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?
the user uses, the agent acts
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
ok, so here's my tentative chronology of XMLHttpRequest/ AJAX:
2000: Microsoft comes up with XMLHttpRequest (the cornerstone of AJAX) and implements it in Outlook Mail: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XMLHttpRequest#History
2004: Google borrows several ideas from Oddpost to create Gmail: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oddpost
this might have been the historical bifurcation moment: "There were two implementations [of Outlook Web Access] that got started, one based on serving up straight web pages as efficiently as possible with straight HTML, and another one that started playing with the cool user interface you could build with DHTML." https://web.archive.org/web/20070623125327/http://www.alexhopmann.com/xmlhttp.htm
Paul Graham in 2005: "Near my house there is a car with a bumper sticker that reads "death before inconvenience." Most people, most of the time, will take whatever choice requires least work. If Web-based software wins, it will be because it's more convenient. And it looks as if it will be, for users and developers both." http://www.paulgraham.com/road.html
God bless the Wayback machine, which salvaged my 2015 thoughts on hyperlinearity https://web.archive.org/web/20151114093433/http://silviolorusso.com:80/a-couple-of-thoughts-on-hyperlinearity/
ok, I tried to put together a tentative chronology of this idea of Interface Industrialization, connecting the emergence of web apps, the invention of the infinite scroll, the appearance of syndication and aggregation, the introduction of smartphones and thus the swipe gesture. Spoiler: it ends with a US Senator wanting to ban infinite scroll
@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?
OCR Output (chars: 1169)
say that the processes of digitalization (the secondary, non-intrinsic effects of digitization) are
crucial. In order to describe the current state of publishing ecosystems, Andersen and Pold
refer to Ted Striphas’ (2011, 180-182) notion of “controlled consumption,” which is in turn
borrowed by Henry Lefebvre. In a society of controlled consumption, control is characterized
by four aspects:
1. A big industrial infrastructure equipped with cybernetic systems — “directive and regulatory ap-
paratuses” (Striphas 2011, 181) — able to manage production, distribution, exchange, and con-
2. Programming logics that, contrary to advertising, closely monitor the behaviors of consumers in
order to minimize — or even eliminate — freedom of choice. Programming is actuated both in the
digital context and in the physical one through, for instance, DRM or GPS tracking;
3. Controlled obsolescence that, unlike planned obsolescence, guarantees obsolescence by program-
ming it into the product and making it therefore limited in functionality and durability;
4. A reorganization and troubling of specific practices of everyday life.
@air_pump thanks for the encouragement! at best, it will consists of some textual debris scattered around the web, like the notes I have on the blog; or i will just go with this giant thread :-)
@entreprecariat But the discussion was well before Flash. Macromedia opened casual user's eyes to what could possibly be done with vector stuff. 1996 is too early, the year I got my Internet Explorer 1.0 T-Shirt; but Berners-Lee compared the development of the Web to the radio and TV and said "you haven't seen anything yet"
@entreprecariat The first place I ever saw it was on Orkut. You could fave a post and it didn't reload the whole page. mindblown.gif
@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…
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