straight up
Collage featuring photograph from
Wagner's Das Rheingold

About the Project

Multimedia: From Wagner to Virtual Reality is a unique hybrid publishing project that joins with our partner in print, W.W. Norton & Co., to present an untold history of multimedia. This site is based on the book of the same name, co-edited by Randall Packer and Ken Jordan.

This on-line project was developed in close collaboration with and its Arts and Education program. It is our hope that this site, together with the book, will serve as a valuable resource for students, teachers, artists, and critics probing the interactive media arts, as well as those attempting to make sense of this burgeoning medium that is transforming our art and our culture. We also hope that it will dispel much of the hype surrounding the misunderstood phenomenon of multimedia, and provide a means for illuminating an understanding of its roots, significance and potential.

The Website and the book are meant to work in tandem. The book collects and contextualizes seminal essays from 30 of multimedia's pioneering figures. On-line, Multimedia: From Wagner to Virtual Reality is a dynamic, growing resource featuring information, images, and video about the history of this remarkable, emerging medium. The site was launched in June, 2000. Since then, the In Depth section was added to cover the creative work and essays of five of multimedia's pioneers: Douglas Engelbart, Billy Klüver, Alan Kay, Scott Fisher, and Lynn Hershman. There is also a Concepts section, which links artists, engineers and theorists across disciplines according to their contributions to the core concepts that underlie digital multimedia. The Pioneers timeline provides a chronological view of the work of artists and scientists that begins even before Wagner, with the caves of Lascaux. The Overture, a narrative description of the history of multimedia, provides extensive illustrative images of artworks and technological innovation. An extensive collection of video documentation is included throughout the In Depth and Timeline sections. Future plans include the addition of a teacher's guide for using the site in the classroom. Multimedia: From Wagner to Virtual Reality will continue to expand over time, and we would appreciate your comments and feedback.

Special thanks to Intel's Kevin Teixeira for his belief in this project from the very beginning, and to Vince Thomas, Irena Rogovsky, and Annie Rodkins of the staff for their expert advice and technical support in helping to shape Multimedia: From Wagner to Virtual Reality. To Phyllis Hecht of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. for her support and guidance in the design of the site. Also to our editor at Norton, Alane Mason, for championing this unorthodox project. To my co-editor Ken Jordan, whose critical feedback has been instrumental in unearthing the many themes and relationships found in this material.

And lastly, to the pioneers of the medium whose contribution to this site has been vast: not only have they graciously provided me with substantial material, but most importantly, their work and vision has been a great inspiration that has fueled the creation of this project.

A production of:


This Website was produced in collaboration with

We hope you enjoy this online exhibition on and will send your comments or technical problems to

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