Wacom Cintiq

McCullough’s point is well-taken, but I wonder how much of it would apply to tools before the computer.

Many technological inventions have imposed implicit affordances and limitations of their own. These have also had a large impact on the initial design and how user interfaces of computers evolved.

Text, for instance, can be reproduced by with a finite number of symbols, which lends themselves to technologies from printing blocks to typewriters to modern keyboards. Even the act of putting pen to paper involves, arguably, a curtailment of the full range of motion of hands. Displays also impose natural affordances and limitations of their own, being essentially a 2D representation. The same might be said for paintings or drawings. There is an argument that tools like the computer simply carry on that longstanding tradition, that differentiated symbols on a page and 2-D representations, or texts and pictures, have seeped deeply into our social world over centuries and now ubiquitous and unobserved, play their part where we construct our social worlds.

That tradition can be argued to limit, but also expand human horizons and potentialities. The ambiguity of text, for example, allowed interpretation and imaginations by each individual reader.

In interface design, there has been learning and accommodating to tools (speed typists and hotkeys and general efficiency, even creativity), and now, perhaps more of an adaptation of tools to human metaphors and capabilities. I am curious about approaches that accede that neither might be ideal or preferential, but in a neutral sense both humans adapting to tools and tools to humans might be used in different contexts or in combination to fulfill specific objectives.

For instance, the Wacom Cintiq drawing tablet seeks to combine some digital affordances while leveraging off artist dexterity and subtleties. Programmable buttons on the side panel allow the artist to quickly call common functions, even adapt them over time to their specific work flow, while a matte surface and pressure-sensitive surface allows more of the affordances of paper. Given such tablets are largely used to produce 2-D representations, this might be a natural fit (etc. vs. gesture or 3-D motion tracking). An interface to create sculpture or 3-D environments might benefit from tools that utilize the full capabilities of our hands, as well as spatial positioning, such as in an immersive environment.

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