Thursday, February 25, 2010

S03 - Text as the most useful cultural form

While reading Manovich’s text, I was surprised to find out how much we actually did not change in our attempts to change. So many people around me tell me how it is a huge waste of time to study anything related to literature and how I will probably never be able to earn enough to sustain my living. However, Manovich explains that it is precisely text that is one of the oldest cultural forms and it still manages to preserve its place in modern technology. Clearly, one can argue that text is being progressively replaced with cinema or HCI as cultural forms, but text nevertheless remains the most natural source of information, in my opinion. Manovich also suggests that it is a form that enables the user to focus, rather than breaking the focus by offering too many things at the same time. Studying text and its theories is probably one of the most interesting and useful things I can do. Text is one of the most important forms that shape the way in which we perceive the world. For me, nothing could be more useful than to know how everything we know is constructed.

Yet, similarly to many other people, I sometimes feel increasingly lost in the hypertext. It is sometimes scary to feel that bits of information are so overwhelming that I will never be able to consume them all. That is why I sometimes feel that hypertext is not the real measure of human capabilities. It seems that it is almost a paranoid attempt to preserve the information, save it from forgetting, but what is the point of it? We are at the point when we are losing control over what we really need to consume and what not.

Cultural forms are merging to create more successful interfaces, the ones that would provide information in more comprehensive or interesting ways. However, interface tends to offer more than we are able to perceive. It offers us innumerable bits of information, but we learn most effectively from the simplest interfaces. That is why I think that text as a cultural form still has the biggest potential in the new media. No matter how hard we try to replace it with cinema or HCI, it is still the form we are most used to - the form that perhaps provides the most effective learning and the form we will always come back to. Of course, we can increase its effectiveness by adding cinematic or HCI elements, but I feel that we still need to have text as the base of an interface in order to be able to fully utilize that interface.

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