Students’ writings :
The practice of writing colloquium papers is slowly firming up at MITID. To encourage it even more, we are posting a small selection of our students’ papers on this blog for wider reading.
The colloquium exercise aims to sharpen a learner’s ability to combine personal experiences, observations, insights and reflections with methodically conducted research, for carrying out an extensive and informed discussion on a chosen subject. We hope that the current selection* is able to demonstrate the same. Please read on.
*The current selection comprises of three papers. A few more papers will be posted in the near future.
Activity Coordinator and Editor : Asst. Prof. Jitendra Arora
Co-editors : George Joseph and Anuja Pitre (Students, 8th Semester, Undergraduate Diploma Program in Graphic Design)
Advisors : Prof. Arvind Merchant, Prof. Deepankar Bhattacharyya, Prof. Dhimant Panchal, Prof. Prashant Desai, Prof. Gaurang Shah.
Student Mentors (Names of mentors given in order of the papers they guided) : Prof. Dhimant Panchal, Asst. Prof. Pritharshv Pushkar, Asst. Prof. Jitendra Arora.
Special thanks : Prof. Anant Chakradeo, Prof. Sanjay Jain, Rohan Saraf, Kanhika Nikam, Trupti Salve, Nikhita Prabhudesai, and last but not the least, the students whose work is being included here :)
Contact : Send us your comments and feedback on email@example.com
Hinglish — “What an idea, Sir-ji!”
Apoorva Shrikhande, UG Diploma in Animation Film Design, 2006 – continuing
I cannot speak pukka (pure and fluent) English, but tuta-phuta English, or English mixed with Hindi words. But I never knew that the tendency to draw out familiar terms, phrases and expressions from my mother tongue – Hindi, whenever I got stuck while speaking English, would one day become an accepted norm.
The lingo resulting from the habit of frequently mixing Hindi and English vocabulary has today become widely known as Hinglish. Hinglish is like a second language to a lot of us who do not feel confident conversing entirely in English. This paper is dedicated to this second language that helps some of us escape embarrassment at the hand of our peers.
“I can talk English, I can walk English, I can laugh English because English is a very phunny (funny) language.” This is a famous line from a Hindi movie Namakhalaal (released in 1982), delivered impeccably in a strong regional (Haryanvi) accent by Mr. Amitabh Bachchan. It is spoken thus purposefully — to show that rural Indians are capable, even if a little clumsily, of adopting ways of the city, where speaking English is not just regarded necessary, but also viewed as a mark of one’s educational and social status. Of course, there is no such language in this world, which can be tagged as funny; it is the way one speaks that sounds funny, especially when one tries to speak a relatively less familiar language, as was enacted by Mr. Bachchan.
On one hand, for people who have acquired English as their second language it is hard to control the impressions of their regional accent from seeping into their speech. On the other, it makes life a lot more convenient if one can depend on expressions from one’s mother tongue while speaking English. Hinglish seems to have evolved as an answer to this latter need for convenience. All those who could speak English fluently, did so. However, all those who could not, needed to depend on Hindi for familiar words and expressions. Slowly it became a trend to mix Hindi while speaking English. As a result, Hinglish was born.
A lingo like Hinglish does not have any official script as such; neither has it had any defined rules of grammar, nor does it have any path-breaking literature for references, yet it is speakable and popular. In my opinion, it is very creative of people to innovate a new dialect out of an existing language. However, kuch people aise bhi hai who think mixing languages is a bad idea because then the respective languages lose their purity and identity. A linguistic purist may frown at such ‘bastardization’, but cultural anthropologists are often fascinated by the evolution of the spoken word as it is carried from one cultural climate to another. In fact, dekha jaaye toh aaj bole jaani wali Hindi bhi Urdu aur Sanskrit ke mixture se bani hai. Is hisaab se toh Hindi bhi pure nahi hai!. Besides, Indians are not the only ones to generate new jargon out of prevalent languages. The Spanish and the Chinese too have come up with Spanglish and Chinglish respectively.
But, why should we look at the merging of languages negatively? The world consists of countless cultures, which keep mixing and seeping out of geographical boundaries, and so do the languages. In fact, it is not a new phenomenon; it has been happening ever since we started to explore new territories and cultures for political expansion, or for trade.
Invasions have been carried out jab se humans ko apni power ka istemaal karke dusrey deshon par raaj karna hota tha. Ek empire banane ka dream shayad sabhi countries ka hota hai. And so the powerful countries invade weak countries. Aisa kehte bhi hai ki agar kisi culture ko khatam karna hai to us desh ke food aur language ko kill karo. Aisa hi kuch hamare India mein sadiyon se hota aa raha hai. Bharat mein sabse pehle invasion Indo-European tribe from Central Asia ne kiya tha. These tribes were called Aryans. A majority of Indo-Aryan languages are derived from Sanskrit, the language of ancient India. But, during 5th to 8th century AD, apabhransha of languages happened. Matlab, modifications in spoken languages took place, in which the meaning of words largely remained the same, but the bolne aur likhne ka style changed over a period of time.
However, ye silsila yahin khatam nahi hua. Around 13th contury AD, aaye Mughals. And, a new language arrived with them. This language was Persian. Hindi slowly began to include Persian words in it. A new language began to evolve as a result. The language came to be called Urdu. Side by side, Hindi mein bhi naye dialects evolve hone lage. For example, Khadi boli evolved out of Brij Bhasha around this time.
