XFR: eXperiments in the Future of Reading

Members of the RED group at Xerox PARC

Seminar on People, Computers, and Design
Stanford University November 30, 2001

The XFR is both a research project and an interactive museum exhibition. XFR makes the argument that reading will continue to be central to our culture but the practices of reading will change. The individual pieces in the show explore new forms of interaction that combine and extend various reading traditions using new technology. For instance, there are books with cinematic sound tracks, material that is read by tilting the large display surface, a dog that reads to visitors, a comic book visitors walk through and another one that uses a hyperbolic tree to present the story. While not positing a specific future or specific products for the future, the pieces show how physical form, content, and setting of use will create a rich and pervasive reading environment in the next decades.

XFR was created by the RED group (Research in Experimental Documents) at Xerox PARC. RED's charter is to explore new genres that may arise from new media. Genres are not just outcomes from the research, but deeply influence method, affecting problem setting, on-going evaluation, reflection, and re-framing of situations and ideas. In addition, we will touch on the entailments of using an interactive technology exhibition as the basis for innovation.

Members of the Research in Experimental Documents group (Maribeth Back, Anne Balsamo, Mark Chow, Rich Gold, Steve Harrison, Dale MacDonald, and Scott Minneman.) draw upon skills in art, science, design, and engineering. We have education and practice in architecture, mechanical engineering, and product design, as well as in education, theater, film and video production, education, cultural theory, toy design, and sound design. Most of us have been at PARC for a long time having worked in such diverse projects as Ubiquitous Computing, the Media Space, and very high resolution flat panel displays. Central to our values is the idea that art and design have as much to contribute to insightful enquiry as does engineering and science. Everyone came from a background of collaborating with others, so another value is that of collective action. In that, we value having an opinion -- particularly, aesthetic and intellectual opinions. Not that we share a particular aesthetic or philosophical stance, just that having one that is brought into play in discussions and guides design action is important.

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