A modern totem pt. 1 - Interactivity

Computer are the new altars. We're praying to our glowing rectangles and apples™️ for the majority of the day. In a half prayer position: underarms flat on the table, with hands folded over the keyboard, our head slightly tilted downwards we bid like modern monks for the computer to give us information. For hours at end we peek into the pixel void and come back the next day, hoping for more. More of what though?

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Yet these artefacts aren't modern totems. They are mundane objects meant to be as general purpose as possible. A standerdized and limited set of inputs (keyboard, mouse, screen) meant to suit a broad range of uses. Why doesn't it have levers, pedals, fidget spinners or radars as an interface? Why doesn't the tactile experience guide me more in my search for information? Why isn't there a small cactus growing on my laptop?

Fun is only a side effect of the software, not the hardware. Yet that software is ever changing and not always fun. You can switch the functionality of your computer from fun (games!) to boring (spreadsheets.) just by swapping all the pixels on the screen. General purpose computing shifts your mood as soon as you switch apps. Why can't I have a machine(s?) with a predictable outcome like my Kindle. It screams: this device is meant for reading and there's nothing else I can do with it.

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Lately I've been wondering if I should get into building my own computer. For the sake of art, not to productise or solve world problems. It should be for a specific domain, my first thought being music creation. My next thought is: "but can I use it for other things as well?" and we're back at the start again.

Or should I build a computer specifically for programming? What would I program though? Isn't every programmable environment by definition multi-purpose? Should the form follow function? Or would it be refreshing to have function follow form for a change?

I want to build a dada computer.

(Inspired by To Make a Modern Totem)

A modern totem pt. 1 - Interactivity

A modern totem pt. 2 - General-purpose

Rooms in houses are there for a reason. It's great to have different places for different functions, so your mind instantly knows what's up. Research, for example, shows that having a bed close to your working place makes you less productive and more sleepy and vice versa having a desk next to your bed sleep less quick.[citation needed] Having your kitchen in sight can trigger appetite. Clear separation makes great conditioning, useful, but only for those with a multi-room house.

{{{:image {:url "https://d2w9rnfcy7mm78.cloudfront.net/5937078/original_af524504dca86d51014a742a7488c428.png?1579374441?bc=0" :style "width: 100%;padding-bottom: 40px;"}}}I think we're still in the cave era when it comes to computers. Your computer's operating system tries to be it all: your entertainment, your workplace, your pub, your altar, your park, your school, your action, your relaxation. One shapeshifting digital context, impossible to become a native in, one massive clusterfuck for your brain.

Smartphones, tablets and laptops are too general purpose to the point that they became a drag. As soon as you start cursing them because of endless waiting on updates, time spent doing your taxes, reading about drama on facebook, they no longer a place of comfort: 'slave boxes', 'glowing rectangles', digital altars, a catalyst for distraction and mood shifts. The screen, desktop operating system and keyboard became a synonym for everything digital, nothing in particular, except for being uncreative and depressing perhaps.

I don't want more apps, and I want things to get out of my way, I don't want more layers on top of layers (operating systems), modes on top of modes.

{{{:image {:url "https://d2w9rnfcy7mm78.cloudfront.net/5937079/original_31209baab330e4d3f9b7fe728538ad6b.png?1579374441?bc=0" :align "right" :style "width: 500px;margin-right: -300px;"}}}Single purpose computers (e-readers, mp3-players, game consoles) are different beasts. They are focused devices (places/rooms?) with clear intent. Unfortunately, they are not in fashion at the moment (in comparison to smartphones), but I hope they will be again soon, albeit in a different form, hopefully with some focus on creation. I wonder if we see different internet platforms getting their own dedicated hardware (like Snapchat glasses). I can only hope that we're going to abandon the form of general purpose glowing rectangles (with too-general-to-be-ergonomic interfaces) soon.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating more devices (and thus more waste). I want to everyone to question the screen, keyboard and operating system as an interface (as the solution for it all). Let's start tailoring tools to specific functions. Let's stop complecting OS'es to warrant general purpose, yet be less than ideal to a single function.

This was written on an iPad Pro with folio keyboard and the Ulysses app. My very expensive typewriter lol.

A modern totem pt. 2 - General-purpose
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