J.D. Welch - User Experience Design

OK, Cancel

Perry Hoberman does bad UI right

eula series / because you can multi/new/media artist Perry Hoberman just closed a show of new work, titled accept, at postmasters in chelsea. hoberman is "one of the pioneers of new media art, having addressed the form, content, and social implications of media technology for over twenty years 1" "with a variety of technologies, ranging from utterly obsolete to seasonably state-of-the-art2" in this show, hoberman satirizes spam, intellectual property and the tyranny of the "ok/cancel" dialog box.

regretfully, i heard about this show the evening that it closed, so i was unable to see the work personally, however the three series i'd like to discuss are digital prints, so the online counterpart to accept should do them justice.

in the series my life in spam, hoberman has transformed voluminous amounts of spam into densely layered digital collages, screenshots of hundreds of messages translucently layered over one another, revealing, as in my life in spam (one week: december 8-14, 2002), the usual "enter here","samples","free tour" and "penis." the blurred, largely unrecognizable text reflects most people's response to spam at this point: a smear of useless crap, however in this case transformed into something aesthetic and delicately beautiful.

ok/cancel is another series of digital prints which in this case focus on the paradigm of the tyrannical no-choice-is-a-good-one dialog box. hoberman recreates these familiar user interface elements for several operating systems, with (apparently) legitimate GUI toolkits, placing the boxes on stock vendor-supplied background, so the sense of realism juxtaposes nicely with dialog like

Click OK to agree to something you don't really understand


[title]It's all your fault
How can any of this be my fault? I'm nothing but a machine.
[@#%$!?]   [;%*$#!]

The computer becomes a living being, personified as an overbearing, snotty ("Have you understood nothing of what I've been trying to teach you? [Nothing] [Something] [Everything]") and arrogant figure out to wreak havoc on the (l)user. definitely funniest in the series, are you really sure? 1-4 tries to dissuade the user from 'canceling the present operation' three times, finally refusing to do so. however, the final dialog retains a [cancel] button. so, the final choice is to cancel the cancel or say ok to the computer's canceling of the cancel. maddening. wonderful.

the infringement series takes the concept of the 'do you accept this EULA' dialog to wonderfully absurd extremes, picking out phrases from user's documents that are trademarked or copyrighted, like the verizon tagline "because you can." the viewer gets several choices: alert the authorities, invoke fair use defense, or buy a license to use the phrase. there's even an input field for a credit card number.

1 http://dks.thing.net/Hoberman.html
2 http://www.perryhoberman.com/pages/cv.html