Response to “A Jump to Universality” and “The Art of Interactive Design”

Response to “A Jump to Universality”:

This reading is a fascinating explanation of why and how certain systems have become universal in our world. As a student of Mandarin, I was very interested in the author’s piece on language systems. I thoroughly enjoy learning the Mandarin script and love contrasting it with the other scripts that I am familiar with, but I have always wondered if someday Mandarin will make the switch to an alphabet-based system, and why it hasn’t yet.

The point that the author makes about universality as a result of the shift from a system that merely hosts vocabulary to one that enables creation of more vocabulary was also particularly interesting to me. Mandarin is constantly welcoming new words into its vocabulary, words influenced by global culture and references that have formed a subset of their own: these words are neither foreign nor fully Mandarin. What’s interesting is that these words are formed on the basis of sound syllables rather than pictorial meaning. This transliteration has its drawbacks, but perhaps this is Mandarin’s attempt to make a non-universal system partly universal.

(Here’s a blog post about transliteration in Mandarin– it’s quite interesting to think about in terms of universality.)

Another aspect of the piece that stuck out to me: “It is as though everyone in the ancient world was avoiding universality on purpose.” It is so mind-boggling that some of our most universal systems today were never meant to be that way. What are we neglecting or rejecting at this very moment that may someday go on to become universal? The question is exciting, but we may never be able to answer it.

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Response to “The Art of Interactive Design”:

“The Art of Interactive Design” offers an extremely interesting perspective on what should truly be considered interactivity. The author points out three aspects that are important to ascertain whether a design is truly interactive or not: listening, thinking, speaking. Based on how well a design is able to perform these three things, it can be deemed interactive (or not).

In terms of design, I definitely think that this definition pushes us to be more creative and think more deeply about the “interactive” part of our media. By creating a difference between reaction and interaction, the piece does a good job of encouraging readers to not settle for a refrigerator-style model of interactivity, instead giving us three parameters from which to think more deeply about design interactivity.

That said, I’m not fully sure where I  stand with regard to his actual definition. Especially in the context of our discussion about Siri in the classroom, it feels as though the scope of the definition is simultaneously too broad and too narrow: it allows us to interpret Siri as both highly interactive and not interactive at all. The definition may work as a tool to aim for a deeper analysis of interactivity, but as an actual measure of interactivity by itself, it is just a little confusing.