Timo Arnall on the trend towards “seamless integration”:

We already have plenty of thinking that celebrates the invisibility and seamlessness of technology. We are overloaded with childish mythologies like ‘the cloud’; a soft, fuzzy metaphor for enormous infrastructural projects of undersea cables and power-hungry data farms. This mythology can be harmful and often just plain wrong. Networks go down, hard disks fail, sensors fail to sense, processors overheat and batteries die.

Invisible design propogates the myth that technology will ‘disappear’ or ‘just get out of the way’ rather than addressing the qualities of interface technologies that can make them difficult or delightful.

Intentionally hiding the phenomena and materiality of interfaces, smoothing over the natural edges, seams and transitions that constitute all technical systems, entails a loss of understanding and agency for both designers and users of computing. Lack of understanding leads to uncertainty and folk-theories that hinder our ability to use technical systems, and clouds the critique of technological developments.

No to NoUI – Timo Arnall

Hard to pick a particular quote from this take-down, as there’s a lot more to his argument. Make sure to click through and follow up on some of the references. Particularly Ben Bashford’s account is noteworthy.

It’s hard to strike a balance, as usual, as No to NoUI does not automatically imply a justification for Chrome UI for the UI’s sake. Rather, it’s a call to make the interaction between systems legible. However, that too has its restrictions, as evidenced by countless systems that just demand attention that users/customers are not willing to expend. Interfaces should be there when necessary, reassuring in their presence, yet not overwhelming. And certainly, they should not only live inside that glowing rectangle that you keep in your trouser’s pocket.

Because Interfaces, in this world of increasingly interconnected objects, really shouldn’t just be screens. The seamless integration of the lighting system with a smart-phone app, to the user, is anything but. It’s actively getting in the way.