After the Mughals, East India Company i.e. Britishers arrived in India in 19th century AD and ruled India for almost 200 years. Goron ke saath aayi unki language i.e English, and that’s how Bharat aur Hindustan se hamare desh ka naam hua India. Under the British Raj, Persian was rejected to make English the official language of the state. At the time, English was used for administrative purposes, as well as for higher education. It was recognized as the language of the elite. After India got independence, English became the 2nd official language and Hindi became the 1st official language or the national language of India.
Due to similar political and cultural confrontations and amalgamations that have been happening all throughout history, languages have been affected. In a way, there might be no language in this world that is totally pure. Most languages have evolved by borrowing words or expressions from other languages. This holds true for Hindi, and even for English.
The English spoken today is Modern English, which has borrowed words from almost 100 other languages. History tells that English is a West Germanic language and went through many phases of evolution, which include proto English, old English, middle English, early modern English and modern English. Invasions by Scandinavian and Normans brought their languages, which got mixed with English to some degree. Greek and Latin contributed later.
“You know this language that we speak
Is part German, part Latin, and part Greek
With some Celtic and Arabic all in the heap
Well amended by the men in the street
Choctaw gave us the word “OK”
“Vamose” is a word from Mexico way
And all of this is a hint I suspect
Of what comes nextI think that this whole world
Soon mama my whole wide worldSoon mama my whole world
Soon going to be getting’ mixed up….”
–Peter Seeger, ‘All mixed up’
Even today English adopts expressions from other languages. Many Indian terms too have infiltrated the English language. Last year Oxford included 80 Indian words in its 11th edition of the Concise Dictionary, recognizing the fact that the world’s third largest English speaking community belongs to India. Among roughly 355,000 words and phrases in the Oxford dictionary, presently about 700 words find their roots in some of the most ancient and notable Indian languages like Sanskrit, Tamil and Hindi.
The most famous word of Indian origin today could indisputably be ‘Yoga’, owing to the global interest in this ancient art form. Literally, the word in Sanskrit means “seamless integration of the mind, body and spirit”. Two other words that are frequently used all over the world are Mother and Father, which originated out of the Sanskrit roots ‘Matru’ and ‘Pitru’. Other Sanskrit words found in English are ‘Guru’, ‘Karma’, ‘Dharma’, ‘Nirvana’, and many more. The Tamil word ‘Kattumaram’ [from kattu (to tie) + maram (tree wood)] gave birth to the word Catamaran, which denotes a sailboat with twin hulls and usually a deck or superstructure connecting the hulls. Besides these, Hindi words, ‘bindaas’, ‘lehnga’ and ‘masala’ can also be found in the latest single-volume Oxford dictionary of English. These examples reflect the growing influence of Indian language on the English language, adding spice and variety to a truly global language.Where some Hindi words are totally adapted by English, vahi doosri taraf hindi bolte wakt English words beech mein bolna ek common si baat ho gayi hai.
Many people, especially those educated in institutions where English is minimally used, experience handicap in finding suitable words that express their real intents and thoughts. Some people find it difficult to express their thoughts in their mother tongue itself, let alone English. Their problem worsens when they try to express themselves in English. It appears that subconsciously they first think in their native language and then translate it in English. Thesepeople then tend to use Hindi words inadvertently while speaking English. For example, the security guard at my hostel told me one day, “Aajkal humko bahut tension hai”. I understood what she meant. And, she knew that I would understand.
Hinglish is slowly spreading its roots into rural and remote areas via television, radio, or viva voce i.e. by word of mouth. Even people belonging to states where different dialects of Hindi are spoken have been able to create their own unique brand of Hinglish. One day, my Bihari neighbor told me about how her son had an upset stomach. She told me in her typical Bihari tone that, “Arey hamare babua ne marriagewa maan anaap-shanaap kha liya to dekho loose motions hoi gava”. Also once she told my mother, “Aap to humare husband ko janti hi hai, jab ye gussa ma hote hain na to ek dum fire ho jate hain”.
There are numerous such statements that will make you laugh when you think of them. My brother’s friend would ask him on phone, “Aur dude kya haal chaal hai?” These statement are common all over, whether small towns or cities. As you move into villages, you will find people speaking Hindi with at least one English word in it. The very common example from my own experience in a village of Madhya Pradesh is “Bhaiya, tame (time) ka hua hai?”
I am somehow convinced that a majority of communication is guided by our subconscious. We keep picking up words from different sources, keep storing them in the back of our heads, and keep drawing out and matching & mixing them according to our convenience. Sometimes people don’t even remember the original Hindi word and replace it with an English word or its phonetic distortion. For example, ‘Tame’ is a phonetic distortion of ‘Time’, which in turn was a substitute of Hindi word ‘Samay’. Quite similarly, ‘Ma’ and ‘Babuji’, common Hindi words For Mom and Dad, have been replaced by ‘Mummy’ and ‘Papa’; ‘Chachi’ and ‘chacha’ have been replaced byAunty and Uncle, and so on. It is just the reverse of the fact that so many Hindi words are now included in English dictionary.
