Hiperdesign: A culture of access
Wilton Azevedo

"What is memorable is what can be dreamed about a place." (Michel de Certeau)

"The machine, as a consequence of the world of automation, has always been connected with the future through its precision in the process of obtaining "things." Even before machines could be programmed in the computerized sense, their mechanical gearing mechanisms sought to predict their real behavior; the machine has always been seen as 'symbol of its operating mode'(Wittgenstein; 1989:84)."
(Azevedo; 1994)

Exchange has always been a feature of teaching, and exchange means interactivity. But cam we say that we see this phenomenon in our everyday experience in the institutional teaching of design?

Studying design is above all understanding the relationship between humans and technology.

Our class room practices continue to give priority to the transmission of ideas through verbal codes. The problem is that this code needs many signs to obtain the whole message. And this generation now studying in our classes belongs to a world ruled by a different sense of timing due to the mass of information they pick up from a wide range of media and consequently from several codes.

For this generation, the sense of timing in relation to the acquiring and accessing information has changed radically.

Machines produce tasks in the form of redundant language, giving back to the human world the same index that made automation possible.

The orthodox theorists of information, for whom originality would only consist of na interruption in thechain of repetition (Shannon and Wiener) were taken by surprise when they met with the idea that chance is part of replicating, in other words, part of the invention of languages as we observed in Benoit Mandelbrot's fractals (1988).

The digital world offers, among so many novelties, the possibility of compacting information. A message that may have previously demanded many signs, is now easily compressed into just one icon and this has allowed humanity to penetrate once and for all the world of replications.

This new situation generates a different kind of thinking; what to copy, how to copy and mainly how to optimize copying, since we know that in education we are more successful when there is mimesis.

Books offer a good example of this development, having gone through several processes of transformation, from scrolls to stitched pages of uniform size to facilitate handling. If you compare medieval writings to the pocket books of the twentieth century, you can see how much books have changed. (Brody; 1996)

Technological innovations bring a concern for Semiotics, for optimization of codes. The transition from hieroglyphics to cuneiform script was not just a technical novelty but, but fundamentally a change in the praxis in the use of a media that transmits codes, producing language. The interesting thing is the fact that this praxis did not just denote the use and functionalityof the sign, but the great opportunity to apply the concept of technology in the transmission of an idea.

Technology, from the paintbrush to the mouse, is characterized by interactivity. That is how digital information is optimized, posing the exercise of penetrating other codes and cultures. This is not new, and the testing ground for these attempts has been the arts. Within the need to establish programmatic potencial, the artistic movements, particularly the vanguards, have posed in their manifestos the verbal analytic content that could only be executed in visual or sound gestures.

These written manifestos besides establishing the rules of the game, showed the need for hybrid codes, originating from annantersemiotic process (Azevedo; 1994). With Erik Satie's scores, image presupposed sound. John Cage worked on the themes of I Ching showing that chance establishes order when coding musical scores (programming). That is how he began to do performances. Two-dimensional bases such as paper had been drained and exhausted along their x and y axes and it was time for the conquest of time on the z axis, thus stripping away matter and transforming the word of art into a thing in itself, a thing with own properties (Heidegger; 1992) and together with its concept, transforming the idea we have of the thing (Kosuth; 1997).

The new digital media such as multimedia seem to have polarized the Heideggerian concept of thingness in the virtual image, since the properties of natural phenomena now come from a program: what can be extracted from matter in the form of concept. This kind of image is writing, escriture in Barthes'sense; it is conventional.

The synthesized image operates as a score and like any other score it may be translated. The relationship between time and space in the synthesized image is established by a mathematical entity. This kind of image results in changes according to the rules of its program.

A program stores processes of semiosis; in other words what is seen and accessed has been previously conceptualized in the form of writing, like in a cabal, which confers a potential character on this image.

"Genuine semiosis is na ideal limit. In reality, only combined forms exist. Other types of signs, in addition to symbols, intervene and are necessary o the conduction of thought and languages. The sign combination is na integral part of thought and of all manifestations of languages..." (Santaella; 1995)
That which previously, in painting, was related to the course of the gaze - "pictorial time" - registered by pictorial materiality ("the painting is like na absolute present"[Gadamer; 1996]), is now related to a time that is updated by algorithm. It imitates natural phenomena in a numeric process and yields moving images that simulate concepts on the basis of the thing in itself.

Through these characteristics of the synthesized image, in wich this whole universe of signs coexists in hybrid form, human perception began to create new interdisciplinary criteria for perception and cognition.

Some characteristics may become be more apparent whwn we observe that, whereas before ideas generated "things", now it is programs that generate them. It is also a friendly process, since what it is potential in prograns is now self-contained, so that for something to approach reality it has in fact to resemble the copy - the constructions of these algorithms tend to more and more sophisticated and precise matrices.

The culture of access promoted by these technological innovations, which is generating such interesting changes in human behavior, has a very specific and important relationship with the subject of hyperdesign.

When in multimedia design is conceived from the point of view of the route-script, we obtain the possibility of a much more effective interface between human and machine. In the field of teaching, for example, the applications for video games show this infiltration of hyperdesign, since there is nothing more universal than the language of these games. Here it is not just the ludic aspect, but the possibility of just one CD facilitating na understanding of several levels of content of one or more disciplines. Consequently the narrativa can be unfolded into multiple representations and events.

Hyperdesign thus acquires the function of pre-setting the levels of control and understanding of this new culture through the behavior of those who penetrate this interactive environment via tools and attributes capable of overcoming the interdisciplinary conflicts.

