Random thoughts – Yasheng

Some random thoughts and questions.

There is a lot to cover for this week so I will just write down whatever pops into my head.

For me, there is a clear progression from myth to enlightenment, in terms of my understanding of computation, taking place while attending this class. Computing makes sense form a semiotic point of view. It makes sense in term of technological progression, from worshiping gods of thunder to manipulation of electricity, from manipulation of electricity to representing thought using electricity. From this perspective, computers are not some alien technology that came out of nowhere, but a natural progression, or in other words, an artifact.

About design philosophy

Murray’s paper excellently explained the design philosopher of modern technology, or technology in general, “in digital as in mechanical design, our goal should be to remove distraction, to allow the user to focus on the task at hand rather than the tool, by making the interface elements transparent, and allowing the interactor direct manipulation, as we do, for example, when we drag a file folder to the trash can” (Murray 61). I understand the frustration that comes with “unfriendly” interfaces because just like anyone else, I grew up using technology without questioning what is really inside the black box. Though I didn’t comprehend the mechanism of any technology, I did know which hardware/software is better simply because it has better affordance. Just look at the evolution of website design, nowadays every “good” website is clear, clean, and image driven. Just look at CNN’s website as an example, they hide all the menus, use images as headlines, and decrease the visibility of text on their website.

CNN Website in 2016

CNN Website in 2016

CNN Website in 2000

CNN Website in 2000

However, the removal of “distraction” can be understood as an act of black-boxing. So my questions here are:

  • Is it patronizing to set the golden design standard as “make it as simple as possible?”
  • Should we focus on raising computation literacy instead of chasing after what the market requires?

On the same topic but a different perspective, I want to talk about the softening line between hardware and software. Murray’s “direct manipulation” also explains why everything these days are either touch screen or voice control. These technologies are great because they eliminate a large number of physical constraints and allow us to do so much more. In this way, black-boxing becomes necessary again. Yet giving it a deeper thought, I wonder do we need to be efficient all the time? I understand great affordance frees our cognition up to do so much more, but the question here is, what can we do? Don’t we need distractions?

Emotional Interpretants

Furthermore could we explore more on the additional interpretants? Peirce describes the division of interpretants as being emotional, energetic, and logical. Logical can be further divided into normal, dynamical, and immediate, energetic into physical and mental, whereas emotional stands on its own. I want to ask about emotional interpretant and what is the relationship between emotional Interpretant and semantics?

  • Emotional Interpretant: A subjective element of thought, a feeling as it occurs at a specific moment, indicating the presence of a manifold of impressions that need to be brought to unity.

Computation is very clear if it is understood in a semiotic fashion, but I have to say that I still have the fear or at least a minor aversion about this “clarity.” This is also why I am intrigued by the concept of emotional interpretant. I still naively think the human experience is too complicated to be fully presented digitally. I guess the idea of digital representation of human emotions is way to down in the uncanny valley for me. Since there are so many progress made on semantics, I wonder if we are getting close to breaking down our emotional experience?

Sorry for the disorganized post m(-_-)m