The Digital World

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The Digital World

The digital world of today can be understood as a product of late-Victorian construction of the machinery of information organization combined with Modernist visual forms.

In his doctoral dissertation, The Engineering of Vision from Constructivism to Computers, Lev Manovich, professor of New Media at the University of San Diego, states it is the influence of Modernist visual forms, mainly Soviet era Constructivism, that shapes the look of the current digital world (e.g. the Internet). Professor Simon Cook of Duke University, in his recent paper, Late Victorian Visual Reasoning and a Modern History of Vision, argues that Manovich overlooks the importance of the Victorian period in influencing the aesthetics of our present digital design. Cook bases his argument on the concept of an orderly and well-catalogued Internet, as if the system had been developed in nineteenth century Britain. However, due to the chaotic, disorganized and ever-changing look of the digital world, the argument of a Victorian based system is flawed. The late nineteenth century does not have the impact Cook believes it does, whereas Manovich remains on track in his original argument. Still, Manovich’s ideas can only be regarded on a temporary basis, because the face of the digital world has changed drastically since its development, and will continue to in the near future.

Before exploring the look of the current digital world, it is first important to look at its physical development. I will concentrate mainly on the Internet and the more recent phenomena of the World Wide Web, although software look also has a significant role. This concentration follows from my prediction of the future look of computers, which will be more web-bas...

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...ent. Current world politics and economics may play just as a significant role for the future digital world as Soviet Constructivism does for the current one.


Cook, Simon, online papers:

Cook, Simon, Late Victorian Visual Reasoning and a Modern History of Vision

Linton, Berry; Vinton, Carl, et al. A Brief History of the Internet,

Manovich, Lev, online archive:

Manovich, Lev, The Engineering of Vision from Constructivism to Computers, online Ph.D. Dissertation, 1993.

Manovich, Lev, Database as a Symbolic Form

Manovich, Lev, Navigable Space

Manovich, Lev, Avant-Garde as Software

Richards, Thomas. The Imperial Archive

Smith, David, Constructivism and Suprematism,
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