Blank Windows Is the Platonic Ideal of Office Work


Go to Rafael Rozendaal and Reinier Feijen’s Blank Windows. Click a window. Rearrange it slightly. Drag a corner upward to make it a bit smaller. Drag a corner downward to make it a bit bigger. Drag another window over. Bring a window to the top of the stack. Continue to do this for hours. You are now experiencing the platonic form of office work.

Plato’s Theory of Forms, to do a quick Intro to Philosophy recap, holds that everything we see and experience in reality, whether that’s a Cobb salad or love, is actually a slightly imperfect version of its true form. In some other realm, there is a perfect Cobb salad, from which all Cobb salads in our world take their cue. But the nature of human existence means the Cobb salad we actually eat is slightly imperfect — there is an alteration from that perfect Cobb salad that exists outside our universe. Per Plato, we can, and should, strive to find a Cobb salad as close to its perfect form as possible, but we will never find it.

Plenty of philosophers have poked holes in this theory, but Blank Windows is as solid an argument against Plato’s Theory of Forms as you’ll find. Because here it is: the essence of office work, distilled down to perfection, right in our plane of human existence. The windows you drag around your screen are all, essentially, blank, devoid of any real matter. You move these empty boxes around for roughly eight hours a day. Occasionally you go into larger rooms and sit with others and watch more blank windows, sometimes a whole series of them in a progression. Sometimes in one of the blank windows, people will send us a link to look at another equally blank window.

The window I am typing in has words in it, but in reality it is empty. The window you are reading has the words I have just typed, but, again, actually contains nothing.

Go back to Blank Windows. Find another window. Continue to click downward. There are infinite blank windows, all the way down. Eventually, the working day will end. The blank windows will be waiting for you tomorrow.