Signage

“No one knows how to create words and pictures that are meant to be consumed out there in the world,” writes Alexis Madrigal, contemplating the rapid approach of Google Glass and other reality-augmentation wearables. I think Madrigal is giving short shrift to those who ply the signage trade:

Not to mention the graffiti trade:

Then again, I guess the old signs have become part of the reality they augment — as the new signs will, too. Reality augmentation is all about adding new annotations to old annotations of even older annotations.

But Madrigal is right that we have something here that we haven’t seen before. The realtime annotation of the nondigitized environment requires a new kind of art, one that crosses the sensibility of the signmaker with those of the curator, the adman, and the saucier.

To me, in the extremely attention-limited environment of augmented reality, you need a new kind of media. You probably need a new noun to describe the writing. Newspapers have stories. Blogs have posts. Facebook has updates. And AR apps have X.

That’s on the money. But not a new noun — no need to go that far. A recycled noun would work just just fine. My suggestion is “motes.” As in: “Glass just put an awesome mote in my eye.” It comes to us — “mote” does — from an old Dutch word meaning a speck of sawdust or a grain of sand, and, thanks to the King James Bible, it connotes a slight distortion of vision, a little warpage in one’s perception of the real. There’s a social angle as well, courtesy of Rupert Brooke: “One mote of all the dust that’s I / Shall meet one atom that was you.” Actually, forget that: it’s a little morbid for social-networking purposes. Let’s keep our reality augmentation on this side of the grave.

What does the mermaid see when she looks in the mirror?

Where the hell was I? Oh yeah: “Mote” is a tragically underused word. We have an opportunity to right that wrong. Let’s seize it.

[pub sign photo by spatmackrel; graffiti photo by pierremichel.75001]

2 Comments

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2 Responses to Signage

  1. Charles

    So mote it be.

  2. Nick

    Here’s mote in your eye.