Wednesday, July 24, 2002

display space

generally i ignore wired magazine, but i just read the cover story from last month and it got me thinking. well, actually, it's nvidia's Jen-Hsun Huang that did it by saying this: "The Xbox is how the computer will be built in the next 20 years. More semiconductor capacity will go to the user experience. The microprocessor will be dedicated to other things like artificial intelligence. That trend is helpful to us. It's a trend that's inevitable.... Some people say the network is the computer. We believe the display is the computer. Anywhere there's a pixel, that's where we want to be."

The display is the computer... in these playful words I am reminded of ken hillis' excellent chapter "sight and space" from digital sensations, where he discusses the privileging of the visual in virtual reality. "something nonexistent has seemingly been made visible. for those seeking certainty through optics, however, the power of invisibility - and all that remains unavailable to vision - remains undiminished, and the technology may ironically confirm already held anxieties about the invisible realm."

i'm interested in the social-spatial implications of display space - in what becomes visible/invisible. stating that the computer is "about display" certainly draws attention to the interface and user experience, but it equally and effectively black-boxes what generates the display. using huang's example, if the interface is privileged, then things like artificial intelligence are rendered invisible within the cpu. my concern is in where we locate accountability for spaces/objects/ideas that are invisible, yet nonetheless present. this becomes increasingly difficult if the interface is highly visual - since "seeing is believing" and invisible things can easily be claimed to "not exist".

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