Imitation and the Arts [...]

> After all we are a world of imitations; all the Arts that is to say imitate as far as they can the one great truth that all can see. Such is the eternal instinct in the human beast, to try & reproduce something of that majesty in paint marble or ink. Somehow ink tonight seems to me the least effectual method of all — & music the nearest to truth. (Source)

Susan Sontag echoed Woolf in arguing that music is the highest of the arts. Article

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Machine vs Groove [...]

Message discipline could be compared to the hypothetical use of the drum machine, the human effect is lost even though it can be closely simulated by expert programmers. Any movement, organisation or political party that designs in message discipline designs out the fluidity and freedom that allows for a virtuosic interpretation of values and ideals to the detriment of wider goals. You get the precision, but what people really react to is the pocket – not a place where you hold a message but where a message gently holds you. (Source)

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“Most Empowering” Menu [...]

> The more choices technology gives us in nearly every domain of our lives (information, events, places to go, friends, dating, jobs) — the more we assume that our phone is always the most empowering and useful menu to pick from. Is it? The “most empowering” menu is different than the menu that has the most choices. But when we blindly surrender to the menus we’re given, it’s easy to lose track of the difference: (Source)

Menu

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Avatars as Social Status [...]

> For socially marginalized science-fiction fans and computer geeks, the virtual world could help people enjoy a level of social status and acceptance they lacked at home. Using a computer granted them a level of godlike power, because they had skills most people lacked. In advertisements for Habitat, the early online community was billed as a “place full of drama and adventure,” where each user could seize the rare opportunity to “reflect his real self-image, from toe to head.” A player could literally snap off his avatar’s head and pop a new one on. (Source)

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Racial Mystery Zone [...]

> Japanese audiences, unlike American audiences, don’t understand Motoko to be a Japanese character, just because she speaks Japanese and has a Japanese name. This speaks to the racial mystery zone that so much anime exists in, allowing viewers to ignore such unpleasant dynamics as oppression and discrimination even as they enjoy stories that are often direct responses to those dynamics. (Source)

Ghost in the Shell is the product of and response to decades of physical erasure and technological alienation. It’s pop cultural fallout, a delicately layered croissant of appropriation upon appropriation. It’s as timely as ever, but it feels wildly inappropriate for an American studio and the British director of Snow White and the Huntsman to pick it up and sell it back to us. At the same time, Japan and the US have been stealing and selling images to each other for decades, and the result hasn’t always been awful. I would still argue, though, that the knotty history that leads to Motoko Kusanagi will be lost in translation. This isn’t The Matrix or Pacific Rim, this isn’t just a look and a vibe being lifted. This is the entire history of Japan’s relationship with itself, the US and technology, and without that, you’re left with nothing but an empty prosthesis. (Source)

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Musical Shovel Ware [...]

According to the former SVP of Publishing and Electronic Marketing, much of the decline of Tower Records wasn’t because of the inability to think about the digital technology as the future, but the inability to bring the music labels alongside with them. Thus, much of the early digital offerings were limited to public domain songs.

One of the very real problems we ultimately faced was the reticence of license holders. Even though Liquid Audio (whose visionary founder Gerry Kearby died in a car accident in 2012) had created a secure digital wrapper, we could not persuade the powers that be at major labels to license us the content, so we were stuck selling the equivalent of musical shovel ware, old public domain songs no one really wanted. (Source)

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Letting Humans Talk to Machines [...]

Skeumorphism is a phrase primarily used to described the way designers mimic the look of natural objects in their design. Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan argues that it’s not just a design aesthetic, but also a way in which we design perceived affordances, a term coined by Don Norman.

So skeuomorphism isn’t a trend or a binary. It’s not Forstall against Ive, or shadows versus flatness.

It’s more like a spectrum, or a color palette, that designers have at their disposal. At one end, we have gross misuse: Fake wood, fake leather, fake shadows. At the other, we have thoughtful use of perceived affordances: A digital clock face that looks a lot like a normal watch, because it’s easier to read. Great design assumes users are smart enough to do without the fakery—but it also knows how to use existing cultural references to its advantage. (source)

Campbell-Dollaghan also says for human-machine interaction to take place, we must continue to explore perceived affordances as a useful design tool

It’s the language that human designers have written to let humans talk to machines. That’s not something we should hate. If anything, its return marks the settling of new technological frontiers, unexplored territories that we need a little help to navigate.

Steve Jobs is known for his love for skeumorophism. It has been described by one former Apple designer who worked closely with jobs as “visual masturbation.” Article.

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