Thursday, November 19, 2009

MX: Reading response #3 (page 94-103)

When I read the first paragraph of the reading, especially the phrase "it's a society of the screen" I immediately thought about how fast we adjust to new screen based-technology. I happened to witness a college student being introduced to a new touch-screen equipment at the gym. It was never there before and it took her less then three minutes to set it up and get things going. Such task would be a nightmare for older generations. The screen became our language and is easy for us to understand. But what about those who lived all their lives in the world where screens or "large TVs" were a futuristic idea from Farenheit 451?

I think that in our web-based designs we should always strive for innovation and progress, but we should not leave those people behind. There should be a way for people to take a traditional route. Maybe it is not as prominent as it used to be 10-15 years ago, when the buttons were boxy and the home page was always labeled as "home", but it should make some sense to older people. It's good when a website can be navigated by an 80-year-old grandma and an art director of a high-end motion studio. I thought that the comparison of a screen to a Renaissance painting was pretty interesting. The screen is not so new after all.

The reading describes the screen as a "window into another space". Moving images on the screen are not shocking to us anymore, but first film screenings made the ladies faint and men run in horror. Back then the window was so hyper-real that people could not wrap their mind around it. The reading says that the screen is aggressive, it is meant to force the viewer to filter out the outside real world and fully focus on the presented picture. The reading says that the computer screen does not fully keep our attention because we can view multiple windows at once and "zap" through them. It's true in some cases, but we can only focus on one image at a time. Even if we have ten windows open, we focus on one, or two if we're comparing something. If whatever we're looking at is relevant to our task at hand or interests us in some way, we get fully absorbed by it. So how is it different from watching tv or a movie? Yes, the image may often be still in a computer screen and thus more easily "paused", but the concept is the same.

"Now she is fully situated within this other space", says the reading. The mention of VR surrounding a person once again reminds me of Farenheit 451. Here's a quote that talks about Montag's impression of the room with three huge screens:"And it was indeed remarkable. Something had happened. Even though the people in the walls of the room had barely moved, and nothing had really been settled, you had the impression that someone had turned on a washing-machine or sucked you up in a gigantic vacuum. You drowned in music and pure cacophony."

The comparison of a radar screen to an audio record was quite interesting. The whole section about photography vs. real time imagery was quite enlightening. It made me think of technology that is not as distanced from us as the military surveillance. Look at Skype for instance. All you need is two cameras and internet connection Voila!, two people can talk across continents and time zones. The screen literally becomes a window into another world. Two separate physical spaces become connected. It is still an image (it becomes non-transparent and obvious when the connection fails and the video quality becomes extremely pixellated), but it's a real time image. Compared to the days when you would send your picture to someone in an envelope along side a hand-written cursive note, Skype and similar technology are incredible!

The constant progress of technology and the presence of the screen makes the line between the physical world and the screen thinner and thinner. It is not a bad or a good thing, it's our reality. Hopefully, this progress will not make our world the horror so described so well in Bradbury's work.

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