What Screens Want

A timely talk by Frank Chimero from this year’s Build conference in Belfast. He drives home the point that the internet isn’t done yet, that it can still be shaped as we want it, which is a good thing because, he states plainly, “things are starting to suck.”

The internet is the world’s greatest map, but Chimero cites an episode of the West Wing featuring the Gall-Peters projection of the world to illustrate how maps have agendas. The Mercator projection map of the world hanging in my elementary school classroom was designed in 1569 not for accuracy but as an aid to colonialist navigation and subjugation of the southern hemisphere. It’s a gross distortion that I’ve always taken as fact. From here, we must ask: our maps of the internet—the Facebooks, the Googles, but even the smaller services we use to find things—what’s their agenda? When they show us some things, they inevitably must hide others. And do their interests these matters align with ours?

What I love about Frank’s work is how he shows as well as he tells. In an argument against absolutism in the skeumorphic-flat debate, his site uses elements of both in natural ways, supporting his point. Ultimately, he argues that what screens want, what’s natural to them, is not any particular aesthetic, but a state of flux. A capacity for movement and change. And he shows some great practical examples of how movement can enhance usability in ways our industry doesn’t even have names for yet, but should likely borrow from theater and choreography.