Issue 24 Volume Two, October/November 2010 “It Heals Itself” 10-10-10


In earlier times, artists invoked the Muses. In these times of Web2.0 blurring toward SomethingNextPoint0, I see media in which the Muses make only drunkenly staggering, wildly unpredictable, rare visits.

So … I declare here: I shout in text!

Wake up! Spread the word! Resist those who promise online empire to everyone under the terms “SEO”, “SMO”, and, collectively, “Make Tons of Money Online While Doing Nearly Nothing.” Alas, these promise-makers extend from the Monarchs of Digital Media Industry to shabby scammers world-wide. The academics are in this, too, to slice their piece. As the eternal lesson goes, the hunt continues by the predators to part the victim from the victim’s money or, of vastly greater value, the victim’s TIME.

Then what? Wake up, and … That is the subject of this Issue. I propose: three words to guide us in this sequence. The first reportedly is the initial word of Confucius’ Analects: it is the Chinese character, the word-picture, for this single idea: “Study”. That is Word One and First in order.

Word Two is from a unique entity in the history of our journey, “Big Blue”, the earliest important computer company, the original IBM. The corporate motto: “Think”.

Word Three: “Create”.

So, until I spot a Muse, I propose as we strive to lift and expand quality and creativity in digital media …

Study. Think. Create.

I have talked the talk. I must walk the walk. I must at least stagger …

I have studied an artistic form or pattern in digital arts for roughly twenty years. I call the form “spiral” or, perhaps, “recursive”, though neither term is fully accurate. The audience proceeds interactively through a computer screen world of mystery more than puzzle. (This theme, Mystery versus Puzzle, obsesses me increasingly in digital media and beyond [ah, if Wittgenstein thought less of "games" or puzzles and more of "mysteries", he may have been a large contributor!]. More, I hope, on this steeply daunting topic anon).

Specifically, the audience travels through the computer-presented work in a circular or recursive or spiral pattern. Nearly twenty years ago this design paradigm first amazed me in Cyan’s Manhole. . As I worked with Cyan during the Myst-Riven Era, I enjoyed this earlier work, which I believe Rand Miller made for his daughter. Round one goes through the rabbit/ “man” hole in loops or laps and each such circulation affords one the thrill of discovering the rich and deep environmental world of the circulation. So, in the sense of widening discovery and artistic appreciation, I see the form or pattern as a spiral: both circular and progressively wider. As I said, this description is not fully accurate, but it is a start. I am waiting for a Muse after all.

Much later, I discovered the swooping joy of Zune Journey, a lovely work of promotion actually for a Microsoft product, that takes the spiral form zooming through the “Z-axis”. Manhole has a more third person viewer design to it; Zune Journey is first person and yearns, in its very elegant design (and spectacular art), to draw the audience deeper and deeper, wider and wider, faster and slower, backward and forward … The discovery of this aesthetic leap from Manhole to Zune Journey thrilled me, and it is yours to consider if you wish in Burning Shorts Issue 14: 2007 Ends with a Zune! .

Most recently, I discovered the next such work I present here, but with a rebelliously large aim in mind: to focus attention on Study, Thought, and Creativity about forms and paradigms of interactive art. More on this briefly below. That next such work is appropriately named “Zoomquilt2″, at .

And Zoom one surely does. The work captivates; yet, I leave the rhapsody of artistic review and commentary, I hope, to many others. Here, I invite the joy of beholding Zoomquilt2 and its progression from earlier forms to be a catalyst for Study, Thought, and Creativity in the neglected forms and paradigms of interactive art.

I resist temptation to complain here of the Woeful Wasteland of form and paradigm in digital media arts from beginning to present. Rare exceptions appeared, like Electronic Arts Psychic Detective and other brilliant works from the Brothers LaFong, Michael Kaplan and John Sanborn, (as with their greatly controversial Dysson fiction). LaFong made form conquer content. They took the disfavored game form of “branching” design and reshaped branching to a single convergent end. When Nobel Laureate in Physics (he discovered “quarks”) Dr. Murray Gell-Mann heard from Mr. Kaplan of this design, Gell-Mann happily observed, “It heals itself !” Yes, yes it did.

Here, I shout in text that we must intensify attention to the forms of digital media and all post-linear arts! The endless disgorging of shooting gallery/firstperson-shooter forms, sports sims, and “free running” forms (like Sonic the Hedgehog) of games. Even with hybrid fantasy role playing/social networking as in the currently popular Worlds such as Warcraft and other multi-player online “games”, the forms are so stale they have crumbled, in my opinion, into generic monotony which does not tire the businesspeople who collect and savor the rich revenues of this monotony.

I shout in text here: we must intensify attention [attend intesively] to the forms of digital media, and I walk this walk not alone. No Muse yet. So, I must fuel and fan the flames of Burning Shorts with the human Muse. I resort to the supreme weapon of mass creativity, the Sonnets of William Shakespeare, as those same poems are presented online. Consider, then, my respect for this online form of presentation in service of the master: how artfully collected and annotated the Sonnets are at

(I use Sonnet 60 as illustrative of this outstanding site.)

To paraphrase Dr. Gell-Mann, we have a chance “to heal” the disturbing condition of digital media arts by studying, thinking, and creating in the context of what the artist Shakespeare did with that uncompromising, complex, ornate form the sonnet. Merely to write basic English in this form surpasses my ability and that of most writers I know. Shakespeare elevated the sonnets to glory and mastery. Hallelujah! [I shout again in text.] His Sonnets are stars to behold for inspiration in search for fresh and enduring online forms of artistry.

Commerce seems to have no need to study, think, and create great new forms of digital media arts. The money pours in and in and in … Academia, in my experience, is barely ridiculous and tragically unfunny slapstick in its efforts in this and so many important areas of the humanities. So, as always, the hope rests in the emerging artist, and I rededicate this Burning Shorts and my efforts to the founding mission: study, think, and find those who create for the benefit of us all.

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