James Bridle – Metaphors Considered Harmful

When listening to James Bridle’s talk at NEXT Berlin 2012, you’d be forgiven for asking yourself what the relationship between ‘Metaphors Considered Harmful’ and this year’s conference theme is. He talks about fan fiction and ships adrift, but then manages to build a bridge from Star Trek to startups.

For a better understanding: Fan fiction is created by enthusiastic fans, e.g. of a certain novel, film, game or series. It uses the same universe and characters, but develops a new story detached from the original. In doing so, new content is generated, which, again, can serve as a driver for new ideas.

When it comes to technology, we are mostly not as innovative as creators of fan fiction. How we flip pages on the iPad is a metaphor for turning pages of traditional books. Bridle criticises the circumstance that “everything we’re doing is a kind of fan fiction. Basically, almost every startup is a kind of Apple or Google fan fiction.”

He demands to overcome the digitised metaphors of analog actions and objects. Instead, we should develop software and technological devices similarly to how fan fiction is created. “Because we have enough social sharing tools”, Bridle concludes.