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20120116 Screen Saver Culture

20120116 Screen Saver Culture

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Published by Marius Watz
A summary of the origins of screensaver culture and considerations of possible future roles of screensavers as interactive info gadgets.
A summary of the origins of screensaver culture and considerations of possible future roles of screensavers as interactive info gadgets.

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Published by: Marius Watz on Jan 16, 2012
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20120116 MARIUS WATZ - AHO INTERACTION DESIGN

SCREENSAVER CULTURE
Screensavers as historical artifact. A brief summary
of historical significance and current state of
disinterest.

Proposed task: Design a screensaver for the 21st
Century, updated to contemporary interface culture.
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SCREENSAVERS - A HISTORY
» Screensavers are computer programs designed to
prevent phosphor burn-in on CRT monitors.
» “Saving” the screen is done by blanking the
screen or filling it with non-static images or
patterns.
» First recognized screensaver was “scrnsave”
(John Socha, 1983), which simply blanked the
screen. Predated by screensaver-like behavior on
Atari systems (1977, 1979).
SCREENSAVERS - A HISTORY
» Screensavers quickly became an area of graphic
experimentation, typically using parametric
graphic algorithms to create ever-generating
images.
» Popular in the 1990’s as a way to customize
one’s computer and express personality (much
like ringtones etc.) Many screensavers were
humorous or intended as eye candy, giving them
status as pop culture artifacts.
» Possible high point: The After Dark screensaver
collection by Berkeley Systems, 1989.
SCREENSAVERS - TYPOLOGIES
» Traditional screensaver types include:
- Simple blank screens
- Generative animations (i.e. Lissajous curves,
bouncing polygons, the Mac OS “Flurry” etc.)
- Animated jokes, software parodies
- Photographic slideshows
» Also popular: Screensaver as corporate branding
and advertising channel (typically to promote
films, cars and consumer lifestyle products)
After Dark, Flying Toasters (1989)
After Dark, Starry Night (1989)
Flurry, Mac OS X (Calum Robinson, 2003)
STATUS QUO - STAGNATION
» In the last 10 years the screensaver format
has largely stagnated, due in part to the
disappearance of CRT screens. It is safe to
assume most computer users today have never
installed a custom screensaver.
» This is despite ever-increasing computing power
that would allow screensavers today to be far
more advanced than the relatively primitive
historical examples.
STAGNATION
» Mac OS X has cleverly used the “Flurry”
screensaver (developed by Calum Robinson,
2003) as an instant branding device, installed as
the default screen saver since 2003. The Flurry
graphic is now instantly recognizable and clearly
linked to the Apple brand.
» Microsoft Windows 7 comes with a minimal
collection of bland screensavers, clearly showing
a lack of interest in the format.
TASK: HOW CAN SCREENSAVERS
BECOME RELEVANT ONCE AGAIN?
» Despite the disappearing need for “saving”
screens the basic screensaver format still has a
lot of potential. A non-interactive app with screen
output has a lot of possible uses.
» How to revive this dying format and reposition it
as a contemporary piece of interaction design?
» What new forms and functions can we imagine for
screensavers in 2012?
SCREENSAVER 2012 UPGRADE:
POSSIBLE NEW FORMATS
» Ambient info gadget, integrated w/ mobile apps over
network connection
» News / data / social feed aggregation + display
» Generative artwork
» Delivery channel for curated art and design content
» Networked parallel computing platform
» Realtime infoviz: Personal data tracking, web site
analytics, social media interactions
SCREENSAVER 2012 UPGRADE
» Old screensavers were standalone applications
without data-saving functions.
» Now screensavers can be data-driven, networked,
integrated apps, connected to public APIs or
sync’ing with your personal data sources.
» Screensavers are ideally suited for ambient data
displays given their passive nature. A perfect case
would be data personal to the computer’s owner.
» Still just want some eye candy? Generative graphics
have come a long way since 1989.
http://twistori.com
Twistori: Twitter search screensaver
http://twingly.com
Twingly: Realtime blog visualization
GeoCodEarth, Flickr, Twitter, GeoRSS mashup
http://www.geocodearth.com/
SCREENSAVER 2012 UPGRADE
» Another powerful concept: Massively distributed
computing using screensavers and network
communication to borrow CPU time from willing
participants.
» Examples: SETI @ Home, Electric Sheep
Scott Draves: Electric Sheep
Distributed fractal computing
www.electricsheep.org
SETI @ HOME, distributed supercomputer
http://seticlassic.ssl.berkeley.edu/screensaver/
http://9031.com/goodies/#briblo http://9031.com/goodies/#briblo
Yuji Adachi, BriBlo (2012)
Rafaël Rozendaal: Towards and Beyond
http://www.newrafael.com/shop/towards-and-beyond-screensaver/
http://www.stefantrifan.com/theweather/
SCR/Tha: Dropclock
http://scr.sc/products/dropclock/
Terence M. Welsh: Helios (OpenGL)
http://www.reallyslick.com/screensavers.html
THANK YOU FOR LISTENING!
Marius Watz is:
marius@unlekker.net
http://www.unlekker.net
http://twitter.com/mariuswatz
http://twitter.com/generatorx
http://www.generatorx/
http:// workshop.evolutionzone.com/
http:// flickr.com/photos/watz/

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