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The Beaten Path

Traveling to the planet's out-of-the-way places is becoming a less lonely business.

Infinity and Beyond

An online en-cyclo-paedia reveals knowledge to be both circular and potentially infinite.

Asia Online

A devoted group of cyber-librarians has created a new Asian community.

Follow the Money

Knowledge is power. Peer into the dark corners where money and Congress meet.

Patently Informative

A helpful guide through masses of data? Or yet another cause for information anxiety?

For more, see the complete Web Citations Index.

Star Wars March 5, 1997

George Lucas, whose Star Wars trilogy has reappeared in theaters in an enhanced "special edition," is often credited with bringing filmmaking into the digital age. His special-effects studio, Industrial Light & Magic, continues to push the art further into cyberspace -- the next installment of the Star Wars saga (due out in 1999) is apparently being produced almost entirely on computers. In a recent interview Lucas remarked, "I don't think I'd ever go back to analog. I haven't used an editing machine with film on sprocket holes for almost eight years.... It would be like going back and scratching things on rocks!"

Back in the stone age when Star Wars was released (1977), only a small minority of Americans had ever used a computer. Now, like almost all movies, Star Wars has a Web site, and it's telling to look at what Lucas, and/or the builders of the site, have done -- and not done -- on the Web. The site isn't merely a billboard: it would be better described as an elaborate infomercial clearly geared toward a young audience. It doesn't use state-of-the-art Web technology -- there's no streaming video and only a bit of basic downloadable audio. The graphics are nice, but of course they pale in comparison to their originals in the films. The site's creators understand the current limits of multimedia on the Web -- it simply cannot convey the action, visual texture, and hi-fi sound of movies. Rather than try to push those limits, they use the Web to perform its most basic function: deliver information in the form of text and graphics. What must be disappointing to devoted Star Wars fans is the lack of substance and any real interactivity on the site. Ironically, if no film did more to launch movies into the digital age, no film's Web site better highlights the still-primitive state of the Web today and the lamentable fact that it is dominated by marketing departments.

Copyright © 1997 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
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