I took this photo in a Pennsylvania Information Center this summer. It gave me a chuckle, because it seemed like a great indicator that our relationship to screens is undergoing a change, but that we’re not fully there yet. Touch screens started out as a feature of smartphones, then were incorporated into tablets–now they are starting to be seen as a feature of large screens, at least often enough so that a sign was deemed necessary to stop people from trying to operate the screen through touch.
I know that I often have to stop myself from touching my laptop screen: I have to notice what I’m doing, pause, and then remind myself it’s not a touch screen. Last month our kids (ages 12 and 10) were confused, when they encountered a large screen TV in a hotel, about whether or not it was a touch screen. In this case, the screen was operated by touch, but they, too, were unsure and stopped to verify that it was okay to touch it.
I believe that the ambiguity in these small encounters is a characteristic of periods of rapid technological change. And I suspect that, over time, this can become stressful, especially for people who are more uncomfortable with ambiguity.
I would love to hear about your experiences with the situation that I’ve described, or with any other ambiguities created by rapid change. Have you come across other examples of paradigm confusion?