It’s been a big year for #history, #design, #newmedia, #digitalhumanities, and #hashtags. Here is a profoundly subjective roundup of the projects that have made us stop and think here at Harvard’s History Design Studio. Stay tuned as we roll them out over the first week of the New Year!
1) WHAT SCREENS WANT, by Frank Chimero
The number one spot has (almost) nothing to do with history. But this manifesto was a gamechanger for thinking about the nature of new media. Instead of approaching “new media” as a broad and diverse category, designer Frank Chimero identifies what all new media have in common—their mode of transmission, the screen. There are plenty of quotable lines:
"If something can be anything, it usually becomes everything."
“Much like wood, I believe screens have grain: a certain way they’ve grown and matured that describes how they want to be treated.”
“Web and interactive design are just as much children of filmmaking as they are of graphic design.”
“Screens don’t care what [things] look like. They just want them to move. They want the [things] to change. Designing for screens is managing that change.”
But in a manifesto about form, the medium has to be the message. And indeed, the experience of “reading” “What Screens Want” is about a million times better than the experience of reading anything else on the internet. It’s lucid, liquid, and soft at the same time, like a Southern California sunset. It unfolds gently, giving you plenty of visual space to absorb the simply stated but deeply philosophical concepts. In a word, “What Screens Want” is beautiful.
What we really love here at the History Design Studio, though, is that Frank Chimero has a historical consciousness. All too often, we regard our contemporary digital reality as post-historical, as though the internet—with its tangled archive, constant movement, and its apparently autonomous avatars—is a portal that funnels us out of time. Chimero asks what this portal is made of. He asks how it was made, and that is a historical question.
Read (experience, watch, absorb) “What Screens Want” to learn how Chimero connects this history of photography, film, plastic, and software to help us understand where we are right now.