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MinervaMoon


Member

Posted Sat Oct 27th, 2007 12:31pm Post subject: Stephen's Guardian column - Week 1
This isn't a book, but it's in print and therefore closer to a book than to "multimedia". But feel free to shuffle, those who have power.

"Welcome to dork talk."

It's so funny that he always refers to Jonathan Ive as some kind of teenage genius . . . which he was, at one point, but the man is 40 now.

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amyl_nitrate


Member

Posted Sat Oct 27th, 2007 2:47pm Post subject: Stephen's Guardian column - Week 1
Welcome to Dork Talk

Awww cutey. ^_^ Being geeky is cute.

Well, people can be dippy about all things digital and still read books, they can go to the opera and watch a cricket match and apply for Led Zeppelin tickets without splitting themselves asunder. Very little is as mutually exclusive as we seem to find it convenient to imagine. In our culture we are becoming more and more fixated with an "it's one thing or the other" mentality. You like Thai food? But what's wrong with Italian? Woah, there... calm down. I like both. Yes. It can be done. I can like rugby football and the musicals of Stephen Sondheim. High Victorian Gothic and the installations of Damien Hirst. Herb Alpert's Tijuana Brass and the piano works of Hindemith. English hymns and Richard Dawkins. First editions of Norman Douglas and iPods. Snooker, darts and ballet. Such a list isn't a boast, it doesn't make one an all-rounder to rival Michelangelo, it's how humans are constructed. Adaptable, varied, versatile. So, believe me, a love of gizmos doesn't make me averse to paper, leather and wood, old-fashioned Christmases, Preston Sturges films and country walks. Nor does it automatically mean I read Terry Pratchett, breathe only through my mouth and bring my head slightly too close to the bowl when I eat soup.

*applauds*

This is something I've been trying to argue to people for years. People can be so one-dimensional sometimes, or rather try to enforce one-dimension on other individuals. As a result people make stupid assumptions about others all the time, trying to mould them into a stereotype. In my experience if you tell someone you enjoy listening to goth music they make so many judgements about that can be so far from the truth - that you think goth is superior and don't listen to anything else, that you automatically like Tim Burton, Anne Rice, E. A. Poe or whoever (I do like their work but come on I don't think Rice is the best writer in the world, not by a longshot and I do like directors other than Burton) and so on and so forth. The list is endless. Again, say you like anime and manga and people make crass assumptions about the kind of person you are. If you say you enjoyed an action film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger you're labelled as an uneducated idiot who can only be amused by loud bangs and big guns. I once saw someone on imdb say something on the lines of if you don't like Guest House Paradiso you must be the type of person who likes Moulin Rouge. What....the....fuck? I like both films a lot. I didn't know it had to be one or the other. How stupid and ridiculous is that? If you go talk to metal fans they're all chummy with you until you mention that you're into something like David Bowie or classical music then their faces glaze over in shock. People can like different things. We don't have to be boring and rigid and stick to only certain things. It shouldn't matter what our age, sex, occupation or anything else is. If you want to make a jump to something radically different to your norm that takes your fancy then do so. People shouldn't make you feel guilty about doing so. This is the problem I have with that whole 'guilty pleasures' concept. I don't have any guilty pleasures because I feel no shame, embarrassment or guilt over liking what I do. I don't care if people think it's odd. Sucks to be them I say if they let themselves grow miserable with shame over something like that.

Apple gets plenty of small things wrong, but one big thing it gets right: when you use a device every day, you cannot help, as a human being, but have an emotional relationship with it. It's true of cars and cookers, and it's true of computers. It's true of office blocks and houses, and it's true of mobiles and satnavs.

It's twue! You do grow attched to your gadgets like they're a living being. I'm very much like that with my discmans and my mp3 player. Even more with my pc. I would like to get a new computer, upgrade, get a better monitor but part of me doesn't want to part with what I've got. A computer really grows on you and becomes connected to you. You go on other people's computers and even if it's the same OS and appears the same in many ways it just isn't. Nothing seems to go right and you start feeling like it has a personal vendetta against you. On the other hand your own computer and it's like a dream. It responds just right to your every touch, you can coax it to do anything and it doesn't resist you. You go on someone's else's computer and you start to convince yourself that it must surely be riddled with viruses and spyware. It's just not as caring and considerate as your computer. It can even seem idiotic in comparison.

A grey box is not good enough, clunky and ugly is not good enough. Sick building syndrome exists, and so does sick hand-held device syndrome. Fiddly buttons, blocky icons, sickeningly stupid nested menus - these are the enemy. They waste time, militate against function and lower the spirits. They make the user feel frustrated and (quite wrongly) dense. Mechanisms so devilishly, stunningly, jaw-dropping clever as the kind our world can now furnish us with are No Good Whatsoever if they don't also bring a smile to our face, if they don't make us want to stroke, touch, fondle, fiddle, gurgle, purr and coo. Interacting with a digital device should be like interacting with a baby.


