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Interface Culture: How New Technology Transforms the Way We Create and Communicate

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2000

    The Changing Face of Interface

    Steven Johnson has found a way to use the metaphors of the computer (desktop, windows, links, and text) to explain the impact of those metaphors on not only how we use computers in our society, but how they influence our non-technology lives as well. Throughout, Johnson makes a well crafted argument for the limitations of our current computer interfaces, or GUI's (graphical user interface), and how the initial breakthrough of using the desktop as a means for humans to interact with computers has fallen short of unleashing the potential of today's powerful computing systems. Unfortunately, cites Johnson, the advances in computer technology, user sophistication and the Internet have rendered the breakthrough of the computer desktop, and its navigational metaphor, tired and ill-equipped to handle the way in which computer users now demand that their technology work for them. In chapter four, Links, Johnson is particularly critical of the limited way in which hyperlinks are designed into our computer interfaces. He notes that the way links diffuse information, instead of converging it, has more to do with the traditional text-based, linear methodology of books than with the tool from which these links were created, the World Wide Web. Further, in an interesting discussion about non-traditional online magazines, he produces an image of circular linking within text documents on the web that stands the traditional methodologies of today's writer and webmasters on their heads. Compiled skillfully, the concluding chapter of the book brings all of Johnson's thoughts and ideas together in a very interesting look at what computing in the future may look like - if software and interface designers can break out of their traditional coding patterns and approach the computer interface from a different angle. My sense of Johnson's perspective is that irregardless of whether established programmers and companies decide to alter their vision of the user interface, these changes will come. And they will come from a new breed of designer, one who has grown up with the web, and the desktop. These designers don't require a paradigm shift in order to change the way human computer interface (HCI) appears on our monitors, they've been tinkering with the existing model, in their bedrooms (and in hacking chat rooms), for awhile.

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