Monday, November 16, 2009

Multimedia Experience: Reading response #1

The Interface, Cultural Interfaces, & Printed Word
In the first part of "The Interface"(pages 63-78), Graphical User Interface (GUI) is introduced as a comparison to the "postmodern" vision of the movie Blade Runner. The relationship between human and computers is discussed and the author points out that once a user purposely deletes a file on a computer, it can usually be recovered. He says "Thus, if in 'meatspace' we have to work to remember, in cyberspace we have to work to forget." This concept is interesting because in the physical world, we have to store information in our brains in order to remember it...we have to really learn that info or else it will be or can be forgotten. Computers remember that information for us automatically and even when we try to delete it or remove it, it is usually still there somewhere within the hard drive.

On page 64, he writes, "In semiotic terms, the computer interface acts as a code that carries cultural messages in a variety of media." Everything we view on screen, whether it be text, music, video, websites, video games, etc., is ran through the interface that computer designer has set up for communicating the content to us. These interfaces have an affect on the way we see things and how the messages are transmitted to the user. The interface organizes computer data and cultural information in specific ways, providing set models of the world. In other words, "far from being a transparent window into the data inside a computer, the interface brings with it strong messages of its own."

The interface plays a huge role on how messages are transcribed on screen to the user, just as the presentation of information through print, language and other forms of visual communication do. In artwork, such as new media, the relationship between content and interface is unified and combined as one entity, and is meant to be viewed transparently.

On page 67, he talks about how "in a menu-based interactive multimedia application or a static web site, all data exists before the use accesses it.." This is compared to the "dynamic new media artworks" where the data is created at "run time." This made me think about my current portfolio website design project because, while the actual information and content I am providing to the user is set and predetermined (project imagery and descriptions), I have the ability to make it a more user influenced and non linear experience. In the direction I chose to pursue, the data is not being created "on the fly," but the presentation of it can be manipulated and is not static. The initial content is hidden through my design, but when the user interacts with the portfolio, they are collaborating with the computer interface, the web browser and myself, while expanding and exploring the possibilities of what can happen and how they can make my work appear on screen.

I was introduced to the term human-computer interface, which "describes the ways in which the user interacts with a computer. HCI includes physical input and output devices...It also consists of metaphors used to conceptualize the organization of computer data." The computer has transformed from a tool for work into a commonplace for not just information finding/sharing, but for leisure, social networking, creating, designing and countless other activities. On page 70, he uses the term "culteral interface" to describe the "ways in which computers present and allow us to interact with cultural data." The possibilities of how things appear on screen are based on a computer language that can be compared to all kinds of cultural languages. It is up to the designer to decide how things are going to look for the computer user, despite the unlimited options of manipulating numbers and characters to make the screen appear any way possible.

The traditions of cinema, the printed word and the HCI "has developed its own unique way of organizing information, presenting it to the user, correlating space and time, and structuring human experience in the process of accessing information" The virtual recreation of the book shows many similarities to the original use of the printed text. Websites have tables of contents that exist as navigation  and content that exists like the pages of text in books...which can be scrolled through rather than flipped through. The similarities are also supported through many new applications introduced that don't exist so directly in paper book form...such as the use of hyperlinks to connect the reader to similar websites or pages that may be of use, reference or citation (compared to footnotes at the bottom of the page in a book).

In the last paragraph, the concept of spatial wandering is mentioned as a way to navigate through time as a "flat image or a landscape" such as in a video game. I compared this to surfing the web and getting lost in a virtual sea of information, content, websites and media. On a daily basis, I find myself with 10 or more windows/tabs open at once as I am trying to multi-task on different websites at the same time. I'll be logged into myspace or facebook in a couple windows, updating my blog in another, reading an article in another, listening to a youtube video or song in another, checking my email in another and checking my bank statement in another. I wander through all of these windows randomly, sometimes being overwhelmed by too many things going on at once. Despite the chaos that I create for myself, my mind has become used to the ability to do all of these things at once. In essence, the internet allows you to create a nonlinear experience filled with many different types of content.

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