Why Import/Export - A broken metaphor. More Semantic thoughts from the underground.

20 Mar 2008 - 5:50pm
6 years ago
4 replies
1410 reads
SemanticWill
2007

First - regarding upload and download - the use of these terms within this
community is so self-evident as to be tautological. Upload and downlode make
use of the spatial metaphors that here is down and there is up. Why there is
up is up for debate - but thats the way it is. For more on metaphor - see
Saffer's master's thesis and Lakoff/Johnson's "Metaphors We Live By."

More interesting is import/export. Before file formats, different OSes, and
networked computers - import/export had a commonly understood meaning.
Import was to bring goods into a country from somewhere outside. Export was
to ship goods to a foreign country. There was no transfiguration of the
goods in question. The East India company did not take nutmeg from Ceylon
and change it into tea which was imported by the American colonies. Tea was
tea - and simply moved location, and at the same time crossed a legal
barrier and became American after a tax stamp was affixed to the goods.
Again - essentially spatial. So why is it that in CS we choose to use
import/export not to signify a change in location and jurisdiction - but
simply a transfiguration and translation from one thing into another.
Exporting a file does not move it, it simply changes it's encoding, after
which you save it with a different name, and extension. So why use words
whose meaning refers to space (import is moving to here, export is moving to
there) - to mean translation?

--
~ will

"Where you innovate, how you innovate,
and what you innovate are design problems"

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Will Evans | CrowdSprout
tel +1.617.281.1281 | fax +1.617.507.6016 | will at crowdsprout.com

Comments

20 Mar 2008 - 8:24pm
SemanticWill
2007

Your right to the extent that many aren't right - or at least aren't right
anymore - and most metaphors we use in interaction/interface design are
partially broken. The other thing is that I wonder if the good academic work
of HCI was actually happening after people already had come up with for
instance the signifiers (as icons), and the basic first order metaphors, and
HCI as discipline came along later to sweep up the mess and try to put it in
context. What spurned my thought was just reading some parts of Eco's
Semiotics and thinking about the cognitive processes behind the use of
labels/metaphors/icons to point to the signified (usually an action - not
noun), and how import/export just didn't make any sense to me - although I
have completely accepted it as the way things are.

On Thu, Mar 20, 2008 at 7:56 PM, Uday Gajendar <ugajenda at cisco.com> wrote:

> > which you save it with a different name, and extension. So why use
> > words
> > whose meaning refers to space (import is moving to here, export is
> > moving to
> > there) - to mean translation?
>
>
> Aren't all metaphors inherently "broken"? :-) In the sense that no
> metaphor is 100% verisimilitude, but a language device to achieve a
> necessary, yet sufficient level of understanding to basically grok a
> concept, make it just *meaningful* enough to act on it given a certain
> context and situation. (and overcome difficulties in interpretation,
> as a sense-making device). I can't move real office windows around, i
> normally don't duplicate physical files and folders with a finger
> stroke, and animal mice don't have buttons. But i know through learned
> behavior, observation and cultural convention the computer
> "equivalents" work in specific ways (and evolve over time, like
> "spring loaded" folders and "wheel mice") and mean certain things.
>
> And, who knows what the inventors of import/export were thinking (I
> doubt East India Tea and tariffs)... Probably just wanted a quick one
> word for "bring data in" and "send data out" to use as a short
> command, twisted it to be about directionality, and it stuck for
> better or worse. Now it's simply accepted cultural convention in the
> computer world. Just deal with it :-)
>
>
>
> Uday Gajendar
> Sr. Interaction Designer
> Voice Technology Group
> Cisco | San Jose
> ------------------------------
> ugajenda at cisco.com
> +1 408 902 2137
>
>
>

--
~ will

"Where you innovate, how you innovate,
and what you innovate are design problems"

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Will Evans | CrowdSprout
tel +1.617.281.1281 | fax +1.617.507.6016 | will at crowdsprout.com

20 Mar 2008 - 6:56pm
Uday Gajendar
2007

> which you save it with a different name, and extension. So why use
> words
> whose meaning refers to space (import is moving to here, export is
> moving to
> there) - to mean translation?

