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Can a gesture be a skeuomorph?
The gestures for telephoning (hand to ear with pinky and thumb extended) or for asking the time (pointing to the wrist) seem to be slipping farther from modern reality. Are they gesticular skeuomorphs?
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2013/01/15
9:10am
noah little
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In a recent lesson teaching English to adults about time, I pointed to my wrist for the question “What time is it?” In perfect unison my students all reached into their pockets for their phones. It took me aback – will we still point to our wrists when no one wears a watch to know the time anymore? Is this gesture a skeuomorph?

Love having fun with language. Love the show!

2013/01/15
2:39pm
New River, AZ, USA
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I’m not sure skeuomorph is the term you want. See this definition.

Maybe anachronism is the term you’re asking about? Examples: calling an all-digital TV “the tube,” referring to “clockwise” when most clocks are digital, saying the phone is “ringing” when it’s playing your favorite ringtone (most of which sound nothing like a “ring”), and “dialing” a phone number.

I don’t speak ASL, but I’m sure there are equivalents in gestures. Your example of pointing to the wrist would seem to qualify. So would holding up a thumb and pinky to your ear to suggest “call me.”

2013/01/18
12:09am
Robert
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Afraid Wiki is wrong about Station Wagon with imitation wood paneling.  It’s no more skeuomorph than an apple covered in chocolate, unless at one time all apples were chocolate.

There was an AWWW post where Grant gave the example of moving your fist in circle to tell motorist to roll down the window, except modern motorist only has a button to push.

2013/01/18
7:54am
Dick
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Robert said
Afraid Wiki is wrong about Station Wagon with imitation wood paneling.  It’s no more skeuomorph than an apple covered in chocolate, unless at one time all apples were chocolate.

There was an AWWW post where Grant gave the example of moving your fist in circle to tell motorist to roll down the window, except modern motorist only has a button to push.

Explain why you think the imitation wood is not a skeuomorph. There was a time when nearly all vehicles were made of wood. In the early 20th century there were vehicles similar to the station wagon with real wood on their sides. This imitation wood is not there to fool us but to make us think of how vehicles used to be made.

I remember when Grant gave the example you mentioned. I’m glad you brought it up because it is the same type of thing described in Noah’s question. If Grant’s example is a skeuomorph then so is Noah’s. I can, however, see how this varies from the usual kind of skeuomorph.

 

2013/01/18
10:59am
Robert
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Explain ? Already did.

at one time men had caves for dwelling. Does that make decorative stone house .. Maybe maybe not

2013/01/18
11:49am
New River, AZ, USA
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Maybe I’m missing something here, but from the definitions I’ve consulted, a skeuomorph has to be a physical entity. Nowhere I read mentioned anything about it including gestures.

Grant said here that an outmoded gesture is similar to a skeuomorph, but that’s a long way from saying it is a skeuomorph.

If anyone can point me to a reference that contradicts me, I’d appreciate it. Until then, I maintain anachronism is the better term for an outmoded gesture.

 

2013/01/18
3:37pm
Dick
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Heimhenge, I can not argue. When I referred to what Grant said, I was depending on Robert’s cite. Perhaps he did not recall that Grant said, “similar to”. But you’ve got to admit it is extremely similar.  I left the first sentence so you’ll know I was ready to concede but then I read further down in the Wikipedia article that you linked to. It talks about how modern digital cameras make a “click” sound when you take a picture, so it will sound like a mechanical shutter. The article calls this a skeuomorph even though there is nothing physical. The article calls this an auditory skeuomorph. I think the wrist watch/window crank stuff is in the same category.

Also, even though anachronism might fit these specific examples, you could do the same thing in a way that is not anachronistic and you would have the same problem defining it. For example, putting out your pointer and middle fingers then moving them against and apart from each other means to cut something with scissors. This is not anachronistic because scissors still exist. But is it a skeuomorph? I’m ready to think so and I think it is the same as pointing at your wrist or cranking a window in the air, neither of which are really anachronistic. (My 2005 Ford Ranger has crank windows and I wear a wristwatch. Maybe I’m anachronistic.) Even though most skeuomorphs are probably anachronistic, I don’t think that is part of the definition.

