DIGITAL MOSAICS by Steven Holtzman


The Aesthetics of Cyberspace
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 This study of the impact of emerging technologies on the arts is instructive and informative, but lapses into elitist ramblings by its end. In this tour of various virtual worlds--from audio to animation, from a virtual re-creation of San Francisco to the animated flocking birds that were the basis for the swarming bats in Batman Returns--Holtzman (Digital Mantras, 1994) does a marvelous job of showing that ``the most exciting aspect of using computers as creative partners is the possibility of creating completely new worlds, worlds unimaginable before computers.'' He has a knack for taking relatively difficult concepts--for example, the use of fractals (random, computer-generated polygons) in producing lifelike, three-dimensional graphics of mountains, flowers, or chameleons--and making them understandable to the novice. Particularly interesting are his reviews of virtual-reality products that allow the user to control all audiovisual aspects of the environment. At a few points in his narrative, Holtzman shows his fluency in the experimental literature of Jorge Luis Borges, and on the subject of hypertext, he evokes the deconstructionist aesthetic of Derrida and the ``cut-up'' technique of Burroughs to show how nonlinear text is revolutionizing the literary world. This is cleverly illustrated by Holtzman's unannounced change to a Douglas Coupland style in which his own remarks are punctuated by quotes from Marshall McLuhan, the ``patron saint of the digerati.'' But new literature is also the main problem area for Holtzman. Commenting on what some literary critics see as a real threat to traditional narrative, Holtzman glibly states, ``Whatever the book's future is, clearly its role will never be the same. The book has lost its preeminence.'' Somewhat conciliatory but ultimately unapologetic, Holtzman seems to be blowing ``Taps'' for the print media. The tone of disregard notwithstanding, this is, for the most part, a fun read with generally positive implications for the audiovisual arts. (illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: July 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-684-83207-0
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1997