in a different timeline we all use the "knee brace" instead of the mouse https://www.dougengelbart.org/content/view/224/217/
on the concept of user
1) User. I can't provide a singular definition of this term, because the tensions between contrasting definitions provide fertile ground on the research. Alexander Galloway points out that one of the main software dichotomies is the user versus the programmer, the latter being the one who acts and the former being the one who's acted upon. According to Paul Dourish and Christine Satchell, the "user" is a discursive formation to articulate the relationship between humans and machines. For Olia Lialina, the concept of user is a way to highlight the system that mediates the interaction. Lev Manovich indicates that user is just a convenient generic term for who can be considered from time to time a player, a gamer, a musician, etc. Manovich's point is something I'm considering further. This variety of uses he suggest is predicated upon the conviction that the computer is, in Alan Kay's words, a metamedium. But, when the main personal computer becomes the smartphone, is that still the case?
here's some thoughts on movement and relocation on computers, blessed by @luxpris beautiful gif https://networkcultures.org/entreprecariat/on-movement-and-relocation/
knowledge as know-how
Knowledge is always a know-how. This know-how, which might be implicit, is first codified and then automated: a technique becomes a commodity. Example: online search. What search engines commodify is not the information itself but the information retrieval process. The PageRank algorithm codifies the social practice of linking. The list of results is the commodity that derives from such codification process.
terminological conundrum, help needed!
How to call that messy assemblage around computers made of popular devices, semi-standardized interface layouts of apps and websites, widespread functional expectations, daily online habits, prevailing sentiment towards technology?
- mainstream computing
- the anti-Stallman
- the Techium
- the generalist software-hardware continuum
- normie computerdom
- platform consensus
- hegemonic computing
How to call contemporary computer monoculture? Here's some ideas: https://networkcultures.org/entreprecariat/the-user-condition-06-the-ithing/
Something I should have added in the conclusions is that *monoculture is plural*: monoculture is not Mac but Mac vs PC, or more recently Apple vs Huawei. Monoculture is in the intersection of cultures that attempt hegemony. Do we see a clash of cultures in this video? Yes, but we also see a monoculture. The dichotomy *is* the monoculture.
"People used to talk about the internet as a place. The information superhighway. A frontier. The internet was something to get on. Even the desktop metaphor was in turn clarifying, then confusing: it helped people understand how a personal computer organizes information, while it invited a user to think of the experience as three-dimensional and spatial. Now people talk about the internet as something to talk to; it is someone." Joanne McNeil, Lurking, 17
On externalized knowledge/know how: "When he was CEO, Eric Schmidt called multiple search results a 'bug'. Google 'should be able to give you the right answer just once. We should know what you meant.' When a Youtube video ends and autoplay selects another, that's Google attempt at a 'right' answer." Joanne McNeil, Lurking, p. 36
updated the list of names for computer monoculture with "impersonal computing", which I like https://networkcultures.org/entreprecariat/the-user-condition-06-the-ithing/
some user-related Benjamin Bratton's quotes from *The Stack*:
"In practice, the User is not a type of creature but a category of agents; it is a position within a system without which it has no role or essential identity." p. 251
"[The User's position] never allows someone to enter into it fully formed; it also forms that person (or thing) into shape as it provides them tactics for shifting systems and their apparatuses." p. 252
" […] the User is both an initiator and an outcome …" p. 253
"We, the actual consumers, are the shadows of the personified simulations of ourselves" p. 255
'But neural networks, and software in general, do not create new reality—they ingest data and reflect back a reality that is a regurgitation and reconfiguration of what they have already consumed. And this reality that these machines reflect back is slightly wrong. Recall the statistician’s aphorism “all models are wrong, but some are useful.” What happens when we rely on these models to produce new realities, and feed those slightly-wrong realities back into the machines again? What happens when we listen to Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist week after week, “like” the posts that Facebook recommends to us, and scroll through TikTok after TikTok? I am guilty of all of these, and it would not be wrong to claim that my taste in music and sense of humor are mediated by this mutual recursion between the algorithms and the real world.' https://blog.jse.li/posts/software/
after many years infinite scroll might be coming to google search https://www.seroundtable.com/google-pagination-tests-dancing-google-logo-29578.html
here's an article from #npccafe, since it's related to this thread. The idea: Angry Birds stands for action, decision while Flappy Bird stands for repetitive behaviour, automatism. An excerpt:
"Angry Birds is the constellation of links punctuating a Wikipedia entry or the landing page of The Guardian or The New York Times. It is Open Street Maps or Google Earth. It is Radio.garden. In short, it stands for any territory that allows a destination, right or wrong. It is a multidimensional (though monodirectional) game. The user-player is here a user-navigator.
