MX: the interface, part I & II

PART I of the Interface, I found it hard to comprehend a lot of the writing because of the vocabulary they were using. i was able to find some very interesting ideas later in the reading.

p 65. “hierarchical file system assumes that the world can be organized in logical multilevel hierarchy. in contrast, a hypertext model of the world wide web arranges the world as a nonhierarchical system ruled by metonymy. the interface brings with it strong messages of its own. (cut and paste operation)”. p 77. “its more accurate to think of the new media culture as an infinite flat surface where individual texts are placed in no particular order. this implies a lack of hierarchy.”
this concept seems overlooked in all my years at the art institute. as designers we strive to create a visual hierarchy in any media we work in. The graphic user interface we encounter in the operating systems of our computer uses a great designed (mac at least) hierarchy structure to house our folders. On the other hand, the internet is in no way based on any hierarchical structure, but rather a free flowing entity of ideas and thoughts that can be called upon at any hour of the day. we as users make these topics more important to us based on what we look at on a normal basis. the funny thing to me is, in this non-hierarchical digital space, each page we look at (based on our own interests) is designed with hierarchy in mind. it would be very difficult to navigate through lets say, a news website (cnn), if it weren't for the hierarchy used within the site itself. although someone might stumble onto my portfolio website in a 'non-hierarchical' way, the website that i have structured is indeed, designed with hierarchy in mind—for the user.

p 66. “the user performs all sorts of activities (trading stocks, searching the web, analyzing data, playing computer games) only using the same few tools and commands: a computer screen, a mouse, a web browser, a search engine, cut, paste, copy delete, and find commands.”
i sometimes think of this idea when i look at the vast amount of different things my friends all do with computers. it's a tool that we all use differently. in desgin class, we use it as a tool for creating our ideas. friends from home use the computer to play video games and store music to play at parties. the computer is now used as device for the dj to store and play up to 50 times the normal songs they could bring to a party using vinyl records. it's all according to context. each person uses the computer for their own personal reasons.

and something later in the article made me realize the computer is not just a tool for the things i mentioned above.

p 69. “by the end of the decade, as internet use became commonplace, the computer's public image was no longer solely that of a tool but also a universal media machine, which could be used not only to author, but also store, distribute and access all media.”
people are able to access information worldwide, and save the things they are interested in to create their own 'morgue'. we are also able to store ideas (word documents) and music onto our computers. we can then later call upon these files to refresh and distribute the ideas to other users or for personal contemplation or enjoyment. the things we collect might only seem like a folder of ‘cool stuff’, but are we really documenting and creating the culture of our times? based on the content i have saved in the past, and what i am currently saving, you can see a difference of information and stylization i chose to keep. this shows my documentation and evolution of culture through my eyes.


p 78. “the printed word tradition that initially dominated the language of cultural interfaces is becoming less important, while the part played by cinematic elements is becoming progressively stronger. this is consistent with a general trend in modern society toward presenting more and more information in the form of time-based audiovisual moving image sequences, rather than as text. as new generations of both computer users and computer designers grow up in a media rich environment dominated by television rather than printed texts, is not surprising that they favor cinematic language over the language of print.”
although films have been a famous past time for america and other parts of the world, my generation has always grown up with television and computers. i tend to think we are able to pack in more information and ideas into a time based event and let the viewer sit back and ponder these messages in a shorter time, as apposed to taking a large amount of time reading the same ideas in books. what happens when someone like myself is a slow reader? this kind of 'entertainment' can become very informative. i think images can transcend easier across language barriers as apposed to text as well. this is why there are icon systems being used for worldwide hubs (airports/olympics etc)

“p 80.
another feature of cinematic perception that persists in cultural interfaces is a rectangular framing of represented reality. cinema itself inherited this framing form western painting. since the renaissance, the frame has been acted as a window onto a larger space that is assumed to extend beyond the frame...p81. just as a rectangular frame in painting and photography presents a part of a larger space outside it, a window in HCI presents a partial view of a larger document. but if in painting (and later photography), the framing chosen by an artist is final, computer interface benefits from a new invention introduced by cinema—the mobility of the frame. ...a computer user can scroll through a window's contents.
p 83.
in video games, there are even cinematic cut scenes to set mood, establish a setting and introduce the narrative.
p84. this switch also made virtual words more cinematic, as characters could better visually integrated with their environments...the user can continuously adjust the position of the camera.”

new idea of cinema is now virtual reality games that users are able to explore within themselves, creating their own viewpoints and cinematic scenes through game-play. this further expresses the idea of the user vs. creator. the creator allows as much freedom as he/she wants for the user to participate in. depending on context and audience, sometimes the user is almost in complete control, within the restrictions of the creators code.

by using conventions of film from the 20th century, artists are able to create new worlds that users interact with. more and more emphasis is being placed on user interaction, as opposed to creating a semi-linear experience. as designers creating websites, there is a time and place to switch between a linear and non linear based interactions. those moments are decided when A. a user is able to go to any part of the website (nonlinear) and B. a user watches the order of images that I, as the artist, have placed in a particular spot on a timeline.

pg 90.
“a screen combines two distinct pictorial conventions—the older western tradition of pictorial illusionism in which a screen functions as a window into a virtual space, something for the viewer to look into but not act upon; and the more recent convention of graphical human-computer interfaces that devices the computer screen into a set of controls with clearly delineated functions, thereby essentially treating it as a virtual instrument panel. now it becomes a different number of definitions-opaqueness and transparency, image as illusionary space and image as instrument for action.”

picture plane vs picture window also exists within print media, not just the screen. paintings and photographs use transparency and opaqueness to look past the picture plane into the 'window' of the illusion of a greater space. anything that might be on the lens (a piece of dust) that was printed in the photo can pull you out of the window and make you look at the picture plane. a caption under the photograph or painting can also pull you out of the greater space (picture window). letting the user choose camera angle to explore the greater space not seen within a still painting or photograph is a great benefit how the screen functions as new convention.

one of the more interesting things I read:
pg 91.
consistency principle- dictates that menus, icons, dialogue boxes and other interface elements should be the same in different applications...in contrast, modern culture stresses originality: every cultural object is supposed to be different from the rest, and if it is quoting other objects, these quotes have to be defined as such. cultural interfaces try to accommodate both the demand for consistency and the demand for originality.”
this is very true for what we do in class. how different can we be but still use normal conventions not to confuse the user? as designers, we also have to decide when it is appropriate to use new conventions and when to use old ones. if the purpose of the site is to explore, perhaps using new methods and naming conventions would be ok. if we as designers are creating a site in which people know what they want, it's best to use normal conventions to make their search easier.

I will leave you with two great quotes from the end of the passage.

pg 93.
“it is one thing to use a computer to control weapons or analyze statistical data, it is another to use it to represent cultural memories, values, and experiences.

p 93.“we are witnessing the emergence of a new cultural metalanguage, something that will be at least as significant as the printed word and cinema before it.”

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