Sunday, August 5, 2012

Tokonoma and Pinterest

Pinterest is pretty cool. They've implemented a social, digital form of what we like to call a tokonoma. Tokonoma is a Japanese word for an alcove/recess/atrium situated in a Japanese home in which objects for artistic appreciation (a bonsai piece, a painting, pottery) are placed. Pinterest allows people to create their own 21st century tokonomas. Brilliant.

I very much like the idea of a tokonoma. It serves to provide visitors a deeper look into the personality and values of the owner of the tokonoma. Apparently Frank Lloyd Wright thought that the Western equivalent of a tokonoma is the fireplace, the mantle-piece. And this is exactly right. When I visit an acquaintance's home for the first time, I usually make it a point (if I have a free moment) to peruse the titles on their bookshelves and glance across their mantle (if they have them) because what I find there often tells me a lot about them. It serves as a second perspective (in complement to the ever powerful first impression) for my understanding of them.

The mantle over my fireplace holds little things that I find beautiful and curious. It holds a picture of my family. It holds examples of concepts and engineering principles that I have found to be fundamental. My bookshelf displays most prominently those books that I have enjoyed the most and which have taught me most.

I have been thinking for a while about compiling a digital tokonoma of my own, because I saw, as the designers of Pinterest saw, that in a digital age, people have a need to express their identities on the internet in a deeper way (beyond the About Me blurb). They needed a digital tokonoma.

The designers of Pinterest did a decent job. The best way to share the essence of a beautiful thing instantly on the web is through a picture. They made displaying the beautiful thing as easy as putting it on a mantle. The tokonoma is inherently social, so they made browsing other's tokonomas effortless and made sharing the beautiful things easy. Furthermore, their sign-up process is absolutely world-class.

At first I thought that limiting pin-able items to photos was restrictive, but it really isn't. Love a certain quote? Make an image of the text. Love a book? Use the front cover.

Browsing through boards is almost addictive. Column after column of mostly lovely things to look at and appreciate. And it just keeps on scrolling down.

I do have some complaints however. I don't like the multiple picture borders; it could be cleaner. I don't like the captions and comments directly under the images; it interrupts the flow of beautiful things (I'd rather they were mouse-overs).

But Pinterest is set. They have an exploding user base and enormous data sets on what people love. They have data on quality and beauty! And guess what - they own everything uploaded to their servers.

So although I would like to, you see there are reasons why I can't use Pinterest as my digital tokonoma. So I am creating my own. WIP. Ideally, it should be an endless white canvas with images only. The images should be separated only by the space between them. An algorithm should nest them all perfectly (like the G+ albums) with consideration to aspect ratio and detail. Mouse-over should bring up a short caption. On-click should pull up the selected image in full screen (dimming all else) with details wherever the image does not fill. Clicking outside the full screen image returns to the gallery.

1 comment :

  1. I think this is a wonderful idea.

    I have a interest and I must agree that the captions and comments do tend to break the rhythm a bit.

    I hope you manage to make this site, as I would most definitely sign up.

    If you ever get it up and running, please let me know

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