Oh god yes sick hand-held device/computer/website syndrome does indeed exist. In the final year of my degree I took a module called People & Technology. In it we learnt about HCI (Human Computer Interaction) which is the study of design, evaluation and implementation of interactive computer systems for human use and how people interact with technology. We looked at how it's about producing technology that is practical, efficient, useable and aesthetically pleasing, about how designers need to have respect for the people who will be using the product. We had a look at baddesigns.com (which looks at non-electronic prdocuts as well) and "Current issues in web usability" and we also compared two different versions of the same website (made for the class to look at) and discussed why the first one was so badly designed. Our tutor talked about how designers need to take HCI and psychology into account more when designing technology. I was very inspired by the module and it helped inform my dissertation. I chose to focus on educational technology and found the same problem - that programmers don't take into account any kind of educational or psychological theory and just make any old thing that may look flashy and cool but when you try to use it you realise it's not very good. I found a lot of research showing that educational CD-ROMs made in the 90s were badly made and ill-thought out. They criticised by psychologists, teachers and students (older ones not primary age) alike. They were very gimmicky and all "oh look at me I'm full of multimedia learning is fun whee!" and then parents buy them for their children thinking they'll learn something. Studies found that children who used literacy CD-ROMs remembered zilch about the story that they were supposedly learning to read but remembered tons about the interactive features. Older pupils using history and science CD-ROMs found the programs to be a mess, no logical thread running through at all, navigation didn't help and anything they did learn was superficial, again due to multimedia gimmickery. I carried out my own experiment on the BBC Schools webpages and found there are still issues of children being distracted by unnecessary gimmicks.

So yes, design is very very important. It can be something as seemingly insignificant as how a menu on a website works but if it's wrong it will be one of those little things that can get under skin and irritate or like in the case of educational technology can be more worrying especially in this day and age of technology taking over the classroom. Even the position of the SmartBoard and how to turn it on can have an impact in the classroom.

And there's a subject I might write about one day. How to use a search engine. You'd be amazed (well, you wouldn't, because you're an intelligent Guardian reader, but some people would) by how often friends of mine say they can't find something on the net, simply because they haven't stopped and thought about how to frame or phrase input search terms. Hold that thought ...

When I first went to uni I had to do a module in how to use ICT, the internet, Blackboard, electronic journals and so on. One day I had to sit through an hour lecture on how to use search engines. It was soooo boring! The tutor spent forever showing us how to type search terms in different ways on Google. Then when I thought she was done she then said "Now let's see what happens when we try the same on Lycos.", then Ask Jeeves and Yahoo and SOSIG. *bangshead* Then we had to leave the room and go to a workshop opposite and practice our 'new found' skills. Needless to say I ran down the corridor and went home.

Anyway, what kind of devices might I be discussing over the coming weeks? Including, but not confined to: mobile phones, smartphones, music players, media players, cameras, electronic books, satnavs, computers, peripherals, TVs, games machines and any digital device or grown-up toy that may take my fancy. And not necessarily all that grown-up, either.

The thought of Stephen Fry talking about electronic games is making me giddy. ^_^

I won't be writing about hand-helds and hardware only, however. I have to confess that while gaming as such is not my first interest, and I don't spend much time in World of Warcraft, Halo or Manhunt, I do have a Second Life existence (you'll never find me, so don't look. Lord, there's a thought: "celebrity avatars exposed" - fair chills the blood).

*shivers*

I have a secret presence on Facebook and a public one, too, which I don't have the time to pay much attention to. So, yes, I'll undoubtedly have a look at Web 2.0, social networking and other contentious and contemporary digital issues.

Oh squee! I wonder what he'll discuss, besides Facebook and probably youtube I mean.

Assuming direct control...

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AxmxZ


Moderator

Posted Sat Oct 27th, 2007 2:48pm Post subject: Stephen's Guardian column - Week 1
The jibe against Terry Pratchett was catty to the n-th.

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amyl_nitrate


Member

Posted Sat Oct 27th, 2007 3:28pm Post subject: Stephen's Guardian column - Week 1
The jibe against Terry Pratchett was catty to the n-th.

Just reminded me of this clip from The South Bank Show (1992) that I found last night. Stephen talks about the things he doesn't like in sci-fi and how it made him not realise at first that Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is sci-fi. I dunno it just made me think of it, maybe because it was only last night so is uber fresh in my memory.

Assuming direct control...

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AxmxZ


Moderator

Posted Sat Oct 27th, 2007 3:36pm Post subject: Stephen's Guardian column - Week 1
Pratchett : fantasy :: Douglas Adams : sci-fi.

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amyl_nitrate


Member

Posted Sat Oct 27th, 2007 3:39pm Post subject: Stephen's Guardian column - Week 1
Pratchett : fantasy :: Douglas Adams : sci-fi.

No shit Sherlock. X-D

Assuming direct control...

