The Long Zoom

The NYT Sunday Mag has an article written by Steven Johnson, about Will Wright’s new game, Spore:

Most eras have distinct “ways of seeing” that end up defining the period in retrospect: the fixed perspective of Renaissance art, the scattered collages of Cubism, the rapid-fire cuts introduced by MTV and the channel-surfing of the 80’s. Our own defining view is what you might call the long zoom: the satellites tracking in on license-plate numbers in the spy movies; the Google maps in which a few clicks take you from a view of an entire region to the roof of your house; the opening shot in “Fight Club” that pulls out from Edward Norton’s synapses all the way to his quivering face as he stares into the muzzle of a revolver; the fractal geometry of chaos theory in which each new scale reveals endless complexity. And this is not just a way of seeing but also a way of thinking: moving conceptually from the scale of DNA to the scale of personality all the way up to social movements and politics — and back again.

…But a decade or two from now, when we look back at this period, it is more likely that the work that will fix the long zoom in the popular imagination will be neither a movie nor a book nor anything associated with the cultural products that dominated the 20th century. It will be a computer game.

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