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Commentary from the midst of the cultural debates where new media and old intersect.

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Atlantic Unbound | Archive
Digital Culture

Reimagining the Cosmos (May 3, 2000)
Through the quest for a quantum computer—described in Julian Brown's Minds, Machines, and the Multiverse—much is becoming clear about the paradoxical world of quantum mechanics. Will it change the way we think about our universe (or multiverse)? By Harvey Blume

Bugged (March 15, 2000)
We survived the Millennium Bug. But just because we're no longer threatened by bad software from the 1960s, it doesn't mean we're safe from all the bad software of the 1990s. By Charles C. Mann

Alternate Realities (January 13, 2000)
Choose your technorealism. William Mitchell's e-topia and Douglas Rushkoff's Coercion take starkly differing views of the Information Age. Plus, interviews with both authors. By Harvey Blume

The Unacknowledged Legislators of the Digital World (December 15, 1999)
In his new book, Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, Lawrence Lessig offers a disconcerting vision of the Net's future. Too disconcerting, objects our reviewer. Plus, an e-mail exchange between Lessig and Atlantic Unbound editor Wen Stephenson. By Charles C. Mann

Exquisite Source (August 12, 1999)
Heads turned in June when the Linux operating system was awarded first prize by the judges of an international art festival. How far, one wonders, can the open source model go? By Harvey Blume

With Liberty and Justice for Me (July 22, 1999)
Is the Internet giving ordinary people more control over their lives? An e-mail exchange with Andrew L. Shapiro, the author of The Control Revolution. By Mark Dery

Bits of Beauty (June 3, 1999)
Yes, it's art. Now what is there to say about it? An assessment of the first-ever Cyberarts Festival in Boston, where art criticism is forced to play catch-up with technology. By Harvey Blume

The MP3 Revolution (April 8, 1999)
The recording industry may indeed have something to worry about. If the much-talked-about digital format (or something like it) catches on, we could be carried back into our musical and cultural past. By Charles C. Mann

The Weathermen (February 24, 1999)
Two recent books—Ray Kurzweil's The Age of Spiritual Machines and Neil Gershenfeld's When Things Start to Think—forecast a digital future of wearable computers, neural implants, and silicon-based immortality. But something is missing from the picture: sex and advertising. By Harvey Blume

Virtual Reality Bites Back (January 28, 1999)
"It's not that cyberspace fails to resolve the social contradictions of the 'real world,'" Julian Dibbell writes, "but rather that it doesn't even resolve its own." An e-mail exchange with the author of My Tiny Life: Crime and Passion in a Virtual World. By Mark Dery

"Use Technology to Raise Smarter, Happier Kids," (January 7, 1999)
We shape our toys, and our toys shape us. David Shenk reports on the new generation of "thinking" playthings and asks, What will the toys of tomorrow bring? What will they take away? by David Shenk

The Digital Philosopher (December 9, 1998)
Can robotics shed light on the human mind? On evolution? Daniel Dennett—whose work unites neuroscience, computer science, and evolutionary biology—has some provocative answers. Is he on to something, or just chasing the zeitgeist? By Harvey Blume

Coming of Age in Cyberspace (October 28, 1998)
In the bedrooms, the arcades, and the high school computer rooms of the 1980s, kids of the Atari generation invented today's digital culture. An excerpt from the forthcoming memoir, Extra Life. By David S. Bennahum

Portable Musings (September 10, 1998)
The book is the network, the network is knowledge, and soon you'll be able to curl up in bed with all of it. This calls for some serious rumination. By Sven Birkerts

The Invisible World Order (July 29, 1998)
If digital technology is to serve humanity (and not the other way around), we'll have to come to terms with the database and all that it implies. By Andrew Piper

The Right Mix (June 4, 1998)
Digital technology has made the private recording studio itself into a new kind of musical instrument. Yet, as with any art, genuine value cannot be faked—no matter how special the effects. By Ralph Lombreglia

"A Function Specific to Joy," (April 29, 1998)
Rosalind Picard, a pioneer of affective computing, believes that the emotional barrier between humans and machines has long since outlived its usefulness. Are we ready for computers that know how we feel? by Harvey Blume

Where the Rubber Meets the Road (March 25, 1998)
A brand-new graduate program at a tiny Vermont college is founded on a simple yet far-sighted idea: the next phase of the digital revolution depends as much on education as on technology. By Ralph Lombreglia

The World According to David Gelernter (January 29, 1998)
An interview with a computer scientist who argues that beautiful technology—and a return to traditional values—must show us the way forward. By Harvey Blume
Plus, a series of excerpts from Machine Beauty: Elegance and the Heart of Technology, by David Gelernter.