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AxmxZ


Moderator

Posted Sat Oct 27th, 2007 3:54pm Post subject: Stephen's Guardian column - Week 1
Well, I'm curious: why is Stephen for one and against the other? Their humor isn't that different; their approach to their respective genres is identical... this smells of personal politics.

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amyl_nitrate


Member

Posted Sat Oct 27th, 2007 4:11pm Post subject: Stephen's Guardian column - Week 1
Well, I'm curious: why is Stephen for one and against the other? Their humor isn't that different; their approach to their respective genres is identical... this smells of personal politics.

Well that's true about the humour and approach being similar. When I first saw Pratchett adaptations on the telly and heard the narrative I immediately thought of Adams. It could be just personal taste or maybe he doesn't like Pratchett himself (personal politics). In the former case people can assume that because someone likes A and A is similar to B they must therefore like B. It seems to follow logically but it's not always the case, I find this most strongly when it comes to music, you know when you see "If you like x band then check out the following bands..." I think it's more a case of if you like A and A is similar to B you're more likely to like it but you won't necessarily. This is me going back to my earlier rant about assumptions people make. I come across it all the time. Like how because I enjoy listening to new goth rock bands that play a traditional sound such as Killing Miranda I must therefore like another similar band achieving the same traditional sound. Similar doesn't always mean good for me. They can have the same style and sound, even similar vocals but I can easily love one to bits while disliking the other.

Assuming direct control...

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whatonearth


Member

Posted Sat Oct 27th, 2007 6:02pm Post subject: Stephen's Guardian column - Week 1
haha the terry pratchett stereotype was a bit unfortunately placed in that article, nice one stephen but although i tend to quite dislike a lot of 'technology', it's all a bit too faffy and annoying to me, i think i'll enjoy the column. well it killed a few minutes on the bus home 10 minutes ago

also, as for labelling people...i often have a quick browse through the metal sections in music shops, which I always feel a bit self-conscious about on two levels: one, that I look nothing like the kind of person who would listen to metal. at all. and two, the kind of music that I know would be found in the 'metal' section probably isn't the kind of music most people would imagine when talking about metal as an overall genre. ah well.

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AxmxZ


Moderator

Posted Sat Oct 27th, 2007 6:46pm Post subject: Stephen's Guardian column - Week 1
amyl_nitrate: The point isn't that he should like Pratchett because he likes Adams. The point is, it's odd that he is snarky about Pratchett given that he is a reader of Adams. He seems to think reading Pratchett is somehow too geeky even for him - I'm just wondering why.

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amyl_nitrate


Member

Posted Sat Oct 27th, 2007 6:59pm Post subject: Stephen's Guardian column - Week 1
amyl_nitrate: The point isn't that he should like Pratchett because he likes Adams. The point is, it's odd that he is snarky about Pratchett given that he is a reader of Adams.

I didn't say he should like Pratchett because of liking Adams. I said that you shouldn't assume that he does just because they are similar types of humour and are sci-fi/fantasy books.

He seems to think reading Pratchett is somehow too geeky even for him - I'm just wondering why.

Where'd you get that from? The too geeky bit? He listed Pratchett among other things he doesn't do but how does it follow that he meant it's too geeky for him? I don't see how you reasoned that.

It could easily be as simple as he just doesn't like Pratchett. There doesn't have to be a deeper reason for disliking something.

Assuming direct control...

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AxmxZ


Moderator

Posted Sat Oct 27th, 2007 7:03pm Post subject: Stephen's Guardian column - Week 1
amyl_nitrate: The point isn't that he should like Pratchett because he likes Adams. The point is, it's odd that he is snarky about Pratchett given that he is a reader of Adams. He seems to think reading Pratchett is somehow too geeky even for him - I'm just wondering why.

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amyl_nitrate


Member

Posted Sat Oct 27th, 2007 7:05pm Post subject: Stephen's Guardian column - Week 1
amyl_nitrate: The point isn't that he should like Pratchett because he likes Adams. The point is, it's odd that he is snarky about Pratchett given that he is a reader of Adams. He seems to think reading Pratchett is somehow too geeky even for him - I'm just wondering why.

Urm you've already said that in your last post and I gave you my response.

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ClareBear


Moderator

Posted Sun Oct 28th, 2007 8:13am Post subject: Stephen's Guardian column - Week 1
I have to confess that while gaming as such is not my first interest, and I don't spend much time in World of Warcraft

Clever, clever man. Cripplingly addictive.

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amyl_nitrate


Member

Posted Sun Oct 28th, 2007 9:56am Post subject: Stephen's Guardian column - Week 1
Hey cool you changed the title of the board.

I wonder what kind of games Stephen does play. I've never played World of Warcraft, not due to lack of interest though, more a case of if it's addictive I won't ever get anything done. I sometimes wish I could be 9 again getting to spend carefree days playing on the Mega Drive from the crack of dawn until bedtime.

Assuming direct control...

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