SciFi Media Making

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

Stories set in the future have the tendency to envision innovations in media (so does CSI, which is very much SciFi). Nell’s interactive book in Stephenson’s The Diamond Age is an example, using most technology we know now in interesting ways (speculative applications), such as real-time production content. Minority Reports gesture media, of course, is another speculative performance of media use but really of content making. I mentioned that my son and I were watching Spock’s Brain on Twitter the other day and Dennis Jerz made this comment in the Twitter/Facebook comment space:

I love this show for Chekhov’s technology-assisted “Which planet do we search?” presentation on the bridge. Yes, this episode was silly, but the bridge viewscreen does quite a bit in this show. We see some long shots of an alien spaceship, there’s a close-up of Kirk with stars moving behind his head, and thankfully there are no bullet lists in the 23rd century!

I mentioned back:

You’re right. We can only imagine from what we have. I was thinking about this in another episode when a piece of static text went up on the screen above Spock’s console a la pdf and thought, that would have been better as a video or hypertext. It might have been the M-5 episode, but I can’t remember.

The “no bullet list” item Dennis identified got me thinking about other stories where characters make, save, or interact with media not necessarily with devices. Babylon 5’s crystals (I can’t remember others at the moment other than the news broadcasts). I had noted the orange orbit/planet graphic Dennis remarked on and many others as my son and I have been watching the three season Classic Star Trek, already mentioning the near 16:9 main view screen of the Bridge on Twitter a few months back.

I had thought two things about the episode graphic: that’s really about background interest and not really effective as a display as the subject under discussion is fairly complex: Spock’s brain must be on one of three planets and what’s the evidence for the best answer. A graphic of the Sigma Draconis planets in a row doesn’t really provide significant assistance. But it is evidence of production value and thinking about how the Bridge view screen may be used as a static media display.

On FB Dennis mentions many other examples of media making and interaction, including DS9‘s writing PADD and the holonovel of Voyager. Dennis writes:

do you remember the alien abduction episode of TNG that had a bunch of people using the holodeck to reconstruct a recurring dream?

My wife and I make fun of that specific scene as the holodeck seems to know exactly what’s on Riker and Co’s mind: “make a flat table” and the deck makes a dentist chair.


One response to “SciFi Media Making”

  1. Add to he list — Blake’s 7 was a british TV series in the late 70s, early 80s. One episode (probably 78 or 79) features Blake giving an impromptu presentation to his crew… he draws on a hand-held tablet, adding annotations to a video display. This sort of technology was at the time used for sportscasts and weathercasts, so it wasn’t entirely new, but to see it used as a routine part of a crew briefing was something interesting.

    Jakob Nielsen has a post in usability bloopers in movies

    http://www.useit.com/alertbox/film-ui-bloopers.html

    … and somewhere I remember reading a web page that collects silly e-mail interfaces as depicted in movies. Can’t find it now.

    I’ve taught The Diamond Age several times.