Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Reading over the Fuller link this week, I found myself continually disagreeing with the analysis of Microsoft Word as an application. On paper, sure, the number of permutations of preferences and selections is downright ridiculous. In practice, I know what I'm doing and I rarely if ever feel overwhelmed by the formatting options. It is when I use more basic, traditional text editors, like TextEdit, that I find myself really confused. At some level, that's just the nature of becoming accustomed to an application - you know how it works insofar as you need to use it, and anything else becomes uncomfortable.

At some other level, though, my perspective is fundamentally different from Fuller's. Word was released years before I was born - my generation pretty much grew up on it. Beyond that, I think people who were born into the world of affordable personal computers as lifestyle necessities have a totally different perspective on them. We know how to cut down immense amounts of information into just the relevant and how to ignore the constant interruptions to the flow of computer use - as we discussed in class, virtually nobody reads over the terms of use documentation anymore. I see my friends dodging software updates (for better or for worse...) and circumventing registration for websites like it's second nature. The image of a toddler using an iPhone is the perfect illustration of this idea - bafflingly complex interactions with technology take on a disarming quality of fluency among those who grow up in an environment where that technology is commonplace.

This is why the tone of Fuller's piece didn't resonate strongly with me - the ideas are compelling and accurate. It's the presupposition that I've been extensively frustrated by the Word software that misses its mark. It's not that I don't think the program has design flaws that could have been thought through more thoroughly from the start - I just think those flaws have a rapidly decreasing salience to the experience of the average user.

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