“The computer, viewed as a medium itself, can be all other media if the embedding and viewing methods are sufficiently well provided” – Alan Kay and Adele Goldberg, Personal Dynamic Media
This statement does beg the question, should it be used for everything? I do not intend to argue for or against particular applications of the computer, but instead would like to present some related questions which are currently being explored and tested.
How important is the act of forgetting?
The computer is an instrument of augmentation which facilitates remembering. Nothing really every disappears from the internet. Our lives are increasingly are being streamed, tagged, and documented on the web. You have access to your twitter archives, Facebook data, Google history, and can see when and what you were doing at any particular moment. The Library of Congress is archiving twitter. There are apps to help you remember your appointments, Facebook tells you when your friend has a birthday (I think it is hilarious when people have their birthdays changed on Facebook and all the randos wish them happy birthday).
Is a skeuomorph appropriate?
Steve Jobs is famous for his love of the skeuomorph. He was fond of faux-leather textures and insisted on the inclusion of a reel-to-reel tape deck in the podcast app. These textures, however, live behind a screen, can often become an uncanny approximation of the analog version, and can be prohibitive in the design thinking process. Alternatively, use of a skeuomorph can act as a familiar element enabling a potential emotional connection to a neutral content delivery platform.
Are there tools and processes that should not be imitated?
Polaroid cameras, record players, musical instruments, handwritten font, are all tools and processes that can be mimicked in the computer but are distinctly different. They all have the an element of wabi-sabi (my favorite Japanese word) that is becoming very relevant in our metamodern world (a topic for another post). Is there anything wrong with a DJ laying a distortion track over a song to make it sound like it was recorded from a record player? I don’t know. If it sounds the same does it matter?
What is the value of imperfection?
Platforms such as Second Life allow the creation of avatars. The web is (in)famous for its facilitation of anonymity. This allows an individual to craft a perfect version of themselves to present to the world if they so choose. There is not a requirement to present your entire self online with all of your guilty pleasures and quirks. There could be something lost in this perfection of image in our image based culture. Many of the photos we see have been photoshopped.
I think these questions will (and are already) be debated as our culture evolves with its new favorite tool, the internet.