Simplicity is not necessarily obtained through a reduction of information: it can be provided through order and aesthetics, as in the beautiful stained glass of a Gothic church. This argument frames exactly the need for reductionism in experience design — the entire segment illuminates the value of order and aesthetics.

Alessandro Valli on simplicity:

Italian artist and designer Bruno Munari used to say that progress is when things are made simpler. Less is more. Simplicity leads to an easier and more sustainable relationship with media and technology.

In current interfaces, contents are often immersed in a bunch of audiovisual objects (e.g. widgets, notification sounds) associated with functions and information; this draws people attention away from the content itself, and makes aesthetics and functional integration with the overall environment difficult, if not impossible. Moreover, this is similar to contemporary culture, where things are always immersed in many opinions and comments: it is necessary to unleash the power of things, the power of contents, by putting these back in the foreground, following a Thomistic approach. The higher the level of abstraction of the interface, the higher the cognitive effort required for mere interaction.

The first direction in which simplification takes place is the removal of any kind of mediation between the person and the machine, to achieve the greatest immediacy. This happens at different levels: interaction schemes, representation of content, information organization, disappearing of devices into interaction-related objects (devices not perceived as technology-related devices). As technology becomes invisible at all such levels, from a perceptual and cognitive point of view, interaction becomes completely natural and spontaneous. It is a kind of magic.

One of the characteristics of a successful natural interface is thus the reduction of cognitive load on people interacting with it. Simplicity is not necessarily obtained through a reduction of information: it can be provided through order and aesthetics, as in the beautiful stained glasses of a Gothic church.

One Reply to “Simplicity”

  1. Philip Blosser (Detroit, Michigan) said in reference to the Thomistic Approach — Moral Conflict and Human Happiness book.

    The question addressed by McInerny is not only perennial and philosophical, but personal and existential: Are aspects of the human condition unavoidably and ineluctably tragic?

    Are there basic conflicts in people’s moral lives that cannot be resolved by reasoning? D. McInerny — son of the famous Notre Dame Thomist, Ralph McInerny — says not. In this marvelously instructive presentation of classic “virtue ethics,” he argues against the commonplace claim in contemporary ethical discussions that human agents are vulnerable to tragic situations in which they cannot help but do wrong.

    This widespread assumption that moral evil is unavoidable surfaces in popular culture in movies like “Crash” and TV series like “24” — as well as in classrooms where students cheat to maintain passing grades and procure abortions to avoid unwanted children. It echoes the legacy of pre-Socratic fatalism defended by intellectuals such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Martha Nussbaum, and Bernard Williams. Such thinkers reject even the possibility that one’s moral experience can be rendered ultimately intelligible.

    They reject the way in which religious traditions — Christian, Jewish and at least the Mu’tazilite school of Muslim thought — have assimilated and extended Plato’s and Aristotle’s attempt to make ethical relations to the world fully understandable. This question was brought to the world’s attention in flash of controversy last year (2006) by Pope Benedict XVI’s lecture in Regensburg, Germany, in which he asked whether Muslims and Christians can engage REASON in controversial questions of faith. Drawing on Aquinas’s moral thought, McInerny argues that the human good can be attained sometimes only through difficulty (what Aquinas calls the ‘bonum arduum’), including the difficulty of moral conflict. Yet he points out that Aquinas’s understanding of a natural, hierarchical ordering of human goods allows for the rational resolution of moral conflict in a way that avoids tragic necessity. Well written and highly recommended.

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