I found the Manovich chapters interesting and useful as a historical context for the evolution of the computer as creative medium and the development of the artistic field we call new media.
The Interface provided interesting questions about new media as art form and where it can be placed in the interwoven evolution of technology, design, and art. Manovich articulates the way the computer has become a filter for all culture, “with its particular human-computer interface” (64). In Alan Kay’s Universal Media Machine, Manovich expands this idea and describes the intentionality behind of the development of the computer as “metamedium” — “a platform for all expressive artistic media” (65). He goes on to articulate how Alan Kay and other inventors of the new medium intended it not only as this all-encompassing creative tool but also “supporting development of… new ‘not-yet-invented media… the processes of thinking, discovery, decision making, and creative expression” (83). To summarize, the modern computer was intended to be all of the creative tools used in the past, enhanced with new properties, as well as a medium for creating new tools, software, applications and ultimately, methods and techniques of creation and expression.
I was particularly interested in how Manovich wrote about the collapse of the distinction and separation between the field of work and the field of leisure in the way we now use computers in our life. This is related to the idea I was speaking about in class of multitasking and other ways we navigate our daily interfaces, in a sort of hyper-associative way that seems to be inspired by human patterns but do not exactly replicate them but amplify them to a non-human level. I am curious about the short and long-term psychological, emotional, and even physical impacts of working and thinking this way, how it conflicts or coincides with our human development.
I was also interested in how he discussed how the past paradigms of content/form and content/medium have become content/interface in the computer age. This idea that new media is stuck somewhere between artwork and information design or art and science reminds me of a similar conversation about the documentary film form which seems definitively and throughout history stuck somewhere between cinema art form and science/ethnography.
In the Alan Kay chapter, I was reminded of Greenberg’s Modernist Painting when Manovich wrote about the combining of mediums into a single computer environment “as though different media are actively trying to reach towards each other, changing properties and letting each other borrow their unique features” (65) and how this is the opposite intention from that of modernist media “which was focused on discovering a unique language for each artistic medium” (70). This is just one way in which Manovich illustrates the computer as entirely a new medium, even though it is based on past mediums.
I am curious how much newness we can take. It seems there is a clear limit (i.e. GUI imitating the real world to create ease and simplicity for the user).
I can’t help but note that the inventors Manovich reference seem to all be men (and possibly other privileged identities) and I am curious if there is inherent bias in this new media and medium. It seems there is something related in the colonizing language many of them used in imagining and developing their inventions. For example, Kay describes a machine with the “ability to hold all of the user’s information” (61) and Ted Nelson defines his hypertext as “the fullest generalization of documents and literature” (79) (emphasis mine).
I am curious what value the old mediums that are being remediated have as the metamedium developed.
What made me most excited reading the Alan Kay chapter was how he described the inherent experimental/avant-garde quality of the computer as metamedium — I am interested in thinking of it as such and how that could influence my own and others’ work and art, our methods, approaches and uses of the computer in creative thinking, development, and expression.