Our phones speak in metaphors

Been reading a lot about the metaphors that inform the ways we use and interact with our laptops and phones. For now, this article is a gathering of metaphors in the daily devices we use, and eventually I’ll try to form it into a coherent essay.

Examples to sift through

  • Websites are a metaphor of paper docs
    • Pages, bookmarks, black text on white, scrolling down, etc.
      • Does horizontal scrolling make appearances in RTL languages?
  • Modern UI are all metaphors
    • e.g. hitting a delete button doesn’t literally delete if you look at the code underneath
  • Some swipe gestures are a metaphor of space
    • Swiping across screens can give the feeling of a large spatial area when there is none
    • Pinching to zoom in/out, swiping across panels, etc.
  • Computer mouses (mice?) are an abstraction (i.e. metaphor) of the keyboard
    • Investigate touch screens
  • Phones themselves are a metaphor actually
    • Cuz they’re actually just mini-computers and phoning others is one (arguably minor) feature of many
  • How did we get here? Who made these decisions?
    • Role of metaphors in design

References and inspo

  • Metaphors We Web By talks about how the web is built on the metaphor of paper documents.
  • Abstracting Craft discusses the history of computer screens and how it came to be that we move a mouse to control a pointer.