Although, as is discussed above, many people chose to mix Hindi because they lack a command over English, Hinglish has come a long way. Today, Hinglish should not be understood as badly spoken English. In fact, it is today a deliberate choice of many from the post-colonial generations; it is often preferred by people, who are fluent in both the languages and know when to substitute an English word with a Hindi term, or vice versa.
Hinglish continues its exploration to add more and more words in the world dictionary and it is amazing to see its popularity grow daily, thanks to SMS’s, IM chats, mobile phones and emails. It is perhaps the most popular style of colloquial speech among the young Indians these days.It is also important to note here that Hinglish is not only becoming a staple of the Indian household, it is also spreading out of boundaries of the country, and can be heard in Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Maldives.
Hinglish in the Media
Until the 80’s everybody seemed disciplined about the fact that English and Hindi are distinct languages, which could not be intermixed. However, after a point, mixing seemed inevitable, and Hinglish evolved; and now its usage is most prevalent in media. To begin with, the most influenced area is copywriting for advertisements, which includes not only TV commercials but also print ads. Turn on your TV and you will see and hear lines like, “Hungry Kya?”, “Yeh dil mange more, aha!”, “Think hatke!” And, irrespective of their mother tongues, a large population of India connects with these lines.
In India’s major cities, you do not need to look far to see signs of the growing influence of Western culture and lifestyles. Here, Hinglish advertising has proven to be both amusing and effective in boosting the sales of goods and services. In villages, the advertisements are mostly hand painted on walls, wherein you can see Hinglish tag lines stenciled amidst the vibrantly colored artworks. Similarly, just taking a glance at the hoardings placed abruptly on trees, or on mud or brick walls, can give us an idea of the amount of Hinglish used in remote areas.
Back in the 80’s advertisements used to be conveyed in English and then just translated or dubbed in Hindi, almost as an afterthought. However, that method does not work for the vast majority of Indians who know only a bit of English. People may understand the thought but not connect with it, which is why most multinational companies and brands now use Hinglish in their ads. Pepsi’s global slogan “Ask for more” has been used in India with Hinglish flavor “Yeh dil mange more”; Coca-cola has a different Hinglish slogan for India “Life ho to aisi”; Domino’s Pizza, which offers Indian variations of pizza such as the Chicken-tikka pizza, asks its customers “Hungry Kya?”; and, McDonald’s current campaign is the jumbled construction, “What your bahana is?”
According to cultural observers, the turning point that made Hinglish hip was the introduction of cable television in the early 1990’s. New music channels like MTVand its Indian competitor Channel V originally provided only English music presented by foreign-born Indian video jockeys, who spoke only in English. Outside of metro cities, the response was not encouraging. Eventually, MTV, the oh-so-western of all music channels, had to include Bollywood music in its telecasts. The VJ’s on MTV India began to conduct shows in a flawless mix of Hindi and English, no doubt displaying the presenter’s fluency with the dialect.
Another factor in spreading Hinglish’s popularity around the world is Hindi cinema. Bollywood movies and the growing Indian expertise in IT have caused Hinglish to become more widely spoken outside the subcontinent. Bollywood has always embraced Hinglish and nowadays we seea greater number of songs in Hindi + English. When Kishore Kumar and Nutan quarreled like Tom and Jerry in the song, “C-a-t, cat mane billi, R-a-t, rat mane chooha,” in Dilli ka Thug (released in 1958) little did one know that in future Hinglish would become the order of the day. Songs like “item numbers” in movies use a lot of English aping in between Hindi words. It is like tadka (spicy garnishing used in almost all Indian cuisines) which makes the lyrics more relatable, enjoyable and memorable. We have so many films in which dialogues are not delivered in pure Hindi, but in Hinglish. This trend is even visible in film titles e.g. ‘Jab we Met’ or ‘Love Aaj Kal’.
By incorporating Hinglish in movies, filmmakers have been able to cultivate a lot of Indian audience living outside of India. So now, these movies are even more successful outside the subcontinent.
Even anchors of regional radio programs tend to use English words liberally; for example, “Good morning India, and welcome to aaj ki special story, jisme hum light daalenge on ….”
We come across Hinglish in possibly every walk of life. So much so that today on the lines of Namakhalaal’s dialogue, I could even say, “I can talk Hinglish, I can walk Hinglish, I can laugh Hinglish because Hinglish is an upcoming language!”
My grandfather used to say, “Angrez to chale gaye hai par hum abhi bhi unke dimagi ghulam hai. Na hum ghar ke reh gaye na hi ghat ke. Na to humey poori tarah se Hindi ki Knowledge hai, aur na hi hum English mein perfect hai.” He was probably right. For a long time English has been perceived as superior to Hindi, or to other regional Indian languages. This attitude prompted the young crowd to take up English classes so that they can communicate well, as well as appear hip to their peers. A good percentage of the population still feels that English bolne sehum “cool” aur civilized lagte hain. Many people (like my grandfather) could therefore think that perhaps we are still under a psychological subjugation of the East India Company!
However, I feel that the mixing of languages is an interesting idea. For me and many other young Indians, Hinglish is a way of countering subjugation creatively. We prefer convenience to nationalism. We can be ourselves, while also enjoy the advantage of knowing two languages. If not for this, how would Hinglish have proven itself indispensible to an entertainment industry catering to youngsters, and why would it have become so prevalent?
