This is the project development site for work in progress on a non-linear user-driven digital publication that considers forty years of personal computing hardware and software advertising. Tentatively titled Selling the Interface: An Interactive History of Personal Computing Advertising, this web-based digital publication will discuss how technology companies use visual, rhetorical, and aural cues to educate us about new personal computing devices and convince us we should purchase their devices and software.
Critical Methodologies and Goals
Utilizing a multimedia non-linear digital interface, this project will approach computer advertisements using interdisciplinary methodologies from the history of technology, media studies, advertising studies, sociology of culture, and political economy of culture. Individual ads (from magazines, newspapers, television, and the web) will be connected conceptually through critical modules on different aspects of the history of advertising and personal computing, such as mystification, technological specification, and degradation of competing devices and services. These modules will reveal the pedagogic nature of these advertisements and the ways that industry marketing aims to shape our understanding of what a computer is and is capable of and how that process of education benefits the sales and marketing goals of computer producers.
Publication Interface Design
Interaction with the publication will be through the ads themselves. As readers enter the publication, they will be presented with a gallery of advertisements. Just as advertisements capture the attention using strategically designed symbology, this gallery will leverage this same symbology to attract readers to select an ad to reveal any related critical commentary. Along with this critical commentary addition links and connections will be made between ads based on name and type of device, name of company, type of ad, important keywords and its place chronologically. The end result will be a highly visual and interactive experience that uses the specifically structured visual appeal of the ads as a framing structure to critique that same visual appeal and reveal how the different advertising strategies deployed by the computing industry utilizes.
The Interface Experience
This work develops out of work done for The Interface Experience: Forty Years of Personal Computing, a cross-platform scholarly project that used physical exhibition space, a web application, digital interactives, and a book to tell the story of how we have interacted with personal computing devices over time, and how those interactions have come to define those experiences. In The Interface Experience advertisements were used in the web application as an important mechanism for situating each of the devices within a history of visual culture. Presenting the ads alongside historical narratives and other thematic and chronological connections provided some cultural and temporal context for what the computing marketplace was like at the time of a device’s release.
For more information about this project please contact:
Associate Director and Clinical Assistant Professor of Digital Humanities
Draper Interdisciplinary Master’s Program in Humanities and Social Thought
New York University
Captain Kirk Sells Computers!!!
Before there was Alexa, Cortana, or Siri…there was this project at IBM!!!