In the Future of Screens Everywhere

It almost looks boring. But at Malmö Centralstation not much is competing for you attention. And it is quite nice.

Information is everywhere today. You just have to enter a public space and there are messages competing for your attention. The session Public Computing and the Screens World at The Conference in Malmö featured some of the endless possibilities and dangers there are when every surface around you can be turned into a screen.

– Screens are no longer a scarce resource. We should start to design for that. We should start wasting pixels, says Venkatesh Rao, an independent consultant and blogger at

He provocatively stated that a civilization is defined by the amounts that you can waste. This is inspired by the thoughts of American computer scientist Alan Kay, who claims that because digital storage is so cheap, we can afford to waste bits.

In Rao’s point this is applied to design. Because big screens are becoming more and more affordable, we can now begin to waste pixels.

It might seem very thought-provoking, but he clarified his point by comparing the Million Dollar Website to Google. The search page of Google is pretty much a blank screen with at search field. On the Million Dollar Website site, you have all these things competing for your attention.

And Venkatesh Rao’s point is that Google now is the largest advertising company and makes a lot more money than the Million Dollar Website.

– We like to focus on the interesting. That is how the brain is wired – to view scarce resources.

So in that sense, less is more.

Dan Gärdenfors, who is Senior Concept Designer at Research In Motion TAT talked about the possibilities of turning every surface into a screen. He showed examples of how the windows of a building were used to create a stunning light show.

With new technology, you can have transparent screens. This allows for emphasizing different layers in that transparency. Imagine yourself on a bus where the intelligent screen will pull your focus to different objects outside the bus.

It almost looks boring. But at Malmö Centralstation not much is competing for you attention. And it is quite nice.

In Dan Gärdenfors’ opinion, we need to regulate this. For example, there will be a lot of prospect in transparent screens for companies like JDDecaux who provide cities with bus shelters. However, if things continue to be unregulated, we could have a very undesirable competition for our attention.

– Nobody wants complete information overload.

Information has become abundant and it is almost impossible to move around public spaces without messages demanding your attention.

As augmented reality becomes more commonplace, this will no doubt turn into an issue – even though augmented reality layers can be turned on and off. In my opinion, we don’t need more information.

We need designers that understand that our brains are wired for scarce resources. I also think that we need some regulation for these things. There is absolutely no reason why we should end up with a public space that resembles the Million Dollar Website.


Venkatesh Rao put his thoughts in to this blog post.

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