Now that summer is in full swing, those of us who are not on vacation (or on the verge of one) are gazing at computer screens with a lemonade in one hand and a mouse in the other. But one philosophical debate that knows no season is the perennial tug-of-war between art and technology, This conundrum, however, seems to have been resolved at least on the Internet, where a plethora of new-media applications have merged graphics and text in dramatic new ways.
In this issue's featured story, "Art Teams Up With Technology Through the Net" (p. 40), Marco Padula and Amanda Reggiori maintain that these two old adversaries can in fact work together to facilitate the flow of information in cyberspace. As the authors point out, "Clicking on the mouse must not become an action of nonparticipation, a kind of zapping ... the interaction permitted and required by the new tools, such as the Internet, can overcome user passivity and stimulate creativity."
Padula is also co-author, with Giuliana Rubbia Rinaldi, of this issue's other feature, "Mission-Critical Web Applications: A Seismological Case" (p. 52). The article details a database-driven working environment in which tracking earthquakes on the Web can help save property and lives in addition to furthering the scientific pursuit of knowledge.
Elsewhere in this issue, the Business column (p. 13) documents a "day-in-the-life" of "Clara," a fictitious but typical customer centered design consultant. As authors Deborah Mrazek and Amy Silverman point out, "There is really no typical day in the life of a Customer Centered Design Expert... but all of us in the field share a commonality of experience that can be both illustrative and constructive."
In the Methods & Tools column, "The Activity Checklist: A Tool for Representing the 'Space' of Context" (p. 27), authors Victor Kaptelinin, Bonnie A. Nardi and Catriona Macaulay describe "a tool that is directly shaped by a general theoretical approach activity theory." And the Design section (p. 17) grapples with the notion of art for art's sake, but with a slightly different twist. As Bill Moggridge writes in "Expressing Experiences in Design," it is sometimes "tempting to go back to the basic values of our aesthetic contribution, but ... beauty for its own sake ... seems a retrograde step. Working with complex products ... has taught us how to design machine behavior and to understand more about cognitive psychology, anthropology, and sustainability."
Jay Blickstein, Executive Editor
©1999 ACM 1072-5220/99/0700 $5.00
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