The whole idea of mixing languages is so fascinating that in the future there is a possibility that an altogether new grammar for Hinglish might have to be formalized. But, before that, it will be very creative of us to take this language to a different level from a ‘design’ sense. For example, I can make a film on aliens and give them a language which will be mix of all Indian languages with a little bit of Sanskrit and English in it, to sound like a weird (alien) language. It will take a lot of creativity to come up with such languages. A typographer could come up with an entire series of Hinglish typefaces to be used for creating logos, illustrations, campaigns, and so on.
To sum it up, I do not see Hinglish as a threat to either of its parent languages. Abhi to yeh shuruaat hai; you never know, one day it could even be included in India’s official languages. Iska future bright hai !
- Naqvi, Hena, Journalism and Mass Communication, Agra. (U.P.), Upkar Prakashan 2000, pg. 126
- Krishna, Uma. “Changing scenarios in advertisements” http://www.indiamba.com/articles_on_management/AOM38/aom38.html
- Mac Rae, Penny, “Hinglish heading towards world domination” October 26, 2004 http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1click_id=3&art_id=qw1098763201484B213&singlepage=1
- Radhakrishnan, Mahakakshmi, “Words of Indian Origin in the English Language” http://www.chillibreeze.com/articles/IndianContributionstotheOxfordDictionary.asp
- Indo Aryan Languages http://www.fact-index.com/i/in/indo_aryan_languages.html
- History of English http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_English_language
- Sharma, Abha, “English to Hinglish: The ‘correct’ usage keeps changing” http://www.deccanherald.com/contents/49041/english-hinglish-correct-usage-keeps.html
Digital Social Networking: Need or Nuisance?
Mriga Kothare, UG Diploma in Retail and Exhibition Design, 2006-continuing
Intrigued by the increasing popularity of Facebook and similar social networking websites, I wish to use this paper as an opportunity to study the culture of digital social networking — how it has emerged and developed into what we perceive of it today. In the process, I will articulate a few questions we should be asking ourselves.
These days “Hey, are you on Facebook?” seems to have become a more common form of greeting than “Hello, how are you?” Such is the power of social networking. It is amazing how digital social networks have completely changed our habits, becoming a must-visit web destination for all. In fact, if you find a friend not using any of the popular social networking services, it seems strange. This trend only seems to grow stronger!
People today cannot imagine living without digital social networking. It has become integral to our daily routines no matter where we are. Those of us, who do not get enough time to access their desktops often, use a mobile device to stay connected with their friends. What is even more interesting is that older people are using social networks as much as the younger population, something that was not very common a year or two ago.
People today cannot imagine living without digital social networking. It has become integral to our daily routines no matter where we are. Those of us, who do not get enough time to access their desktops often, use a mobile device to stay connected with their friends. What is even more interesting is that older people are using social networks as much as the younger population, something that was not very common a year or two ago.
So, what exactly is digital social networking? An enthusiast like me would say, “It is the way the 21stcentury communicates.” However, objectively speaking, a social network is a set of social connections that an individual forms. These connections take the form of groups like small rural communities or neighborhood subdivisions. The act of forming such a set of connections on the Internet can be called digital social networking. Although social networking does take place in the real world, especially in schools and workplaces, of late it is most active in the virtual sphere i.e. online. This is because unlike most schools, colleges, or workplaces, the internet is filled with millions of individuals who are looking to meet other people, to gather and share first-hand information and experiences relating to sports, movies, hobbies etc; for developing friendships or professional alliances; for finding employment; for business-to-business marketing etc. There are even groups and communities formed to share views and to express opinions about topics ranging from String Theory to String Bikinis. The topics are as varied and rich as our society and collective interests.
Online social networking takes place on websites facilitated with social networking services. These websites function like an online community of internet users. Depending on the common interests such as hobbies, religion, or politics, you can subscribe to a website. Once granted an access to the website, you can begin by creating a profile, then generating contacts and managing your own network of friends. You can find people you have lost touch with and would like to re-establish contact with. Each individual added on your network is called a ‘friend’. You have the choice of eliminating ‘friends’ that do not share common interests or goals with you; or you can exclusively search for ‘friends’ who have the same interests as you do, etc.
The act of online socializing may include reading the profile pages of ‘friends’ and possibly even contacting them. While there are a number of social networking websites that focus on particular interests, others do not. The websites without a particular focus are referred to as ‘traditional’ social networking websites and usually have open memberships. This means that anyone can become a member, no matter what their hobbies, beliefs, or views are. The popularity of these sites has grown multi-fold in the past years. So much so that every day , even after spending the whole day in school with friends, my sister still logs into a social networking website after school to catch up with ‘friends’. On such occasions, even I am tempted to ask, how much of social networking is actually a need and how much of it is an addiction or a forced need?
Let’s go to the beginning to understand if social networking to this extent is really need based. When the human race evolved, man formed communities to facilitate hunting and later on farming. As time elapsed, concepts of barter- trade and migration took shape and man started living in colonies. People communicated by meeting each other and sharing information through gestures and actions. Creation of languages made verbal communication possible. Eventually scripts were developed and people started to send messages in the form of symbols, hieroglyphics, and drawings. The development of the postal system, the railroads and the telegraph led to quicker transmission of written information. Then Alexander G. Bell and Thomas A. Watson invented the telephone, which made it possible to converse with people from miles away. This led to the invention of wireless mediums like the radio, cell phones and satellite communications. All throughout, the element of personal touch i.e. the human connect was diminishing bit by bit, but was still present in one form or the other since we continued to interact with people through our senses of speech, sight, sound, touch and smell.
