Of swords and screens

In fantasy, you will routinely come across the word ‘blade’. Writers use it frequently instead of just saying swords. So “his blade clashes with hers” and “their blades cut into each other” and so on and so forth. It’s a way to reduce emphasis on diversity — to take focus away from the fact that swords can be long and short and thin and thick and sharp and blunt and black and golden etc. Calling a sword a blade is essentially reducing it to its most essential function — that of a cutting tool.

I got to thinking about the various digital devices in our lives. Reduced to their most essential function, they are all just one thing — screens. Think about it. Your desktop computer, your laptop or netbook, your TV, your tablet, your smartphone — they are all screens. You have different ways of interacting with them, like characters in a fantasy might have different ways of handling their blades. Some blades are built for the swing while some stab better than others. Similarly, some screens are built to be watched while others are made to be touched and pinched (okay this last sentence sounds almost pornographic).

I am touch-typing this post on my tablet screen. After I send it, you might read it on a much smaller (iPhone) or larger (desktop computer) screen. You may want to send me your response. But maybe you don’t enjoy typing on small screens and will do it with a full and proper qwerty keyboard attached to a large screen. Imagine a near-future when people are wearing tiny screens on their wrists, or in their glasses. Most of their news needs are thus taken care of. The larger screens will not become obsolete however. They will only, by way of usage, become limited to certain specific uses like multimedia content consumption and user experiences that need more immersion than smaller screens can provide. They will become like cinema screens. Our engagement with them will become infrequent, but it will also become more intimate.

#definitions, #digital-culture, #interface, #swords