With the Internet we are creating a new extension of ourselves in much the same way as Mary Shelley’s Dr. Frankenstein pieced together his creation. Only this creation is not an anthropomorphic being that moves through accretive portions of space in time. It is instead, an emergent electronic beast of such proportions that we can only imagine its qualities, its dimensions.
We need our abstractions, our black boxes. Black boxes are great and enabling when they work. But when something goes wrong, the walls of our abstractions need to go transparent as fast as possible.
Successful products are precisely those that do not attempt to move user experiences significantly, even if the underlying technology has shifted radically. In fact the whole point of user experience design is to manufacture the necessary normalcy for a product to succeed and get integrated into the Field. In this sense user experience design is reductive with respect to technological potential.
Applying the “super-anthropomorphism” ethics of magic to software, I see it calling for [Brenda] Laurel’s split between the invisible computer, on one hand, and the robust, visible character on the other. This fulfills the same requirement of honesty: the magician is not supernatural; the character he plays is. The computer is not capable of human intelligence and warmth; the character we create is. People will not end up feeling deceived and used when they discover, as they must ultimately, that the computer is nothing but a very fast idiot.
As we move away from interaction via screens and into physical space, we have the potential to make the world significantly more magical. We can make the everyday into the any day, especially if we focus on communication and understanding.
There be those who say that things and places have souls, and there be those who say they have not; I dare not say, myself, but I will tell of The Street.