Separate message to Robert: If a house is not made of stone but is made to look like it is, it is definitely a skeuomorph.  The Tarrant County Courthouse is that exactly. I believe the outside walls are actually concrete but it is painted to look like very large cut stones. Your first example of an apple covered with chocolate makes no sense to me. It does not even compare to a station wagon with imitation wood. The imitation wood represents real wood. The chocolate does not represents anything. I’m sure you explained your idea to your satisfaction but maybe you need to explain it further for my understanding.

2013/01/18
4:21pm
Robert
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The TC Courthouse reminds of a building material it is not, that’s good, except cut stone needs to be outdated. Is it ?  No. Just old fashioned.

Station Wagon needs to hark back to some automobile with actual wood siding.  Was there such car ?  Wooden horse buggies were vehicles alright, but probably not what the Station Wagon harks back to.

2013/01/18
5:20pm
Glenn
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Yes. There were such cars.

2013/01/18
6:24pm
New River, AZ, USA
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Dick Said: Heimhenge, I can not argue. When I referred to what Grant said, I was depending on Robert’s cite. Perhaps he did not recall that Grant said, “similar to”. But you’ve got to admit it is extremely similar.  I left the first sentence so you’ll know I was ready to concede but then I read further down in the Wikipedia article that you linked to. It talks about how modern digital cameras make a “click” sound when you take a picture, so it will sound like a mechanical shutter. The article calls this a skeuomorph even though there is nothing physical. The article calls this an auditory skeuomorph. I think the wrist watch/window crank stuff is in the same category.

Dick, I think you helped me sort this out. Within the class of skeuomorphs there are: physical, auditory, and visual (or maybe kinetic?) sub-classes. Hard to argue which sub-class came first, but whatever, they are collectively a class based on the same concept.

Now I’m wondering if there are also olfactory or gustatory skeuomorphs? Let me think about that …

Seems the original definition of skeuomorph has expanded. Language does that. No worries.

2013/01/18
8:25pm
Dick
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Robert, Thank you very much for your clarification.  I think I understand better why we disagree on some of this.

First of all, to my mind “outdated” and “old fashioned’ mean exactly the same thing. But the way you gave your explanation tells me that you do not see them as the same, so if you will allow, I will use another phrase for outdated, “out of use”.  If this is not what you mean, excuse me and please tell me.  My reply then is that the stonework depicted is neither, in my opinion. They used the paint because to get this look another way would have meant completely rebuilding the courthouse. Stones like this are not used as much as they once were because of the cost, and this may qualify them as old fashioned, but I don’t see them as old fashioned. My opinion.

Everything I have said so far is irrelevant in light of my next statement. The age of something represented by a skeuomorph doesn’t matter. I can see that you believe a skeuomorph must be “out of use” to qualify as a skeuomorph. I can not find that in any definition. Their examples speak of things both “old fashioned” and “out of use” only because that is a common way of using skeuomorphs, but I can’t find that requirement in a definition.  I admit I could be wrong about this. I am not a skeuomorph expert.

When you indicated that you did not know about wooden sided station wagons (commonly known as woodies) I better understood your objection to that example. As Glenn has confirmed, they really did exist and they would be called “out of use”.

2013/01/18
8:33pm
Dick
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Heimhenge,  I like this. You have certainly expanded my thoughts. I will look further into this idea.

From my very limited research I can find many different disagreements on the use of this word.

2013/01/19
3:12am
Robert
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So late Station Wagon borrows the wood look from the woodies. Sorry for objecting for nothing.

You are right too about ‘out of use’ not required, only features of one thing copied to another of the same function or kind. I was wrong again.  Though the older thing tends to be much older, enough to inspire nostalgia or diehard habits.

Here’s one: Italian restaurants like to have the kitchen open to the serving area; that’s because they want to hark back to the old custom of eating in the kitchen.

