History of Simulation and Interactive media

Course by Norman Klein - Spring 2022

I completed a course focused on the social history of fantasies that have been built in real space, and the narratives they deliver, choosing examples from theater, film, urban planning, theme parks, world's fairs, malls, animation, live-action cinema, video, electronic games and VR; including the literature of eighties cyberpunk and cyberspace, but also much older sources that are in wide use across media today. Those include scripted illusionistic spaces since 1500; automata (clockwork bodies) from 1760, pre-cinema toys after 1780; urban panoramas, and arcades from the nineteenth century. We examined the shift from tangible industrialism to a world dominated by simulations, affecting everything from privacy to politics.

The course emphasized the profound impact of illusions on our understanding of the world, demonstrating that our modern fascination with replicating reality—whether through digital avatars, plastic surgery, or theme park experiences—echoes centuries-old practices of crafting illusions to explore power relationships and human perceptions. Through this lens, we viewed simulations not as modern inventions but as a continuation of a historical narrative, deeply rooted in the ways we interact with and interpret the world around us.