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Dialog between Lev Manovich and Geert Lovink. Digital Constructivism: What Is European Software?

This e-mail exchange took place as a preparation of a lecture by Lev Manovich about the same topic which took place at De Waag, the Society for Old & New Media, Nieuwmarkt 4, Amsterdam, on December 2, 1998, 8.30 pm.

Edited by Ted Byfield.


Geert Lovink: If space is American and the play with identity Japanese, would "history" therefore be the European equivalent? A mix of war, poverty, and tragedy? Big gestures, dialectics, rising and falling empires, the avant-garde?

Lev Manovich: History, yes. And also, the cultural and linguistic differences between all the different people crowded together in Europe. So I would like to see a design for a Renaissance interface, Baroque interface, Neoclassical this I mean an interface that, on the one hand, reflects the visual mentality, so to speak, of a particular historical period, and, on the other hand, that period's semiotic worldview, the way world is understood and mapped out in discourses in each period. As a design document, we may use Wolfflin's classic “Principles of Art History” (1913), which plotted the differences between Renaissance and Baroque styles along five axes: linear-painterly; plane-recession; closed form-open form; multiplicity-unity; and clearness-unclearness. Another excellent design document is Michel Foucault's “The Order of Things,” in which he analyzes three epistemes: Pre-Classical, Classical, and Modern. I would like to see an interface based upon Classical episteme, for example.

1998  Interview