proposing that the Dynabook be a "meta-medium" that unifies
all media within a single interactive interface, Alan Kay had
glimpsed into the future. But he may not have realized that
his proposal had roots in the theories of the19th century German
opera composer, Richard Wagner.
In 1849, Wagner introduced the concept of the
Gesamtkunstwerk, or Total Artwork, in an essay called "The Artwork
of the Future." It would be difficult to overstate the power
of this idea, or its influence. WagnerÕs description of the
Gesamtkunstwerk is one of the first attempts in modern art to
establish a practical, theoretical system for the comprehensive
integration of the arts. Wagner sought the idealized union of
all the arts through the "totalizing," or synthesizing, effect
of music drama Š the unification of music, song, dance, poetry,
visual arts, and stagecraft. His drive to embrace the full range
of human experience, and to reflect it in his operas, led him
to give equal attention to every aspect of the final production.
He was convinced that only through this integration could he
attain the expressive powers he desired to transform music drama
into a vehicle capable of affecting German culture.