 

2013/01/19
9:22am
New River, AZ, USA
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I have to say this is one interesting thread. I’ve been motivated to research, learned much, and expanded my working definition of a poorly-defined word for a fascinating concept. Curiously, skeuomorphs are all over the media lately. Mostly in regard to software design. Google “apple skeuomorph” and you’ll see what I mean. Or check out this article from Scientific American: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=apple-shouldnt-make-software-look-like-real-objects

In my previous post I conceded I was ready to accept this idea: There are sub-classes of skeuomorphs based on “mode of delivery,” e.g., physical/tactile, visual, gestural/kinetic, and auditory. I posed the question: Are there also olfactory and gustatory skeuomorphs? I believe I can now answer my question.

I mean, once you make the leap from the traditionally visual definition to include the sense of hearing, it’s hard to stop there. It would be difficult to argue that, for example, the “ka-ching” sound made by the Quicken app when you record a deposit is not a skeuomorph.

So consider the following … would it not make sense to also include the senses of smell and taste (as modes of delivery)? Many foods contain “artificial flavoring” to make them taste like the natural equivalent. I do believe that would qualify as a skeuomorph. Same with “artificial scents” in food, perfumes, shampoo, air fresheners, etc.

What I’m still hung up on is the “functionality” aspect of skeuomorphs. Clearly, the fake wood paneling on a station wagon serves no real function beyond aesthetics (and evoking memories). But the “Save” icon that looks like a floppy disc does have a function, at least in the sense of labeling something in a way that makes its purpose recognizable. Does an artificial scent or flavor have a function beyond sensory stimulation? And how is that any different than the visual stimulation provided by fake wood panels? Interesting questions that I don’t really have answers for.

As stated previously, existing definitions seem to focus on physical or visual representations of “that which is familiar based on past experience.” It would be interesting to hear what Grant has to say about this, and how he would re-define skeuomorph in light of this discussion.

2013/01/19
12:17pm
Ron Draney
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Heimhenge said
… would it not make sense to also include the senses of smell and taste (as modes of delivery)? Many foods contain “artificial flavoring” to make them taste like the natural equivalent. I do believe that would qualify as a skeuomorph. Same with “artificial scents” in food, perfumes, shampoo, air fresheners, etc.

I’d go further than that. The chocolate-covered apple mentioned upstream isn’t a gustatory skeuomorph, but it would be if we ate chocolate apples before we started eating the real ones. Consider candy orange slices or spearmint leaves made of what is essentially the same material as gumdrops; by making the candies the same shape as the flavors they contain, the confectioner is trying to increase its resemblance to a dried and candied piece of real orange (the spearmint is a bit further removed from the original model). Sometimes this enhancement goes off-course, as in “circus peanuts”, a candy shaped like a peanut, made of marshmallow, with the flavor of banana…not really sure what the original intent there was.

We even do this for our pets. I’m sure you’ve seen dry cat food in a medley of flavors, with the pieces in the shapes of chicken legs, milk bottles, fish, etc. I strongly suspect the cat is oblivious to the symbolism.

In the matter of the wood-paneled station wagon, there are earlier automotive-design skeuomorphs. Some early cars, the Model A for one, had bud vases on the interior pillars or dashboard. Why? Because there were bud vases in the better models of horse-drawn carriage. The original had the practical purpose, with the addition of a fragrant flower or two, of minimizing the smell of horse.

2013/01/20
4:36am
Robert
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Now that the discussion has come quite a way, I suddenly feel again like something is not right– namely, but as just one example, the Station Wagon with imitation wood paneling. I will have to object again.

See, any phenomenon or observation worth its salt, enough so that a whole English word is invented to call it by, must somehow qualify. I say that it must be somewhere high on the scale of being remarkable, surprising, or at least interesting enough to be worth the trouble.

You see where I am going with the Station Wagon. Actually I will go worse.

But first, look how a better example of Skeuomorphism, the virtual note pad, can be so so much better. Just on the surface, how remarkable it is– the ‘paper’ layout looking just right, the colors like dye colors, how the pages turn exactly like pages except for being infinitely different. But all of which doesn’t begin to hint at how much more remarkable is the machinery behind, the whole imagined universes of crazy zippy things somehow made orderly and intelligent. How remarkable, first the very nature of that world, but then how a world so impossibly far removed from that surface insinuation, is also the very thing deployed for that very purpose.

