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MultiMedia from Wagner to virtual reality

Packer, Randal; Jordan Ken (ed.)
Publisher:  Norton paperback, New York, USA
Year Published:  2002   First Published:  2001
Pages:  458pp   Price:  $28.99   ISBN:  0-393-04979-5
Library of Congress Number:  QA76.575.M8319 2001   Dewey:  006.7--dc21

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Packer is a media critic and academic. Jordan has worked in new media as an editor and administrator. This book was originally published in 2001, with a slight expansion in 2002 as a more affordable paperback, geared to the student market. It is a collection of articles, ranging from the vision of Vannevar Bush (the seminal "As We May Think"), to William Burroughs ("The Future of the Novel"), Norbert Wiener (cybernetics), Tim Berners-Lee ("Information Management"), to the performance techniques of John Cage, to Alan Kay's notebook-sized computer, to Allan Karpov's 1966 "Untitled Guidelines for Happenings" (he coined the term), William Gibson, J.C.R. Licklider's man-computer symbiosis. These major writings of the pioneers of multimedia give it all a sense of history and of context, of being a prime document.

Thirty-seven articles (more than the hardback edition) are organized on themes of multimedia integration, interactivity, hypermedia, immersion, and narrativity. Each essay is introduced by the editors and put into context. The 25-page overall introduction (plus the contextual intros before the essays) provide a really good summary of the whole field. Endnotes comprise references. There is a Web site at with links to texts, photos, videos, timelines, profiles on people mentioned in the book, and visual artworks.

Audience or interest level: students, artists, critics and teachers.

Some interesting facts: given the eclectic nature of this book, we're indeed lucky it was published with consecutive pagination.

What I don't like about this resource: the importance of Wagner needed more punching up, but that's just a minor quibble.

What I do like about this resource: there is actually an index, rarely seen in anthologies. This one is almost 30 pages long.

Quality-to-Price Ratio: 95.

[Review by Dean Tudor]

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