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Flash: Building the Interactive Web

Anastasia Salter
John Murray
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Adobe Flash began as a simple animation tool and grew into a multimedia platform that offered a generation of creators and innovators an astonishing range of opportunities to develop and distribute new kinds of digital content. For the better part of a decade, Flash was the de facto standard for dynamic online media, empowering amateur and professional developers to shape the future of the interactive Web. In this book, Anastasia Salter and John Murray trace the evolution of Flash into one of the engines of participatory culture. Salter and Murray investigate Flash as both a fundamental force that shaped perceptions of the web and a key technology that enabled innovative interactive experiences and new forms of gaming. They examine a series of works that exemplify Flash's role in shaping the experience and expectations of web multimedia. Topics include Flash as a platform for developing animation (and the "Flashimation" aesthetic); its capacities for scripting and interactive design; games and genres enabled by the reconstruction of the browser as a games portal; forms and genres of media art that use Flash; and Flash's stance on openness and standards--including its platform-defining battle over the ability to participate in Apple's own proprietary platforms. Flash's exit from the mobile environment in 2011 led some to declare that Flash was dead. But, as Salter and Murray show, not only does Flash live, but its role as a definitive cross-platform tool continues to influence web experience.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-32577-6
    Subjects: Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Series Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)

    How can someone create a breakthrough game for a mobile phone or a compelling work of art for an immersive 3D environment without understanding that the mobile phone and the 3D environment are different sorts of computing platforms? The best artists, writers, programmers, and designers are well aware of how certain platforms facilitate certain types of computational expression and innovation. Likewise, computer science and engineering has long considered how underlying computing systems can be analyzed and improved. As important as scientific and engineering approaches are, and as significant as work by creative artists has been, there is also much to...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. 1 Flash and You
    (pp. 1-16)

    The cover of the 2006Timemagazine “Person of the Year” issue featured a glossy, reflective image of a personal computer screen with the controls of a web video at the bottom of a monitor under the bold-faced word: “You.” A provocative headline below reinforced the message: “Yes, you. You control the Information Age. Welcome to your world.” The article proclaimed the reliance of the web on a broad population of content makers motivated by passion while “working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game” (Grossman 2006). According toTime, we’d entered the era of the LOLcat...

  6. 2 Animating the Web
    (pp. 17-42)

    The simplest task to complete in nearly any version of the Flash production software is the animation of a bouncing ball. The software’s built-in vector graphics rely upon mathematical expressions to produce simple shapes rather than pixel-by-pixel images. This interface makes placing a simple ellipse quick and simple. Every Flash project includes a central canvas whose contents are governed by a timeline. Scrolling ahead on the timeline will show that same static circle awaiting action. Designating a new destination for the circle at a later point on the timeline will move it, and an algorithm fills in the space in...

  7. 3 Platform/er Programming
    (pp. 43-64)

    Cheerful 8-bit music pipes out of the computer speakers as a red-capped plumber sporting overalls hops from bricks to clouds as the screen scrolls with his motion to reveal more of the cartoon landscape. Using the arrow keys, the player guides the plumber Mario away from chasms and maneating plants to safer ground in his endless quest to rescue a missing princess. This type of gameplay is characteristic of a platformer, a genre where the player guides a character through reflex-driven landscapes filled with obstacles.Mariohas made appearances on every Nintendo console from the Nintendo Entertainment System to the...

  8. 4 The Web Arcade
    (pp. 65-88)

    The strange-looking, monotone yellow alien crashed into a nightmare world, constantly pursued by FBI and other official-looking types trying to end his adventure and possibly his life. The player controls his odds of success primarily by smashing the arrow keys, occasionally shooting or jumping in familiar platformer mechanics. Descended from the same platformer games we examined in the last chapter,Alien Hominid(2002) was among the first of many incredibly addictive Flash games, filling the web with an alternative to visiting the arcade or loading up a home console system. The single-player games produced in Flash shaped the boundaries of...

  9. 5 New Media Art
    (pp. 89-112)

    The image of an industrial building fills the browser window. A sculpture, Auguste Rodin’s Inferno-inspiredThe Gates of Hell, stands on one side of the interior across from a stack of nine refrigerators. Figures stand in a doorway in front of the gallery label “Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries/Bust Down the Door!” while red text fills the screen, flashing quickly as rhythmic words and music pounds through the speakers. Messages emerge almost too fast to be processed: “He busts down the door while I sleep, rushes into my home, enters my bedroom, drags me out of bed, pushes me in my...

  10. 6 Free and Open?
    (pp. 113-134)

    The ubiquity of Flash depended as much on its perception as its technical capabilities. When it worked, it was virtually invisible, showcasing instead the content. But when it became a point of contention between Android and iPhone, between closed technologies and modern, open standards, Flash became an ideological warzone. The terms “free” and “open” in software contexts refer to a stance on subtle variations of power. They (and their opposites) designate control and ownership: control over the expression of an intellectual property, and ownership of rights pertaining to it, including reproduction and modification. These properties have inspired the Free Software...

  11. 7 Flash and the Future
    (pp. 135-152)

    Flash is dead. Long live Flash?

    Variations of that headline, both despairing and gleeful, rang out around tech blogs all over the Internet: first in 2010, then with increasing assurance as the years passed, despite the failure of Flash to quickly exit the web. The 2010 announcement that started the early eulogies to Adobe’s multimedia platform came from Steve Jobs, who offered his “Thoughts on Flash” and in doing so declared that Flash would not be supported on the iPhone or any future iOS device: “Flash was created during the PC era—for PCs and mice. Flash is a successful...

  12. Appendix: An Interview with Jonathan Gay
    (pp. 153-166)
  13. Works Cited
    (pp. 167-176)
  14. Index
    (pp. 177-180)