After the invention of the internet, it was the obvious next step to extend human communication in the digital medium. Early email was just a small advancement on what we know these days as a file directory. It only facilitated putting a message in another user’s directory at a spot where they could view it when they logged in. It was just like leaving a note on someone’s desk. As simple as that! But as the Internet connected numerous systems on a mainframe, it became slightly more complicated; there were many more recipients as there were senders, and it became critical to identify who the ‘note’ was for, and who it was from. This led to the creation of personal addresses or electronic mail boxes of the sort name-of-the-user @ name-of-the-computer.
Communication soon took yet another leap. Electronic mail or email became more common. Now, through the internet it was possible to communicate between strangers over thousands of miles, with almost no time lapse. Newer and faster ways of communicating kept developing which allowed us to talk to people on the other side of the planet instantly and exchange all kinds of data. Thanks to social networking sites and web cams, it is almost like being there.
Just recently Facebook completed five successful years over the World Wide Web. Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg in February 2004, initially as an exclusive network for Harvard students to share work and exchange views and ideas. It was a viral success. In two weeks, most of the schools in the Boston area wanted a Facebook network. So Zuckerberg immediately recruited his friends Dustin Moskowitz and Chris Hughes to help build Facebook, and within four months, Facebook had added 30 more college networks. Today it is the largest social networking site with a whopping 400 million users.
Other similar sites were started for some specific purposes. For example, Orkut was founded by Orkut Büyükkökten with the sole purpose of networking with people to find his long lost girlfriend. Today it is the most popular social networking sites with more than 500 million users worldwide. (According to recent comScore surveys)
The response to social networking has been incredible, but at the same time, the pattern of its usage is becoming a concern. One wonders if the extent of usage of online social networking is truly reflective of our growing needs.
Perhaps in some ways, it is. As we get older, it becomes more difficult to make new friends. We move around and carry our lives with us, and in our respective journeys, we end up losing contact with (or even losing) old friends. Phone numbers change, addresses change, and it is not always easy to keep in touch. The social networking service provides us the option of effortlessly keeping close all those with whom we would otherwise lose touch, either due to geographical distance or simply because of the lack of time.
So, when a close cousin moves to Canada and you can’t wait to see pictures of her new house, or even share your latest news with her, you make use of a service like Facebook. Or, you use it when you want to share your work with friends and get suggestions and feedback on it instantaneously. Or, when you remember a friend you had made a couple of years ago, and want to re-connect. The usage is well justified when you want to be updated on what your close friends/ ‘friends’ are up to these days when you move to another city, or to let them know how you’re getting along in your new place. But, when does one realize that it’s no longer a matter of convenience, but a matter of addiction? Where does one draw the line? How does one even first define the fine line between need and addiction?
I will use my own example as a case in point. I have been living alone for the last eight months since my roommate left college. When she was leaving, apart from going through the usual stream of emotions, I was also feeling excited about the prospect of having the whole room all to myself; of having all the privacy, freedom and space that I could ask for. However, as liberating as the idea initially seemed, when I was eventually solitary in my coveted single-occupancy room, I began to spend more time on my laptop; more precisely on the social networking website Facebook —chatting, playing games and searching for countless other applications that would keep me engaged. Since then, I have become so hooked on to Facebook that I have stopped visiting my friends living in adjacent rooms and talking to them in real. In a scenario like mine, an online social networking service no longer only caters to the need it was originally designed for, but has become a time-killing activity or “nuisance”, as an elder would term it.
The same is probably also true for other people too. The usage of social networking sites has gone to the extent that we rarely login to have a meaningful interaction/ communication, but to just while away time. Many offices and institutions have had to block the social networking websites on their local servers to ensure that employees do not waste time on them.But, besides just encouraging non-productivity, social networking sites seem to have opened the floodgates for a wide variety of issues relating to privacy of identity and content. We have people putting out their photos, personal information, and their latest thoughts and experiences on their profiles for the whole world to see. Even though it is made possible to limit the viewers only to your ‘friends’, you can’t really ensure full privacy since Internet hackers, a common occurrence in the digital age, can reach anywhere.
When we interact with people face to face, we gauge their voice, gestures, personality and other traits, which cannot be gauged very accurately over the Internet. When we meet new people online, we have no way of ascertaining their authenticity. The Internet is like a window with a curtain, connecting you with the outside world, but never really fully revealing what lies beyond.Digital social networking has also allowed the internet to teem with the so called ‘predators’, who as the term suggests, are on the lookout for bait to engage in sexual acts, financial frauds, online or physical stalking, identity theft and blackmail. Through fake profiles, they lead other users into believing/ trusting them.
The movie Surrogates, starring Bruce Willis, portrays in the near future, a high-tech surrogate phenomenon that allows people to purchase unflawed robotic versions of themselves — physically appealing remote-controlled machines that ultimately assume their life roles — enabling people to experience life vicariously from the comfort and safety of their own homes.
