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Contents © 2017 Golan Levin and Collaborators

Golan Levin and Collaborators

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Media Streams Icons

1994 | Golan Levin with Marc Davis and Brian Williams

Media Streams Icons

The Media Streams system was conceived by Marc Davis and developed at the Machine Understanding Group of the MIT Media Laboratory and at Interval Research Corporation by Marc Davis, Brian Williams, and myself. I was involved from the inception of the project as an interface/interaction designer and as the principal designer and lexicographer of its visual language. More information about Media Streams is available from Marc Davis' laboratory site (PDF article).


Media Streams is a system for annotating, retrieving, repurposing, and automatically assembling digital video. It uses a stream-based, semantic representation of video content with an iconic visual language interface of hierarchically structured, composable, and searchable primitives. Media Streams addresses problems of annotation convergence and human-computer communication by creating a standardized, computationally readable and writable visual language for representing consensual interpretations of video content.

The Media Streams video content annotation system uses a vocabulary of more than 6000 icons to represent the characters, objects, behaviors and settings of the broadcast universe. Because they are combined in a grammar with a syntax and semantics -- permitting meaningful combinations numbering in the hundreds of millions -- the Media Streams icons are not merely an iconography but a true visual language. This generative and searchable language supports gestalt information visualization, quick recognition and browsing of annotations, the potential for global use, and the representation of semantic, relational and temporal video content. Creating the Media Streams lexicon involved knowlege-engineering a sensible relational hierarchy of thousands of concepts, and inventing a consistent and readable set of "resonanced," recombinable sub-iconic graphic elements.

The Media Streams iconic annotation language has numerous advantages over traditional keyword annotation systems, including its ability to describe relations between descriptions, its ability to clearly render overlapping and contained actions, its ability to refer more directly to the intrinsic visual qualities of the video medium, and its ability to serve as a "consensus" language for multimedia professionals.


Images (click to enlarge)

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