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<nettime> wired news on browserday


<http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,36474,00.html> et seq.

   Browsing the Future
   by Douglas Heingartner
   
   3:00 a.m. May. 20, 2000 PDT
   
   AMSTERDAM -- Under the ironic mantle "The End of the Browser," the
   Third International Browserday on Friday presented some 35 visions of
   the future of the information interface.
   
   Far from being an insular techie gathering, organizers stages
   Browserday as an entertaining competition with a grand prize of a
   six-month internship at Medialab, a Dutch research organization.
   There, the winning prototype can be turned into a full-fledged
   program.
   
   Held at Amsterdam's grandiose Paradiso concert hall, representatives
   from a dozen art and design academies throughout Europe each had three
   minutes to convince the audience of their creation's merits, which
   ranged from functional prototypes to wildly abstract digressions on
   the nature of information itself.
   
   The two winners were Victor Vina of London's Royal College of Art for
   his text-filtering "HyperSPC" project, which prunes information back
   to its bare roots; and Henk Jan Bouwmeester for his "Dawn of the
   Browser" concept, a kind of portable, fold-up box that contains
   whatever data a user wants to fill it with.
   
   While the first Browserday two years ago focused on the raging browser
   wars, the gathering now addresses more complex issues such as
   merger-fever, the danger of proprietary formats, the challenge of open
   source, and contrasting views regarding minimalist design and
   media-richness.
   
   Browser-lite proponents question whether a new visual interface is the
   right way forward, suggesting that a word may be worth a thousand
   pictures on the current flash-happy Web.
   
   Yet others introduced new levels of eye candy, in which information
   takes on the form of spheres or molecules or scientifically-quantified
   emotional components.
   
   Showmaster John Thackara wondered whether this wasn't just
   "reinventing the wheel," arguing that typographers have spent
   centuries successfully honing the art of readability. Why add yet
   another meta-layer of color-coordinated symbols and rotating orbs that
   first need to be studied before being put into use?
   
   Indeed, the more critical participants gave the strongest
   presentations. Louis Luthy's "Backwards," for example, posited that
   it's the user who's being browsed, while the browser software is
   merely a cleverly-tailored interface to lure visitors. The promise of
   "personalized preferences" is little more than a trick to have them
   divulge coveted profile data.
   
   Likewise, a novel retort to the current community-building craze was
   Suzanne Hin's "Scope Browser," which randomly groups users into
   "families." There's no logic to the selection process, and you're
   stuck with your family for life, so you better make the best of it.
   Family members can contact each other for advice or chat, offering a
   welcome alternative to so many like-minded e-pals who only further
   reinforce your own perspective.
   
   Some of the browsers only vaguely resembled the familiar programs that
   currently rule the roost. The "Consumeter" is a wireless shopping-bag
   application from Finland that either green- or red-lights the products
   a user is considering buying, based on a pre-programmed profile.
   
   But this is conceptual small beer compared to the "Quantum Browser,"
   which gathers and process all information, everywhere, immediately,
   "even faster than immediately."
   
   On the richer-media side, there was "Terrasonica," an audio-based
   browser that allows surfing from sound to sound, bypassing text or
   images. Its creators suggest this could be a new form of storyboarding
   for films or games, mapping out aural narratives first, then filling
   in images and dialogues later.
   
   (page 2)
   
   There was also a browser that uses retinal motion and brainwaves as
   input, another that caters to people with Attention Deficit Disorder,
   and the evolutionary "Darwin" browser, whose millions of
   design-element permutations offer up a refitted browser each time.
   
   But ultimately, Browserday is about brinkmanship.
   
   The thirty-five mini-presentations wound up taking a marathon six
   hours, and the fatigue factor inevitably played a role. After the
   umpteenth reference to meta this and object-based that, the final
   presenters faced an uphill battle to tap into any residual audience
   enthusiasm.
   
   A promising WAP (wireless application protocol) application, for
   example, suggested parsing HTML into a tag-free format that would
   allow any Web page to be displayed on a mobile phone, but all that
   could be discerned on the screen was a giant shaky thumb fumbling with
   a shiny Nokia.
   
   The presentations ended with the apocalyptic "Parasite" browser, which
   "swallows" HTML tags, subverting words like "not" or "subscribe." The
   mischief ends with the browser's familiar icons being consumed in a
   fiery demise.
   
   This flair reminds us that Browserday is and remains an initiative by
   and for designers more than programmers: the browser is the "face of
   the new media."
   
   Event organizer Mieke Gerritzen said there are plans for a New York
   Browserday this fall.
   

   Copyright  2000 Wired Digital Inc., a Lycos Network site. All rights
   reserved.
   
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