Thursday, September 01, 2005

art and technology

I've been reading minutes of old meetings for the board that regulates professional engineers. At one point, they were talking about electronic signatures. There's a quote here from President Clinton as he signed the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act:
Just imagine if this had existed 224 years ago, the Founding Fathers wouldn't have had to come all the way to Philadelphia on July 4th for the Declaration of Independence. They could have e-mailed their John Hancocks in.
It might be a signature, but it wouldn't be a John Hancock. I think art and technology were closer in the old days when we knew less technology but remembered a lot of art. It seems like there's a disconnect now, at least in a lot of cases. Not all of them -- Apple usually has a good blend, for instance -- but often things are either artistic, with minimal functionality, or functional with bits of art poking through like grass through a sidewalk.

The advantage? Technology that doesn't have to sacrifice functionality on the altar of being pretty. Art that's not tied by practicality. The disadvantage? Clunky black and gray laptop computers running clunky operating systems. Awkward-looking gas stations, electric substations, and train yards.

I guess the question is whether the tradeoff is worth it: the fact that it's so common argues in favor, but the popularity of the iPod argues against.

No comments: