Good Morning, Everyone

Welcome to a new and simple eleganthack design, finally live. The old eleganthack I’m moved to, and this lifestream blog I made my main interface. I kept thinking I’d do some fine tuning then starting writing here again. Six months later I realize the important thing is not to fuss around with it endlessly, but to get to writing again (and fussing endlessly will come when I’m procrastinating on writing.) You will have to resubscribe to the RSS, sorry.

So you’ve been wondering, what have you been up to, wodtke? Well, reading a lot about architecture, which is a passion I pickup after I wrote the chapter on social for my book. The result (so far) has been some insights on how the classic understanding of space can be applied online. I’ve presented this at IDEA, and I hope to further develop and extend these ideas at Interactions 10 Here are the slides from IDEA.

One of the concepts touched on in the presentation , Views, feels like one worth spending more time with. I consider Views a subset of the concept of Site. In architecture, Site is where you are building; a cliff, a ocean beach, a city block. This obvious influences many choices you make about the building design, be it to integrate in the manner of Julia Morgan, or to contrast like a Frank Gehry in Bilbao (it’s hard to know if we’s really contrasting or just being him, but that’s a debate for another day: the result is definitely a moment of surprise when it appears a spaceship has landed in a medieval warren of streets).

A more subtle consideration created by your building site is how people within the building will experience that location. Traditionally you frame items of interest with windows. Modernism preferred walls of windows, in which the viewer choose what interested them. But one quirky apartment in Paris designed by Le Courbusier for art collector Beistegui broke the rules: it cut views in half. This was a surrealist apartment, designed to reflect that movement’s signature motifs in many ways, from mirrors that had glass only in half the frame, to a patio with a carpet of grass and a formal fireplace.


Over the wall, you can see the Arc de Triomphe, one of the archetypal monuments of Paris. It is cut in half by the wall, an unusual treatment of such a great view. The Eiffel tower is treated in the same rough manner: no views that would be framed in traditional architecture are given that treatment, but instead are bisected and obscured. The effect is unsettling, but also intriguing. One is drawn to that view, wanting to complete the picture.

So what is the parallel with our work? Much that is social happens behind two walls: the log-in wall and also the network wall. We are all familiar with the log-in wall, but consider this: if you are new to a social network you have no network of friends, and basically you are in a windowless building. There are no lives to watch. So how can a new user figure out if this is a space worth hanging out in? It’s up to the design to create views into the life the social network holds. With Twitter, it was manifested in the new homepage featuring trending topics. In the new yahoo mail, we can see into activity streams of the people we converse. As we design our virtual spaces, considering how people see into our site as well as how they see into the next space is critical. Navigation -perhaps- should be completely replaced by views. For what can a terse link tell you, compared to actually seeing where you want to go next?


Add Yours
  1. 1

    What I thought was a tenuous riff turned into a very thoughtful and insightful comment on social – great post, and thanks for writing again; have missed Elegant Hack.

Comments are closed.