Building Time Machines:
thinking about the future of
interpersonal communication

Davis Foulger
Visiting Associate Professor
Oswego State University

May 7, 2002


An earlier version of this presentation

Media are Invented and Evolved in five spheres of invention

  • An Invention Quintet:
    • Mediators, when combined in a particular way, have characteristics
    • Characteristics enable uses
    • but use inevitably creates problems
    • that are resolved in practices
      • which effect, in turn, both
        • uses (cycle of genre), and
        • mediators (cycle of media)
  • While there are linear dependencies
    • Activity proceeds in parallel ...
    • ... as users play in all the spheres
  • Hence invention is not a solitary act
    • but a social one
  • Everyone who uses a medium plays a role in its continuing evolution

The Idea of a Time Machine

Media Space: The domain of time, space, and scale machines

  • A system that enables messages
  • Hundreds of media
  • Eight+ kinds:
    • Interpersonal
    • Presentational
    • Static Art
    • Dynamic Art
    • Correspondence
    • Publishing
    • Telephonic
    • Broadcast
  • Three+ dimensions
  • Over 190 defined characteristics
  • 4 power mediators:
    • human memory
    • paper analogs
    • manufacture
    • computers
  • A conquest of time, space, and scale

A Brief History of Time-Manipulation in Media

Ways of Bending Time in Media

Time Relationship

Pre-Internet Media

Internet Media


Correspondence, Newspapers

On-line Databases, Listservs, Newsgroups


Drama, Shopping Lists

Agent relinearized Listservs and Newsgroups



Chat, Instant Messenger



E-Mail, Computer Conferencings, Autothreaded Messaging, Voice into Text Concurrent Interaction



Web Sites, Task-Oriented UI



Wiki Collaborative Composition, Structured Conferencing


Face to Face Interaction and Telephone

Shared Whiteboards, Shared Desktops, Internet Telephone and Videophone


Letters, Art, Recorded Music, Film, Books

E-Mail, Computer Conferencing



Instant Messenger, Asynchronous Telephone



Supersynchronous Interaction, Synchronous Media Use Ecologies

Serial Creation

Television, Music, Theatre, and Film

Groupware, Managed Workflows


Reference Books, Text Books

On-Line Databases, E-Mail, Computer Conferencing

Reference Pointers

Bird Books

E-Mail, Computer Conferencing, Hypermedia Documents, Relational Databases

Interpersonal internet media can warp or obliterate time linearity

Computer Decision Making and Intelligent Agents

Using agents to manipulate time in interpersonal communication

Autothreaded Messaging

Voice into Text Concurrent Interaction

Supersynchronous Teleconferencing

A Note on Synchronous Media Use Ecologies

The Process of Media Invention and Evolution