Evocative Performance vs. Information Transmission

An interesting thing happens when a medium has enough bandwidth to be a “rich medium.” It crosses a threshold from merely being an informational medium to being an evocative medium.

Consider radio, which was initially used to carry Morse code over the wireless tracts between ships at sea and shore. The entire communications payload of a message could be perfectly preserved in notating the discrete dots and dashes. Like digital media, the informational content was completely preserved regardless of whether it was carried by radio, telegraph, or paper. But when radio started carrying voice, there was communication payload that was not completely preserved in the context of other media. The human voice conveys more subtlety than mere words.

Thus far, the Internet has been mostly informational. We do use it to transmit individual sound and video presentational work, but the Internet platforms in these situations are merely the road on which these travel rather than the medium itself. (My kids say they are listening to a song or watching a video, rather than that they are using the Internet or that they are on-line. The medium is the music and video.)

So, what happens when an Internet platform supports voice and video, both live and prerecorded, and allows individual works to be combined and recombined and annotated and added to and for the whole process to be observed? Do “sites” become evocative? Do presentations on them become a performance art? Do we loose veracity or perspicuity as the focus shifts to how things are said rather than what is said? Here’s a radio performance musing on some of this and more.

I think maybe this is the point where the medium becomes the message. If a technology doesn’t matter because everything is preserved in other forms, then the technology isn’t really a distinct medium in McLuhan’s sense.

Of UI and Narratives

There were some comments to a previous entry that I thought were worth calling attention to all by themselves. The general theme of these was that of user interface and how the role of media in storytelling can inform the design of new UI paradigms. Highly appropriate for Brie.

So I’m moving those comments here. I want to keep the original page for the my attempt to define the heart of Croquet independently of UI, applications, and software distributions.

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communication modes

My wife is getting frustrated with the medium as she constantly checks for the latest in the raging debate in her favorite mailing-list. Meanwhile, writers and researchers lament the loss of the art and practice of writing letters.

There’s no spec for Croquet. Although the architects have mature experience and good taste in evaluating technologies for what does and doesn’t work, I don’t think they set out to achieve a particular set of characteristics. Yet one of the things that appeals to me about Croquet is the characteristic that it is agnostic about what mode of communication works best: Synchronous like face-to-face conversation and chat, or asynchronous like email or a handwritten letter; Seemingly anonymous like most of the Web and multi-player games, or full of social cues like voice and video communication. Croquet is equally facile at all.(*)

But what works best? When? In what ways? My boss, Julian, has been bringing together a very interesting group of educators and scientists as initial users of a Croquet Collaboratory that we are building. Although they come at it from perspectives that range as far as art, public health, and games, I think they are all vitally interested in this issue. By having a single medium that provides all – a meta-medium – they can study group interactions and observe how different communication techniques affect outcomes.

(*) I’m not quite sure what it says that I’m comfortable saying this, even though the effectiveness of both persistence and naturalistic voice and video have only been suggested in demonstrations, rather than proven in practice. Is it vision, confidence, or faith among the developers, or naiveté and the academic environment?