Book details of 'Art and Innovation: The Xerox PARC Artist-In-Residence Program'
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Art and Innovation contributor Craig Harris writes that "[b]oth scientists and artists are converging ... in such issues as artificial life, teleprescences, and
multimedia and immersive environments." But this connection is often overlooked, and as niche computer technologies become more standard, the groups
may be becoming more entrenched and separate. Xerox PARC, now recognized as the hotbed of computer technology development in the latter half of
the 20th century (and discussed in books such as Dealers of Lightning), took a new turn in the 1990s. Because of its interest in the "Office of the Future,"
Xerox paired Bay Area artists with its in-house team of computer scientists (as well as anthropologists, philosophers, linguists, interface designers,
mathematicians, and cryptographers) and closely documented their discoveries. At the center of the PAIR Program's mission lies the future of digital
media and the thesis that artists should be fundamentally involved with the development of these tools rather than just be consumers of them. Two more
diverse and entrenched disciplines could hardly be found, and the surprising results are painstakingly detailed here.
Precursors to the 1990s incarnation of the artist-researcher pairing brought about technical innovations such as the first bitmapped graphics editor, a
result of the combined efforts of a mathematician and a sculptor. The roughly half-dozen experiments conducted within the PAIR Project are discussed in
detail in this book, including a chapter about work on LambdaMOO, the social virtual-reality site that seeks to transcend the Web's use as primarily an
information provider. Another particularly strong section of the book, titled "Endless Beginnings," owes much to Jenny Holzer, with multiple lines of thought
on one hypertext-based project wrapping through the pages.
While this book is limited by the need to present every speck of information (much like a conference paper), the ideas are substantive and worthy of
consideration. Computer professionals working on the Web and in software development can read this notebook of ideas to facilitate their own expansive
thinking beyond just the merits of clean code.
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