straight up
"This new artist is an architect of the space of events, an engineer of worlds for billions of future histories, a sculptor of the virtual." – Pierre Lévy
VR installation, conFiguring the CAVE

by Randall Packer and Ken Jordan

Multimedia is emerging as the defining medium of the 21st century. The World Wide Web, CD-ROMs, virtual reality arcade games, and interactive installations only hint at the forms of multimedia to come. Yet the concept of integrated, interactive media has its own long history, an evolution that spans over 150 years. Remarkably, this has been a largely untold story. Discussions of the development of the personal computer and the Internet tend to focus on a few highly successful entrepreneurs, neglecting the less known work of the engineers and artists who first sought to craft a medium that would appeal to all the senses simultaneously – a medium that would mimic and enhance the creative capacities of the human mind. Here, then, is a "secret history" of multimedia: a narrative that includes the pioneering activities of a diverse group of artists, scientists, poets, musicians, and theorists from Richard Wagner to Ivan Sutherland, from Vannevar Bush to Bill Viola.

In the years since World War II, scientists have pursued personal computing and human - computer interactivity as vehicles for transforming consciousness, extending memory, increasing knowledge, amplifying the intellect, and enhancing creativity. The idealistic and ideological aspirations of both groups have resulted in a new medium that emphasizes individual choice, free association, and personal expression.