Summary/Reaction to Article "Good Touch, Bad Touch"

January 2, 2012
By Sarah Barnett BRONZE, Hartland, Wisconsin
Sarah Barnett BRONZE, Hartland, Wisconsin
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

No identity. None. A blank slate. If a button could laugh at a touch screen, it would. The button is the old kid on the street, bullying the innocent touch screen who doesn’t fit in. Perfected in the iPhone by Steve Jobs, the touch screen accompanies one button, and provides thousands. It has no identity. And the opinions of this mystical piece of technology push more than one button.

In the article "Good Touch, Bad Touch," the author Erik Sofge, provides an interesting twist on the utility of the touch screen and its unnecessarily overwhelming presence in today’s technology. He views the touch screen as an incredible invention, yet he says, “Its broader influence throughout the world of consumer electronics has been a minor disaster.” He continues by supporting his view of the touch screen by stating that the new touch screen “[iPod] Nano has devolved.” Its screen, he says, inhibits users from simply pushing the pause button. Instead, the user must see the screen, unlock it, and locate the correct area to touch. This once simple task now needs a manual. Sofge goes on to say touch screens have merged into a bad territory: cars. It's difficult to focus on anything in a car while driving, and touch screens are one of the worst road distractions. No longer can a finger fumble over buttons and find the right one. Instead, the user must take his or her eyes off the road to fix a GPS route or change the music. The touch screen, advanced and mysterious, has been added to phones, computers, cars, and even grocery stores. As Sofge suggests, the touch screen has become "an interface for everything, and a master of none."

The touch screen has evolved into a fascinating piece of technology, but has it gone too far? What was wrong with the scrolling wheel on the original iPod? Nothing. It was perfect. Sofge states, "It was a marvel of one-handed efficiency, allowing for rapid scrolling" as well as navigation of playlists and songs from inside a pocket. But inevitably something more advanced would take its place: the touch screen. The power of a finger never did so much. The simple swiping motion and well-calibrated finger accuracy hypnotized users. The iPhone and iPod were simple, yet incredible and plain yet bold. The touch screen let a user hold a world of possibility in a single hand. An iPod was originally created for music. Now surfing the web, playing music and exploring apps are all within a finger's touch. What's so bad about the touch screen?

Sofge states simply, "To put a touch screen on a Nano presumes that a touch screen can be a universal interface, and that all devices aspire to do all things." Multitasking technology is convenient, but not every object must serve more than one function. The simplistic complexity of the touch screen draws users in to its endlessness. But Sofge disputes this idea with affordance; the touch screen does not provide a user with any help when trying to figure out how it works. For example, "A doorknob affords turning. The button on a car stereo affords pushing. A touch screen affords nothing." This lack of intuitive action foils a frantic user trying to push the right section of the touch screen on the GPS without looking at it or feeling it.

Yes, the touch screen has its perks and its faults. It has allowed for the many functions of a computer to be simplified and placed into a hand. But, it has also led to technology that is much more confusing and abstract than its predecessors. Who is to say if the touch screen pushed the right button?

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