15 November 2009

MX: The Interface Reading Response

In reading the Interface, I learned a little bit about how the web/computer's interface came about, how it functions, and what that means. Some new concepts I learned from the reading were ideas such as the 'permanent present', which focuses on the idea of how ever since the first macintosh computer came out in 1984, we have been using the same concepts, which have seeped into our very culture and way of life. For instance, always focusing on clarity and functionality, the Graphic User Interface. Once, when the computer acted as a tool to assist in our culture, ever since the 1990's, the computer has become a filter for all of culture... the small computer screen has come to replace the cinema screen, TV screen, art gallery wall, book, magazine, newspaper, etc.– all at once. Everything. That was the moment in the reading that stuck out the most for me. Another concept I learned from the reading was the idea of the human-computer interface, or HCI, and also the 'cultural interface'. The HCI is the connection between the user and the computer- the physical input/output devices like a monitor, keyboard, mouse, but also a metaphor system so the user can understand- like files and folders on a desktop. Originally, it was used as a tool for work, but has evolved in our way of living to encompass so much more- a universal media machine that can be used just as much for leisure as for work. When talking about the 'cultural interface', the author was referencing the connection between the user, the computer, and the access to culture through it, like online museums, magazines, computer games, etc.

This reading relates to my MX projects because it illuminated how the current form of the internet and web pages are different, yet still in a way the same, to older forms of communication, such as the printed book or the cinema. Like the book, web pages, are viewed in the same way... like a page, usually from top to bottom, with a certain amount of information on each page. Yet unlike a book, features such as hyperlinking allow for a non-linear way to jump between different sets of information, with no assumed hierarchy. It was a completely new way of thinking when it came to be accepted in the 1980's. And like the cinema, elements can play for a user from the interface, yet it too is more subject to user interaction. It made me think about how I can apply these old media formats in new ways to my portfolio site, without being so cliche as using an image of an open book, as seen in Myst.

Beyond my projects for MX though, the reading pointed out a serious fact for me: everything really is going digital, and everything is becoming more and more fluid and unstable. As mentioned in the reading, communication began on a clay tablet, which was nearly indestructible, which then moved to ink on paper. The ink then became bits of memory on a computer, and then with HTML, those bits that formed on page of communication could be stored on multiple computers... always adding to the more vague, ethereal, and otherwise unreal format, which can never be grasped. That made me think about that cloud program idea that Garrett was talking about in a lecture earlier this semester, and how even more, our culture, our lives, our work, everything- is becoming less and less real- it could all be gone in an instant. That really scares me.

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