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Semiotics and GUI Design

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Is excessive realism in GUI Design helpful or harmful?

[ For one thing, the complexity of programming many GUI interfaces protects entrenched companies -- GUI programs, when built from scratch, require much greater capital expenditure before launching a new product than did character-based DOS or UNIX applications. More importantly, when users are only supposed to be aware of a "realistic" illusion of a desktop, and not of the computer itself, then they are fully at the mercy of the computer elite, completely reliant on experts when something goes wrong. The proponents of these "air-tight" interfaces often use cars as an analogy, claiming that "you don't have to be a mechanic to drive." True, but if your livelihood depends on a motor vehicle then you'd better know something about what's under the hood, or you'll find yourself at the mercy of fast-talking used-car dealers, unscrupulous mechanics, and breakdowns on deserted highways. A great painter doesn't forget canvas, brush, and paint, but fully integrates her knowledge of them with her abstract ideas to create art. Similarly, it is important for a computer artist to remember that it is a computer he is working on ]

very interesting article publised almost 10 years ago, strongly based on Andersen's
Theory of Computer Semiotics In conversation with Casey Reas

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Casey Reas talks about this year's Ars Electronica Festival and his child project, Processing which final 1.0 release seems will be out there anytime soon.

Regardless the context of it, this quote by John Maeda let me thinking a lot.

"When you use other people's software you live in somebody else's dream".

Which I can hook-up with Reas quoting Alan Kay in the festival's catalog:
"The ability to "read" a medium means you can access materials and tools for others.
The ability to "write" in a medium means you can generalte materials and tools for others. You must have both to be literate. In print writing, the tools you generate are rethorical; they demonstrate and convince. In computer writing, the tools you generate are processes; they simulate and decide."

How far have GUI's gone? how far has the whole abstraction of the system gone?
Everyday I see people pushing more and more into breaching the world of zeros and ones with the world of colorfull icons. While that gap continuosly grows bigger and bigger, we are starting to see that everything around us starts looking exactly the same. Yes, it is not about teaching ourselves how to talk to a computer but about teaching the computer how to talk to us. But when we talk about expression, are we going to teach the computer how to express ourselves?

It is excellent to focus on just building the tools, but if we really want to inspire people by letting them "live our own dream" we are not contributing then with anything. On the other hand we want to focus on just performing? excellent, but who builds your tools?

Me? I rather build my own brushes, explore my space for new pigments. Afterall, in my opinion, those environmental qualities that are most influential in one's work are superbly interesting. Yes, the media is NOT the message, but that's the question of which one was first, the chicken or the egg. None of them make any sense without each other. There needs to be a balance. The media shapes the message, the message makes the media.

need a gps phone?

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arrrsh. Ok, a week ago I switched my cellphone carrier to au, just because I wanted to experiment a little bit with their gps phones. so I went out there and got this one, which works beautifully, it's super slick and gps works reasonably well. Ok, so, again, that was only a week ago. Yesterday KDDI announced new services coming on for their new phones - which seem to be suuuuper-nice
so... anyways, where is the trash bin for cell-phone recycling?

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