MF Art vs. technology

From: Magnus Berg (
Date: Mon Jan 03 2000 - 21:48:51 GMT

Hi Squad

This month's topic reminds me of an incident during a very short career as
a computer salesman/technician. The career was cut short due to the fact that
I'm too honest to be a salesman.

Anyway, one day we came to talk about a lousy piece of equipment, I think it was
one of those running-light-signs that was quite popular at the time. He had
asked me to change the text advertising a new sound card or whatever. Now, the
interface I had to work with to do this was horrifying. It was the most misplaced
and illogically named buttons I had ever seen. I'm well aware that different people
have different ideas of how user interfaces should be designed, but this was really
out of this world! Trust me on this.

After a while, I got really worked up and he asked me why I bothered. He thought
it wasn't much worse than most other gadgets he'd been working with. I remember
answering him something like:

- But technology is supposed to be beautiful!

He just looked at me for a while and shook his head.

A few weeks later, it seemed like he'd thought some more about it and actually
confirmed my standpoint. I don't know what he'd done or seen. I didn't even think
about it much, I remember I had almost changed my mind about it but he got me
thinking about it once more. This was some time before I got into philosophy so I
didn't have the MoQ or anything else to reason within.

Today, two opposing examples are the operating systems Windows and Linux. Maybe
I'd better refrain from calling Linux "art", but if you compare the two, Linux
is much more beautiful and close to being art than Windows will ever be. There
are other examples of the Linux flavor, Maggie and I talked about the Amiga more
than a year ago, did Diana say Mac?, but Linux is the most visible at the

The funny thing is, I don't think many Microsoft fans would object to this. I'm
no doubt generalizing, but the general Microsoft fan is not into art. He/She doesn't
think a computer operating system should have anything to do with art. Whereas
advocates of Linux etc. generally think it definitely should. The Microsoft way of
doing things is:

"Hey, this new program can do A, B, C, D, E, ..., Z"

The Windows fan says, "Wow" * 26.

The Linux guy says, "Why can't it do A2?", and shows how the same things, and then
some, can be done using an old beautiful Linux program and an inspiring (read
Dynamic) hour of fun hacking.

Pirsig already covered much of this ground in ZMM, it's the hip vs. square argument
all over again. So let's look at it through the MoQ glasses.

"Seen in the light of MOQ, why are art and technology divorced?"

I don't think it's more complicated than a good'ole'fashioned social-intellectual
struggle. Or to put it blunt, Micro$oft vs. Linux which is freeware.

When the main goal is $, Windows emerges. But when the main goal is to create a
good operating system, Linux is the result. Again, this might not be called art,
but since the intellectual level is more Dynamic than the social, it's closer to art.

"What is their role today?"
I bet there are thousands of more examples, but this is the one I thought of first.

"Is this divorce definitive?"
In the sense that technology is supposed to be reliable, i.e. static to some extent,
I think it's quite definite. It has strong similarities to the SQ/DQ division. On the
other hand, technology without any trace of DQ will be quite short-"lived", and I think
this is crucial. Good technology should take on a *life* of its own, and that's what
Linux is trying to do.

        Magnus -

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