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20 March 2004

New animism

Mike Kuniavsky has written a wonderful essay on user expectations in a world of smart devices (via Usability News):

When we don’t have a good functional model to explain how things work, we anthropomorphize them. And when enough things around us recognize us, remember us, and react to our presence I suspect we’ll start to anthropomorphize all objects.

In other words, because we have no other way to explain how things work, we will see the world as animist. Animism is, in its broadest definition, the belief that all objects have will, intelligence, and memory and that they interact with and affect our lives in a deliberate, intelligent, and (in a sense) conscious way. When this happens, we’ll stop expecting our tools to be mechanical and predictable and will begin to expect more complex, intuitive capabilities from all of them, even the dumb ones.

I love the new design questions Mike identifies, e.g. 'Under what circumstances do people trust or mistrust objects?' and 'What kinds of communication between objects are appropriate, acceptable, or desired?'.

Posted at 01:42 PM in Identities for things | Permalink


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