May 15, 2010

Who said that a phone is for talking on the phone?

This nytimes article,cross-posted here from in an ipod world is a case in point for the "functional fixedness" problem, or rather, misconception that a tool should be used in a certain way, more often than not, the way in which it was initially designed for.
Well, (Interface)Design 101: never take any feature, functionality, element for granted; the design space is limitless (or at least, amanzingly less limited that we take it to be). The "use" space too is limitless, bounded only by the limits of human ingenuity. The same principle at work behind using the TV "as a monitor". Who said that a monitor is a monitor? Or that a TV is for watching TV?
It's always a great joy for me to read about new uses of "old" designs, or "old" concepts in the case of phones and TVs. It feels like the breaking down and reshuffling of mental categories that, through repeated use and lack of imagination, ossify into fixed conceptions of objects and their uses.