The Future of the Object Continued

by August 13, 2004

My recent summary of Bruce Sterling’s keynote speech at SIGGRAPH 2004 raised some eyebrows about the nature of products and gizmos and their relationship to complexity.

An interface design can be thought of as a two-way communication channel for objects. It’s a visual and sometimes verbal narrative through information and interaction complexity. A good interface design will let you go as far into the object as you feel comfortable. Some people use their cell phones only to make calls, some will use them to plan their lives with calendaring, synching, contacting, organizing, reminding, filtering, sorting, and searching features. To accommodate both use cases, an interface design needs to reveal some of the nature of gizmos: “Gizmos are devices that attempt to be everything at the same time”.

Some additional summaries and perspectives on Sterling’s object history of artifacts, machines, products, gizmos, and spimes:

Keyed to the future

[In his keynote,] Sterling observed that a new relationship is evolving between humans and objects. He classified objects based on who were its intended users…

Designing for Gizmos and Spimes

In the speech, he expands on some ideas about objects he presented in a book called Tomorrow Now that I read about a year ago…

Furd Log

There are some interesting distinctions between design complexity (which I presume is meant in the cite above) versus institutional complexity (like copyright law)…

Into the Future of Computer Graphics

The key takeaway from Sterling's humorous prognostications is that all of us techies are obviously users of "gizmos" (and he beat on the industry for creating such complex gizmos where we don't use 90 percent of the functionality, too). Soon, however, we'll be inundated with "spimes," a new word Bruce created for devices that will have much more functionality (of course), and knowledge of their own history and usage. (In other words, they'll know how they were manufactured, how they can be used in a variety of ways, how they can interact easily with other spimes, and even how they can be properly disposed of -- a key problem with gizmos today!) We'll all be "wranglers" of spimes, he said…

No Need to Take My Word For It: Bruce Sterling