Prophecies drive computational development

If I were asked about changes of computer, the most significant impressions from my using experience in the past twenty years would be size, portability, and practicability with connection of Internet. I merely assumed that designers made these improvements to comply with the demands of the times and people. After reading this week’s influential articles, I’m surprised that our achievements of computation have been predicted by great computer scientists 60 years ago. Based on historic designs in the field of military, government and business, the conception of human-computer cooperative interaction brings about software innovation, and it also motivates computer’s role as metamedium.

Many computer technologies and software designs have corresponding ideas from early times. A prototype of personal computer has already existed way earlier than we expected. Vannevar Bush introduced memex in his article “As we may think” in 1945, a device for storing information. Microfilm helps people to trail original records store in memex. This idea initiated the invention of hypertext. Sketchpad originated by Ivan Sutherland in 1963 provided great inspiration to many popular graphic design software techniques. I found Sutherland’s sketchpad was aligned with Licklider’s thinking of “man-computer symbiosis”, which was introduced three years earlier, in 1960. Licklider persisted that the symbiotic cooperation would be successful if man and computer interact on the same surface and “integrate positive characteristics”. Take a circle drawing as an example. Men have incentives and imagination to draw a circle, while computers are “fast and accurate” to satisfy men’s irregular drawing of a circle with a standard round shape. Men could barely draw a precise circle (unless they use compasses) without the help of computer, while computer could not operate with men’s creative thinking.

According to Manovich, along with Alan Kay’s invention of Dynabook, a term of metamedium was introduced to describe computer as a platform to “create new tool of working with the media types it already provides as well as to develop new not-yet-invented media.” Opening the iMovie app, we can simply use the front camera to take a short video, just like how we use a video camera. But the app is much more widely used for editing videos. We can combine two video clips together, adjust video length, add subtitles and filters. With the help of computer, a new video is invented. We can even share the video to friends through emails or social media networks where not-yet-invented media such as feedback from friends (text, image or video formats) sprout consistently.

Manovich also explained “media hybridization” as the new stage of metamedium evolution, suggesting “a more fundamental reconfiguration of media universe in which media properties are exchanged, and new structures are created.” From Manovich’s hint from the book, categorizing photos and videos on iPhone by places where the photos are taken is an example of media hybrids between GPS location and photography.

Although I’m not sure whether the following example counts as hybrids of text, audio, and photos and videos, I would like to share my thought here. Many social media platforms such as Facebook allow users to view a video at the bottom right corner of the screen. Users can still browse the post of the video on the main screen where the video becomes a temporary screenshot. It also enables people to make comments on the main screen when the video is playing in the corner. As Manovich describes, “media hybrids represent our experience in a new way by combing and possibly reconfiguring already familiar media representations.” Traditionally, users have no choice but to watch a video in full screen, and make comments afterwards. This new social media experience offers a new way of interaction. The combination of these media provides users with more information and the opportunity of multitasking on social media platforms.


Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think,” Atlantic, July, 1945.

Licklider-Man-Computer-Symbiosis-1960-NMR-excerpt.pdf. (n.d.). Retrieved November 1, 2017, from

Manovich, L. (2013). Software Takes Command, New York;London;: Bloomsbury.