Monday, 4 August 2014

The retrofuturism of Hyperland

Watching "Hyperland", a documentary about early ideas of interactive media as they were being developed in the 1990s, I saw that a lot of the vision has come to pass, but in ways that the original creators might not have imagined. Instead of an intelligent agent rifling through the world's information for you, personally, we have Google (and others) scanning the web, indexing it and presenting that index for you to search. What we don't have, so much, is an ever-present "related sites" function. The "back" button was featured, which made sense, but then most links were presented as moving icons ("micons", according to the movie) over other video. It was pretty distracting. A large amount of what was described is embodied in Wikipedia. Most of the rest is Google and standard web browser functionality, but far less anthropomorphised and intelligent.

They got into VR as well, of course, because this was the 90s, then finished with an unintentionally hilarious idea of what VR would look like in 2003, which was then 10 years in the future. The headsets did look a bit like the Oculus Rift and other devices that exist today, though.

What struck me most was the way so many people seemed to envision encapsulated, carefully-curated, rich databases of information on narrow topics, such as one Picasso painting or Beethoven's 9th symphony, and how users would be encouraged to edit together their own content from them. These "databases", of course, resembled early "multimedia experience" programs from the early CD-ROM days. We don't tend to bother putting together media museums like that any more, even though we now have an internet capable of delivering them faster and better than in 1993.

One of the main thrusts of the program was that this interactive experience is far better than linear, non-interactive television, and would surely replace TV in the future. Of course now we treat the internet as very different from television, and we still have both. We use the internet to talk about and enhance television, and even to screen cheaper shows with global niche appeal instead of local majority appeal. It's recognisably similar to the future portrayed in Hyperland but, as is usually the case with futurism, fundamentally different, too.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It's a fairly long program to explain the internet to an audience only familiar with TV, really.
PPS - And slightly ironic in that it's a completely linear, non-interactive video about how much better interactive, non-linear media are.

2 comments:

ForteNoxProductions said...

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John said...

I've been looking for that Futurama clip where they're watching All My Circuits: The Movie, but it doesn't seem to be online. This non-linear films thing reminds me of that.

"If you want Calculon to rush to the laser-gun battle in his hover-Ferrari, press 1. If you want him to double-check his paperwork, press 2."
[Fry presses 1]
"You have pressed '2'."
"No I didn't!"
"I'm almost positive you did."

I mean, I wish you guys luck, it's just that being asked to go and see a movie a few times to get all the endings and having to fight strangers to try and get those less-popular endings sounds both expensive and frustrating, two things we should be trying to remove from the movie-going experience.