Bad computer

I’ve also read a few things about the tendency to get carried away with technology and software rather than take control of it and use it to fully realise a work’s potential. An artist called Jonathan Harris gave this talk at the Flash on the Beach conference last year.

Jonathan Harris at the Flash on the Beach Conference

Here’s my favourite part of the talk:

I define a masterpiece as a beautiful idea, fully realized, taken as far as it can go.

In my view, there have been no masterpieces yet in the online world, my own work included. Time might prove me wrong, as masterpieces only reveal themselves with time, but this is my sense.
With a number of notable exceptions, most of the work I see coming from the Flash community is largely devoid of ideas. There is great obsession with slickness, surface, speed, technology, and language, but very little soul at the core, very little being said.
I believe that in the long run, ideas are the only things that survive.

It seems this talk caused a lot of fuss. Flash designers were really annoyed about this guy who wasn’t part of their circle saying they were ‘devoid of ideas’, and who wouldn’t be? Personally, I couldn’t agree with Harris more. I think Flash websites are all too often concerned with the wow factor at the expense of usability. The wow factor means nothing at all if it’s not backed up by simplicity of use. Is it improving my experience of using the object? If it isn’t, it belongs in the box marked clashing gongs and cymbals. Furthermore, if that simplicity of use is not pointing toward good content why even bother anyway?

It worries me that digital art is on this constant path of technological development. Technology and new things are exciting. The problem arises when we see the toy and not the idea. We could go in several directions though. Technology will continue changing, but to what extent? At an exponential rate, or will it slow down? If technology continues to change at the same rate, with the same level of crossover potential and increasingly diverse skill sets will the price be a lack of depth in understanding these tools?

Many of the lessons we need to learn are still the same as they ever were. It’s perfectly possible to learn php, Flash and goodness knows what else but have only the vaguest notion of colour theory or good typography. This article by information architects makes my point well. I disagree with it on balance. The title is ‘The web is all about typography. Period. If the web is all typography, then that’s all we need to learn, right? I don’t think so. There’s lots more to learn. Nonetheless, it makes a good argument for paying typography more attention than it sometimes gets and chips in with good points about getting better at it in the process. So hurrah to them.

Anyway, my conclusion is a reasonably obvious one but nonetheless worth making: Technology is great when it’s invisible, and if it makes the idea more visible. Increasingly, though, it will become more and more invisible with time because we’ll be so much more acclimatised to using it.

Category thinking aloud | Tags: ,,

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