not called until after 6'22" had elapsed. Therefore their scores cannot be directly compared with other 5-minute-category players, although they are a perfectly legitmate result otherwise.

 

Think you can beat their scores? You can play Species-a-Rama! yourself by downloading the form here. Make sure to really keep yourself within the time restraints!

 

The book, seen above, collects the data, presents it in chart form, and analyzes it. The original book featured a large fold-out poster, which can also be found at its full size in the PDF:

See this page, which collects all the paleontology books, for more photographs of the book.

(Chris recommends that you view the book PDFs on Acrobat, and that under View > Page Display, you select "Two-Up Continuous" and "Show Cover Page During Two-Up" for the full book experience. "Two-Up Continuous" shows the both the left- and right-hand pages in a spread together on your screen. "Show Cover Page During Two-Up" makes the first page of the book show as a single page on the right-hand side, thus making sure that all the following pages are shown in their correct pairings, like pages 2 and 3, pages 4 and 5, etc. Doing this will ensure that you see the book the way Chris designed it, with various visual and informational relationships existing between the left- and right-hand pages.)

 

You can also download the now-outdated, but still-interesting, 2009 poster of the project:

 

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