26 April 2008

Stereo illusions

Via the other person who thought he was clever by playing on "Memex," I finally found Ted Nelson's Way Out of the Box (temporarily down, see Google's cached copy). It's an informed rant against the predominant desktop metaphor that's staring you in the face at this very moment:

But these ideas have a plausible air that has set like concrete into a seeming reality. Macintosh and Windows look alike, therefore that must be reality, right? Wrong. Apple and Windows are like Ford and Chevrolet (or perhaps Tweedledum and Tweedledee), who in their co-imitation create a stereo illusion that seems like reality.

So if Douglas Engelbart is Moses and Xerox PARC Judaism, then the Mac would slot neatly in as Catholicism—it's always had icons and a pope—and the PC as Protestantism, together creating an illusion of a deeper truth where there's really only memetic mutation.

Whereas Ted Nelson is like Diagoras chopping up an image of Hercules to boil his turnips, which would explain why I'm so fond of him. In particular, I love his insight about interface design:

One result is office software that's incredibly clumsy, with slow, pedestrian operations. Think how long it takes to open and name a file and a new directory. Whereas video-game software is lithe, quick, vivid.

Why is this?

Very simple. Guys who design video games *love to play video games*. Whereas nobody who designs office software seems to care about using it, let alone hopes to use it at warp speed.

(I've been waiting six years for someone to make an interface based on Bullfrog's excellent game Dungeon Keeper 2, which is just about the only real-time strategy I can stand.)

Contrast with Wordie Errata's comment on the state of hyperfiction:

At least since HyperCard debuted in the late 80s people have been talking about how electronic media enable "new forms of storytelling." That phrase (along with "non-linear") has introduced so much plotless tech-wanking, so much storytelling that wasn't so much new as simply unbearable, that I tend to become hyper critical whenever I hear it.

Aw, I think he just made Chris Klimas cry.

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