Monthly Archives: June 2009

From a conversation with my favourite Giraffe

June 29, 2009

I think – have you ever seen Tron? If you haven’t, it doesn’t matter, but it’s notable that they refer to what we would call “computer users” as “programmers” – as in, you were expected to use a computer by programming it. I was sort of musing around, talking with Josh about how I’ve noticed the trend since blogs came on the scene is that “users” see their computers as ledgers – a place to record information, a notebook. I always approached the web as a mutable art medium. Like, my catchline was that every user who visits your website is an individual, so they see something different than what the other users may see. And I tried to explore this through interface (a project called Circadian Rhythms, where the site changed minute to minute based on weather patterns, user location, time of day, etc) and a related piece called “Moods” where the content and the interface were inextricably linked to the path the user followed through the site – so like, I had a library of all my different art works tagged with moods, and if you were in a joyful place, in the mood for something that made you happy, the related content would be joyful and you could easily follow that path. Same for peaceful, melancholy, etc.

But we’ve hit a level of mass consumption where people don’t understand their machines any better than they did ten years ago, so programmers have been essentially made slaves of the lowest common denominator of user (and, to explain further, we’ve sort of created a monster user who finds virtue in not understanding, because they expect their software to be at a certain level of minimum difficulty for usage. And this is appropriate and great for like, accounting software and stuff [which at its worst is just a checkbook ledger, with simple calculations of adding, subtracting and multiplying if necessary] but terrible for innovation and for really deeply exploring these relationships between these personal machines and the people on the other side of the screen.) And yeah, first and foremost, I am a computer artist, I see the web as an art medium and the computer as a tool – but I’m beginning to understand how other people see their computers, and it’s not the same.

To explain a little bit better, a ledger is really the first step of using computer – logging information. Input. And it seems people today don’t go beyond that, but you have so many options for USING that information – graphing it, automating tasks, etc. Collecting data is so useful, even if it’s just a personal journal, but what about the next step? What about something as simple as knowing that you’re always bitching on May 17th of every year because you have a mood indicator on your journal that’s not just decoration, but provides readable feedback to you?