day 1125: Skeumorphs

Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees!”

Recently, author and blogger Seth Godin, wrote of his disdain of skeumorphs.  If you don’t know what a skeumorph is, it is when we take user interface from the analogue world and then transfer them over to the digital age, whether they really make sense or not. Examples of this are how Amazon and other digital reader manufacturers and software developers just copied how a paper book looked and is read in the digital age. Godin says, “This consistency of structure is the single biggest reason that motivated market leaders (in any industry) fail to transition to new paradigms–they insist on skeumorphic business models, bringing along the stuff that got them this far, even when it’s unnecessary”.  I guess I see what he means but sometimes familiarity carries us forward naturally.  There really isn’t any reason that we don’t drive our cars by game controllers, but even the hardest core gamer might feel more comfortable in driving the all-electric-digital car using both hands and feet to keep total body awareness.  It takes courage (and funding) to break from the past, but sometimes it is the only way to become distinctive in the market place.  There are many skeumorphs that we can come up with, that someone, somewhere decided to carry the history to define the future.  This is a bridge we will cross in our businesses so we should be thinking deliberately about where being skeumorphic is a positive and where it is also signaling to everyone around us that our thinking is stuck in the past. 

When it comes to how we worship God, being skeumorphic is a great thing. Gathering together to praise, worship, listen, learn and pray carries throughout the generations.  I’d say that today, with our ability to gather as two or more on a Google Hangout for example makes the idea of church a positive skeumorph.  The same can be said of how we read and inquire of God’s Word. New does not need to replace the tested true.  I’d also say that God wants each of us to be a skeumorph of His example and testimony into the digital age.  The consistency of how we act, speak, use our treasures, and treat other people is what in our older age will become the lessons of life for others.  So, let’s indeed be contemporary and relevant, but do not fret or fight that how we live our lives as examples for His glory should remain constant.

Reference: Psalm 119:5 (New Living Translation)

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