Academic Essay

Task 2. Essay
In the following essay we are going to take a journey through time and look at some of the most important works and pioneers in interactive art. Throughout this essay we will begin from pre-history and end in modern times. We will see the most basic of interactive art to its most modern forms. 

From the first time humans started to roam the world they searched for a way to communicate and work as a society and these first humans had explored ways in which they could leave messages for those that come after them. The first way humans interacted with each other and with their messages was via cave paintings. Cave paintings were found throughout the world and this shows their importance in communicating via art with each other. The most common forms of cave paintings are those of either human figures or of the animals found in the area.

As caves were the primary dwellings of the human species at that time one can make the assumption that these cave dwellers, left these messages for others that came after them, indicating what animals can be hunted in that region. These cave paintings were not only used to leave messages but also as a way of telling a story. This can be compared to watching a movie today but instead of frames coming one after another, they only had the technology to draw “frames” one near the other. Technology evolved a lot since the early days of cave painting but the main principles of story telling and the need to express one’s self with others had its roots as early as pre history. They had no cameras or microphones and speakers so things like suspense or emotions were very hard to convey but with the technology the had, they managed to interact with each other. 

Fig1,fig2: These two pictures are from a cave in LASCaux and they both show types of animals that the people of the time hunted for food. It is important to see the use of colour and how in these early paintings, people of the time tried to imitate movement as best as they could.
As technology evolved to the computer and tablets that we have today we are bombarded by information and sometimes there is too much information to be given at one time in once screen however large it is which gave rise to the graphical user interface. Today using a graphical user interface is something we do without a single thought, using for computer’s operating system, using a tablet even going to an ATM machine you get to interact with a graphical user interface. This concept of only showing you the needed information at a certain time has its origins in the Volvelle. Volvelles are made up from two or three independent paper discs which are fastened to the main paper page. They were made so that each part of the volvelle can spin independently and their main usage was for calculations. What they had different from normal books was that when using a volvelle it showed you the information you want to see and not a flood of information, much like graphical user interfaces. Volvelles were used for many reasons like astronomical clocks, in his book Nick Kanas goes as far as to call volvelles “astronomical computers”. The earliest surviving volvelles go back to the 14th century and even today one can find them in educational books and one can call them the ancestor of the graphical user interface. 

Fig 3: This is an example of a volvelle in its early stages mage out of paper. This particular one was used for oceanic exploration and is called Martín Cortés’s Breve compendio de la sphera y de la aite de navega . this volvelle was printed in seville in 1551.

Fig 4: This shows an example of a modern guy which have its routes in the volvelle because the machine will only show you the information that is needed at any certain point. 

FIG5: This is a modern volvelle that is still made of paper and shows the information wheels can still be used today in an effective manner to get information across by this classic medium. This Volvelle is taken from the book Reinventing the Wheel by Jessica Helfand. (more information on the book can be found in the blog)

Books have been seen by many as non interactive although a very good arsenal to have but since the 13th century some very creative inventors tried to change this and make books more interactive and maybe even more fun. They introduced pop-up books which were a major success given the fact that they are still very much in use today although the target audience changed. Pop-up books were introduced mainly for adults in the 13th-century. Having more interactivity then a normal book these were much easier for the no so literate audience of the time to comprehend. Today pop-up books are used for children mostly and these are called paper engineering were one could not only get a pop-up image of the content but by folding and turning the book in a certain way one can influence and change the story. These concepts bring two modern interactive media products to mind. The first and maybe the most simple would be comparing the pop-books to modern news mobile and tablet applications like that of sky news or the times of London. While reading the content written by journalists one can click or press on links and more content is shown via a pop up. This content can range from a video or an info graphic which gives you the information written in the article in a more visual style. The second interactive media source that was influenced by the pop-up books is in the gaming sector. Some games such as the “Dragon Age” series allow the player to influence the story via the choices he makes. Killing off a simple soldier in the first parts of the game may have a lasting effect in the end much like how in a paper engineering book like Robert Sayer’s Harlequinade folding the first fold in certain manor may have a consequence on the end result.

Fig6: This figure shows a page form the book Harlequinade by Robert Sayer. It shows how pop up books worked and how more interactive they are then a normal book. The book was first published in 1771.

Fig7: This picture shows a tablet with the sky app open and shows how popups via  pressing are used to give the viewer more information

Fig8: This is a scene from the game Dragon Age 2 which shows how the player can choose and effect the main story line a very popular concept in RPG Games.
Fig9/10:These two images are from the modern pop-up book Star Wars A Galactic Pop-Up Adventure. The book is a modern take on the classic pop-up book when it comes to medium. The book and paper engineering that is found in the book is a lot more more complex then old pop-up books like Harlequinade. This shows that pop up books although maybe not as popular are still being made and fans of the this medium are still trying to improve on what those that came before them did. The book has paper engineering in each page and is a very fun and interactive read. (more information on the book can be found in the compiled references section of the blog.)

