Make It So Readings: how did we think about the future in the past? – Erin P

General Notes

-Science fiction technologies evolve as audiences become more sophisticated and informed by real technological advances.

-Real technology sets a bar for interface/technology expectations of sci-fi audiences – must go above and beyond present reality within believable bounds to distinguish itself from pure ‘magical fantasy.’

-Interface defined as ‘all parts of a thing that enable its use.’ Spans industrial design, information design, and interaction design.

-Interface evaluation (for purposes of this book) require media that is audiovisual, time-based, and consistent.

-Genre of media is speculative/science fiction, loose definition, not getting too into the weeds on definitions.

-Motorola’s StarTAC took cues from Star Trek communicator

-‘all design in fiction- at least until it gets built.’

Past Thoughts about the Future

-Ch. 1 touches on the reciprocal influence of speculative fiction technology and the real world, and examples of this from the past. The design ‘kitchen of the future’ came up in last class, would be curious to know more about the reciprocal relationship there. Read an article about the Frankfurt kitchen a few days ago:

-Interfaces have ‘legacies’ – buttons/knobs/switches (also appealing to use for human hand). Digital controls and touch screens are only recently available. New interfaces most understandable when they build on ones that users/audiences are familiar with.

-Industrial age paradigm: few mechanical controls (levers, buttons, knobs), direct, mechanical feedback via interfaces with ‘very little abstraction between cause and effect.’

-Electrical age paradigm: more mechanical controls, with people using levers/buttons/knobs everyday

-WWI brought vast numbers of people into contact with military technology- control rooms, radio and communications.

-Dedication to realism increased over timeĀ  (ex: restrained control board in Destination Moon, 1950).

-Low budget lead to the design of the touchscreen-esque interface in Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1980s – movement away from mechanical controls.

-Computation resulted in very abstracted feedback between cause and effect, with graphical user interfaces restoring greater sense of ‘direct manipulation’ for user.

-Virtual/mechanical control fix likely in fiction and in real life due to advantages of each, ie fine motor control for mechanical and complexity allowed by virtual.



Assignment 2 – Judson Kyle

Thinking About the Future:

One way that people thought about the future in the past brought up in “Make It So” is by connecting it to what already exists. The first two chapters have many examples of this, but one of the most notable is the connection between science fiction and the future. In the past, science fiction has been used as a starting point for futuristic designs because the genre cements certain expectations and ideas in the general public of how things should look. The popularity of science fiction causes people to be more comfortable with the new technology and ideas proposed. As mentioned in the reading, people this comfort results in a certain expectation of how things should look which in turn drives how people think about design problems. Another example of this looking for comfort can be found in how people dreamed about and pursued space travel. Similar to how ships and the sea were seen as the new way of the future a while ago, space was beginning to emerge as this new frontier. Since people already had an association between nautical references and exploring the unknown, this became a large inspiration for things like the word astronaut or the way space ships were designed. Both of these examples from the reading demonstrate the search for familiarity in designing for the future which resulted in expansion of what already existed.

In addition to this expansion on the present, people also thought about the future as having to do with interaction of some sort. As mentioned throughout the reading, the future consisted of products that had to have human interaction of some sort in order to function requiring some sort of interface to work. As mentioned previously, the connection between design and science fiction is also important here because a lot of science fiction has to do with how people interact with futuristic devices.