book review

Windows and Mirrors
Interaction Design. Digital Art and the Myth of Transparency

Jay David Bolter and Diane Gromala (2005)

Jay David Bolter has accumulated some fame as co-author of Remediation, a book in which he together with Richard Grusin expand on the works of Marshall McLuhan. The theoretical backbone of the previous book the dual logic of immediacy and hypermediacy. In Windows and Mirrors Jay David Bolter together with Diane Gromala takes up the same idea, but where (in my humble opion) Remediation focussed to much on the ideal immediacy, Windows and Mirrors makes a strong case for hypermediacy as an important alternative to immediacy and the myth of the transparent medium.

The title of Windows and Mirrors is a reference to both strategies of representation: immediacy and hypermediacy; or transparency and reflection. The book is structured as a tour through the art gallery of the SIGGRAPH conference of 2000. The various installations at the show serve as stepping stones for theoretical discussions of both strategies and the way good design oscillates between the two poles. In doing so the mirror seems to be the most privileged of the two. This is mostly justified because of the cultural dominance of the window, and the wish of the authors to unmask this myth. A mission I can only support.

I read Windows and Mirrors almost entirely during a cross-nation train ride (and believe me The Netherlands really is very small). The book is easy and accessible, more like a series of essays than a dense academic text, but one that I will definitely recommend to my students (among whom the myth of transparency is still strong).