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I’ve been accused of caring for things that do not make any difference. Paula said that, although she understands my grudge against the white mac (and it took a long long time to explain), she thinks it is of little consequence. She thinks that the way some thing looks does not shake our world.

This is the classic prejudice against surface. People believe superficial things are shallow. Surface does not make a difference.

I beg to differ.

Certainly, surface does not have strong, measurable, unpreventable influence over people. That is to say, the fact that something looks that way or the other will not force you to do anything. The fact that the Macs now look bland and serious does not force you to deal with your computer in a predictable way. You are not bound to it.

Even then, surfaces and looks do have influence. They have a subtle influence. If a room is slightly lighter you feel more comfortable — it seems you will be able to see any danger that approaches. This in turn probably makes you more productive, for instance. If someone is dressed better, you tend to assume what they say will deserve a bit more of attention, so that if someone badly dressed says some complex metaphor you will take longer to understand.

To judge by looks is not prejudice. It is just economy of energy. Prejudice is when you hold on to the appearance-judgments you’ve made.

But that is not even the point.

The point is that our behavior is influenced in subtle and complex ways. Some small things can have a huge consequence in the long run. To have an “executive” look to a computer can make those machines a little less personal and a bit more of a power tool — power here in the sense of who is fucking who. And that, in turn, can help create a NIH attitude towards technology — which was the doom of apple before the iMac G3.

And that definitely is not a fact. It is an interpretation.

But to deny interpretations is a form of blindness. Actually it is a prejudice designers have inherited from suprematism and constructivism. It is this stupid idea of denying the art-ness of their work. But that is another story.


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