person:doug engelbart

  • Beacons, marketing and the neoliberal logic of space, or: The Engelbart overshoot

    There was a powerful dream that sustained (and not incidentally, justified) half a century’s inquiry into the possibilities of information technology, from Vannevar Bush to Doug Engelbart straight through to Mark Weiser. This was the dream of augmenting the individual human being with instantaneous access to all knowledge, from wherever in the world he or she happened to be standing at any given moment. As toweringly, preposterously ambitious as that goal seems when stated so baldly, it’s hard to conclude anything but that we actually did achieve that dream some time ago, at least as a robust technical proof of concept.

    We achieved that dream, and immediately set about betraying it. We betrayed it by shrouding the knowledge it was founded on in bullshit IP law, and by insisting that every interaction with it be pushed through some set of mostly invidious business logic. We betrayed it by building our otherwise astoundingly liberatory propositions around walled gardens and proprietary standards, by putting the prerogatives of rent-seeking ahead of any move to fertilize and renew the commons, and by tolerating the infestation of our informational ecology with vile, value-destroying parasites. These days technical innovators seem more likely to be lauded for devising new ways to harness and exploit people’s life energy for private gain than for the inverse.

    In fact, you and I now draw breath in a post-utopian world — a world where the tide of technical idealism has long receded from its high-water mark


    From the closing panel at the 1995 Brown/MIT Vannevar Bush Symposium, featuring Doug Engelbart, Alan Kay, Ted Nelson, and Tim Berners-Lee.

    Now, the abortion that happened after PARC was the misunderstanding of the user interface that we did for children, which was the overlapping window interface which we made as naive as absolutely we possibly could to the point of not having any workflow ideas in it, and that was taken over uncritically out into the outside world.

    So you are basically proposing some kind of information SWAT team that can move swiftly through an organization, or is going to be some sort of elite ’eizatsgroupe’ in the files. This is a very exciting and interesting concept, but how would that function organizationally?

    Alan Kay: Looking back, I think that one of the paradoxes is that we made a complete mistake when we were doing the interface at PARC because we assumed that the kids would need an easy interface because we were going to try and teach them to program and stuff like that, but in fact they are the ones who are willing to put hours into getting really expert at things - shooting baskets, learning to hit baseballs, learning to ride bikes, and now on video games. I have a four-year old nephew who is really incredible and he could use NLS fantastically if it were available. He would be flying through that stuff, because his whole thing is to become part of the system he’s interacting with. So if I had had that perspective I would have designed a completely different interface for the kids, one in which how you became expert was much more apparent than what I did. So I’m sorry for what I did.

    Doug Engelbart :
    Vannevar Bush :
    Ted Nelson :
    Alan Kay :
    Tim Berners-Lee :

    #gui #interaction #IHM #ergonomie #programmation #apprentissage #web #xerox_parc