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Digital Patina is Still on my Mind

The challenge to find a way to integrate “Digital Patina” into virtual objects is still very much on my mind. Like many things, though, it has not occupied a place of priority. It comes back to me when I encounter similar thinking out in the world.

Like this piece by Chappell Edison entitled There’s Too Much Damn Content, and Slick UX Design Is Making it Worse. Their argument is that there is too much content available to anyone 24-7 and that the edges of it all are too slick. There are only so many hours in our days. Content engagement is declining, and perhaps it has even peaked. It would take someone more than 14,000 years to watch all of Netflix’s catalog from 2016 — nevermind today, or tomorrow, or the next day. We have choice paralysis on a daily basis now. Part of that is simply because there is just so much content to choose from.

The ideas of “seams” piqued my interest. Matthew Chalmers is quoted in that article as saying:

“Some features that we designers usually categorize as infrastructure problems may, to users, be useful interactional features. Examples include the edges and gaps.. .Seamfulness is about taking account of these reminders of the finite and physical nature of digital media.”

The idea is that a “reminder of the finite” helps people get over choice paralysis and also helps them fall in love more fully with something. The proof that perfection does not exist, that there can be quirks and weirdness… well, that sounds like we are describing the imperfection and lovable quirkiness of people.

Glitches in video games become a fan phenomenon. Why? Is it because they remind us of our imperfect selves? Is it because imperfection equates to vulnerability and now we are protective and loving of our imperfect game/website/whatever? I think this is super interesting, and something that can offer a glimpse into how the idea of “Wok hey” can be supported without being cheesy and skeuomorphic.

“…the discovery of limitations can deepen our connection to a digital product and give users a comforting sense of ownership. They can inspire new exploration of the tools the game offers and encourage community development.” – Chappell Edison

Perhaps these imperfect, almost ugly edges are what make the Brutalism web design trend so captivating. To a degree, I think intentionally ”ugly” design is a reaction to the bland sameness of “beautiful” design that you can get from an off-the-shelf template.

I like these ideas, and they deserves additional exploration. We’ll see if I ever find the time to actually do that.