(UPDATE: this is clearly the result of one too many mojitos. I’ve cleaned up the spelling errors but left the rum-bred leaps of logic alone, as well as the run-on sentences. A translation may be appended.)
My first is in art history, and I flatter myself with the notion that my serious assault upon the degree – the first time I was aware of directing my intellect upon a subject with a specific polemic and ideological goal – was predicated upon the idea that art functions as a machine which conveys the ideology of those who pay for it.
Thus, the high-period Athenians celebrate their rule and triumph, persuasively, (may I hasten to say, dear masters, as you prepare our just assault upon the unutterable tyrant and virtual demagogue, he uttered as he bowed and scraped), by the frieze of the Parthenon as do the Maya and Aztec and Mongol with grand and celebratory pyramidal formatia of heads and skulls, so vastly different than that of our egalitarian and demos-placating manner.
However, art, as always, appeals to the viewer to carry them past the troubling details of the thirty-thousand slaughtered to dedicate the new temple and such like trifles (distractions from the analytical task of fitting architectural part or mural) to the economic power structure expressed thereby.
And, thus, I think, I have a subject that marries my obsession to commerce, commerce to technology, and art to the souk. How is the ideal of “usability” constructed, academically?
There’s lots of easy pickins – the pro and anti-Uncle Jakob battles which have raged over the ground of simple graphic and advertising design for the past decade (largely, may I state, to the detriment of art AND commerce and to the benefit of a high priesthood which, it appears, wishes to keep computer interfaces ugly at all costs – after all if beauty is not measurable, then it must cost us in untold, indeed, immeasurable use hours).
I could pick at this corpse for years. But that’s the problem; it looks predetermined to me in two ways.
One, art is immeasurable, because it’s always intended to bring new things to the social contract, things that may be rejected or adopted.
Two, common ideograms often reinforce common ideologies, but successful ideologies always allow for innovation in both ideology and ideogram; thus successful user-interface metering will forever remain difficult.
Two, every phenomenological event is measurable. Each mouse click or page load represents a data point that can be analyzed. Thus, within certain constraints, human behavior in regard to computer data displays can be measured and predicted. Which, you may be shocked to hear, I regard as a good thing.
I mean, you clicked something to be able to read this, right?
So I need to think about this, but that’s about right. You can improve predictable behavior by imposing constraints on elements of interface presentation but on a regular basis disruptive interfaces will dramatically affect the efficacy of pre-extant interfaces and elements.
You all got that out there? Make it pretty but derivative and efficient to get reasonably wealthy. Make it wildly original and exquisitely efficient to become more wealthy than Croesus. Make it stultifyingly derivative and in some cases deeply counterintuitive to not get fired. Be a complete hippy goofball otherwise if you think you can get away with it.
In fact, send me money to attend your user interface conference, and I’ll make a completely valid, totally kook-bred presentation about something. With luck, we’ll all grow wealthy from explaining to SoCal widget kings that were once insulted by Jim Morrison why exactly it us that the Lizard King pocket umbrella was not produced in sufficiently large numbers to satisfy extant Romanian demand.
(UPDATE: While I doubt I can explain the Lizard King pocket umbrella curiosity directly preceding, this stream-of-mumblery means I see some sort of grad-school thing that allows me to exert art-history chops on computer user interface design as a possible degree path. I think. Also, the post appears to adhere to the “thinking out loud” direction mentioned just previous.
My favorite evidence of the drinkie-winkie? The interesting counting math in the middle of the post. One! Two! Two!)