SIGINT09 - final8

22. - 24. Mai, Köln

Oona Leganovic

Form does not simply follow function. Form is a function of any artifact, because most of us might be cyborgs, yet we are still living, breathing, sensing beings. If our notion of functionality comprises human pleasure in addition to any specific tasks, a lot of today's technology, from housing and transport to industry and the latest gadgets seems quite dysfunctional. This talk will look at the causes of the obvious ugliness of a lot of current technology, as well as explain why it is far from necessary, and attempt to show some ways how technology could help to optimize this world (and be optimized itself) for human pleasure beyond most people's imagination.

Modern user interfaces, although heavily optimized for ease of use and accessible to many people who wouldn’t be able to read a book in its conventional form, don’t seem to care much about beauty. Even with tools used as often as Google, Wikipedia, Amazon, and JSTOR, it’s neither fun nor exciting to use any of them, per se (that is, without the stuff found). Don’t be fooled by all the graphic design talk surrounding the web and the gadgets with which we access it. Compared to other objects they are still ugly. Something as sleek as a macbook isn’t actually that good looking. It is just good looking compared to other computers. Beyond those, even sextoys, seemingly optimized for pleasure, are usually so heidously ugly that it seriously lessens their usability. After all, I don’t really want go to bed with something that I don’t want look at, or that just doesn’t feel good overall. And the list of unnecessarily ugly objects goes on and on and ... But there is no reason why it should stay that way. There is no reason why our working with and access to information should be dull compared to the Middle Ages. Quite the contrary - I think we can easily outdo them not just in efficiency, but in beauty and pleasure, too. There is no reason why cities should be any less beautiful than the countryside. And I’m not talking about affirming the negative here, about liking something because you have just looked at it so often, for so long, or calling something ‘nice’ because it is so ugly it's already cute again. This is not about rebuilding something we already have - it is about making use of all the abstraction and distortion we’re already used to handle and taking it to a new level. The optimization of technology for full on sense perception, the pleasures of our cyborgness, the nuances, the textures, the ways things fall apart.


oona at gruenekraft dot com

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