Aren't all metaphors inherently "broken"? :-) In the sense that no
metaphor is 100% verisimilitude, but a language device to achieve a
necessary, yet sufficient level of understanding to basically grok a
concept, make it just *meaningful* enough to act on it given a certain
context and situation. (and overcome difficulties in interpretation,
as a sense-making device). I can't move real office windows around, i
normally don't duplicate physical files and folders with a finger
stroke, and animal mice don't have buttons. But i know through learned
behavior, observation and cultural convention the computer
"equivalents" work in specific ways (and evolve over time, like
"spring loaded" folders and "wheel mice") and mean certain things.

And, who knows what the inventors of import/export were thinking (I
doubt East India Tea and tariffs)... Probably just wanted a quick one
word for "bring data in" and "send data out" to use as a short
command, twisted it to be about directionality, and it stuck for
better or worse. Now it's simply accepted cultural convention in the
computer world. Just deal with it :-)

Uday Gajendar
Sr. Interaction Designer
Voice Technology Group
Cisco | San Jose
------------------------------
ugajenda at cisco.com
+1 408 902 2137

21 Mar 2008 - 9:42am
Matt Theakston
2007

When is it too late to change an "accepted cultural convention in the
computer world"?
I ran into to albeit lighthearted taboo at work when i made it clear i had
to look at the keyboard when i typed. Everyone(for the most part) accepts
qwerty. we've learned broken metaphors, and adapted to innefficient and
unintuitive input methods, because amongst other things humans are so
adaptive. But if people working in this field can't look to change these
things, who will?

Matt

On 3/20/08, W Evans <wkevans4 at gmail.com> wrote:
>
> Your right to the extent that many aren't right - or at least aren't right
> anymore - and most metaphors we use in interaction/interface design are
> partially broken. The other thing is that I wonder if the good academic
> work
> of HCI was actually happening after people already had come up with for
> instance the signifiers (as icons), and the basic first order metaphors,
> and
> HCI as discipline came along later to sweep up the mess and try to put it
> in
> context. What spurned my thought was just reading some parts of Eco's
> Semiotics and thinking about the cognitive processes behind the use of
> labels/metaphors/icons to point to the signified (usually an action - not
> noun), and how import/export just didn't make any sense to me - although I
> have completely accepted it as the way things are.
>
> On Thu, Mar 20, 2008 at 7:56 PM, Uday Gajendar <ugajenda at cisco.com> wrote:
>
> > > which you save it with a different name, and extension. So why use
> > > words
> > > whose meaning refers to space (import is moving to here, export is
> > > moving to
> > > there) - to mean translation?
> >
> >
> > Aren't all metaphors inherently "broken"? :-) In the sense that no
> > metaphor is 100% verisimilitude, but a language device to achieve a
> > necessary, yet sufficient level of understanding to basically grok a
> > concept, make it just *meaningful* enough to act on it given a certain
> > context and situation. (and overcome difficulties in interpretation,
> > as a sense-making device). I can't move real office windows around, i
> > normally don't duplicate physical files and folders with a finger
> > stroke, and animal mice don't have buttons. But i know through learned
> > behavior, observation and cultural convention the computer
> > "equivalents" work in specific ways (and evolve over time, like
> > "spring loaded" folders and "wheel mice") and mean certain things.
> >
> > And, who knows what the inventors of import/export were thinking (I
> > doubt East India Tea and tariffs)... Probably just wanted a quick one
> > word for "bring data in" and "send data out" to use as a short
> > command, twisted it to be about directionality, and it stuck for
> > better or worse. Now it's simply accepted cultural convention in the
> > computer world. Just deal with it :-)
> >
> >
> >
> > Uday Gajendar
> > Sr. Interaction Designer
> > Voice Technology Group
> > Cisco | San Jose
> > ------------------------------
> > ugajenda at cisco.com
> > +1 408 902 2137
> >
> >
> >
>
>
> --
> ~ will
>
> "Where you innovate, how you innovate,
> and what you innovate are design problems"
>
>
> ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Will Evans | CrowdSprout
> tel +1.617.281.1281 | fax +1.617.507.6016 | will at crowdsprout.com
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

21 Mar 2008 - 9:50am
SemanticWill
2007

It is possible. Apple did it when they removed the "Stop" button from the
iPod and from iTunes. Before that, it was commonly accepted that an
interface for a player had to have Play, Pause, Stop, Forward and Rewind -
even though Stop only makes sense when the device is a tape deck. People
have accepted that. So I think it is possible.

