Abstract- Markku Reunanen

Observations on the Adoption of Science in a Subculture

In this paper we discuss the adoption of scientific knowledge in an underground subculture known as the demo scene. Starting from the early years we observe the presence of different mathematical, physical and technological discoveries used by the subculture authors, with special focus on programming. References to the original publications are provided to reveal the time it takes for a technique to become adapted.
Demo scene – or just the scene – emerged in the mid-1980s with its roots in software piracy of home computers. The early 8-bit computers had very limited processing power, which in turn constrained the artistic expression. The powerful multimedia computers such as Commodore Amiga and later the multimedia PC enabled the production of sophisticated graphics and sound. In addition to the technical platform the community had to find tools and methods that would support the creative work.
This research is based on the content analysis of computer demos ranging from mid-1980s to 2006, effectively covering the whole existence of the phenomenon. The different knowledges such as mathematical formulas, computer graphics algorithms and physically-based effects were observed and categorized to reveal the overall trends. After its adoption a technology may also face extinction due to
going out of fashion.
The first adopters of new methods often gain respect in the community. Competition is a key part of the scene and to stay ahead of the rivals the innovators constantly need to find new ways of impressing the audience. "World first" – explicit bragging about a new effect – is a classic example of this. The second generation of adopters, the imitators, reproduce the same methods and often improve upon the
first implementation. Stylistic experiments are another way of achieving the same goal but here we focus only on technology. The adoption process in this context is chiefly mediated, meaning that the new methods don’t flow directly from research labs to the demo scene authors. Instead, the methods go through various stages involving communication and transformation before becoming accepted by the community. Books, tools, direct sharing of information, tutorials and higher education are some of the channels in use. In the big picture the demo scene and its techniques serve as examples of the appropriation process that new technologies face before becoming internalized by the society.