Timo Arnall debunks the current infatuation with the #NoUI concept, suggesting that it demeans the user and oversimplifies the difficulties involved for design to make complex things seem simple. His argument is directed both at the metaphor of an invisible UI, but also the value of what it rejects.
Timo Arnall, No to NoUI
1. Invisible design propagates the myth of immateriality
We already have plenty of thinking that celebrates the invisibility and seamlessness of technology. We are overloaded with childish mythologies like ‘the cloud’; a soft, fuzzy metaphor for enormous infrastructural projects of undersea cables and power-hungry data farms. This mythology can be harmful and is often just plain wrong. Networks go down, hard disks fail, sensors fail to sense, processors overheat and batteries die.
Computing systems are suffused through and through with the constraints of their materiality. – Jean-François Blanchette
Invisible design propogates the myth that technology will ‘disappear’ or ‘just get out of the way’ rather than addressing the qualities of interface technologies that can make them difficult or delightful.
Intentionally hiding the phenomena and materiality of interfaces, smoothing over the natural edges, seams and transitions that constitute all technical systems, entails a loss of understanding and agency for both designers and users of computing. Lack of understanding leads to uncertainty and folk-theories that hinder our ability to use technical systems, and clouds the critique of technological developments.
As systems increasingly record our personal activity and data, invisibility is exactly the wrong model.
By removing our knowledge of the glue that holds the systems that make up the infrastructure together, it becomes much more difficult, if not impossible, to begin to understand how we are constructed as subjects, what types of systems are brought into place (legal, technical, social, etc.) and where the possibilities for transformation exist. – Matt Ratto (2007)
In other words, as both users and designers of interface technology, we are disenfranchised by the concepts of invisibility and disappearance.
His other points:
2. Invisible design falls into the natural/intuitive trap — ‘does not give any insight into how complex processes might actually become simple of familiar’.
3. Invisible design ignores interface culture — ‘To declare interfaces ‘invisible’ is to deny them a cultural form or medium’.
4. Invisible design ignores design and technology history — ’we must critique the clean, orderly, and homogenous future that is at the heart of these modernist visions’.
Go read the whole piece.