Blog Post

Screen-Free Computers

    I am using the customary screen with keyboard as I write this on my laptop, but I am arguing for a different kind of computer technology than we have now.
    That is the paradigm I am calling the screen-light “Intranet of Things” for an Ecological Age, as opposed to the screen-heavy and commercial Internet of Things that characterizes our Information Age.  This new technology paradigm would feature a focus on screen-free technology and peer-to-peer local intranets that can connect to one another as a vast worldwide set of connected servers full of data that is automatically encrypted: shared only when the users specifically consent.
    The concrete design principle I will focus on in this post is freedom from screens.  Fewer screens means augmenting our focus on local surroundings—natural, social, and artificial.  This principle encourages true curiosity, socializing, and craft, from knowing more intuitively how our high technology would work, rather than relying on the seas of invisible expertise that screens encourage.  The advantage of a screen is encouragement of efficient, sometimes non-text, visual abstraction of data and ideas, as in data visualizations or even pictures.  However, for most people this advantage is outweighed by the voyeurism, and lack of transparency and privacy in social media business practices, as we see with Facebook and Twitter personalized ads—for things we didn’t know we wanted—and political scandals.
    The screen-free technology I am talking about already exists.  We need a societal design effort to bring more freedom from screens into reality.  The smart pen allows the user to write on paper, while software digitizes and transcribes the writing into the cloud.  Smart pens, for example, are a niche product, but one possibility for focusing the writer on creativity and sharing the writing itself, rather than on, say, transcription or the desperate self-promotion of Twitter.

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