<< preface

this blog is nina wenhart's collection of resources on the various histories of new media art. it consists mainly of non or very little edited material i found flaneuring on the net, sometimes with my own annotations and comments, sometimes it's also textparts i retyped from books that are out of print.

it is also meant to be an additional resource of information and recommended reading for my students of the prehystories of new media class that i teach at the school of the art institute of chicago in fall 2008.

the focus is on the time period from the beginning of the 20th century up to today.

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>> Small Talk, Shazam (animation SW), Dynabook


"Much of the design of SHAZAM, their animation tool, is an automation of the media with which animators are familiar: movies consisting of sequences of frames which are a composition of transparent cels containing foreground and background drawings. Besides retaining these basic concepts of conventional animation, SHAZAM incorporates some creative supplementary capabilities. Animators know that the main action of animation is due not to an individual frame, but to the change from one frame to the next. It is therefore much easier to plan an animation if it can be seen moving as it is being created. SHAZAM allows any cel of any frame in an animation to be edited while the animation is in progress. A library of alreadycreated cels is maintained. The animation can be singlestepped; individual cels can be repositioned, reframed, and redrawn; new frames can be inserted; and a frame sequence
can be created at any time by attaching the cel to the pointing device, then showing the system what kind of movement is desired. The cels can be stacked for background parallax; holes and windows are made with transparent paint. Animation objects can be painted by programs as well as by hand. The control of the animation can also be easily done from a Smalltalk simulation. For example, an animation of objects bouncing in a room is most easily accomplished by a few lines of Smalltalk that express the class of bouncing objects in physical terms."

--> McLaren
--> Baecker, GENESYS



... is an object-oriented programming language, developed at Xerox PARC by Alan Kay, Adele Goldberg, et.at. in the 1970ies. Influences come from LOGO (as mentioned below), Lisp, Simula and Sketchpad.

Seymour Papert, a great influence on Kay, was creating computer systems for children to use creatively on the other side of the United States, at MIT. There, he developed LOGO (see ◊28). Kay’s previous work on FLEX had sought to create a computer that users could program themselves. This work led to the definition of object-oriented programming (inspired, in part, by Sutherland’s “Sketchpad” (◊09)). From Papert’s work, Kay saw how far this idea could be carried, and refined his notion of why it was important. The next stage of Kay’s work in this area culminated in Smalltalk.

, page 2:

Kay on Papert's Papert’s influence in 1990:
“I was possessed by the analogy between print literacy and LOGO. While designing the FLEX machine I had believed that end users needed to be able to program before the computer could become truly theirs—but here was a real demonstration, and with children! The ability to ‘read’ a medium means you can access materials and tools generated by others. The ability to ‘write’ in a medium means you can generate materials and tools for others. You must have both to be literate. In print writing, the tools you generate are rhetorical; they demonstrate and convince. In computer writing, the tools you generate are processes; they simulate and decide.” (“User Interface: A Personal View,” 193)

"Early Smalltalk was the first complete realization of these new points of view as parented by its many predecessors in hardware, language and user interface design. It became the exemplar of the new computing, in part, because we were actually trying for a qualitative shift in belief structures--a new Kuhnian paradigm in the same spirit as the invention of the printing press-and thus took highly extreme positions which almost forced these new styles to be invented." (Alan Kay)



"I remembered a wonderful phrase of Marshall McLuhan. He said, I don't know who discovered water, but it wasn't a fish. The idea is if you are immersed in a context you can't even see it. So we decided to follow Seymour Papert's lead and instead of trying to design for adults we would try and see what this Dynabook of the future would be like for children and then maybe hope some of it would spill over into the adult world. So children were an absolutely critical factor here. " (Alan Kay, http://www.artmuseum.net/w2vr/archives/Kay/01_Dynabook.html#)

The concept of the Dynabook is what later on became the laptop. The target audience would be children. The Dynabook ran on Small Talk. Kay was one of the main developers and was involved in the creation of the 1-Laptop-per-Child group.

Alan Kay about Humans and Media:
“Devices” which variously store, retrieve, or manipulate information in the form of messages embedded in a medium have been in existence for thousands of years. People use them to communicate ideas and feelings both to others and back to themselves. Although thinking goes on in one’s head, external media serve to materialize thoughts and, through feedback, to augment the actual paths the thinking follows. Methods discovered in one medium provide metaphors which contribute new ways to think about notions in other media."

Alan Kay on Dynabook:
"Most ideas come from previous ideas. The sixties, particularly in the ARPA community, gave rise to a host of notions about "human-computer symbiosis" through interactive time-shared computers, graphics screens and pointing devices. Advanced computer languages were invented to simulate complex systems such as oil refineries and semi-intelligent behavior. The soon-to-follow paradigm shift of modern personal computing, overlapping window interfaces, and object-oriented design came from seeing the work of the sixties as something more than a "better old thing." This is, more than a better way: to do mainframe computing; for end-users to invoke functionality; to make data structures more abstract. Instead the promise of exponential growth in computing /$/ volume demanded that the sixties be regarded as "almost a new thing" and to find out what the actual "new things" might be. For example, one would computer with a handheld "Dynabook" in a way that would not be possible on a shared mainframe; millions of potential users meant that the user interface would have to become a learning environment along the lines of Montessori and Bruner; and needs for large scope, reduction in complexity, and end-user literacy would require that data and control structures be done away with in favor of a more biological scheme of protected universal cells interacting only through messages that could mimic any desired behavior."

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... is a Media Art historian and independent researcher. She is currently writing on "speculative archiving && experimental preservation of Media Art" and graduated from Prof. Oliver Grau's Media Art Histories program at the Danube University in Krems, Austria with a Master Thesis on Descriptive Metadata for Media Arts. For many years, she has been working in the field of archiving/documenting Media Art, recently at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Media.Art.Research and before as the head of the Ars Electronica Futurelab's videostudio, where she created their archives and primarily worked with the archival material. She was teaching the Prehystories of New Media Class at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and in the Media Art Histories program at the Danube University Krems.