Welcome to Skeuomorph Press. We opened in the spring semester of 2022, though we did not have a name until October 2022. You can read a little bit about the founding of the press in this story from the iSchool.
If you’ve never heard the word “skeuomorph” before, it actually explains a lot about our philosophy and mission (and you can see one in our logo). A skeuomorph, in brief, is a real or virtual object that uses a design element from an earlier object or interface, even if that feature doesn’t have a practical function anymore. Think of the rivets in blue jeans—which used to hold them together but are now just a decorative feature—or the icons on your computer and phone that recall earlier media—like the floppy disk icon you use to save a file.
There are fervent debates in the design world about whether skeuomorphic design is a savvy way to help users navigate a new interface, or whether skeuomorphs hold design back by weighing new media down with its ancestors. We believe the reality is more complex: skeuomorphs make clear the inevitable links that bridge historical and contemporary media, and can be instructional and inspiring. We believe that understanding contemporary media and technology requires historical thinking.
We are all mired in historical circumstance. Some of us are knee-deep, and some of us are neck-deep. If you want to think seriously about the future, you have to think historically. There isn’t any other way to do it. Otherwise you’ll mistake the accidents of our current situation for some iron-clad law of the cosmos. You need to be aware of longer-term trends, how things play out. History never repeats itself, but it does kind of rhyme.Bruce Sterling, LoneStarCon 2 interview (1997)
As science fiction author Bruce Sterling argues, the reason to think across time periods is that doing so helps us avoid a dangerous presentism, of limiting our imagination so that what exists seems to be the only thing that could exist.
But “technology,” as another science fiction author, Ursula K. LeGuin, argues, “is the active human interface with the material world” and the category must include very recent and historical technologies together, if we want to understand our world at all.
At Skeuomorph we seek to cross technologies and time periods: to help twenty-first-century students understand the bookish technologies humans used to organize and share information in the past, and which continue to shape the most technologically complex information technologies today. But we also experiment anachronistically, such as using an AI image generation model to create a woodcut that never existed in the past, using a laser cutter to carve that image into wood or linoleum, and then printing that image using our historical printing presses. These experiments help us understand the assumptions and limitations of AI, while creating new works of art that blend media across hundreds of years.
This is a fancy way of saying that we are a makerspace deeply interested in the intersection between information, history, and art. If you are intrigued by that intersection, come visit us and learn more.