Coming face to face with a stoned caterpillar would be enough to flummox anyone, especially if, like Lewis Carroll's Alice, you'd already changed size inexplicably several times that day. "I can't remember things as I used," she told the Caterpillar, "and I don't keep the same size for ten minutes together."
Strolling around last month's Milan Furniture Fair was as disconcerting as any of Lewis Carroll's stories, because object after object was blown up into gargantuan proportions. Marcel Wanders's lamps, Philippe Starck's vases and Studio Job's giant tea service were all primly traditional in style, but wildly exaggerated in size.
The point of the article is that the packaging of a technology was dictated by the size of the technology and with industrial objects bigger usually meant better. Alice Rawsthorn makes the point that in a digital age size no longer relates to "power":
"All of this changed when integrated circuit chips enabled computer power to be compressed into tiny pieces of metal. "The computational power of a machine that sixty years ago weighed 60,000 pounds and occupied 1,800 square feet," or about 27,000 kilograms and 170 square meters, "can now be packed on to a sliver of metal less than a tenth the size of the nail on your pinkie," wrote the digital designer John Maeda in his book, "The Laws of Simplicity."
That's why the function of digital objects bears no relation to their size or any other aspect of their appearance. How could you possibly guess what a games console or a Wi-Fi router did by looking at one of those impenetrable plastic boxes? The same goes for an iPod, or a smart phone. "There is a new category of objects where you have no idea how they work," said Jonathan Ive, senior vice president of industrial design at Apple. "And when you have no sense of how something works, it is very easy to feel intimidated by it.""
Many designers see this process as a logical solution to an environmental crisis. Why waste scarce resources to make new things when intangible software can do the job just as well? The Japanese industrial designer Naoto Fukasawa has coined a phrase for it: "erasing physical existence." He is experimenting with new ways of replacing individual objects, like his illuminated bathroom tiles, which function as lights when switched on, but look like tiles when turned off. What would Lewis Carroll and Alice have made of that?
So we no longer are able to use size as a rule of thumb as pieces turn into bits!
The article is really thought provoking.