“The age of surplus pixels”

I keep coming back to this short post by Russell Davies. (No, not that Russell Davies.)

By way of reexamining Being Digital and Pointcast, he says:

But we're about to enter an age of surplus pixels – screens sitting
there, resting, not showing much, perhaps the odd slide show, screens
that aren't the thing we're doing. In public spaces, in offices, in our
homes. iPads and iPad-killers are going to be sitting around our living
rooms, next to our desks, next our beds. And we'll soon want more on
there than our picture libraries Ken Burnsing slowly away to themselves.
But we're going to want less than most designers are inclined to
design. We'll need a restful, slow, quiet sort of
information/entertainment design. Stuff that's happy not to be looked at
that much. That'll be interesting.

This makes a lot of sense to me, and triggers a bunch of reactions, not all well thought-out.

  • I really, really like the idea of "restful, slow, quiet" design. I'd like to see more of it in the digital realm. I love garish and loud as much as the next person, but the eyeballs, they get tired.
  • What are the print equivalents of restful/slow/quiet design? What are the architectural equivalents? Is this a call for the digital equivalents of the arts and crafts movement?
  • (Is that why we're seeing so many fake wood-grain apps on iDevices? I'm not sure William Morris would approve: plopping wood imagery on silicon/glass/aluminum devices is hardly "truth to material".)
  • Dragging this post back to the subject at hand, my fear is that instead of restful/slow/quiet, we'll get twitchy/fast/loud, particularly in the form of ads/ads/ads. We've already got extra screens at the grocery store (ADS!) and the gas station (ADS!) and there's talk of adding some to license plates (ADS!).
  • The opposite of an arts and crafts approach to all the surplus pixels, then, is a cyberpunk-style dystopia where behaviorally-targeted ads follow you from screen to screen down the street jabbering at you incessantly until you go postal. So that wouldn't be good.
  • Which in turn brings to mind projects like this LCD TV zapper kit as one possible response.
  • A pretty safe prediction (based on our culture's track record so far) is that which types of screens you see will split on class lines. In the same ways it does already, money will buy peaceful and tranquil spaces for those that have the money, and the twitchy/fast/loud will dominate mass culture.

Leave a Reply