The Okay News

Most would agree that a significant percentage of our daily news feed is taken up with stories that are intense; stories of crime, injustice, and disasters (both natural and otherwise) that deserve pause, if not action. However, the daily newspaper is typically consumed in repose, while the reader is relaxed and emotionally distant from the things he or she is reading about.

Screenshots from The Okay News

Screenshots from The Okay News

A simple, yet delightfully compelling idea, Rebecca Ross’ Okay News project is an attempt to shake us out of this stupor with which we read the news. The app (though it was created long before that word was in common use) sits in the background of everyday computer use, with only one form of interface or interaction: An OS dialog box that pops up every few minutes with a headline from the New York Times. To continue using the computer, the user must click “OK”, a way of calling attention to the approval inherent in not getting involved with the things he or she is reading about.

Apart from changing the way a user interacts with their daily news, the project, completed in 2003, was also a response to the (at the time) growing consciousness of the computer as a portal that connects you to people and events across the world.

Asked how she first though of the idea for the project, Rebecca writes:

I am originally from New York. Typical New Yorkers like to relax in the morning with the New York Times and a bagel (preferably an everything bagel with lox and cream cheese) and coffee. In many ways, the design of the New York Times is irrecoverably fused with this aspect of New York Culture. You see the paper and even though it is detailing really intense things happening around the world, somehow you unwind with it and possibly even pat yourself on the back for being engaged with the events of the world because you’re reading the paper even though all you did was eat a bagel in response.

With the Okay News, I wanted to try and shake people out of this condition by presenting them with headlines in another form. I had originally wanted to distribute it as a virus but did not know how to do this technically. So this whole experience relied on individual masochism because if you installed the software and then didn’t okay the headline that came up on the screen, you could not go back to whatever you were doing before it popped up.

All images courtesy Rebecca Ross.