Computers are fundamentally about control and I think they probably always will be.
That ' s their
point, to be accurately controlled by the user to get a job done. Digital slaves. I don't think the
computer industry will ever have a strong incentive to go in any other direction. Why should
they. Unfortunately, in my view, this approach to hardware and software and interface design is
not only narrow, but in many ways is opposed to real interactivity.
The computer industry's goal of making computers and programs
smarter is simply to make computers more efficient at being controlled by the user to get a job
done. Why should they do anything else. One can see this in the software, hardware and
interfaces that are currently being used. For example look at the concept of icons as an interface
device. They are designed to be precise and accurate and discrete, on or off. In a way they are
designed to limit the possibilities.
They are not about subtlety, ambiguity or question.
If there are 10 icons on the screen each with a different question next to it, the user is not really being
asked to select a question, but to choose an answer. If not on the first viewing, certainly on
The notion of control makes sense for a word processor or a spread sheet,
or an interactive educational video-disc or a game.
However in art the idea of giving the viewers
control, giving the viewers what they want to me has always seemed antithetical to what art is
There are certain situations where the metaphor of control does make sense. For example a
piece where the form of work is spatial navigation and exploration. The user turns a steering
wheel to control where they are in a simulated city space.
When I'm thinking about a new work, I don't put myself in the shoes of the viewer and say now
what do i do or what do i control. i put myself in the shoes of the work and i say what can i
perceive and how can i respond and reflect.
The work becomes an extension of the artist in the same way a painting or sculptureor a film.
program is an extension of the artist but unlike other work the work is a dynamic extension of the
A viewer does not control a work, the computer program does. If the program simply interprets
the viewer's actions in a direct way then the viewer feels like they are controlling the work. The
degree to which the viewer controls a work or more importantly the degree to which the viewer
feels like they are controlling a work is the choice of the artist. There are many different ways for
a program to interpret a viewers actions and to respond with the vocabulary that are not linear
and that are not random.
If an interface does not have a feeling of control then what is it?
How is the program perceived and comprehended by the viewer?
One way that I've thought of is
to make an analogy between a program and a person's consciousness and
subcociousness . If I'm
communicating with a person I hear what they're saying and I'm usually also trying to read
between the lines and interpreting their physical behavior. My window to their conscious and
subconcious thoughts and motivations is only through their behavior and words. These
underlying motivations become an important part of the communication.
In the same way that a multimedia object's responses as expressed through it's vocabulary are
windows to its program and thus it follows that the program is an important part of the
There is no such thing as a transparent program.
If I'm communicating with
someone and all they do is exactly what i tell them to do, then clearly the overwhelming theme
of our interaction is control, even if thats not the subject of our interaction. In the other extreme
if there is no understandable connection between what I'm saying and how another person is
responding then I would probably interpret that person as psychotic. In both cases the
communication is very limited and frustrating. The second leads to the notion of using
randomness as a model for irrationality. Randomness and irrationality have one main thing in
< BACK |