Flappy Bird is the bottomless feed of Facebook or Twitter, the chain of Instagram stories, the automatic playlist of Youtube and Netflix. It is all that goes by itself and therefore paralyses the user, making their intervention accidental or superfluous. In the inexhaustible feed, scrolling fells like a mechanical, rudimentary activity, ready to be automated, like turning the crank of a phonograph. You don’t navigate a feed, at best you unfold it. With stories and playlists, instead, full automation is finally achieved."
Some notes on Douglas Rushkoff re: techlash and net apology:
"Computers were the tools that would upscale humanity. But maybe humanity simply wasn’t developed enough to handle the abilities potentiated by digital technologies distributed so widely and rapidly. At least not the sector of humanity that ended up being responsible for developing this stuff." [weird take imo to see human in need of update to work with tech: belief in competence rather than community]
"No matter our current perceptions of our lowly place in the order of things, we are not still in the land of passive television consumption and limited knowledge, taking actions that somehow recede into the past and fade away. No matter how stupid and powerless we have been led to think of ourselves, we have at our fingertips — in our pockets, even — access to the near-totality of human knowledge and capacity." some hope]
"But looking back, I’m thinking the answer wouldn’t have been to talk less about the power and potential of the net, but more." [net maximalism]
"Whether you’re scrolling through your social media site of choice, such as Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, or Instagram, or simply engaging with all the bad news on your favorite news source’s website for long periods of time, doomscrolling isn’t platform specific. And its roots extend back past the internet to the rise of the 24-hour cable news cycles, where it first became possible to gorge on depressing news on an endless loop.
After being first mentioned on Twitter in 2018, the term doomscrolling has become an increasingly popular way to describe the obsessive perusal of social media or news that for many has been sparked by the fear and anxiety around the coronavirus. The word’s close cousin, “doom surfing,” dates back to the late 2000s, when it was used in reference to the game Dino Run (the term described the act of running next to the game’s “Wall of Doom”). In many ways, the concept of doomscrolling—which more specifically refers to scrolling on your phone—has become the word of the moment, at least according to Merriam-Webster, which featured both terms on its Words We’re Watching blog at the end of April."
"[…] il giocatore può articolare un progetto personale all’interno del mondo di gioco che può discostarsi dall’approccio strumentale che è implicitamente indicato dal gioco stesso (e che invita ad accumulare risorse e ottimizzare comportamenti, ricompensando il giocatore di conseguenza)."
"As smartphones blurred organizational boundaries of online and offline worlds, spatial metaphors lost favor. How could we talk about the internet as a place when we're checking it on the go, with mobile hardware offering turn-by-turn directions from a car cup holder or stuffed in a jacket pocket?"
McNeil, Lurking, p. 118-9
@praxeology yeah literally Don Norman, in fact Olia Lialina swiftly replied.
However, this can also lead to a less populist discussion: while the term user is valuable as it points to the mediation within a system, there are indeed different types of users that operate according to different power balances, e.g. the amazon customer vs the amazon warehouse worker.
@entreprecariat Sure but doesn't that seem irrelevant? If you have various different roles and relations then you need to be specific and refer to the "driver" or "passenger" or whatever to avoid confusion. But that doesn't mean you have to ban the word "user" out of some kind of faux-humanism.
I mean are the Uber designers sitting around having some deep sociological discussions about specific forms of everyday life and injustice? I suspect these names are just translated to access lists and logic diagrams along with slight color and button variations.
@praxeology yeah, surely it is not within Uber that those differentiations will be properly addressed
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