Are We Using the Same Interface Style All Along?

The most inspiring quotation from this week’s readings is Alan Kay’s words, “The music is not the piano.” From my understanding, by saying that Alan Kay wanted to remind us the intention for interface design all about how can we interact with the content and absorb more information from it. Kay thought differently from his precursors in computer science, he wanted to find a way to envision computing from simple binary computation.  Kay designed Dynabook wanted it to be operated by everyone, to include children. For him, the content and the interaction between users and machines are the most important part of the conversation on interfaces. Kay says in the interview, “For all media, the original intent was ‘symmetric authoring and consuming’.”

Manovich’s idea that software is the essential element strongly echoes Kay’s philosophy. From my understanding, Manovich’s central argument of the entire book is that the important thing to analyze is not the “hardware” at all, but the software which people created to re-mediates and makes that content accessible. We are in a remediated and metamediated world, which means all media do not exist as stand-alone media objects; instead software encompasses everything that we consume from older technologies.

Debray also embraced the idea that, “New media is in some ways remediating our entire culture and forcing us to take a much broader perspective when analyzing media and communications.” Not surprisingly, when I look at the interfaces of social media, webpages and blogs, I found them all look similar. It reinforced my understanding about the idea started from Kay that people should feel they are interacting with the computer to get the content or information from it. He even expanded his idea that people should also be able to tailor their applications to suit their specific needs and desires. Therefore, the best interface should not be too “fancy” to hinder its affordance. Maybe we are most comfortable with or used to the newspaper column style interface.

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