What Ever Happened to Illegible Semantics?

For the past few days, my thoughts have been plagued by a single question: why is the metal community sleeping on the alt.VIS paper that I worked on. I’m completely baffled – I thought metalheads would jump on it.

So far only two major extreme metal music-themed websites have expressed tentative interest in sharing the news about our work; aside from those two, no one seems even to have any interest in it. Now, this is of course perfectly fine – there can be a variety of reasons why our work is not deemed relevant or interesting enough.

Still, though … it strikes me as strange that over at Twitter there are hundreds(!) of people – mostly scientists, researchers, and people with some personal interest in visualization – who have commented and retweeted my wife’s tweets on the paper. But there are hardly any metalheads engaging with the tweets and posts on other social media platforms. I’m not complaining! The overall response has been quite good. It’s just bizarre to me how the world of metal is still sleeping on our work, while it can benefit artists, designers, musicians, and fans alike greatly.

We began with the premise that the “Dimensions of Doom” and the MetalVis tool were promising as tools for reference and for characterizing logos, but now our work is so much more than that. We can begin to show that metal logos are not just unreadable works meant to keep things insular – there is a visual language in them, which may (perhaps) affect beyond words. This (preliminary) finding can potentially turn the world of typography and typographic design upside-down. Even though this may sound pretentious to some people, it isn’t; there is a language in them, and that defies one of the tenets of traditional typography – namely, that textual information visualization needs to be clear and efficient – in other words, that text needs to be readable and easy on the eyes. But metal logos show that that’s not the case. And so our work enriches not just our “scene,” but world at large; and surely that should excite every metalhead!

And yet, that doesn’t seem to be case.

Is it because our paper’s too complex to contemplate or to spend time on? Is it because it’s frankly not interesting? Have we done a poor job in communicating to the metal audience what we have done exactly, and why it matters?

We, the authors, should have perhaps stressed that we consist of three generations of metalheads. Perhaps we should have stressed, too, that we employed feedback from scene who veterans who have earned their spurs, some through three decades of experience in international touring bands.

Maybe I’m just rambling now, so I’ll just stop. But if you have any thoughts on the matter, let me know.

In the meantime, I’ll be checking out the new Carcass album.