Friday, December 14, 2012

The finger knows

I'm intrigued by the partnership between our bodies and our minds. We know some things; our body knows others. We see this split clearly when considering our own hands.

If you type well, your fingers have no problem finding the right key. But if you need to peck something out on a touchscreen, using only one finger, you're not as nimble. You've had this experience, surely. Our fingers know things that we don't. (This applies as well to playing the piano. You can't think about which keys you're hitting. You just do it. And what about dancing? If you tried to choreograph every movement with your conscious mind, you'd find it difficult.)

What brings this to mind is something I just noticed. I have a desktop Mac and use Apple's stand-alone trackpad with it. I also have a MacBook Air and an iPad that use trackpads.

Here's the thing: I've set gestures -- the finger movements used to control the device -- differently on all three machines. On each, swiping and dragging and whatnot are performed with different finger movements. Yet my hands have no problem with the changing systems. They know which device they're using and they're familiar with the rules specific to that machine. If I think about how many fingers to swipe, I don't know what to do. But my fingers do it simply and easily.

Our minds and bodies work in partnership. It's not all top-down. I try to be aware of this so I don't intrude on my body's turf. It does fine without a brain guiding it. Good old bodies. Don't you just love them?