The Idiocy of Big, Bold Strokes
or
"Yet Another Interface Designed to Screw Me"

You might read the article and come back. Text is good at waiting for you!

I get a certain degree of frustration when it comes to every design student who doodles up a "revolutionary user interface" or even every engineer who bother to come up with one and put it together. I get it even more for the linked terrible essay, because as meager as a silly design is, there's something worse about someone (pardon the pun) hand-waving about how folks need to get inspired and creative and out of the box without even giving that little an offering. Doubly so when these exactly arguments have been thoughtlessly spouted by numerous folks over the last 30+ years.

Now, whether you're a designer or an engineer or someone who just thinks SF depictions of user interfaces need to get more "handsy", let me say a few quick things to you.

* Straight-facedly tell me that during this all paradigm-breaking visionary thought, you've spent a single damn moment thinking about how a disabled person will use this interface. In all my reading and surfing of such discussions, the next person to say "yes" will be the very first. This essay's particularly bad because Bret Victor literally denies the humanity of anyone who doesn't have normal manual dexterity - but the problem is endemic. The more an interface requires normal human ability to use, the more human disability becomes a penalty to use it, and the more you've gratuitously shut people out of your vision of the future because they can't pantomime opening a jar and shooting a freethrow in order to open their email inbox. As +Alexander Williams has said about a number of real and fictional UI designs, "Yet another interface designed to screw me."

* Pretending that there aren't already people who live with disabilities, explain what happens when you, able-bodied guy, hurt your hand or sprain your ankle. I can type or use an iPad while having hand injuries that would keep me from doing much more intricate manipulations. Being laid up with a broken leg isn't an impediment to that, either. I'd be helpless in either case in this sort of "Look at all the joints and muscles you have to express yourself with - get wiggling!" world.

* Now, finally, tell me what the able-bodied, uninjured, carefully-stretched and limbered-up people actually get out of this. Ooh, yes, it's visually more interesting for an observer, whether a viewer or a reader. That's why VR interfaces were so interesting to people in the 90s. But what's the benefit I'm supposed to get by actually using these interfaces, aside from satisfying someone's idea of how expressive the human body can be? That's the sort of question that eventually killed virtual reality, and high-dexterity haptic interfaces aren't offering much better.
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