Friday, November 14, 2014

The future of the smartphone

As we all know it is not easy to predict the future. It is so difficult so it sometimes becomes almost depressing. In this short article with the lead designers Matias Duarte (Google) and Gentry Underwood (Dropbox) are supposed to speculate about the future of the smartphone. They do that by mostly examining the problems with where we are now. It is difficult to see any grand visions or even optimism in their speculations.  They both see the future of the smartphone in its ability to live in an ecology of devices and not as a radical change of the smartphone itself.

It is interesting to see how these two influential designers are discussing the problem of modern smartphones very much in a way that resonates with Albert Borgmann's theory about the "device paradigm". The designers are, in the same way as Borgmann, concerned that the everywhere presence of screens distance us from the "real" reality and Underwood ends by saying "I hope as we push these screens forward, we do it with an attention to what makes life meaningful." This relates to the notion of focal practices by Borgmann.

The short article is a fascinating read. Is this the forefront of the field? Is this the visionary thinking? I find the article to be inspiring in the sense that it is refreshing to see Borgmann's philosophy being present in this type of context, at the same time I find it a bit sad that there are no bold ideas how to deal with the problems that they recognize. The solutions seem to be more of the same unfortunately.



[This challenge of device ecologies is something that I have worked on in different ways and is published:

Janlert, L-E., & Stolterman, E. (forthcoming). Faceless Interaction - a conceptual examination of the notion of interface: past, present and future. In Human-Computer Interaction.

Stolterman, E. , Jung, H., Ryan, W., and Siegel, M. A. (2013) Device Landscapes: A New Challenge to Interaction Design and HCI Research. Archives of Design Research, 26(2), 7-33.]

7 comments:

Erok said...

Great post, Erik!

David Rose, from MIT Media Lab and founder of Ambient Devices, has an excellent book out called Enchanted Objects. He attacks the device paradigm of screens or slabs of glass, suggesting we use our imagination and even mythical stories to overcome creating more screens.

-Erik Johnson

Erik Stolterman said...

Thanks Erik, good to hear from you! Yes, I have looked at Rose's book. There is a lot to reflect upon when it comes to what would be breakthroughs in our field, it is not easy.

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