Russell Davies
Russell Davies
A view from Russell Davies

Russell Davies: The high-tech world is not as fault-free as we'd like to think

Sometimes my job here is easy.

It's just to point to incredibly useful and eloquent writing out there on the wild and woolly web. Every time I do, it reminds me of how lucky we are these days - to be living in a time when such valuable expertise is so freely given and so easily accessed.

Not so very long ago, you'd have to wait years for this kind of thinking to turn up in the trade press, or you'd have to go to a very expensive conference, or you'd find it in a book - way too late to do anything about it.

The learning experience used to be based on case studies, because that was the timescale of publishing - you could only find out about something once it had finished. Now, we can learn about things while they are actually happening.

First up is a passage from a piece called The Social Graph Is Neither by a chap called Maciej Ceglowski. You'll find it with a quick bit of Googling. It's about the way the social media world is trying to map our relationships, about how it's failing and about how that failure is probably inevitable.

"This obsession with modeling has led us into a social version of the Uncanny Valley, that weird phenomenon from computer graphics where the more faithfully you try to represent something human, the creepier it becomes. As the model becomes more expressive, we really start to notice the places where it fails."

It's a fantastic read; don't be put off by the geekier bits. When you've read it, ask yourself: if the social graph itself is so flawed, how are we going to layer successful marketing on top of it?

The second piece is by the designer Bret Victor. It's called A Brief Rant On The Future Of Interaction Design. Again, get with the Googling and you'll find it quickly.

It's a beautiful critique of the Visions Of The Future videos doing the rounds at the moment. The ones that assume every device will be a variant of the touchscreen and we're going to be locked into interacting with "pictures under glass".

"We live in a three-dimensional world. Our hands are designed for moving and rotating objects in three dimensions, for picking up objects and placing them over, under, beside, and inside each other ...

"The next time you make a sandwich, pay attention to your hands. Seriously! Notice the myriad little tricks your fingers have for manipulating the ingredients and the utensils and all the other objects involved in this enterprise. Then compare your experience to sliding around Pictures Under Glass.

"Are we really going to accept an Interface Of The Future that is less expressive than a sandwich?"

Isn't that nice? Have a read.