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The web just became more physical

Apple's Lion Operating System is the shape (or feel) of things to come...

Multi-touch gesture on the Apple desktop

Apple are making a big deal out of the multi-touch gestures that allow you to manipulate the interface in their new desktop OS (Lion)  released this week. Lessons they’ve learnt from the iPad are rapidly impacting their other devices and software. Something Microsoft has perhaps been a bit slow doing following the success of their Xbox Kinect. Still I suspect it won’t be too much longer before a motion sensor approach to interaction is established for the desktop.

All these steps towards more ‘natural’, less mediated, methods of control and experience got me thinking. How do we develop this physicality further? Can we capture taste, weight and texture in the digital environment?

Clearly these things are physically impossible on the simple web pages or App. But that never stopped novelists or musicians striving in other mediums that seemingly didn’t lend themselves to the physical. In many ways the more abstract one is forced to be in creating these things, because of a lack of practical concreteness, the more effective and emotionally resonant something can become.

Poetry is perhaps the best example of a seemingly simple medium that can carry the heaviest weight of texture and tone:

They unswaddled the wet fern of her hair
And made an exhibition of its coil,
Let the air at her leathery beauty.
Pash of tallow, perishable treasure:
Her broken nose is dark as a turf clod,
Her eyeholes blank as pools in the old workings.

(Excerpt from Strange Fruit by Seamus Heaney)

As the web changes and becomes a more fluid experience – moving from the old pageview-to-pageview approach, to a richer more dynamic set of interactions across multiple devices – surely there is the opportunity for the evocation of physical experiences.

Perhaps we may even find a little poetry and emotional connectedness in even the harshest, commercially driven websites?

Now that would be a ‘user experience’.

By richardsedley

Richard Sedley, the Smart Insights Expert commentator on Customer Engagement is Commercial Director at Foviance and Course Director in Social Media for the Chartered Institute of Marketing. Richard's Twitter is @richardsedley.

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