The hybrid advantages that these authored programs provide - dialogue between screens and intermittent sound, text that penetrates other txts (hypertexts) - allow the hyperdesign concept to facilitate na analytic - imagetic kind of language that surpasses the action of clicking and "turning the pages" superficially, starting to incorporate movements and interactivity related to corporal image.

Hyperdesign is going beyond orthodox concepts of form, function and optimization and is now incorporating movement and interactivity to corporal image. Gone is the idea of "solitary codes": language systems that in their syntactic cradle are arbitrary as a source, now they are determined by the fact of no code being able to survive alone in the era of Hypermedia.

There is a very complex function within it, that surpasses the creation of a route-script and its process of penetrating screen by screen. In fact it must establish a semiosis of imagetic, sound and verbal content.

This new form of representation does not just create visible models in the most symbolic part of these screens - the imagetic, but fundamentally consists of a new way of setting up na index of navigation. The accesses created by them are paratactic, not lineal, temporized by the movement of our gaze on the "readable" and the "visible." (Quéau; 1995)

In this relationship between reader and technology, wich is reappraised in the corporal-spatial relation, it is clearly seen that we are working with a new notion of limits and frontiers that is gradually being banished from the language concept. Now the body-image does not just read, but appropriates itself in immersion form to explore these spaces (Loeffer; 1994)

"Now we can talk about the body-image relation, that is to say, the relation between real physical sensation and virtual representation. The virtual image becomes a place that can be explored, but this place is not a pure space, an a priori condition for experiencing the world, as it was for Kant." (Quéau; 1993)

In this case, the a priori condition is the portion of the pre-set that is programmable. The synthesized image survives in its stigma of being potentialized in a program.

"The sense of representation of a traditional pictorial image can be understood only by our sense.The split of the numeric image from traditional pictorial materiality is, without any doubt, its most dominant feature; information contained in pixels, capable of being infinitely modified, means that this is an image which exists not only when it is visible, but as memory in the directory of a program in a sheer state of potential existence." (Azevedo; 1994)

Everywhere we go in a multimedia experience is anonymous and that is why we need to think in terms of Hyperdesign, making it possible to name the imagetic content in the transmission of the message. CR Rom images begin to feature diversity of access.

"The on-screen reader is more active than the on-paper reader: reading on-screen means that before even entering one has to send a command to a computer so that partial materialization of the text is projected on a small luminous surface." (Levy;1996)

The act of reading covers an intersemiotic sense that is centered not just in a sequential game as the verbal code demands, but also in a scanning exercise rather like to a digital scanner.

The screen-images of a CD - ROM appear as a control panel or as navigation maps, that symbolically - through icon buttons - establish a cognitive range.

"Symbolic representations have a cognitiverange that is more tangible than the realities which they supposedly represent." (Quéau; 1995)

The language of Hyperdesign facilitates the reinvention of the body-space-image relation, since the reader can opt for other possible sequences and reivent cognitive space anew (redrawing the map). Then users have the possibility of creating fresh attributes, allowing bodies to find their own relations for the journey.

"The Hypertextual subverts the notion of destiny."(Rosello; 1994)

Thus the notion of territory vanishes and a new geometry, the culture of zccess replaces it. In this new kind of transport, support comes from buttons in the form of icons. They establish a metaphor for coming and going: "To go to work and come home again we need metaphors." (Rosello; 1994)

The exercise of freedom of movement underlines citizen rights even in digital media, this new "reading machine" (Levy; 1996) can update this image and edit it, that is to say, the reader is face to face with the possible.

The fact is that the hypermedia culture of access allows us to penetrate, not just spatially but mainly temporally, to rewrite the map. Computers today play a role as personal machines; those icon buttons make it possible to translate this access, assuming human cognitive functions.

"The operation of such machines is connected in a such visceral way to the specialization of the senses or organs of vision and hearing that the denomination "senses" is much more suitable than that of machines…they are both cognitive machines and cognitive sensory organs." (Santaella; 1996)

Clicking represents a cognitive act and as we enter into an image-journey, we are transforming this clicking also in an act of occuoation. The button is still a translation of the household appliances that possess redundancy and are accessed daily through on/off switches. In multimedia screens the button has a role that is much more than that of appliances, offering an extensive and variable range of alternatives and functions. Here the button informs about the possibilities of access, promoting the play of the interface.

It should not be forgotten that all air force training is carried out by simulation, accessing buttons on panels that simulate action in synthetic images, and when they actually fly aircraft, they are in fact "simulating" in real time. Video games also contain a simulating act in the "play and take action." It is Heidegger's thingness together with the concept of doing.

Hyperdesign as a new culture of access can but propriate greater understanding of what is to be taught or learned, overthrowing languages that insist on establishing relationships of a diachronic nature. Human benevolence has still not been translated into algorithmic models. This human impotence places us before a camouflaged world of language to be deciphered.

As the American philosopher and founder of Semiotics, Charles Sanders Peirce, mentioned, nothing is more metaphysical than a recipe for making a cake. Probably the cake wich Peirce referred to is the one made of slices of interdisciplinary understanding which makes up human intellection. The new culture of access brings an awareness conscience that stimulates the senses, advocating the right of what we have to teach and to learn and how we have to memory the options of a learning process that is as multidisciplinary and intrinsic as nature.

Wilton Azevedo is a designer, head of Interface Multimedia
Studio, professor of Design at Instituto Mackenzie and
Foundation Armando Alvares Penteado (São Paulo) and author,
Among others, of the book O que é design (What design is)
Published by Editora Brasiliense.