This is the opening to my application (almost 2 years ago) for the Interaction Design MFA program at SVA, New York:
I was born in 1984, exactly four days before Steve Jobs took a small computer out of a bag and let it introduce itself to the world: “Hello, I’m Macintosh”.
While I was a little too young to appreciate this feat at four days old, I see being born in this period as intrinsic to my view of technology and our relationship with it. I’m part of the first generation to grow up with such consumer technology, yet I’m just old enough to recall life before it became ubiquitous. When we had to wait for each other at pre-arranged locations, and hope the other turned up on time. When we only logged into AOL for 10 minutes as we were worried about the cost. When we had to record our favourite programmes on VHS, then re-record over them once we were done.
Despite each new leap or paradigm shift nudging us into strange new worlds, technology has always felt like second nature. It feels ‘obvious’ or ‘inevitable’ in a way it appears not to for those only a little older.
I may be an incurable technophile, but I deeply appreciate the perspective time has granted me. Born at a juncture between the world before and the world after.
Though perhaps every generation feels this way.
I may also be an incurable techno-optimist, but I've been thinking a lot about the 'leaps' and 'paradigm shifts' of computing lately – this is a heady time for Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) – we're sacrificing keyboards and mice for running our fingers along glass displays and augmenting our reality. Not news by this point, surely, but I found myself really wanting to examine the ongoing transition framed in the history of HCI, and ask what we might be gaining and what we might be giving up?
My hypothesis is that, despite getting powerful and easy to use technology into the hands of more and more people, mobile technology is compromising deeply on the affordances of computers as versatile creative tools.
Recalling the Macintosh unveiling four days after my birthday feels pertinent — Apple marketed their products for a long time as the machine that put the creative power of computing into everyone's hands. Although they market their mobile devices (particularly the iPad) as capable creative tools I have reservations that have deepened as I've watched the technology mature.
My fundamental question is this: as the PC industry declines in favor of mobile, what does this mean for creativity? From child's play, via adult creative exploration, to professional production — are we making things that are more or less capable of making things?