To understand media today we need to understand media software – its genealogy (where it comes from), its anatomy (interfaces and operations), and its practical and theoretical effects.1 How does media authoring software shape the media being created, making some design choices seem natural and easy to execute, while hiding other design possibilities? How does media viewing / managing / remixing software affect our experience of media and the actions we perform on it? How does software change what “media” is conceptually?
This article approaches some of these questions via the analysis of a software application that has become synonymous with “digital media” – Adobe Photoshop. Like other professional programs for media authoring and editing, Photoshop’s menus contain many dozens of separate commands. If we consider that almost all the commands contain multiple options that allow each command do a number of different things, the complete number runs into thousands.