We humans are richly textured creatures. Over time we've become smoother, it's true, but we'll never approach anything like the seamless slickery of most of the machinery we use and the media we consume. The pixelated world has long sought to depict worlds we can't imagine. But what about creating media that reflect the textures of our everyday life, from desktop wallpapers made of fabric to CGI-created 3-D characters that are a bit scruffy around the edges?
Looking at Shrek 2, I wonder why this ogre and his annoying cohorts are smoother than babies' bottoms, especially when technology now affords us the opportunity to create things that are so luscious and lifelike. And let's not even get started on SpongeBob SquarePants and his obvious lack of sponginess.
Perhaps designers, reared as we all are on the notion of never-ending progress toward cosmetic perfection, are upping the slick quotient of their products. If our appliances must grow less tactile (from touchless car washes to touchless keypads), why can't our imagery at least attempt to be a facsimile of the tactile world we live in?
These days, technology and texture are like oil and water. But The Matrix long ago concluded its slicker-than-Rick, effects-laden run at the box office, and the time is ripe for a new kind of tech textural appreciation.
Many are embracing the real, the fuzzy and the anthropomorphic - experimentally blending the digital and the natural to create work that's both innovative and beautiful.
For the past few months, Walkie Talkie Man, Michel Gondry's and Dancing Diablo's video for New Zealand rock star aspirants Steriogram has been getting much MTV play. It's a brilliant stop-motion tour de force of characters and props that are almost entirely knitted. There are woven people, buildings and even a woollen audio console. And the whole thing was shot with a Bolex, a camera just slightly fancier than a consumer Super 8.
Similarly, Franz Ferdinand's UK chart-topper, Take Me Out, has a video treatment that Tristan Tzara could be proud of. Goldfrapp director Jonas Odell's video is a collage mélange, a cut-and-paste stew of pictures and textures. It doesn't build to the intensity of the song, but it's an exploratory step, cobbling paper and glue together with the digital in a manner that's commendable just for having been attempted.
In the commercial world, too, there's been innovation. The recent Lenscrafters Canada campaign features relatively stark backgrounds with ornamental lines framing the scene. In this case, one medium quotes from another - a television commercial looks like a print ad. The director isn't wowing us with cheap 2-D effects or bisecting the screen into more boxes than a checkerboard. It's advertising reduced to its textural simplest. It's got layers.
A desire to connect with humanity is at the heart of any piece of media, so it's a wonder designers haven't embraced the handmade aesthetic to the degree they could have.
Replicating the imprecise behaviours of people is the basis of fuzzy logic, a concept developed in the mid-60s by Berkeley professor Lotfi Zadeh. Since then, engineers and designers have used it to invent products that anticipate the inconsistencies and irregularities of human behaviour. Fuzzy logic appreciates the nuances and glitches that keep us rough around the edges.
So let's have more texture in the land of pixels and LCDs. Bring on the corduroy television sets.