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This presentation is in Pecha Kucha format (presented as 20 slides, 20 seconds each) and was given in Tokyo, August 2010 at the EPIC conference.
After recently stumbling on these two concepts, Skeuomorphs and Spandrels, I was struck by how they illustrate ways that culture and design interact in the adoption of new technology.
Skeuomorphs–features of technological artifacts that have lost their functional purpose but been retained in later generations of that artifact nonetheless–leverage a historical precedent in order to communicate a functional or cultural value to consumers. This approach simplifies adoption by using the consumers’ own prior knowledge to mask the new with the familiar.
Spandrels–features of technological artifacts that have been retained because they have taken on some new or different functional or cultural value than that which was originally intended–leverage the consumers’ own creativity to imbue an artifact with utility where none existed before. This approach simplifies adoption by outsourcing the innovation to the consumer who then creates the new directly from the fabric of the familiar.
Each concept illustrates how we can consider the consumer a participant in the innovation process, and provides a potential approach to imbue the objects we design with the functional or cultural value necessary for adoption.