This also relates to the Internet phenomenon, where you could casually meet a charming, attractive bionic man in the street that could very easily be a twisted rapist beneath the surface.While social norms are being re-written on these sites, the very meaning of the word ‘friend’ is also undergoing complete makeover. Friends have shrunk to the size of wall posts. We may have 849 friends in our friend list, but how many do we really have in the true sense of the word? It seems like when we try to become friends with everyone, we forget how to be real friends with anyone.
Before the online social networking caught up, people used to call up or even drop in at friends’ places unannounced, which indicated warmth in relationships. No one questioned or objected to the fact that you just ring the bell at a friend’s place without a prior notice. You were always welcome. Now, we feel the need to call in and check if it is ok to go over. We need to take an appointment to meet our own friends. What we now call social etiquettes has come at the price of loss of the warmth and exuberance of relationships.
Which brings us to the question, how real are friendships on the Internet anyway? People often express that digital social networking has helped them get in touch with acquaintances of the past. But, people who mean something in your life and are important to you will never get left in the past. You will make all the effort to keep in touch with them. Today, when we log in to our accounts, we check who is online and see a list of people we do not even really want to talk to. I sometimes wonder if social networking websites are making us more social or less social than before.
While it is true that the Internet is a boon to humankind, it also has a flip side. As easy as it has made communication in today’s time, it has also brought in a completely new set of problems. It has made us so dependent that now we literally cannot do without the internet. It may seem veryappealing that today everything we need is available to us (including our friends or ‘friends’) right on our desks, but is this also not cultivating a habit of laziness?
What seems harmless and enticing now can very well turn against us in the times ahead. And, it would be interesting to imagine the turn of events in the next couple of decades. We are in the transition phase where new technology is being created almost daily and we are still unsure of what more can happen.
At the time of writing this paper, there was a worldwide uproar about Facebook passing on its subscribers’ information to marketing agencies. In the past also there have been many concerns raised over the rights of privacy of personal content on social networking websites. If these responses and concerns are to be read as signals, they demonstrate that people are beginning to understand the limitations and fallacies of the existing online social networks. Therefore, they are either demanding to alter the terms and conditions of these services, or choosing to drop from the friends’ lists, or even opting to entirely discontinue the use of these services.
Those who have gone the latter track are taking time off to reconnect with their surroundings, their relatives and friends, and most importantly themselves. The concept of ‘digital cleansing’ is catching up. Digital cleansing entails disconnecting from all digital contraptions — no emailing, no texting, no blogging, no social networking, for a week. This is being looked at as a new way of keeping the mind and body healthy; the basic idea here is to unplug and actually meet people. May be all is not lost!
Interaction in Design :
Saloni Sabnis, Undergraduate Diploma in Graphic Design, 2006-continuing
Interaction Design Vs. Interaction in design
The terms Interaction Design and Interaction have gradually become immensely popular in the last three decades. Both are used interchangeably to imply activities relating to the design of devices and applications for engaging people with information in the real as well as virtual environments. However, they are not synonymous.
The name Interaction Design is generally used to denote a field of study or practice dealing with the design of ‘technology-aided’ interactions between people, products and services. These interactions essentially consist of accessing and exchanging information via electronically or digitally programmed tangible interfaces, such as websites, CD-ROMs, touch-sensitive screens etc. The devices or media on which these interfaces are created or accessed is collectively called New Media.
Interaction, on the other hand, is the very concept or intent, which informs and backs Interaction Design. In fact, Interaction can be any activity that promises to engage people and mediate their relationships. According to Nathan Sherdoff, a pioneer in the field of Interaction and Experience Design, conversations, sports, games, storytelling etc have been the most sustained examples of human interactions. (i)
So, whereas Interaction Design may seem to give a lot of importance to the interface and the information mapped therein, Interaction basically focuses on “social action instead of the representation and transmission of information.” (Hornecker, Eva, 2009)
The so-called traditional media have provided the means to ‘publish’ to a large audience, for them to hear, watch and read. There is an established, more-or-less passive way of engagement with the published work after it has been delivered to you. For example, reading newspapers involves you holding a set of printed papers and glancing at them. Newspapers would fall into the first category of not interactive things outlined by Sherdoff. Newspapers are not interactive until the time when you start circling the classifieds, which may be important to you, thereby customizing that paper for yourself. You could now be seen as interacting with the newspaper. Your response to the classified has led to some sort of extended engagement beyond just reading. It has made the newspaper more meaningful to you than being just a storehouse of general information. It has probably even made your life easier. Your extended engagement has also added recall to the ads placed in the classifieds, as well as made it easy to access the ads in case you wanted to comeback to them later. In the absence of this sort of interaction, you would have to exert your eyes once again if you needed to rescan the rows and columns of ads.
Even though traditional media is viewed to provide limited scope for interaction, a few designers have succeeded in achieving extended engagement with traditional media. Take for example the interactive ‘Dirt Poster’ made by the Brooklyn based designer, Reiner Tiangco
It is a poster coated on one side with a greasy substance over spot varnished text. The audience is required to physically rub the substance on the varnished text, messing up their hands, to rewardingly reveal the message “The future belongs to those of us who are still willing to gettheir hands dirty.” Or consider the memorable book cover by Stefan Sagmeister for his book ‘Sagmeister: Made You Look’, in which removing the book from a book cover involves the transformation of a docile Alsatian dog into a ferocious looking
Moving to the third dimension, there is the Y Water packaging by Yves Behar of Fuseproject, which increases the afterlife of the packaging with its simple interaction. After consuming the water, the tetrapod bottle can be used as a toy. Connecting several of the individual symmetric forms together makes a variety of more complex forms, and encourages the children to play with it. This not only helps create a meaningful connect with the target group of children and their parents, but also serves as a more sustainable for of packaging.
