Because this was the Media Lab and because I've always hovered somewhere between the user interface design and language design ways of approaching things, I ended making a series of visual or semi-visual systems for building very simple models of agent-like behavior. Most of this work was done under the aegis of the Vivarium Project, an Apple-sponsored research program, directed by Alan Kay, which had the intent of inventing some new models for novice programming environments.
Stewart was a visiting something-or-other at the Media Lab when I was a graduate student, and an unofficial advisor to the Vivarium Project. I am quoted a couple of times in his book about the Media Lab.
The only reason I watched it was my affiliation, long ago, with the Vivarium Project. There weren't a whole lot of thematic reasonances, other than both were about forms of artificial life. But the older vivarium had the goal of allowing learners to create something that exhibits liveliness or at least models it. This movie was more of a horror story in which an imposed artificial system displaces, corrupts, parodies and destroys real life. Kind of a different vibe, although both play with the boundary between the living and the mechanical.
By now it's a cliche. Apple for a time adopted a variant of this as its own vision and marketing slogan ("Bicycles for the mind"), and supported efforts that fit in with it like Hypercard and Vivarium Project, but those values were swamped by powerful market forces
Here's the one time that I got a mention in Whole Earth Review for some of my Vivarium Project work, in 1989.
18 Jan 2021 01:56 - 01 Jan 2022 07:48
A research project led by Alan Kay and Ann Marion, sponsored by Apple, with contributions from the MIT Media Lab and many others. There's surprisingly little public writing about this important and influential nexus of work.
look closely at animal minds and ways to model them
use those insights to come up with new ideas for programming languages and environments
design child-friendly versions of those models, languages, and systems
One of the earliest projects at MIT was to build a robot blimp that could be controlled by simple a simple end-user-friendly programming language. This was in part inspired by the Wiesner Building's vast and otherwise kind of useless four-story atrium.
The blimp was based on a commerical RC kit we found; we augmented it with some ultrasonic rangefinders from a polaroid camera kit, and interfaced the sensors and motors to a visual programming language (the Hookup! language developed by Dave Levitt).