We hold on to stuff we don’t need anymore—in language, design, our closets, and culture at large—because it makes us comfy.
Consider the “remote”.
We still call our—um, control sticks?—”remotes”, because when they were introduced, it was novel to control anything remotely. That was the defining feature. Now it’s a shade anachronistic—where else am I going to change channels from? Go right up there & press the buttons on the side?
This term will probably persist until we use voice & gesture alone to control our devices. Which may not even be ”devices” by then, but ambient technology.
I’ve been known to call my iPhone a “walkman” on occasion. Because you can, you know, walk around with it on.
Skeumorphic language: mental comfort food.
The ostensible rationale for making new things look like familiar things is that the familiarity will give users a confidence boost that will help them learn the interface. This may have been particularly salient for Apple’s early OSX and now its iOS aesthetics, to welcome users switching platforms.
The rally against skeumorphism contends that they patronize us with “horrific, dishonest, childish” sentimentality, and indeed stands in the way of innovation. Clive Thompson posits such in his Wired piece:
When we get to the last week of February, open your Google Calendar and choose the Month view. You’ll see the previous three weeks greyed out. Only the next few days will be “active”. If you’ve want to see what you’ve got lanned for more than the next couple of days, you have to flip forward to March.
Now ask yourself: Why does Google Calendar—and nearly every other digital calendar—work that way? It’s a strange waste of space, forcing you to look at three weeks of the past. Those weeks are mostly irrelevant now. A digital calender could be much more clever: It could reformat on the fly, putting the current week at the top of the screen, so you can always see the next three weeks at a glance.
—Clive Thomspon, “Out With The Old”, Wired Feb 2012
I see the problem. Modernism—”the rejection of tradition’s reprise, incorporation, rewriting, recapitulation, revision and parody in new forms”—despises this kind of saccarine fake columns-and-woodgrain atavism.
But in an age of incessant, frantic cultural change and the treadmill of a learning curve that goes with it, maybe we long for the past a little bit. Skeumorphs & skeumorphic language are a bite of comfort food for the overteched soul.
I totally still say I’m “taping” a “show”.