Magic UI

May 21, 2007 - magic / user interface

I read Meditations on the Indranet (Erik Davis) for the first time today. I say this as though I should have read it earlier because I ran across the text online while doing research for my work on mapping the Temples of Cyborgism and just didn’t have time to read it. When Davis talks about comparing the net of Indra to the internet he concedes it isn’t as vast, and then says “But our world’s humble digital net is the first technological expression of this magical metaphor.” I was reminded of a quote he recounts in another text Magic, Memory and the Angels of Information:

One of the most compelling snares is the use of the term metaphor to describe a correspondence between what the users see on the screen and how they should think about what they are manipulating … There are clear connotations to the stage, theatrics, magic—all of which give much stronger hints as to the direction to be followed. For example, the screen as ‘paper to be marked on’ is a metaphor that suggests pencils, brushes, and typewriting….Should we transfer the paper metaphor so perfectly that the screen is as hard as paper to erase and change? Clearly not. If it is to be like magical paper, then it is the magical part that is all important…
—Alan Kay, “User Interface: A Personal View