On Fri, Mar 21, 2008 at 10:42 AM, Matt Theakston <mattcmonfeet at gmail.com>
wrote:

> When is it too late to change an "accepted cultural convention in the
> computer world"?
> I ran into to albeit lighthearted taboo at work when i made it clear i had
> to look at the keyboard when i typed. Everyone(for the most part) accepts
> qwerty. we've learned broken metaphors, and adapted to innefficient and
> unintuitive input methods, because amongst other things humans are so
> adaptive. But if people working in this field can't look to change these
> things, who will?
>
> Matt
>
>
> On 3/20/08, W Evans <wkevans4 at gmail.com> wrote:
>
> > Your right to the extent that many aren't right - or at least aren't
> > right
> > anymore - and most metaphors we use in interaction/interface design are
> > partially broken. The other thing is that I wonder if the good academic
> > work
> > of HCI was actually happening after people already had come up with for
> > instance the signifiers (as icons), and the basic first order metaphors,
> > and
> > HCI as discipline came along later to sweep up the mess and try to put
> > it in
> > context. What spurned my thought was just reading some parts of Eco's
> > Semiotics and thinking about the cognitive processes behind the use of
> > labels/metaphors/icons to point to the signified (usually an action -
> > not
> > noun), and how import/export just didn't make any sense to me - although
> > I
> > have completely accepted it as the way things are.
> >
> > On Thu, Mar 20, 2008 at 7:56 PM, Uday Gajendar <ugajenda at cisco.com>
> > wrote:
> >
> > > > which you save it with a different name, and extension. So why use
> > > > words
> > > > whose meaning refers to space (import is moving to here, export is
> > > > moving to
> > > > there) - to mean translation?
> > >
> > >
> > > Aren't all metaphors inherently "broken"? :-) In the sense that no
> > > metaphor is 100% verisimilitude, but a language device to achieve a
> > > necessary, yet sufficient level of understanding to basically grok a
> > > concept, make it just *meaningful* enough to act on it given a certain
> > > context and situation. (and overcome difficulties in interpretation,
> > > as a sense-making device). I can't move real office windows around, i
> > > normally don't duplicate physical files and folders with a finger
> > > stroke, and animal mice don't have buttons. But i know through learned
> > > behavior, observation and cultural convention the computer
> > > "equivalents" work in specific ways (and evolve over time, like
> > > "spring loaded" folders and "wheel mice") and mean certain things.
> > >
> > > And, who knows what the inventors of import/export were thinking (I
> > > doubt East India Tea and tariffs)... Probably just wanted a quick one
> > > word for "bring data in" and "send data out" to use as a short
> > > command, twisted it to be about directionality, and it stuck for
> > > better or worse. Now it's simply accepted cultural convention in the
> > > computer world. Just deal with it :-)
> > >
> > >
> > >
> > > Uday Gajendar
> > > Sr. Interaction Designer
> > > Voice Technology Group
> > > Cisco | San Jose
> > > ------------------------------
> > > ugajenda at cisco.com
> > > +1 408 902 2137
> > >
> > >
> > >
> >
> >
> > --
> > ~ will
> >
> > "Where you innovate, how you innovate,
> > and what you innovate are design problems"
> >
> >
> > ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> > Will Evans | CrowdSprout
> > tel +1.617.281.1281 | fax +1.617.507.6016 | will at crowdsprout.com
> > ________________________________________________________________
> > Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> > To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> > Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> > List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> > List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
> >
>
>

--
~ will

"Where you innovate, how you innovate,
and what you innovate are design problems"

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Will Evans | CrowdSprout
tel +1.617.281.1281 | fax +1.617.507.6016 | will at crowdsprout.com

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