These examples help us counter the popular belief that interactivity is media specific; they show that possibly all media can be made interactive to different extents. We only need to carefully review the scope for interactivity in each medium.
With the advancement of technology, we can now bank, publish, create, consume, and share via computers. But as our operations are increasingly going digital in our daily lives, they have left us dry and disconnected from the real world without all the richness of the social and physical interactions that we as humans have always participated in. We must ensure that our designs are tailored to accommodate this human nature, and not restrict it; that they employ the senses, engage the user, emotionally appeal, physically interact with, and include the mind, body and soul. Why have we assumed that reducing the effort (and with it, the interaction) is successful design? Man was created to use his mind and body. The more we try to reduce effort, which we perceive as ‘labor’, the more the chances of us moving away from this real nature of man. These interactions make our experiences multi sensorial, holistic and richer.
However, that is not to say that non-interactive products and services cannot be rich. In content, they can, but interactions make for richer experiences. As Sherdoff aptly states, “the competition for interactive media products is as big as all of human experience. In other words, competitors for a CD-ROM on tropical fish are not other tropical fish CD-ROMs or even laser discs, but television documentaries, narrative and reference books, aquariums, scuba diving, travel, etc.”
Interaction facilitates experience. Experiences create memories and facilitate learning. Therefore, if a designed experience isn’t rich enough, it’s not going to have too many takers. Conversely, a rich experience can be the winning factor for any design – be it a product or service. For example, Apple caters to an experience that transcends all their products and services, and the consumer is left with a consistent user centered experience. The way we interact with Apple products is what makes them stand out from the rest of the pack. Whether it is laptops, phones, music players or music software, they all fit into and complement each other giving the user aseamless experience throughout the range. The designers at the design firm Substance (http://www.substance-design.com/) further explain that the consumers don’t really know or care about the complexity or efforts behind a certain product or service. The challenge, hence, lies in making the complex technology on the back end appear simple on the front end.
It is important to note that what makes us relate to an experience more is when we are participating in it. No longer are we mere spectators but we have become creators, co-authors to the experience. Little wonder then that leading design thinker Don Norman stresses on “co-development, co-creation, and co-ownership.” “In today’s world, we all produce, we all share, we all enjoy. “This is the age of creativity, where everyone can participate.” (iii)
The whole ‘Web 2.0′ phenomenon is nothing but a subscription to this train of thought, where “everyone can participate”. Whether it is your media, your social networking sites, your laptop or your Harley, you get to participate, just like you would with your home. You can personalize it, add to it, and hence end up feeling a sense of belonging with it. Channel-4 in the UK has a play-on-demand facility, and VH1 has also followed suit with ‘My playlist’. This was the ‘2.0’ approach for a medium like the television, to review the interactivity in a purely unidirectional medium.
Avenues for interaction :
It has been empirically tested that meaningful experiences create stronger and longer lasting memories than any passive information input. Therefore, apart from generating new experiences, it is essential that interactions are also meaningful. If there is no meaning, the interaction will not serve any purpose.
I have three remote controls at home, one for the TV, one for the DVD player, and the third for my set top box. I interact with all three of them in almost exactly the same way for similar kindsof functions. But the experience I have with either is not unique — it is repetitive (button pushing for any function) and disconnected (I need not even look at which button I am pushing). These interactions don’t provide anything beyond the mundane or anything meaningful to me, and therefore I derive no pleasure out of them. Pushing or clicking buttons may facilitate control, but not interactivity.
On the other hand, a flight simulator game, even though governed by the same clicks of buttons, actually creates a multi sensorial environment simulating a real time situation of flying a plane. So while I only click away monotonously on a TV remote control, I come out exhilarated from virtual reality games. This happens because the latter makes possible a multi-sensorial experience. Meaningfulness of interaction is embedded within such experiences.
However, there is also a flip side to devices that promise multi-sensorial interaction. The drawback is that often we end up spending more time figuring out the interface, and not enough on the actual interaction. (Thus, there lies an opportunity with the designer to simplify the interactions as much as possible.)
Also, today, when we are being bombarded with information throughout the day, Interactions can help protect against the information overload and the anxiety attached to it. Interactions can help ‘externalize’ as much information as possible to ease the load from the users’ minds, as in the case of the newspaper classifieds.
An interactive installation called the Eyewitness Interactive Table exhibit is one such example. It is an exhibit of the personal experiences of survivors, activists and perpetrators from the genocides of Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur. When visitors touch the accounts that moved them, they are given further details, stories and evidences to support the story being told. Therefore, with all this information, the designers came up with the idea of bookmarking information in theexhibition, just as one would do it on a website. Visitors can bookmark stories and profiles from the exhibit interested them. Later, they can use an access code to retrieve this saved content online at their convenience.