Caught in the Flash (December 16, 1997)
Computer memory, once thought to be finite, now looks like an open frontier. The author peers into the future of memory and sees a paradox rooted deep in our past. By Harvey Blume

Dispelled (November 19, 1997)
Why Riven—the most anxiously awaited multimedia product ever—is missing the magic of Myst. By Ralph Lombreglia

God, Man, and the Interface (October 9, 1997)
Most of us take the computer interface for granted. But for Steven Johnson it is a defining metaphor of our times—and a summons to the metaphysical. By Harvey Blume
Plus: an e-mail exchange with Steven Johnson and excerpts from his book, Interface Culture.

The Next Dimension (July 8, 1997)
Even today's most sophisticated 3-D graphics lack a certain kind of depth—that of artistic style. But ThinkFish Productions now offers a contrarian approach to computer-generated imagery that abandons "virtual reality" in favor of conserving the long pictorial legacy that started with cave painting. By Ralph Lombreglia

What Happened to Multimedia? (June 5, 1997)
Is the golden age of multimedia already behind us? Michael Nash, a visionary who helped raise the art of the interactive CD-ROM to new levels, doesn't think so—despite his feeling that today "most multimedia sucks." By Ralph Lombreglia
Plus: An e-mail exchange with Michael Nash

The Genie in the Machine (April 16, 1997)
Kai Krause—whose graphic-design tools combine the power of mathematics and computers with a childlike delight in sheer playfulness—would bridge the divide between technology and art. By Ralph Lombreglia
Plus: Artist at Play
An e-mail exchange with Kai Krause

The Next Big Thing—Words! (February 26, 1997)
We all know that digital media are transforming the publishing industry and our literary culture. It's time for publishers to return the favor. Plus, interviews with the editors of two influential literary journals: Frederick Barthelme, who brought the Mississippi Review to the Web in 1995, and Askold Melnyczuk, whose AGNI magazine has come to the Web recently. By Ralph Lombreglia

Virtually Jamming (January 22, 1997)
"Air guitarists" have been jamming in a virtual realm (their imaginations) for decades. Now, with the help of a groundbreaking multimedia product, they can pursue a virtual quest for rock 'n' roll immortality. Does such an innovation hold any significance for the rest of us? By Ralph Lombreglia

In Games Begin Responsibilities (December 21, 1996)
Obsidian, the elaborate and much-anticipated CD-ROM adventure game from Rocket Science, takes the genre that Myst defined to a new level. Ralph Lombreglia offers an early preview of the product—and a consideration of what it may suggest about the future of digital arts. By Ralph Lombreglia
Plus: The Game's the Thing
An e-mail exchange with Howard Cushnir, Obsidian's co-author.

So Many Links, So Little Time (November 20, 1996)
Michael Joyce is one of the premier authors of hyperfiction in America. His new work, Twilight, A Symphony, transcends the limits of narrative and reveals the burden of infinite possibility. By Ralph Lombreglia
Plus: The End of the Story
An e-mail exchange with Michael Joyce.

Yes, but Is It Art? (October 1996)
Introducing a monthly column in Atlantic Unbound that will consider the present state and possible future of arts and letters in the digital realm. By Ralph Lombreglia

If It Works, Use It: Musings of a Twenty-First Century Writer (August 1996)
An excerpt from "Humanity's Humanity in the Digital Twenty-First," an essay in which Ralph Lombreglia envisions a course between the extremes of cyberenthusiasts and cyberskeptics.
Plus, an e-mail exchange with Lombreglia in which he offers some conjectures about the prospects for literary multimedia.

Related Features:

The Message Is the Medium (Winter 1995-96)
Atlantic Unbound editor Wen Stephenson offers a reply to Sven Birkerts, the literary critic, cyberskeptic, and author of The Gutenberg Elegies.

The Electric Word: An Exchange (Summer 1996)
Sven Birkerts replies to "The Message Is the Medium."

Is Cyberspace Destroying Society? (May 1995)
The transcript of an online conference with Sven Birkerts.

Poetry, Computers, and Dante's Inferno (April 1995)
The transcript of an online conference with Robert Pinsky.

Copyright © 2001 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. All rights reserved.