Babel-On… When the Interface interferes with the Art

I am a terrible writer.  BUT I enjoy it.  While I know none of the “rules” relative to proper grammar, my parents were very articulate, and, early on, I learned to write like they spoke, with my favorite punctuation tool being, the comma.

My first PC was a monochrome 386, 30MB powerhouse loaded with WordPerfect.  Since composing via keyboard accesses a different part of the brain than pencil and paper, it took me a few days to feel comfortable with this new paradigm of verbal expression.  Even so, I came to love WP, mainly because it never felt as though it was interposing itself between me, andmy desire to articulate on screen, what was kicking around inside my heart and soul.  Not to mention the fact that Corel tech support was unbelievable.  More than once their operators freely (literally!) and patiently directed me with instructions like, “OK Bill, on your left is the CTRL key…  Applying light pressure, direct your gaze to the right and notice the INSERT key…  Isn’t that something!?  You’re doing fine!  Really!…”

So, like many others in the herd, I’ve moved on to WORD, and have learned to relatively subjugate it to accomplish my comparatively meager tasks.  Still, in the midst of that transition, primarily in other areas, it appears to me that our present day processor based programs have become more like walls getting in the way of art, than tools enhancing our capacity for expression.

Case in point — a major image processing program that has had several updates in the last six months, with one such mutation changing the entire on-screen layout!  Such an approach sets a premium on adaptability to morphing interfaces, adding no more potential for an artist to tease out a tantalizingly better image.

From a biblical perspective, as in Genesis 11, I would go so far as to say that with increasing regularity, instead of galvanizing our predilection for personal communication, our technology is beginning to get in the way.  Quite apart from strengthening our ability to convey our innermost thoughts and feelings, it has now started to interpose itself between our creativity and the blank canvas standing before us.

Be honest.  How many times have you upgraded a perfectly good program, only to find that the “improvement” resulted in several calls to India, just so you could accomplish the most mundane tasks that, prior to, you were doing in your sleep?

Imagine Van Gogh or Gauguin unable to splash color because their brushes were unrecognizable, or changing in response from one day to the next!  Imagine driving in a car, using a steering wheel one day, then a joy-stick the next, then touch pads, then waves of the hands, then thoughts in the mind!  Would this progress lead to better driving, or more agitation andinvolvement in a process bound to separate the driver from close affinity and familiarity with the road?  

In the fields of recording, graphic design, accounting, you name it, examples abound where the computerized technological interface has become an intractable tower, promising salvation, yet standing over the innovative genius in a way that an IBM Selectric never did.  Back in the day, the worst machine-based malady one might face was difficulty in changing ribbons or that tacky, translucent corrective tape.

Personally, I loved WordPerfect.  Just because of its intrinsic ease of editing, it freed me to be a much more prolific and proficient writer than my previously purchased, undeniably stylish, Olivetti ever could.  I would NEVER wish to return to the days of Mylar tape recording, film based photography, or legal pad composition.  Fine.

However, it seems plain to me that while Windows 98, 2nd Edition was GREAT, Millennium was truly awful.  XP is phenomenal; Vista scares me, and it appears to be a nightmare for a number of people I know who are no techno-phobes.

Our digital age is here to stay.  Excellent!

Yet the task remains for us humans to be the masters of our tools, so that our new toys will not be seen as an end in themselves, thus leaving us adrift in a world where powerfully creative technology stands imposingly, and impassably, in the way of profoundly expressive art.

2 Responses to Babel-On… When the Interface interferes with the Art

  1. Judy Bannon says:

    Hi Bill!
    What a fabulous blog — you are truly a renaissance man! Thanks for sharing your “keane impressions” with us!

  2. billkeane says:

    Thanks Judy! Glad you checked in.

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