Exhibiting the Interface: Curating Computers and Designing Didactic User Experiences

Kimon Keramidas, Bard Graduate Center, USA

Published paper: Exhibiting the interface: Curating computers and designing didactic user experiences

Presenting a computer in an exhibition while precluding the involvement of a participant really isn’t representative of what is important about that piece of culture. After all, it is not simply the hardware in isolation that made a device like the Macintosh memorable; it was the introduction of the mouse in conjunction with a new graphical user interface and software designed for that interface that made it stand apart. In response to this shortcoming in the presentation of computing technology, an exhibition entitled "The Interface Experience: Forty Years of Personal Computing" is being planned. This exhibition will consider how the experience of interface can be recreated in an exhibition in a way that shows the interplay between user, hardware, and software, and puts on display the way we perceive, think about, and even desire this category of objects. To accomplish this, the computers must be displayed, thought about, and used within the exhibition as platforms for dynamic interactive experiences. This is really what the experience of these objects is about in our daily life, and presentation of them as static hunks of plastic, silicon, and metal is an incomplete and ultimately irrelevant approach to signaling their relative importance to human culture.

In response to these concerns, this two-part submission to the MWX strand of Museums and the Web 2015 entails both a paper on the nature of displaying computing devices in exhibitions and a demonstration of software designed as didactic scripts to be interacted with by visitors on original hardware in the exhibition. The five devices for which scripts are being designed are the Commodore 64, Apple Macintosh Plus, PalmPilot Professional, Apple iPad 2, and Microsoft Kinect. The paper will elucidate the questions and challenges posed above, while the software demonstration will put on display some of the solutions that will have been arrived at by the opening of the exhibition in late March.

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