Archive for December, 2010

The Consequences of Interfacing

Note the recent observations by Damon Darlin, in “Digital Devices Can Become Objects of Affection” New York Times Sept. 2, 2010

Love for a device that we’d most likely throw away in a couple of years, like a PC, a video player or a cellphone, though, doesn’t make lot of sense.

But our relationship to electronic devices has changed so radically in the last few years that designers are beginning to think about our attachments to and, yes, love of electronics like smartphones and tablets. More devices are personal. They have become an extension of ourselves — not in the sense that an expensive watch says something about whom we want to be, but as an actual part of our conscious self.

“It is different now that we carry our second self with us,” says Sherry Turkle, an M.I.T. professor of social studies of science and technology who has long studied the subject of what she calls evocative objects. “We think with the objects we love and we love the objects we think with.”

The electronics industry has moved out of its initial phase: getting something to work. Like watching a dog walk on its hind legs, we initially were amazed not that many of these products do their jobs well, but that they could do them at all. Computers, cellphones, tablets and e-readers do something that no car, shoe or toaster — yet — can do. They can make us smarter. Mobile devices are now able to tell us things we never knew, like the quickest way to get to our destination, where to get a 15 percent discount or where are our friends are right now. That it seems like magic — few people anymore understand how electronic devices work — is part of their seductive power, says Professor Turkle: “There is a direct identification with the power of the technology.”