Screensaver Culture – Twitter responds

Jan 17, 2012 | AHO, Theory, Workshops

After posting my Screensaver Culture presentation yesterday it was blogged on Creative Applications by Greg Smith and I’ve gotten quite a few responses on Twitter. Some of the comments are on point and some are just funny.

Below is a more or less complete list. In summary, the arguments are roughly as follows:

  • “Screensavers are outdated / unnecessary.” Well, yes. But that has never meant much in terms of deciding whether a cultural phenomenom succeeds or is banished to the Wasteland of Forgotten Memes. Tamagotchis or animated GIFs, anyone? 90% of all iPhone / Android apps are unnecessary for everyday living, yet the smartphone app culture is a runaway train.
  • “Developing screensavers is currently way too hard.” I share this sentiment and suspect it to the main culprit along with its corollary: “Installing screensavers is too hard / scary / likely to mess with the rest of my computer.”
  • “It’s impossible to improve on flying toasters.” This terrifying thought is exactly why I would suggest screensavers need revisiting.

In conclusion: Between being tricky to develop and just as tricky to install and successfully use, screensavers stand no chance of recovering ground as a cultural phenomenom. Despite their close link to the app culture that is currently dominating our lives, screensavers (aka “ambient software”) will get no love.

This might not seem like such a terrible loss, but I still posit that ambient data gadgets with possible integration to web / mobile apps would’ve been a great usage scenario. There are some ways this could still happen:

  • Microsoft and Apple realize the lost potential and relaunch their screensaver frameworks complete with app stores for screensavers. (Unlikely.)
  • Google develops a screensaver mode for Chrome as part of their Chrome apps initiative and allows sales of screensavers through the Chrome app store. (Entirely possible if a little optimistic. My favorite option by far, though. Google, are you listening?)
  • In both these scenarios, new screensavers would be based on HTML5 with WebGL, allowing them to be cross-platform and based on open standards. Because you all understand that proprietary is stupid, right?

A sad footnote: I had to uninstall the brilliant Briblo screensaver after realizing it was interfering with the taskbar on Windows 7. So I’m back to the ever popular blank screen, like so much of the world population.

The Tweets

Continued…

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Screensaver culture

Jan 16, 2012 | AHO, Processing / Java, Theory, Workshops

Update: After this was posted it got blogged on Creative Applications and I’ve received quite a few responses via Twitter. See the separate post “Screensaver Culture – Twitter responds” for a summary, as well as some further thoughts on the demise of the screensaver.

Task: Make a screensaver for 2012
  • Your task is to come up with a concept for a screensaver that is both suitable to the screensaver format and updated to a 2012 understanding of interaction design. We are looking for ideas that go beyond the traditional screensaver format, or which reinvent that format by applying design thinking to a field full of visual cliche.
  • Two general directions are suggested (but not required):
    1. Ambient data gadgets – screensavers as data aggregators and visualizers.
    2. Computational graphics – parametric visuals.
  • If your idea is too ambitious to realize in a 3-day time frame we want to see convincing screen mockups of how the screensaver would work. But we would rather see a real demo that’s rough around the edges than a slick Photoshop sketch. You must submit at least one Processing sketch illustrating part of your screensaver’s functionality.
Screensaver Links

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