All of which cannot but heighten many-fold our wonderment regarding the concept in question: whatever in man’s psyche drives him to go such length, to insist on a tenuous thread to what he knew, a connection altogether illusory, and frivolous by all accounts of his living needs.

Now what with the StationWagon? First off, and actually the only thing to consider, suppose that you replace the imitation wood with real wood, then will that change for the worse the qualities it has that underlie the concept in question? i.e. will the car look any less like wood, or the owner’s nostalgic purpose to hark back to the older thing be less fulfilled? Definitely no (the opposite is more likely), which means that a whole chunk of the claim to what the car is, namely that the modern technology must be key because of the special consequences associated with itself, is entirely missing from the claim. This thing does not have the basic quality of skeuomorphism, let alone qualification.

And just to think a little more to no purpose, think how the imitation wood could have been installed in the original models already, then what to make of that perfect logical symmetry, other than that you have here the very same specimen reproduced at different times according to the ebb and flow of a fad, wood then wood now imitation then imitation now.

Needless to say, the scale I mentioned at top is subjective, if you accept it at all.  I would let  pass muster very few of the examples mentioned in this discussion, the cranking of car window in the air, the shutter click of the virtual camera, maybe the Italian restaurant with open kitchen. Most of the rest, no.  

2013/01/20
5:56am
Dick
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Robert,  This is a very good question. I think you are asking, “Can something be a skeuomorph of itself?” I think maybe it can if it has ceased to perform the function it was originally intended to do. The original Woodies were made with wood to look different but also the wood was part of the structure of the car, not applied for looks alone. Anything today will have a structure that is more durable, probably steel. I will make a statement that only just now occurred to me so please set me straight if this is flawed. To be a skeuomorph, a thing can serve no practical purpose; it can only be aesthetic. True or false? Let me know.

Here is a link to the Wikipedia article about Woodies. I thought it was very interesting.

<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woodie

2013/01/20
11:20am
Robert
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A thing can have purposes pertaining to skeuomorphism (nostalgia, familiarity) and why not any other purposes besides. 

But at top you are introducing a new element, that I admit caught me off-guard.

Before, it was just: wood, imitation. Now it’s : wood, structural wood, imitation, structural imitation. (Though structural imitation is not realistic)

I think that when we have to think so hard about the meaning of a word, it is a sign that we have entered the gray DMZ twilight zone where arguments can go on and on because grey keeps getting greyer and greyer exponentially.  Now this is a totally normal phenomenon, no sin about it, but it is a sign to stop.

Just before stopping though, I would just clarify my previous point a little: The technology (computer, imitation wood, etc)  needs to have some special consequences that distinguish it, something more than imitation, whether wood or wool or leather.

2013/01/29
8:10pm
Doyle33
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Skeuomoprhs, as these anachronistic features are called, are used to “make the new look comfortably old and familiar.” And they are remarkably durable—and ubiquitous: A delightful Reddit thread earlier this year came up with dozens of icons and gestures that represent technologies now obsolete.

2013/01/30
2:08pm
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Doyle33 said: A delightful Reddit thread earlier this year came up with dozens of icons and gestures that represent technologies now obsolete.

Thanks for that link, Doyle33 (are there really 33 Doyles on AWWW?), and welcome to the forum. That’s a cool thread. There was extensive discussion about the “SAVE” icon used by various apps, and it got me thinking about what could be better or more recognizable than the standard “floppy disc” icon.

The “floppy disc” icon is obviously meaningless to many these days. I didn’t like that “arrow pointing to an envelope” icon, and the “USB thumb drive” icon will also be obsolete at some point in the future. So what is the universal and timeless icon for “SAVE” ???

I think we have to recognize that pretty much any word can evolve to be a skeuomorph as technology and society changes. That said, I would suggest using a more timeless icon for “SAVE.” Perhaps an icon of a safe, piggy bank, or maybe even a lifesaver?

There may not be a truly “timeless” icon for that concept (or others like, for example, “PRINT”). We run up against the same difficulties they had with designing a “timeless” warning icon to label nuclear waste repositories. Interesting discussion on that here.

 

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