Interactions can also be directed towards addressing the needs of an individual. It is very comforting and exciting if experiences can be personalized for individual visitors. The Nike store in Kyushu, Japan, tried to target this very insight, and created the ‘NikeID.Generator’ which is basically an interactive program that shoots the customer, extracts the colors from his/her clothes, and uses it as a color palette applied to one-of-a-kind designed shoes, stickers and wallpapers, all in real time. Not only did the footfall increase drastically, but 95% of the approximated 18,000 people, left the store carrying their original stickers. It was this personalization of the experience that reached out to the customers. The designer on the project, Shunsuke Kakinami, went on to say, “It reconfirmed our conviction that what we should be creating from now on are experiences and not ads.” This also exemplifies the latest buzz in the brand circuit — brands must now be ‘experienced’.
While interactions may be enabled by a variety of techniques, technologies, and through a variety of media, their ability to serve purposes that may have not been explored otherwise, is interesting to note as well as important to encourage. There are interactions constructed to converse with and guide the user: imagine a world where none of our products and services would need instruction manuals. Just as people communicate through non-verbal gestures and body language, what if our products mimicked non-verbal communication to further reduce the instruction required for their use? Then there are interactions that may increase the social interactions that are becoming rarer by the day. Humans are inherently social beings, and so it is necessary that we develop products and services with interactions that support this basic nature. Factors like proximity, common situations and interests, etc cause, influence and generate social interactions. The success of social networking websites rests on this insight. MTV India started aticker service to allow people to SMS their comments/opinions on certain topics, and thus, increased viewer participation.
Often, interactivity may be used to create a functionality that might not be possible in reality, like, what if you could test a tattoo. Body Collective is an interactive installation at the Portland Art Museum hosting the ‘Art of the Tattoo’ exhibition where visitors can see themselves with a detailed artwork oftheir likeness on their bodies, and this image is recorded.
Interactions can also provide interesting ways to increase the emotional/pleasurable/play value of a product/service. For example, Remo Saraceni’s simple but genius invention that was used to change peoples’ attitude about choosing the stairs over escalators. The steps were converted into piano keys that played notes when people walked over them. Interestingly, 66% people took tothe stairs, and had fun doing it!
Helping greatly to improve cognition, interactions provide external representations and interfaces that reduce memory load and facilitate offloading. The concept of shared calendars, for example, allows people to maintain a personal calendar and make it open to contributions by the public at the same time, thereby reducing the responsibility to manage and remember all of one’s engagements, and allowing communication between the concerned parties. Then there are interactions that mimic those that are pleasurable in the real-world scenario to present it in more accessible and innovative ways. A great example of this is the Nintendo Wii, a home video game console. It is played with a wireless controller, the Wii Remote, which detects movement along all three dimensions. It has gained mass-popularity in the gaming community because of the full body gestures that it permits, making the experience of racquet games or golf even closer to reality.
Responses to Interaction :
Since interactivity is all about the user, what are the ways in which we can predict people’s reactions to certain interactions? Recent research suggests that the aesthetics of the interface (not necessarily a digital one) can have a positive effect on the people’s perception of the system’s usability. (iv) (Tractinsky, 1997) Expressive forms like emoticons, sound, icons, etc also elicit certain kinds of emotional responses from users. To further predict the way people will respond, there are methods like realism or abstraction and ‘anthropomorphism’ or the propensity people have to attribute human qualities to objects. (v) Anthropomorphism can have a side effect of leading people to expect that a system has human levels of intelligence, which may disappoint them at some level of interaction, or in an interaction where there isn’t sufficient time to establish the credibility of the humanness of the interaction, it might result in a degree of disconnect. Thisis often noticed while interacting with personal computers. People are so used to the error messages ‘speaking to them’, that when any unfamiliar technical error appears, and they cannot understand it, they find it frustrating.
The benefit of borrowing from the real-world scenario, however, is that it is much easier to define interactions that allow people to be at ease without intimidating them, and tap into people’s pre-existing knowledge of the functioning of their world. It also becomes easier for designers to predict the mental models and user expectations by studying the way they do certain required tasks normally. A technologically advanced example of this realism is Xbox’s Milo Interactive.
The character Milo is designed to interact exactly like a human being. It has been programmed to evoke human responses of the most instinctive kinds. Taking these interactions beyond the obvious requires some learning by the people, but also pleasantly surprises them when they do so. Here designers have been able to create a completely new form of communication based on a general understanding of affordances and user behavior. (However, such kinds of experiments or projects usually require a steep learning curve on the part of the user.)
Brands, museums, libraries, gaming, art, products, exhibitions — you name it, and interactions have found their importance. Interactivity, in a world where everything is moving around the user, becomes the important bridge that connects products and services to the user. While the role of interactions in aiding specific cognitive functions is still being explored, it is amply evident that interactions have much to contribute to shaping the way we will live in the future. They make design humane, personal, value generating, inviting, playful, emotionally connecting, engaging and memorable. For these reasons, Interaction is set to be the next step forward in the world of Design.
(i) Sherdoff, Nathan, What Is Interactivity Anyway? (Source: http://nathan.com/thoughts/index.html)
(ii) Same as 1
(iii) Norman, Don, The Transmedia Design Challenge: Technology that is Pleasurable and Satisfying, http://interactiondesign.org
(iv) Tractinsky, Noam: Aesthetics and Apparent Usability, http://www.ise.bgu.ac.il/faculty/noam/research/aesthetics.html
(v) Same as above
Other References: Hornecker, Eva (2009). Tangible Interaction, Source: Design.org: