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2004 World Technology Awards Winners & Finalists

Jeffrey Shaw

Please describe the work that you are doing that you consider to be the most innovative and of the greatest likely long-term significance.

The Reformulation of Narrative in Digital Cinema

Jeffrey Shaw's research has been in the vanguard of new media and digital cinema research from its beginnings. In the 1960s, Shaw established key parameters in these emergent fields first in experimental film (Continuous Sound and Image Moments, 1966), then with the first prototypes of interactive cinema (Corpocinema, 1967; MovieMovie, 1967) and later, panoramic slide projections and laser technologies (Genesis World Tours 1975/6). In the 1970s, Shaw focussed on interactive cinematic computer graphic environments and initiated a series of benchmark works (Viewpoint, 1974; Points of View, 1983/84; The Narrative Landscape, 1985) that established his reputation as both an innovator of interface design and a pioneer of virtual reality and augmented reality techniques for the general public. These innovations were paralleled by a rapid development of these disciplines. During the late 1970s and 1980s, a Europe-wide recognition of the need to engage creativity with emerging new media technologies led to the establishment of the ZKM Institute for Visual Media (Karlsruhe, Germany), of which Shaw was the founding director.

In 2002 Shaw was awarded an Australian Research Council Federation Fellowship, and invited to the University of New South Wales to establish the iCinema Centre for Interactive Cinema Research Centre. Shaw's research program at the Centre addresses the issue of narrative within new media, the central challenge facing the next generation of digital cinema. Narrative reformulation involves the resolution of fundamental problems in theoretical modelling, software design, adaptive computing, visualisation techniques and interface research. The aim is to explore the relation between cultural drivers of digital information and their dependent technologies, by examining the key role of narrative in new media and digital cinema, promising a significant extension of their cultural and commercial benefits. The approach synthesizes discrete components of three narrative models: the multi-branched, navigable and algorithmic. The synthesis enables a series of three research programs to implement polychronic, transcriptive, and co-evolutionary structures to test Deleuze, Serres, and De Landa's predictions regarding interactive narrative assemblage, organized around a structural and inter-determinate coupling of linear and non-linear components in virtual time.

Polychronic narrative is situated in the context of a virtual social space, referred to in literary theory as dialogic. In a digitally generated social space, represented fictional entities are allotted an autonomous voice. Multiple interacting viewers and representational entities respond not only to each other but also to unprecedented virtual events as they emerge. Viewers are given multiple entry and exit points and the facility to generate coherent narrative content on the fly.

Transcriptive narrative is a recursive system based on a large database of self-organising and independent elements that can launch viewers into richly textured engagement with cultural information. Transcriptive narrative is multi-temporal, not only enabling the viewer to recompose multi-modal (movement, image, sound) cultural information into episodes of virtual time, but also enabling the compounding of these virtual episodes to be experienced as events in real time with the potential for ever more interactive recomposition.

Co-evolutionary narrative is modelled on the reactions of algorithmically generated virtual actors to the behaviour of crowds of real viewers. These real viewers, on apprehending the collective impact of their behaviour upon these virtual actors, modify their behaviour in regressive cycles of counteractive response. In this mode of interactivity the narrative is thus composed as a spiral of interactive events whose meaning is amplified in a continuing co-evolutionary loop.

Shaw’s internationally exhibited and acclaimed artistic achievements leading up to and coming out of this research program of narrative reformulation include The Legible City (1989), EVE (1993), The Golden Calf (1994), Place - A Users Manual (1995), conFiguring the Cave (1996), Place - Urbanity (2001), The Web of Life (2002) and Eavesdrop (2004). Future projects underway include T_Visionarium, AVIE (Advanced Visualisation and Interaction Environment) and co-authored works with the Wooster Group (NY) and the William Forsyth Dance Company (Frankfurt).

Brief Biography

Jeffrey Shaw is recognized by eminent international scholars in the field of new media and digital cinema as one of its landmark researchers. Leaders of new media and digital cinema institutions worldwide are unanimous in their admiration of the breadth and consistently pioneering quality of Shaw's research. He is sought after by conferences, museums, galleries, and festivals around the world with invitations to exhibit or present papers, by major corporations and government programs offering high-value funding, by leading theoretical and experimental researchers, and by numerous intending postgraduate, PhD and postdoctoral researchers. Shaw has been one of the leading figures in new media since its emergence from the performance and installation art paradigms of the 1960s to present day technology-informed and virtualised forms. Shaw's research has been presented to millions of visitors in dozens of major museums around the world, and his writing has been published in several languages. The outcomes of his research include patented technologies, products, and a history of milestones for software and hardware design. His research has pioneered and set benchmarks for the use of digital media technologies to seek evidence of the multi-modal agency of interactive narrative (as advanced in revisionist cinematic theory) in the fields of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality Systems, Immersive Visualization Environments, Navigable Cinematic Systems, Interactive and Intelligent Interface Design, Algorithmic and Reactive Software Systems.

Jeffrey Shaw has provided world leadership in these fields through his founding Directorship of the ZKM Institute for Visual Media (Karlsruhe, Germany) the largest institution dedicated to the research, production, and presentation of creative work in new media and digital cinema. Over a ten-year period since 1991 Shaw established the ZKM as one of the world's leading environments for high-level research, development and production of new multimedia hardware and software tools in response to evolving creative, social and industrial needs. Outcomes included: implementation of a productive and critical environment where artists and scientists collaborate on world-leading and benchmarking new media research programs; articulation of one of the most powerful networks of national and international academic and corporate partnerships engaged in basic and applied research; supervision of postgraduate research training for some of the world's leading new media researchers, many of whom are now in senior positions at leading research centres and universities; raising of over $30 million in public and corporate funding for artistically directed research programs at ZKM.

Jeffrey Shaw has initiated, supervised and curated some of the most important international research projects into interactive narrative forms including: the European Union’s eRENA, 1998, and eSCAPE, 1999, projects; the ArtIntAct series, the most prestigious international CD-ROM/DVD-ROM and theoretical publication focused on the research and development of experimentation and theorization around interactive forms in a multimedia environment; a multi-million dollar commission in 2001 from the Aventis Foundation to research and develop a distributed multi-user interactive art work entitled Web of Life; and in 2002 the ZKM Future Cinema exhibition, the most comprehensive survey exhibition to date of international interactive cinema research, together with a catalogue published by MIT Press.

Jeffrey Shaw is currently an Australian Research Council Federation Fellow and Executive Director of the iCinema Centre for Interactive Cinema Research at the University of New South Wales. Concurrently he is Director of International Projects at the ZKM Institute for Visual Media and Visiting Professor at the University of Art and Media in Karlsruhe.