- On Designerization of Media Culture in the Age of Software
Manovich’s book is a significant take on the design aspects of software creative practice, including not only a focus on software as technology but also a focus on software as technique. Indeed, in this book, software is understood as both something a little bit less and a little bit more than a “medium”: it enables the existence of media as experience and content (the words, the visuals, and the aesthetic choices that often remediate earlier media forms) and the incorporation of elements, such as location, into applications. These elements sometimes become ways to destabilize the media ecological system and can have cascading effects across an aesthetic and social landscape of designing cultural reality: for instance, location-based systems/applications or use of 3-D space in differing ways.
Software history is central to Manovich’s argument, and we need more detailed accounts of the history of this particular situation. He is absolutely correct that we still lack knowledge of significant parts of software history, and such an understanding is crucial to shedding light on the current situation. He is not ready to acknowledge that “remediation” (Bolter and Grusin 1999) is the only, or always the best, way to analyze how software environments are hybrid. Manovich does not discuss or mention media archaeology but is partly operating in the same environment, to the degree that he is writing media history anew from the perspective of emerging techniques and technologies, such as software. In Software Takes Command, his main historical interest is in the 1970s and 1980s and in the emergence of the concept of “metamedium” from the work of, especially, Alan Kay. Manovich does not refer to Casey Alt’s (2011) work on object-oriented programming and on the shift that occurred as computers became media machines, but he offers a similar argument, discussing the implementation of media as part of computers, as well as the shift from Turing-land to Kay-land and from number crunching to design. Kay’s inventive take on computers as creative media and his ideas such as the Dynabook provide a historical context for Manovich, as does the work of Ted Nelson and Doug Engelbart. Kay and the institutional context of Palo Alto labs (PARC) becomes a significant milestone and a hub...