Katherine C.

Sunday, Oct 9, 2022

Music 256A / CS476A, Stanford University

Word count: 404

Reading Response to Artful Design Chapter 2 + Video “The Idyllic Video Game Sublime”

From this week's reading, I'd like to respond to Artful Design Principle 2.6, which states:

Principle 2.6: “Technology should create calm” (p. 86).

– following a quote of a deployed U.S. soldier who found peace using the Ocarina app and thought that the globe feature is “the most calming art” and the “exact opposite of [his] life” as it “brings the entire world together without politics or war” (p. 86).

I found this principle interesting because of the dual interpretation of the word “calm.” At first glance, I understood “creating calm” literally in the context of the soldier’s story – that technology should reduce turbulent emotions of the user. But I soon realized that it could also be explained in the context of ubiquitous computing – that, as Mark Weiser argued in 1991, we are entering the age of “calm technology” when technology recedes into the background of our lives, becoming invisible and unobtrusive to the user (p. 64). Which interpretation of calm is Ge referring to with this principle? I think it may be both.

In addition, I'd like to make a connection between this and a discussion from class (and from Chapter 1) about designing technology in search of the sublime. I feel like the notion of sublime is somehow entwined with and directly related to the notion of calm – a deeply human aesthetic experience often causes one to feel calm. Taking Ocarina as an example, the audiovisual design of the app “aspires to something human that isn’t about technology at all,” which propels the user into a state of calm (p. 84).

A followup question to this principle – Is it necessary for all technology to create calm? I don’t think so. As an example from my daily life, I sometimes play video games because I feel bored – or too calm. In this case, technology plays a role in spicing life up. In some cases, such as a toxic, intense game of League of Legends, technology is designed to not only increase turbulent emotions but also demand the user’s undivided attention, being visible and obtrusive, which is the exact opposite of creating calm. This example, however, supports Principle 2.1: “Design for play and delight” (p. 73). Technically, one can argue that even though League of Legends does not create calm in-game, it helps create calm after a game upon the user releasing endorphins and entering a state of relaxation.