Saturday, October 6, 2012

Windows and Mirrors--Chapters 1-3--Bolter and Gromala

Bolter and Gromala take on an advisory role in educating the reader about the role of the modern computer architect.  Through the chapters we learn about several new digital computer art exhibits that were displayed at the 2000 SIGGRAPH Art Committee gathering and learn what each of the digital artists is attempting to accomplish through their works of computer and digital art.  The authors choose Wooden Mirror, Text Rain and Nosce Te Ipsum as just three of the computer art demonstrations that they use to illustrate the role of the computer architect in hopes of getting us to better understand the simplicity and complexity of computer interfaces that have become so common now in our everyday uses of Microsoft and Apple computer applications.  What is consistent between all of these works of digital computer art is the need
for transparency, the need to be able to understand and see through a computer application so that we can be better users and also technicians of our own if the applications should fail and we need to repair them.  Bolter and Gromala go to great lengths to get us a better understanding of computer applications as mirrors of ourselves that reflect back what we use them for and who we are.

It is fascinating to see their approach in the text as being so simplified as how they make out the goals of the computer architects to be.  The applications are described and at some point condemned when it comes to Microsoft and Apple.  Both Bolter and Gromala tend to believe that Microsoft engineers don't really like their jobs and the use of computers where Apple engineers are much more passionate and involved with what they design.  This I believe may be true as Windows applications tend to be more functional in our daily lives where Apple allows the integration of much more advanced computer generated graphic design, more involving icons and more artistic user friendly advances that engage the user to become a part of the technology as opposed to what Microsoft does by allowing us to simply be users of this new technology.  Either way, the authors tend to believe that computer applications should and must remain mirrors of ourselves and not independent thinking creatures that might rise up and attempt some kind of technological coup d'etat.  The computer is a mirror of ourselves and must remain as such but over the years we've seen Apple take computing to a new level where the machine takes on a character of it's own through design and function.  We almost are drawn into the mirror and want to explore it's virtual world with Apple products where with Microsoft, the computer is still a mirror but obedient enough to function as we need it without allowing us to get involved with it's design and desktop look.  Throughout all of the innovations we have seen in computer interfaces and applications, we are once again looking into a mechanism that must remain as it's main purpose to mirror back what we are and what we need in terms of functionality and design.  We have yet to learn if the mirror will crack in the upcoming years of advanced computer applications.  It seems almost inevitable.


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