Tag Archives: skeuomorphism


New publications

None of us is getting out and about much during a pandemic. And that means public events and conferences just aren’t happening. But publications still are. Here are two recent ones.

The American Weird, edited impeccably by Julius Greve and Florian Zappe, has just come out from Bloomsbury and is now on sale. The opening chapter is ‘A Doxa of the American Weird’, laying out the prehistory of the weird, from Anglo-Saxon usage via Holinshed and Shakespeare to American colonization, and showing how the concept in American literature and culture follows this earlier definition rather than our modern English one, from 17th-century American poetry to current film and fiction.

Virtual Futures: Near-Future Fictions is an anthology of some of the best stories that think about what’s going to happen not in a hundred years, or ten, but tomorrow. It’s also on sale now. A second volume is coming soon.

And earlier this year there was yet another flurry of interest in skeuomorphism, with Quartz magazine producing an excellent illustrated explainer, which you can read here.


BBC Future on the skeuomorph

BBC Future Useless design features that live on

I spoke to the BBC again about skeuomorphism. I’m pleased that they included my physical examples of rivets, jeans, cars, and keyboards, but most of all I’m pleased they included the one about credit cards deriving from Rolodex. These are all examples I’ve spoken about in the past, but the last was one I researched solely for this article and, as far as I know, it was a previously unrecognized example.


Skeuomorphism in the Journal of the History of Ideas

I’m very gratified – and flattered – to see my work on skeuomorphs feature at the Journal of the History of Ideas, and provide the theoretical basis for original anthropological research. That research – by Christopher B. Lowman, of the Anthropology Department at the University of California, Berkeley – is on the artefacts of the Ainu, an indigenous people of northern Japan.

Wooden tuki and ikupasuy on display in the Ainu Cultural Center, Sapporo. Photo © Christopher B. Lowman

Christopher’s research is utterly fascinating and, from my own narrow point of view, closes a loop of strange attraction I had felt towards Japanese traditions of lacquering, but had not fully understood hitherto.


The Economist explains: What is skeuomorphism?

The Economist explains: What is skeuomorphism?
The Economist explains: What is skeuomorphism?

The Economist features my work on skeuomorphism today: the article is here.

Following the BBC’s article a couple of weeks ago, it’s good to see another substantial and critical mainstream analysis. I’m flattered that The Economist features my work so heavily, and even links to my last paper on the topic. Nonetheless, the debate still has to break away from the superficial before any real progress can be made. As the article notes, Apple’s new iOS7 aims “to ditch this sort of thing [skeuomorphism] in favour of an approach that arises more directly from the capabilities of hardware and software” – yet that’s exactly the point at which one could expect to see true skeuomorphs emerging.

What Apple are really ditching is a human design choice: the use of verisimilitude as a point of affordance. What they’re most definitely not ditching, or even demonstrating any awareness of, is the long-term interplay of obsolescence and cultural mimicry that drives technological evolution.




BBC News – What is skeuomorphism?

BBC News Magazine - What is skeuomorphism?
BBC News Magazine – What is skeuomorphism?

I spoke to BBC News Magazine about skeuomorphism: the article’s here. It’s quite a nice overview, and at least avoids Techcrunch’s current conclusion that the opposite of skeuomorph = ‘flat’.

If you’re interested in the more scholarly side of skeuomorphism, I’ve put an open access version of the paper I wrote for the Cologne Institute of Advanced Studies journal ‘Morphomata’ here: “Skeuomorphology and Quotation”.


Interview with Imperica

Dan O'Hara Imperica
Dan O’Hara at the Virtual Futures salon, TROVE Birmingham, 24.10.12

There’s a lengthy and admittedly dense interview with me on Imperica today, covering the recent J. G. Ballard interviews volume I edited with Simon Sellars, Extreme Metaphors; the new edition of the 1995 glitchcyberpunkphilosophy classic Cyberpositive; and the dismally dim commercial colonialization of the virtual that is currently trading under the moniker ‘new aesthetic’.


Interview on Skeuomorphism with The Machine Starts

The Machine Starts
The Machine Starts – How We Started Calling Visual Metaphors “Skeuomorphs” and Why the Debate over Apple’s Interface Design is a Mess

Earlier this month I spoke several times with Chris Baraniuk about the febrile skeuomorphosis currently smearing itself across the internet. UI designers seem particularly immunodeficient as disease vectors in this regard, and present a clear viro-semantic danger to the 99.9% of language users who are not UI designers. Chris has now published the results of his research on The Machine Starts:

How We Started Calling Visual Metaphors ‘Skeuomorphs’ and Why the Debate over Apple’s Interface Design is a Mess