Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Evolution of the Computer and Its Effects On Us

I would like to add to Mike's posting and mention a few of my personal observations in the last fifteen years. Computers and computer technology have come a long way from their origins. When walking throughout our history and upon observing and examining the many forms of communication that humans have utilized, this has got to be the ultimate form of communication that has made significant contribution to the way we conduct our lives. Who would have guessed thirty-five or even twenty-five years ago that our access of information could become so instantaneous? Apparently nobody would ever dream of that, but what people don't realize are two things: 1) computer technology that we use at a mainstream level today was already being used thirty-five years ago by the government and even by some major companies, and 2) this computer technology that we all take for granted is a continuation of the older forms of computing power, which still provides the foundation for the current use of the technology. call this, if you will, the information or digital "grid". After taking my first class on Tuesday, the concept of electricity befits the computer technology that we experience. I have also witnessed and experienced firsthand the beginnings of the current technological wave when the World Wide Eb first began to be utilized at my college in the mid 1990s. Although many things have changed, even dramatically, the initial premise, of uniting text and forms of links and matching them with corresponding images has prevailed and has acquired strength, thus enabling computing power to become the "medium" that it it today.

True, we have come a long way from being simple adding machines, to an artificial "brain", to symbol manipulators. Bolter and Gromala devised, in my opinion, an elegant introduction in their book by "laying the law down" about the battle between the structuralists and the designers. As in everything in life which comes in pairs, a conflict needs to exist in our computer world where two forces of good and evil are fighting to "make the world a better place"! This makes perfect sense because while the structuralist side argues that producing information is more important and that the computer needs to be an "inofmration appliance", the designer side (which ironically came from the structuralist side!) considers that by providing images, the person accesing the information can make sense of the "experience". This method would allow (as in the real world example of weaving words and images on paper) for the information to correspond to the images, so visual communication could be possible. Another point mentioned in the beginning of Bolter and Gromala's book was distinguishing between the computer as being just an "appliance" versus the computer being a "medium". With an appliance, the object literally performs the intended function, with no give-and-take involved. Using an appliance could be considered to be mainly done for convenience purposes. On the othetr hand, with a computer, you engage in some sort of "experience", where we achieve some sort of goal, such as obtaining knowledge or even receiving pleasure from the experience itself. This is the give-and-take factor that makes computers invaluable to our lives. Bolter places a computer in the same category as books, television sets, and photgraph albums. He continues on to talk about the SIGGRAPH 2000 convention where much of the technology we know of today was showcased, such as Sony Playstation 2, Photoshop, etc. One station he focused on particularly was Text Rain, which was an interactive screen that involved a person projecting their image against a wall and experiencing an illusion of interaction with some virtual letters. This presentation was regarded as an "expression of its viewers as of its creators. In other words, here we see that the receiver is also a part of the experience and it is not only that of the creator of the program or presentation. Technology allows for the consumer to be both the consumer and the "creator" as well, often engaging in the workings of the program.

In conclusion for this first posting, I can say that the first few pages of the book provide a very accurate description and timeline of how computer technology has come to affect our lives and what more there is to come. As Mike mentioned in his post,, and to paraphrase him, this idea of technology is basically people aware of prgression coming together to create and improve the technology that already exists in order to make our world a better place to live in. And that is what computing technology has accomplished and continues to do so. I will, however, disagree with the idea that the computer as we know it will disappear. Even if every "appliance" around is outfitted with computer chips, the PC will always be needed to perform the many functions that it performs for us on a daily basis.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent as well. And of course, coming from the field of communication, our natural sympathy is with Bolter and the designers.