Why “ghost”?

So what’s the meaning of the title, Ghost in the Pixel? It’s quite simply a riff on the richly profound and stylish anime flick Ghost in the Shell, elements of which inspired and are mimicked in one of my all-time favorite films, The Matrix.

(I think both should be required viewing for all interaction designers as they concern issues of identity, control, choice, image vs. reality, trust in systems, man-machine interfaces, and their threats to humanity)

As suggested in the anime film, the concept of ghost here refers to some vague, yet significant sentient consciousness or perhaps “soul” that serves as the animating and emotional force behind the dead and lifeless artificial matter, whether cyborg bodies or Flash-based website. Pixels on the screen are merely abstract blips of light via human optical perception, but imbued with a sense of context, purpose, behavior and emotion, they can take on an added richness that hopefully adds value to the human engagement with digital media, from cell phones to websites to car dashboards to bank ATM’s or self-service checkouts. That value can be described in terms of usability, utility, desirability, and commercial viability, as well as technical feasability. Much more on this later!

This blog aims to dig deeper into those “ghosts” that animate the pixels on-screen (as well as atoms in the real world, for physical things), those issues of human experience and philosophy that can guide designers effectively in solving mundane practical problems, and thus avoid getting lost in the immediately obvious haze of electronic artificiality. What are the key questions to ask? What are the critical issues for users beyond achieving tactical efficiencies?

But please don’t get hung up on “ghost” as a term too much :-) It’s simply an evocative metaphor that’s a fun and memorable way of digging into abstract issues. Plus, nothing paranormal or spooky here!

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