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Tech

Predicting the multi-screen world in 1967

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Following in the footsteps of Charles and Ray Eames fascinating look at the future at the 1964 World’s Fair, cartoonist Rube Goldberg further envisioned the prospect of screen culture years later in 1967.

What he didn’t foresee was that all of these individual devices (TV, phone, radio, camera, etc.) would converge into a single device: the smartphone.

Today’s obsession with multi-screen entertainment and multitasking behavior was only a matter of time. Screens are second-nature, as people prefer to be distracted all the time to make the outside world easier to cope with.

Meanwhile, electricity is still providing the pipes.

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Categories
Psychology Tech

How design dictates behavior

A gif of eyeballs moving around in trippy, Psychedelic fashion

Left, right, top, and bottom…

Designers make decisions every day that dictate human behavior. The social media notification–in Instagram aesthetics the heart–is what keeps users opening the app more than a dozen times a day.

How many likes did we get on our last post? Any new followers? We crave the variable reward, chasing persistent novelty in the cocoon of candy-colored lights.

Site architecture, like a map, is a mere representation. It’s an illustrated abstraction of territory just as skeuomorphism makes an icon for trash look like a garbage can.

Design is everything. The user interface makes no distinction between a screen and reality–it just wants us to stick around and navigate. The distinction between what we see versus the actual pixels creates a fragmented perspective, with a deliberate me and a hooked me.

gif by @sguimaraens

Categories
Books Tech

Crossing a telephone with a TV set

Image of old Western Electric ad for telephone and TV set

What do you get when you cross a telephone with a TV set? That’s what Western Electric was asking in 1968 with this advertisement for its Picturephone.

Western Electric is crossing a telephone with a TV set.

What you’ll use is called, simply enough, a Picturephone set. Someday it will let you see who you are talking to, and let them see you.

The Picturephone set is just one of the communications of the future Western Electric is working on with Bell Telephone Laboratories. Western Electric builds regular phones and equipment for your Bell telephone company. But we also build for the future.

What is now considered FaceTime on the iPhone, the convergence of video and phone technology took another 42 years to come to fruition. The above image appears in the book The Golden Age of Advertising: The 60s.

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Tech

Time to get up!

Gif of fingers walking on a mobile phone screen

The only thing truly scary about excess screen time is a lack of exercise. When your eyes get stuck, so does you butt and your neck.

Fortunately, the same tech that keeps you grounded can also remind you to move. Thanks to my iWatch prompts, I avoid the digital vacuum and walk around the apartment and take the dog out more often.

Statistics keep you honest. You got to get your steps in or the tech will call you out. Needless to say, digital health monitoring has a huge future.

From sharing status updates to tracking your sedentary status, technology is the glue that binds and motivates people. All this connectivity is like the reinvention of printing press but with no strings attached.

The internet has infinite inventory to entertain and distract you all day. But your health and attention are scarce resources. They have a shelf life.

Just remember to disconnect more often than you think. Once you grab a leash and take your thoughts for a walk, everything will be just fine.

gif by @alexkao

Categories
Culture Social Media Tech

Disattention is the new attention

A gif of a mask around a woman Silhouette with white eyes

There’s no cap on freedom of speech, nor is there one on attention. The latter, unfettered, encumbers our thinking with the juiciest of distractions.

Facts no longer keep attention. It’s all about the design, bluster, the infomercial, and the story. Distortion runs rampant because in the age of social media tribes bias controls the narrative. The downsizing from mass to niches means our grip on the world is more illusory than ever.

What information consumes is rather obvious. It consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.

Herbert Simon

Hiding behind our screens of self-promotion does nothing to generate change. A digital identity is full of artifice and spin.

The key to unlocking the facade is to see through its pixel-less value. Avatars are mere masks. The real world still needs impactful design, a far stretch from craving the irreality of a facelift.

gif by @elinanikkinen

Categories
Culture Tech

Amplified lives

Gif on incoming face time
image via giphy

Social media has graduated from edited real life. It is now presented in story format, free from the reigns of filters and surfeit hashtags. Yet, the content is more contrived than ever before. 

As each of us become influencers on this Shakespearian stage, the presentation game has changed. We amplify everything. We don’t just broadcast our lives, we sculpt it into far-fetched fantasies. The second-screen is where we act out our dreams, with all types of dupery that viewers expect. So much for the days of authenticity! 

There’s little difference between the wannabe entrepreneur and the Silicon Valley vet online. The former is faking it until they make it, renting a reality that even the most established adores. As we venture into the next iteration of social media buttressed with artificial intelligence and augmented reality, there’s no telling what the actors on the internet stage will do.