The Digital World
The digital world of today can be understood as a product of late-Victorian construction of the machinery of information organization combined with Modernist visual forms.
In his doctoral dissertation, The Engineering of Vision from Constructivism to Computers, Lev Manovich, professor of New Media at the University of San Diego, states it is the influence of Modernist visual forms, mainly Soviet era Constructivism, that shapes the look of the current digital world (e.g. the Internet). Professor Simon Cook of Duke University, in his recent paper, Late Victorian Visual Reasoning and a Modern History of Vision, argues that Manovich overlooks the importance of the Victorian period in influencing the aesthetics of our present digital design. Cook bases his argument on the concept of an orderly and well-catalogued Internet, as if the system had been developed in nineteenth century Britain. However, due to the chaotic, disorganized and ever-changing look of the digital world, the argument of a Victorian based system is flawed. The late nineteenth century does not have the impact Cook believes it does, whereas Manovich remains on track in his original argument. Still, Manovich’s ideas can only be regarded on a temporary basis, because the face of the digital world has changed drastically since its development, and will continue to in the near future.
Before exploring the look of the current digital world, it is first important to look at its physical development. I will concentrate mainly on the Internet and the more recent phenomena of the World Wide Web, although software look also has a significant role. This concentration follows from my prediction of the future look of computers, which will be more web-based. This will be shown later in the paper.
Although the current digital world is mostly visual, it was not always designed to be this way. In the early 1960’s, scientists began to seek a way of better communicating with each other, mainly for the purpose of sharing information in an fast and easy manner. Due to developments in packet switching technology, the concept of wide area computer network could be realized. Researchers at DARPA began work on ARPANET, which, through a series of improvements and modifications, would eventually become the groundwork for the modern Internet. These networks were originally built by connecting one computer at a time, and adding more as they were needed. This disorganization and decentralization from the very creation of the Internet leads to our current design.
What is important to note here visually, is that all work at this point had been done completely by computer scientists who were entirely focused on efficiency and practicality and not on the look. The more skilled a person becomes in the electrical engineering and computer science fields, the more they have a tendency to prefer environments with short and terse commands, without much screen distraction. The operating...