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Office by Bike and Coffee - Share on OviIn many respects, I think parenting is as much an art form as contour line drawing. You set forth kids to achieve some set some ideals that speak towards your cultural (spiritual, sociological, etc.) leanings, while giving them the ability to carve out a life for themselves. My parents were innovative thinkers in their own right, and the foundational models they have laid for me have contributed greatly to where I am today.

When I think about this in the context of computing, we are in for an incredibly wild ride once the elder generations pass, and the generation to come starts talking.

When I turned on my PC a few minutes ago, I looked at the mouse/keyboard/monitor construct that has been my generation’s primary mental model of computing. The data is manipulated by tools that don’t touch it, but are tethered to it. The data that appears on the screen is literally far away from me having any connection to it, and it is seen as a psychosis of some kind whenever emotional language is ascribe to creating or interacting with anything through this mental model.

On the other hand, when I use my mobile and iPad, I get nothing but an emotion attachment because of the close association that each device has with the senses of touch, sight, and sound as I flow through the screens. I am supposed to have some feeling about what it is that I’m reading or listening to on these devices. And – it can be argued – that something is wrong with the design of the application or the device if these feelings aren’t evoked. Now, that’s not to say that I swoon over things like email or dialing a call – but there is this sensual/emotional connect that’s noticed where moving to another device that doesn’t “act like mine” or “act like the expectations that my device set as the bar” actually illicits an emotional response.

Computing has changed. And I believe that our mental model of what computing is become is therefore challenged to being something that is passing away.

I recall Steve Job’s introduction of the iPad where he talked about it being his greatest computing achievement ever. Many people have dug in and around his statements at that keynote to try and see what exactly he meant. But, I think its clear. Jobs saw that a large interactive surface was as disruptive to how we thought about computing as the first graphical user interfaces were (in which Apple capitalized greatly in the earl ’80s). In taking this idea of interface from something tethered (analogue, cold, disconnected from the user) to something emotional (digital, immersive, senses combine for holistic experience) he was making the statement that computing needed to be something different than what our parents used. Their foundation was good, but we needed a new crevice with which to chart the course of life next.

I met a kid recently who was born in 1997. He doesn’t know a world without Internet, without iPods. CDs are in his head, only because DVDs were the way they reached towards his mental model of music and video. But when it came to computing, he was much more drawn to the experiences gathered around smartphones, tablets, and touch screens. They spoke more to his mental model of what computing looks like in the present – and are his jumping off point for what computing should look like in the future.

For the generation that preceded mine, the iPad is part of that pinnacle of their imagination. When you start from the imagination realized, the only thing left is to be heard when you start crafting things that no one has ever seen before. Suffice to say, if you think that the iPad, AR, and smartphones are it, you’ve got totally the wrong mental model for the kind of paradigm shift we will soon accelerate into. Think about the various things seen/experienced in movies like Minority Report and The Matrix – those kinds of experiences and mental models of computing will push these folks, much like Star Trek and Star Wars pushes mine.

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One thought on “Mental Models and Paradigm Shifts

  1. Pingback: Straddling the Future’s Fence « Blog.AntoineRJWright

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