Cessen's Ramblings

2007 - 12 - 06

Dumbing Up

In my off hours from Peach, and when not working on my personal animation project, I've been reading up on various programming topics (most recently I've been looking into unit testing), and today I ended up browsing my way to this page: http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?SystemMetaphor

As cool as the "system metaphor" idea is, the thing that I found specifically interesting was a single comment on the page: "don't dumb-down to simplify... dumb-up"

This struck me as a particularly insightful statement. Not so much due to its warning to avoid dumbing things down, but rather because it acknowledges the existence and value of dumbing things up.

Reading that comment made me pause for a moment, because it expressed so simply a truth that I think I've been vaguely aware of for a long time: often times you actually gain rather than lose meaning and insight when you translate something into simpler terms.

It also seems to me that, conversely, you can smart things down, resulting in a net loss of meaning and insight.

Of course, dumbing down and smarting up are also truths of our world. But the phrase "dumbing down" is so pervasive as to indicate (perhaps) that our view of simplification as a culture is largely negative—that we have this idea that translating something into simpler terms is for stupid people. And that is, quite frankly, patently absurd.