When writing this chapter it became apparent that we were not only exponents of digital holography, but also the critics. This is a problem when it comes to new media. How can one begin to make objective critical theory on a subject when there are no historical or ideological structures that produce and constrain it? While other digital technologies prove well developed, semantic and expressive, digital holography has some way to go before any quantized analysis of the subject is possible. This paper explores the function of digital holography, seeking comparison from other media and explores holography’s influence as a radical form of electronic digital three-dimensional image capture. Within this context we draw comparison with other forms of image making, from cave paintings in Lascaux (France), to Fox Talbot’s early experiments to capture light, Corbusiers architectural designs of space, to early television transmission. They all have one unifying factor: the unfamiliar and the strange, emblematic to visual possibilities in our perception of space.
The illusion of Three-Dimensional space may be traced back to a time in classical western history to the development of painting, and of its use to create visual likenesses, was through the utilization of mathematics by Italian architect, Filippo Brunelleschi, in the middle of the fifteenth century. His invention was used in the work of such famous artists as Piero Della Francesca, Albrecht Durer and others. In paintings made in accordance with the invention of perspective, it is possible to distinguish whether an object is situated in the foreground of in the background and to locate the point where all the lines describing the depth of the depicted space converge. Nevertheless, even this innovation did not solve the main problem, since the three-dimensional scene remained two-dimensional in the picture. Further perfection of the painting technique and the application of innovatory methods, such as the use of an improved camera obscure in the seventeenth century, were aimed at the inclusion of greater detail. But still the invention of perspective is a false, a man made calculation, which only serves to constrain the observers view rather than enlighten it.
A marked step in solving the complicated problem of detailed representation of our three-dimensional world was made by photography. In taking photographs, the lens is used to construct the image in the physical plane of the recording material. The lens is constructing a ‘mini’ three-dimensional form inside the camera and as we change focus we are selecting the physical plane, the area of interest we want others to see too. Since Fox Talbot’s early experiments in the eighteenth century, photography has represented objects of the surrounding world in a far from perfect way. A vision we can take no further, a vision that, like language, has influenced society beyond all expectations. As we move into the digital epoch the prime illusion – digital holography – is patently waiting its turn.
As physics explores the quantum universe attempting the development of a holistic theory we can observe the holographic principle at work in almost every principle of life. Indeed, some even suggesting the universe may be compared to one giant hologram as the information of the whole exists in every constituent part; that a tiny little piece, a tiny particle, might contain all the information pertaining to everything that exists or has ever existed. As quantum holography reaches far into new theories to explain and ‘un-lock’ such baffling forces such as gravity, gravitons, gravitines - the very glue that binds our atoms together – even life itself, or our perception of it. A theory interestingly endorsed by many cults including the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS), founded by Edgar Mitchell who walked on the moon with Al Shepard during NASA’s 14th Apollo mission. A note of caution however because as we shall see, the holographic principle itself is a spectacular tool of deception and arguably the most advanced form of technological visual deception to date, certainly one of the most intriguing.
Are holograms “Mere” illusions of objective visual reality or creative artefacts capable of expression, interpretation and deception? Certainly an emerging technology that offers the opportunity of usurping conventional two-dimensional with the third-dimension. Holographic Optical Elements (HOE’s) usurp our perception of the ‘real’ in ways previously impossible. The alternative modern holography offers industry may be compared with the role of electronic circuits and microprocessors held at the beginning of the 60’s as an alternative to the electronic valve. Mass-produced ‘Holographic Optical Elements’ are starting to replace micro-lens arrays, and ‘Holographic Phase Memory’ is poised-ready to replace today’s standard magnetic hard-drives - we are about to start our journey into ‘The Age of Photonics’. Modern holography is capable of integration within digital media exploding the limitations of its forbearers and launching its new development as hyper-media.