A Soft Museum of Hardware Use: Testimonies From the Early Experience of Digital Devices as Historical, Pedagogical and Narrative Assets

Abstract

This research addresses the validation of narrative legacies of a first generation of digital and online media users upon its mass adoption in the 1980s and 1990s. As a complement to ongoing processes of technological obsolescence, whereby arcane digital media devices become potential museum objects or trending novelties, we vouch for the testimonies of early adopters: a transition from analogue to digital-driven routines and competences was often symptomatic of semantic and subjective expectations, of cognitive, expressive, playful and mimetic processes. Often performed intuitively on relatively user-unfriendly hardware and software, early adoption of digital devices signalled a transition beyond the purely tangible or functional: it provided users with a felt need and desire for a paradigm shift that was yet to fully reveal itself, yet itself felt vaguely utopian. The paradigm of digital access and experience was still far from its current, seamless ubiquity - it often demanded personal effort and investment. However, this past experience is often regarded as an exercise in nostalgia, a mere path towards the ever-growing sophistication of current media devices; it is this tacit assumption that the current research questions, by bearing testimony to a singular historical moment of transition from analogue to digital environments - with all the challenges this entailed. The ongoing research is performed via semi-structured, recorded interviews with early adopters. The interviews are recorded, and the contained narration provides the primary source material for extrapolation, pattern recognition and storytelling. The outcomes are intended to serve historical, broadcasting, pedagogical and philosophical contexts.



Author Information
Heitor Alvelos, University of Porto, Portugal
Daniel Brandão, Universidade do Minho, Portugal
Abhishek Chatterjee, Universidade do Porto, Portugal

Paper Information
Conference: ACAH2020
Stream: Media Arts Practices: Television

This paper is part of the ACAH2020 Conference Proceedings (View)
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