Dialog Box by Duane King, Scott Brewer, and Adam Moliski

King, Duane
5 min readJan 14, 2024

dialogbox.es

Example word pairs from Dialog Box

Dialog Box
In partnership with NFTuesday
Mint opens on Wednesday, January 24 at 10:00am PST

Dialog Box at Highlight on Optimism
1/1 Open for Offers

Dialog Box at fx(hash) on Ethereum
Edition of 256 for 0.008ETH

Dialog Box at fx(hash) on Tezos
Edition of 256 for 8XTZ

Dialog Box is a playful generative art project that invites viewers to engage with the concept of choice in the digital age. Inspired by the early Mac OS,¹ the artwork presents an interface of two buttons, each symbolizing a choice steeped in 80s and 90s pop culture, from the serious to the lighthearted.

The dialog box is a graphical control element in the form of a small window that communicates information to the user, prompting them for a response. Dialog boxes were introduced in the Apple Lisa in 1983, followed in 1984 by Macintosh computers running classic Mac OS. The format is ubiquitous and all too familiar. Super normal.²

“The [Lisa] user will be able to carry out many functions simply by pointing to a picture of what he wants done rather than typing instructions.”
— Time Magazine, 1983

The system alert is the simplest form of a dialog box

This interactive experience unfolds across various decentralized digital artworks. As participants engage with these binary choices, they navigate through a web of interconnected decisions, symbolized through non-fungible tokens (NFTs) on blockchains like Optimism, Ethereum, and Tezos across platforms like Highlight and fx(hash). Dialog Box exists both as a cohesive whole and as fragmented parts, distributed across digital realms.

1/1 on Optimism via Highlight / Edition of 256 on Ethereum via fxhash / Edition of 256 on Tezos via fxhash

At its core, Dialog Box is a reflection of a lifelong relationship with technology. From an early fascination with computers and 80s pop culture, this project embodies the evolution of digital interaction and its impact on our perception of choices. It challenges viewers to contemplate the weight and consequences of their decisions in a world increasingly mediated by technology.

“The future lies with a graphical windowing interface, mouse cursor control, pull-down menus, dialog boxes, and the like [and computers based on such interfaces] are destined to take over the IBM PC and compatible world as well.”
— W.F. Zachmann, 1987

The Website: http://dialogbox.es

Dialog Box is both made of parts and is a whole. Like a holon³, each word pair is simultaneously a whole in and of itself, as well as a part of a larger whole. Upon deployment, a single zip archive of code adapts and responds to the platform and chain of choice. Code, like water, can take on the shape of the vessel in which it is contained. Flexible, yet powerful. Upon mint, buyers become permanently associated with a word pair. But generative art can be about so much more than just JPGs. Generative art is an app. When you mint Dialog Box, you own not only a word pair, your artwork also contains all of the other word pairs. You own a part, yet can experience the whole.

The potential of the blockchain is enormous. The internet is made from parts that have been contributed by many people. The blockchain affords an opportunity to recognize and reward these individual contributions both in terms of recognizing provenance as well as distributing financial reward for their fractionalized contributions. The blockchain, together with co-creation and co-ownership are unlocking a new era of collective creativity that honors and rewards individuals while elevating our collective potential. The future is messy and complicated. We must foster safe spaces for co-creation in our global village.

Dialog Box pays homage to pioneers that inspired my career, thus the binary 1-bit pixel language of the Mac OS and pixel-perfect recreation of Chicago, the sans-serif typeface designed by Susan Kare⁴ for Apple Computer. It was the primary design element of the Mac OS user interface between 1984 and 1997 and was used for menus, dialogs, window titles, and text labels. It was later revived for the user interface of the iPod, when 1-bit screens were necessary once again. The typeface was also adapted by Squaresoft for use in the English releases of their Super NES titles, such as Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger.

Chicago Kare: An adaption of the Chicago by Susan Kare as rendered on an Apple Computer

Through Dialog Box, I aim to inspire a deeper exploration of the seemingly simple binary choices we face, encouraging viewers to look beyond the surface and consider the nuanced complexities of decision-making in the digital era.

“The principle of Simplicity states that redundant methods should not exist. Having multiple ways to achieve one result increases the complexity of a system.” — David T. Craig⁵

Why are we uncomfortable with ambiguity? Why must we choose a side? It is important to consider the implications of choosing sides. While it is sometimes necessary, it can have significant consequences. Although we seek simplicity, we must encourage diversity of thought. The lack of gray area in our lives can foster narrow-mindedness which slows society’s progress.

For example, the debate about the superiority of art on the blockchain is often over-simplified into a choice between Tezos versus Ethereum. But this belies the true complexity of the options that are available to us, from Bitcoin to Solana to Optimism to Zora to Base and beyond.

“This is a field where one does one’s work and in ten years it’s obsolete, and really will not be usable within ten or twenty years. […]

“It’s sort of like sediment of rocks. You’re building up a mountain and you get to contribute your little layer of sedimentary rock to make the mountain that much higher.

“But no one on the surface, unless they have X-ray vision, will see your sediment. They’ll stand on it. It’ll be appreciated by that rare geologist.”
— Steve Jobs

The blockchain is made of the internet, which explains the thinking behind our fractionalized website. The potential of the blockchain is that in the future, the decentralized “sediment of rocks” that comprise digital things can have provenance and ownership, and therefore generate revenue for their contributors. Technology challenges how we think about copyright and IP and can allow for us all to become “rare geologists.” Let us build creative playgrounds and make beautiful things together!

Thanks to Scott Brewer and Adam Moliski, without whom this would not have been possible. And special thanks to Dina Chang for her undying support. Respect.

¹ Apple Computer, Macintosh System 1, 1984
https://guidebookgallery.org/screenshots/macos11

² Jasper Morrison, Super Normal, 2006
https://jaspermorrison.com/exhibitions/2000-2009/super-normal

³ Arthur Koestler, The Ghost in the Machine, 1967
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holon_(philosophy)

⁴ Susan Kare, “Chicago,” 1984
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Susan_Kare

⁵ David T. Craig, Apple Lisa Graphical Object-Oriented User Interface, 1987
https://guidebookgallery.org/articles/applelisagraphicalobjectorienteduserinterface

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