We sit. We think. We read email. We type notes and replies (but rarely, if ever, reply to all). We delete.
Soon, scientist-inventors tell us, the 100 million Americans who regularly eye screens and finger keyboards may not only dispense with the never-ending in-box struggle but also with the hardware that allows us to respond. That is, the mouse.
In a sense, our touch-smart phones already do that. As does Kinect software from our buddies in Washington State as it recognizes our movements. In a few years (or months, given the light speed of tech innovation), we’ll completely delete both the stand-alone and built-in PC/Mac mice. Instead, gestures will communicate our meanings and our responses over the screens.
The question is: How will arm and leg and head movements convey the sometimes subtle notions we’re trying to demonstrate? Will sarcasm, for instance, be shown as a facial tic? The oh-so-diplomatic replies, delivered with a straight no-nonsense face and little movement? Broad humor, for sure, might be a grimace and slap on the knees; a heartfelt sentiment could be captured with a simple hand over heart. Quite frankly, we don’t welcome those changes
On the other hand, AOL, the originator of “you’ve got mail,” has developed an amazingly simple (and visual) email system that we’re ready to adopt … like now. Folders are shown pictorially as rows of picture tiles, on the right hand side; recipients can customize them as needed. The left is reserved for a stream of incoming mail, automatically sorted into those tiles (or stacks); the middle, filled with icons for all the operations of email (respond, reply, new email et al.). Alto from AOL is now in beta; for those of us who live in visual worlds, whether designers or marketers or communicators, it’s a true gift.
Have we answered the implied question in our headline? To us, it’s “sometimes.”