What is the new metaphor?

3 May 2010 - 9:42pm
4 years ago
7 replies
824 reads
Mike Dunn
2008

With all of the talk lately of how devices like the iPad represent a democratization of computing and a casting off of the decades-old desktop metaphor in favor of a new one, the one question I keep asking myself is "what is the new metaphor?"  Is there even a real-life metaphor that can describe it? Any thoughts?

Comments

3 May 2010 - 10:08pm
Mike Dunn
2008

Ok, right now I'm leaning towards 'adaptive metaphor'. Namely, the metaphor adapts to the needs of the task, much like a swiss army knife. 

3 May 2010 - 10:40pm
Jack L. Moffett
2005

That's a good question Mike. I wouldn't say there is a singular metaphor to replace the "desktop". There is, however, a replacement theme, and that is "direct manipulation". As such, we are seeing a plethora of very literal visual metaphors, such as page flipping, spinners, and details taken from physical objects, right down to the stitching in the leather seams of the "pocket" in the Notes app and the stitched binding in the Contacts app on the iPad. Some of them are behavioral, while others are merely decorative, but they all speak to a very familiar, physical approach to interaction.

On May 3, 2010, at 10:42 PM, Mike Dunn wrote:

> With all of the talk lately of how devices like the iPad represent a democratization of computing and a casting off of the decades-old desktop metaphor in favor of a new one, the one question I keep asking myself is "what is the new metaphor?" Is there even a real-life metaphor that can describe it? Any thoughts? > >

3 May 2010 - 10:52pm
Mike Dunn
2008

You're absolutely right- it's not one metaphor. I think what we are seeing in terms of literal metaphors right now with the iPad is similar to the more literal metaphors used in the early desktop GUIs. As the desire paths that users start developing as the platform(s) mature, we'll likely see visual metaphors that are less literal emerge. 

3 May 2010 - 10:50pm
Christopher Rider
2009

It seems to me like more of an extension/iteration over the desktop
metaphor, rather than a wholesale casting-off.

It's still fundamentally a projection of icons over a two-dimensional
space.

I think there is a vocabulary ambiguity getting in the way of the
press coverage. The "desktop metaphor" isn't the same as a "desktop
computer". We're definitely moving away from desktop computers, at
least for certain kinds of tasks. But the desktop metaphor is still
firmly in play.

-- cjrider@gmail.com 773/575-8597

On May 3, 2010, at 8:38 PM, Mike Dunn wrote:

> With all of the talk lately of how devices like the iPad represent a
> democratization of computing and a casting off of the decades-old
> desktop metaphor in favor of a new one, the one question I keep
> asking myself is "what is the new metaphor?" Is there even a real- > life metaphor that can describe it? Any thoughts? > >

3 May 2010 - 11:03pm
Mike Dunn
2008

Chris, I agree- it's definitely not a wholesale casting off. I do see it as a significant branching off. Desktop metaphor elements are still selectively being used when the task calls for them (such as typing).

4 May 2010 - 12:40am
David Drucker
2008

For me, the big change is not the metaphor, but the context of usage
(something I've sometimes referred to as the User Model). A desktop
computer is used at, (um) a desk. A smartphone or handheld computer is
used while walking, waiting in line, riding transit (and
unfortunately, also driving). The iPad seems to me to be the first
computing device to be used at a sofa or comfortable chair. It's not
necessarily a work-related device (although one can do work with it),
and it's not a mobile-only device (although it's small and light
enough to be used 'on the go'.

The revolution, then, is one of a new time of day or situation as to
when the device is used. The UI, then needs to fit this different kind
of situation. For instance, a file-centric approach, which is more
what one expects and requires in a work-focussed desk environment, has
now been avoided (at least in Apple's scheme).

As the amount of media and choices that one has on the iPad goes up,
good metaphors and tools for navigating to find that book, music,
video or game will have to be provided and refined, just as has had to
be the case in the iPhone OS; The woefully inadequate 11 screens for
launching apps is about to be revised in the new 4.0 iPhone OS, due
out this summer). Wading through lists and lists of movies, books or
music is going to get just as cumbersome really quickly if that part
of the UI doesn't keep up. Fortunately, time, and the capacity of the
local storage, as well as the relative non-ubiquity of networks for
streaming content, is on Apple's side. Users won't have the 'I can't
find the xxx I was looking for on this thing' problem for quite some
time.

-- David Drucker Vancouver, BC

david@drucker.ca

On 3-May-10, at 7:57 PM, Mike Dunn wrote:

> > >

4 May 2010 - 10:50am
David Scharn
2007

John Markoff, in his Feb. 17, 2009, NYT article on mobile computing, "The Cellphone, Navigating Our Lives," suggests the new metaphor "is the map." http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/17/science/17map.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=navigating%20our%20lives&st=cse

-----Original Message----- From: ixdaor@host.ixda.org [mailto:ixdaor@host.ixda.org] On Behalf Of David Drucker Sent: Tuesday, May 04, 2010 3:35 AM To: Scharn, David Subject: Re: [IxDA] What is the new metaphor?

For me, the big change is not the metaphor, but the context of usage (something I've sometimes referred to as the User Model). A desktop computer is used at, (um) a desk. A smartphone or handheld computer is used while walking, waiting in line, riding transit (and unfortunately, also driving). The iPad seems to me to be the first computing device to be used at a sofa or comfortable chair. It's not necessarily a work-related device (although one can do work with it), and it's not a mobile-only device (although it's small and light enough to be used 'on the go'.

The revolution, then, is one of a new time of day or situation as to when the device is used. The UI, then needs to fit this different kind of situation. For instance, a file-centric approach, which is more what one expects and requires in a work-focussed desk environment, has now been avoided (at least in Apple's scheme).

As the amount of media and choices that one has on the iPad goes up, good metaphors and tools for navigating to find that book, music, video or game will have to be provided and refined, just as has had to be the case in the iPhone OS; The woefully inadequate 11 screens for launching apps is about to be revised in the new 4.0 iPhone OS, due out this summer). Wading through lists and lists of movies, books or music is going to get just as cumbersome really quickly if that part of the UI doesn't keep up. Fortunately, time, and the capacity of the local storage, as well as the relative non-ubiquity of networks for streaming content, is on Apple's side. Users won't have the 'I can't find the xxx I was looking for on this thing' problem for quite some time.

-- David Drucker Vancouver, BC

david@drucker.ca

On 3-May-10, at 7:57 PM, Mike Dunn wrote:

> > >

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