This notion of giving the end result to of the content to the audience has been explored a lot before but because of limitations in technology it could never be done. Before the only way to offer a different ending or part of a video was for the director to release an extra feature or bonus video but with the advances in internet hosting, internet apps like HTML5 and flash interactive video has exploded throughout the internet. popular video hosting sites have added the capability for interactive video hosting but what is Interactive video? There mainly three types of interactive video these being Customisable interactive videos like the one Miss Helga produced  for the Volkswagen Golf  Conversational interactive online video like Subservient Chicken which is an advertisement for Burger King. And the last Exploratory interactive videos like the one done by Tate called Tate Tracks were the viewer explores various arts while listening to music.  While these are very modern they have had their roots from long ago and interactivity has come a very long way from its infancy in cave paintings.
Fig 11:Is a screenshot of the interactive video made by Volkswagen called Turbocharge the everyday and on the left hand side of the screen one can see the interactive buttons to change the view as one wants. (screenshot taken by me) Volkswagen has all video rights.
The final work we will be looking at is my own interactive work which is an online interactive documentary about animation ( This video was done for a previous unit in HND in Interactive media and it is a documentary in the format of an interactive video. The viewer after watching the intro has the option of watching or re watching any part of the documentary that interests him the most in any order he wants. After the intro the documentary is decided into 3 parts which the viewer can watch in any order and even skip some if he does not find that particular topic interesting before going on to a conclusion. Videos such as this have only been available these last 8 years or so and I think they have very powerful marketing options when used correctly something which we have not seen locally.

Fig12: In this picture one can see  the multiple  choices one has when playing the video in a chart format and how the viewer has the option of choosing what he wants to watch at any order. Screenshot taken by me of my own work on rapt media.

The notion of interacting with each other via art  has been come a long way from cave paintings and in today’s interactive media with so many mediums and types of storytelling and advertising available we still need to look at those that came before us and were influential in their time. By learning from them we can use their teachings and adhere it to our new technologies to tell stories and get our message across in new more interactive methods which get our audience even more  immersed in the content then ever before.


Volvelles | The Collation. 2014. Volvelles | The Collation. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 14th June 2014].

Breve compendio de la sphera y de la aite de navegar - Folger Shakespeare Library Digital Image Collection. 2014. Breve compendio de la sphera y de la aite de navegar - Folger Shakespeare Library Digital Image Collection. [ONLINE] Available at:;jsessionid=692032D05E89739D11F55D31C0436DEE?trs=13&qvq=mgid%3A367&mi=11&cic=BINDINGS~1~1. [Accessed 14th June 2014].

The 'King of the Pop-Ups' Made Books Spring to Life - 2014. The 'King of the Pop-Ups' Made Books Spring to Life - [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 14th June 2014].

The Popuplady - Specializing in movable paper. 2014. The Popuplady - Specializing in movable paper. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 14th June 2014].

A Concise History of Pop-up and Movable Books. 2014. A Concise History of Pop-up and Movable Books. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 14th June 2014].

Interactive video - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 2014. Interactive video - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 14 June 2014].   ((I do know that as resource wikipedia is not a reliable one but I only used it to find examples of the content I needed))

British Museum - Collection search: You searched for . 2014. British Museum - Collection search: You searched for . [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 14 June 2014].

Fig1:N.Aujaulat, (2003), Red Cow and First Chinese Horse [ONLINE]. Available at: [Accessed 13 June 14].

Fig2:N.Aujaulat, (2003), great black bull [ONLINE]. Available at: [Accessed 13 June 14].

Fig3:Folger Shakespeare Library, (2003), Breve compendio de la sphera y de la aite de navegar [ONLINE]. Available at: srvr [Accessed 13 June 14].

Fig4:ANDY POLAINE, (2008), GUI of Wells Fargo Bank ATM [ONLINE]. Available at: [Accessed 13 June 14].

Fig5:Jessica Helfand, (2006), Nature Wheel [ONLINE]. Available at: [Accessed 17 June 14].

Fig6:Ellen G.K. Rubin, (2005), Queen Mab or The Tricks of Harlequin, #6 [ONLINE]. Available at: [Accessed 13 June 14].

Fig7:Jamie Curd, (2012), Sky App [ONLINE]. Available at: [Accessed 13 June 14].

Fig8:Adam Sensoy, (2011), screen from Dragon age 2 [ONLINE]. Available at: [Accessed 13 June 14].

Fig9:John Booth, (2012), Darth Maul Emerges [ONLINE]. Available at: [Accessed 17 June 14].

Fig10:FRANK LIPSIUS, (2012), Pop-ups from Star Wars: A Galactic Pop-Up Adventure [ONLINE]. Available at: [Accessed 17 June 14].

Fig11/12: These pictures are screenshots from youtube taken by me all material in the video is reserved to the owner of the videos.

1 comment:

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