Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Windows and Mirrors In A Digital Nation

By Edwin Tejada

Hello class, from the Natural State: Arkansas. I apologize for the delay on my postings and I know that most of you already moved on from this book, but I’d appreciate your comments and feedback regarding this posting.

After reading David Bolter and Diane Gromala’s Windows and Mirrors as well as watching the PBS documentary Digital Nation, it is obvious that our relationship with computers has moved on from the basic, operator/machine correlation; computers have now become extensions of ourselves, in a complex reciprocal relationship that allows all of us to permeate between a physical and a digital world. Although insightful, I believe Bolter and Gromala’s metaphoric illustrations of the development and facets of Human-Computer Interaction through their trip to the 2000 SIGGRAPH have become obsolete as more and more people pay less attention to the intricacies of their computer devices and are immersing more and more in the surreal world brought through their devices.
Although we still physically interact with computer hardware, just as my fingers are doing with my keyboard as I type this document, and my eyes view it on my screen, the hardware remains largely invisible, or transparent, for most of the writing process. I would dare say that in the context of this moment, and against Bolter and Gromala’s transparency concerns (p.53), I feel the birds of my imagination have safely crossed-over into Zeuxis paint, or should I say Bill Gates’ digital Illusion through Windows’s interface.
Nevertheless, Bolter and Gromala are correct to point out that there are certain interfaces, which like Nosce Te Ipsum (p.61), allow ample room for people to oscillate in two realities (p.68). Beautifully designed programs such as Photoshop and Final Cut Pro allow their users to be conscious of their role as operators while still allowing them to immerse and see themselves, metaphorically, in the reality of their own digital creations. However, I do believe these oscillating interfaces are still evolving into more transparent graphic user interfaces (GUIs) in which the raw material of a piece, and the operator’s imagination, will occupy the entire foreground of the creative process.
There is one area which the authors of Windows and Mirrors largely underestimated or were ambiguously apathetic to: convergence. In 2003 Bolter and Gromala were dismissive of the predictions of technology enthusiasts regarding the convergence of different technologies such as television, phones, music recording and retail through the world wide web. Nevertheless, Bolter and Gromala were very insightful on their prediction of how distractive the convergence of all these media would be to their audience (p.99). Just seven years after the publication of Windows and Mirrors, Bolter and Gromala’s predictions can be clearly seen in the television documentary Digital Nation, which exposes the terrible side effects out of control consumption of converged media has had in our current generation.
Overall I think Windows and Mirrors does a great job in explaining the scientific purity of the original intent of structuralists such as Tim Berners-Lee and Jakob Nielsen, as well as the relevance of progressive artists such as Camille Utterback computer-human-interface (CHI) art piece, TextRain. It is obvious that the merging of the structuralists and graphic designers’ visions helped fuel the launch of a powerful new medium in which, even as we pour more of ourselves into it, our reflection seems to be getting blurrier and less distinctively human, for better or worse.

1 comment:

  1. I'm not sure your criticisms are accurate, many social media sites are quite hypermediated, but more importantly, I would ask you to consider the question of whether transparency above all else is in the best interests of users, and of society. I think a key part of their point is that a more reflective interface is good for both usability and for a more a intelligent, better educated society.