what is that we do online?
Let's put it like this, using a thought experiment. The offline world suddenly disappears: no cities, no buildings, no bodies, no objects. Human agents are only able to interact through and within current digital interfaces. How human activity would differ? How our understanding of current online activities would differ?
Reminded now that in his reflections on the "automatic society" Stiegler describes a shift from the everyday life to the administered life. Might be the 'Vita Administrativa' (both administering and being administering) the crucial sphere of activity missing in Arendt's model of human practical capacities?
if I were to point out a fundamental paradigm shift of user behavior in terms of interaction with an interface, due to the advent of the corporate web, I'd say that the user was reconfigured as a scroller, and therefore as passive consumer because the interaction is purely mechanical and only accidentally performed manually.
ok, I put some of these notes quickly together on the blog. Main idea: proletarisation of user interaction. Comments welcome! https://networkcultures.org/entreprecariat/infinite-scroll-proletarisation/
and soon this book on "lurking" will be out! Subtitle: "How a person became a user" https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/02/lurking-by-joanne-mcneil-a-lurkers-history-of-online.html
@entreprecariat There is a paragraph in “The Human Condition“ in which Arendt writes that familiarity with the world arises from the use of things. As we use them, we become used and accustomed. It’s the chapter on labor, I think. Might be an approach to think about the term “user“.
@jine Yes, indeed! I think it's in the chapter devoted to "work". Actually that book is the main inspiration for this thread, which is also a small research project entitled "The User Condition". Some messy notes about it here: https://networkcultures.org/entreprecariat/the-poverty-of-praxis-and-the-web/
@entreprecariat Oh, great! And thanks for the thread. I find it very interesting to see how users of the Internet have understood themselves over the last twenty years or so and how they were and are addressed. The ‘netizens’ would be just one example. Do I consider myself as a user while writing a toot over here?
@entreprecariat @jine Norman is a good reference. I always found this line of argument (and frankly most of his rhetoric) silly and conformist. If facebook "users" are "people" does that mean that non-users are not people? If I'm asleep and not actively "using" facebook am I still a person? Are designers so stupid or cynical that they forget that the end-users are human? Do carpenters feel unfairly stereotyped as drug addicts when someone points out that they "use" hammers, saws and drills?
@entreprecariat @jine I still sometimes come back to this really nice paper¹ from Christine Satchell and Paul Dourish where they argue that the reasons and practices of not using technology can be at least as interesting and revealing as studying use.
@entreprecariat I’d like to comment on two sentences here:
the user was reconfigured as a “hand” — This is exactly the way users are often presented in manuals. Just an illustration of a hand. There’s a longer tradition of user=hand. Well, users ‘handle‘ things. Scrolling is perhaps a grotesque form of it.
The corporate web […] reinstated hyperlinearity analogous to that of an assembly line. — Love that point! Poor McLuhan, who had so much hopes that electronic media would eliminate the strict linearity and uniformity of the Gutenberg Galaxis.
Hey @jine thanks for the image. Yes, I had in mind an illustration of the user being just an eye with hands, but in fact was just one finger!
Re. hyperlinearity, it's interesting that you mention McLuhan, because I think of how still useful is to compare the corporate web and TV, sometimes even literally (Netflix)!
@entreprecariat How would you relate clicking and scrolling? Eventually, clicking has also often been portrayed as a “poor” gesture of interaction.
@jine do you have any reference about clicking being considered "poor"? I would see it like this: there is click, scroll and infinite scroll. It is true that scroll is more efficient and less consuming than clicking, but it's always aligned with the user's intention. Click is an action, an expression of will, so to speak, while scroll in an infinite scroll setting can become just automatic behavior.
@entreprecariat Thanks for the answer! In the book “Interface Culture” Steven Johnson mentions at one point (Chapter 4) thinkers who argue that clicking on links is missing something (but as part of a general culturally pessimistic view).
I read it in more detail somewhere, as a continuation of an argument of the German philosopher Hans Blumenberg, who wrote something about electricity and pushing buttons, but unfortunately I can’t find it right now.
@entreprecariat interesting read. rather than progression (click, scroll, playlist) I see cycles (product cycles?) where innovations go through. disruptive tech comes (fire, radio, TV, internet), people go crazy inventing new ways to use it (a lot of "manual work"), tech is industrialized, centralized and automatized until humans have no choice but to passively consume it i.e. be consumed
@paolog thanks for the remark. I totally agree, cycle is the appropriate word, see Schumpeter or Kondratiev. But there is something more subtle in the click > scroll > playlist, which maybe should be called tendency…
@entreprecariat Does the user act with objects? The actor acts too, no? The agent might be a spy. The agent may be acting at the behest of another.
@entreprecariat The term “netizen“ was an attempt to define this in the 1990s, but it did not establish.
“Netizens are not just anyone who comes online […] They are not people who come to the Net thinking it is a service.”
But: “Lurkers are not Netizens, and vanity home pages are not the work of Netizens. While lurking or trivial home pages do not harm the Net, they do not contribute either.”
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