The History of Computer Graphics and Digital Art Project
Describe your field. Why are you interested in Computer Art/ Computer Graphics and what (event, need, idea, hope, obstacle) caused your involvement? Summarize your line of development (the essence of your input to the field) in relation to concurrent technology.
My involvement in the field of Computer Art/Graphics essentially combines innovative technology with education and culture. Specifically, I have been engaged with research in several interrelated areas, including educational technology & informal education, interactive learning environments, new media & art, human-computer interaction, cultural technology, and virtual reality. I have directed the Virtual Reality Department of a cultural heritage institution, where advanced CG reconstructions of ancient monuments were open to the public in the form of immersive CAVE-like environments. Prior to this, my work focused on the design, application, and evaluation of virtual and digital media environments for education and the representation of cultural information, including the design of webbased interactive art education material for museums.
Does the computer allow you to think visually about some topic or process in new ways? How has this influenced your work? Describe your ultimate accomplishment.
My work has focused on making the computer “disappear” and become transparent to its users, in the sense that the technology is used in meaningful, natural, and expressive ways without requiring from the users to even be aware of it. I am thus concerned more with use, through the sound development of applications, rather than the development of the technology itself. My ultimate—most challenging and rewarding—accomplishment can be seen every time I observe the general public (visitors and children) actively engaged in the environments I have designed. “Crafting” a new medium, exploring a new “language”, suspending disbelief, and bringing the latest technology close to the broad public in natural ways have influenced the way I think and work.
Has the field of computer art and graphics progressed in the ways that you expected? What has surprised you? What do you like about its progress and what do you wish had happened differently? What do you think the future holds for visual computing in science/art? Please make some predictions or wish lists for the near- and long-term future.
The development of computer graphics techniques and tools has progressed immensely in the 10–12 years I have been in this field and current examples in the film industry successfully showcase the advancement of CG research into practice. However, despite the growing awareness of these tools and techniques, the computer art field is still in its infancy. As with other art forms of our century (cinema, photography), the transition from exact representation & photorealism to more abstract and expressive aesthetic forms develops as the tools develop and a “language” of the medium is formed. I expect and hope that the future will find us exploring the field in more free-form, expressive, and nonphotorealistic ways.
Describe your dream environment for enhancing your project ideas. What are your preferred tools for creating and how do they work? What tools (hardware/software) you have used initially had the strongest impact on your work?
My dream environment involves a very tactile and intuitive system that is incorporated in its context of use. This system will not include cables and other interfaces that act as mediators between the environment and the user, requiring that the user learn how to interact with them. On the contrary, its complete integration in an everyday environment (not a protected lab) should ensure that natural methods of interaction and seamlessly integrated interfaces are designed in detail. The development of the CAVE® system, an immersive projection-based virtual environment, has had the strongest impact on my work, since it comes closer to the ideal of a collaborative, interactive, non-obtrusive social space where the user is able to learn, work, and play in a whole new way. Further developments on environments that are based on the concept of the CAVE® but extend its functionality while reducing its drawbacks (equipment, glasses, wires), help to push this direction.
Describe how you think specific advancements in technology, such as wireframe, hidden line removal, scanner, laser, HTML, Java applets, or any other advancement determined the way the approaches to creating art/graphics evolved?
Every advancement adds to the arsenal of tools available to creative people and every tool evolves the methods of creating graphics. The advancement of 3D graphics techniques has made it much easier to create beautiful and accurate pictures, while the simple and direct qualities of the web have given every person the chance to create and publish. However, the powerful, straightforward approach provided by all these new tools, hide the truly challenging task of exploring the new medium in expressive and unpredictable ways.
How would you characterize the milestones (every ten years) in the development of computer technology? Which ones were most influential in art/graphics?
The development of computer graphics techniques and tools has progressed immensely in the last 10 years, while the technology is slowly becoming accessible to most. Out of the great number of milestones that comprise the history of CG, I am unable to identify the most influential, with the exception of the development of the widely accessible web browser (Mosaic).
Which persons would you indicate as the pioneers in the particular areas/stages in which decade?
In the fields I have chosen, there are a few individuals that have contributed and pioneered in their respective areas. Since I can not mention them all, I will focus on a few people in the immediate area of interest. Most notably, Daniel Sandin and Tom DeFanti of the Electronic Visualization Lab, can boast amongst other things the creation of the CAVE®, an advanced, multiperson virtual reality platform. Myron Krueger, an artist who also coined the term Artificial Reality has been a pioneer in the involvement of the body as the main interface in the interaction with a digital environment.