Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Matt Jadud's talk today went pretty well. He was recommended to us by our course adviser, and so setting up the intro talk was actually somewhat last minute. Fortunately, Matt's pretty chill, and even though we started late, our video camera broke and the audio is terrible, things were fine.

Matt gave a hilarious introduction to design by narrating a brief history that covered everything from the garden of Eden to the invention of the space shuttle by da Vinci. He spoke extensively about his notebooks from grad school and how he used them, which was the best part of the presentation, in my opinion.

I have some new thoughts about the importance of notebooks over computers.


  • Notebooks have a certain roughness that computers lack. This is actually fairly closely related to quickness, but I'll try to distinguish between them. When I draw or write on a notebook, my lines aren't perfectly straight, and my letters aren't perfectly formed. To be honest, when writing quickly, I use a disgusting half-cursive-half-print style that's almost impossible for anyone but me to read. But this roughness is not only unique, it is /essential/ to the character of the notebook. When I write "gvt" on a page, it almost unambiguously means "government" to me-- the information is conveyed quickly and efficiently. But when I type "gvt", the computer underlines it jagged and bright-red (and has even on the blogger text editor, though I think that might actually be a Firefox feature) and if I run a spell check it won't care for the abbreviation unless I add it to the dictionary and so on! The computer places almost no value on roughness-- its strengths are orderly.
  • Notebooks have a quickness about them that is hard to imitate in computers. Content can start being created anywhere on the page, and in seconds a page can be filled with an information structure. In the part on roughness, I mentioned that my lines aren't straight, and my letters aren't perfectly formed. In fact, if the lines I drew were straight on my page, they would take infinitely longer to form, and if my handwriting was a font, I would still be tracing out my first letters. Likewise, if my computer worried about storing every odd line, letter, doodle and so forth I've written as a set of extremely detailed vector graphics, it would be a tremendous waste! They are two completely different models for the display of information, and I bet a lot of great ideas are still waiting to be discovered regarding transfer between them.
  • The third quality I mentioned was drawings. It's darn near impossible to draw with the mouse, and it's darn near impossible /not/ to with a pen. Sound good? Good.

Alright, I should probably get back to some other work. Also, if you're still reading this and in VI, don't feel compelled to write another post about Matt's lecture (it's not a course requirement), though by all means go ahead if you want to add something. Alright, I'm out.

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