Invisible UIs and Machines with Personality

At first I glossed over Timo Arnall’s piece No to NoUI, finding little interest in a discussion of user interfaces and its proponents’ nuances. After a steady climb towards the top spot on Hacker News though I added it to Instapaper, as I am wont to do for articles attracting this level of attention regardless of the topic. Rather than a meandering or pragmatic discussion regarding design in the most touchy-feely manner possible, though, I found, to my surprise, an interesting piece discussing the far-reaching and unobvious effects user interfaces have on our every day lives and the detrimental effects a future in which the user interface is invisible would bring — a discussion that also encompassed the importance of good design. A very interesting piece well worth the read, even if you have no interest in design.

“We already have plenty of thinking that celebrates the invisibility and seamlessness of technology. We are overloaded with childish mythologies like ‘the cloud’; a soft, fuzzy metaphor for enormous infrastructural projects of undersea cables and power-hungry data farms. This mythology can be harmful and is often just plain wrong. Networks go down, hard disks fail, sensors fail to sense, processors overheat and batteries die.”

Also of great interest to me was the piece referenced in passing at the beginning of Timo Arnall’s second section explaining how naturality is often used as an excuse for the absence of design, the article by Ben Bashford on giving technology personality and behavior and how such a step would change the paradigm. Although posted more than two years ago, Ben’s article is no less applicable or interesting today than it undoubtedly was when he originally published the piece.