@despens It's kind of essay-length but I can try a TLDR version:

"UX" is cultural technique conceived by a small group of wealthy, educated, mostly hetero-pale-male-us-suburban-west-coastians. These things have a subtle but dramatic influence on one's everyday life and perception of the world because they are used for many hours a day and they have persuasive behavioral effects. The methods and functions of these interfaces are determined by a coterie at big greedy companies, unaccountable to their subject users.

Some well meaning people believe that the solution to this subjugation is to apply the culture of UX to alternative software cultures.

But this is fundamentally normative!

In the eyes of some, interfaces that are too "weird", "gay", "feminine", "childish", "nerdy", "primitive", "obscure", "decorative", "messy", "oriental", "garish" or "trashy" are considered unacceptable and incompatible with (dominant, corporate) global society. The UX Savior believes "other" software must be streamlined, disciplined and standardized.

I know there are some good intentions but UX, as a general philosophy, carries the stench of a kind of colonialism.

@praxeology @praxeology Ha, this brings to mind the countless apps created to record police violence, the latest being edition.cnn.com/2020/05/31/us/

Or Snowden, Marlinspike, et al trying to solve surveillance / encryption issues with "better UX"

This is indeed exactly as you sketch out.

However there might also be parts of this ideology at work when talking about "alternative" interfaces. During a time when user interfaces were mostly developed as HCI research based on pretty solid, opinionated concepts and idioms, and kind of "peak consistency" was reached around 20 years ago, the "alternative" interfaces were the ones that sucked. They were different for no reason but being different, "expressive", or "emotional", like graphic designers thinking they could make a better scrollbar than 30 years of research did produce, in Flash, in an afternoon. But this generation is now behind the wheel and has co-opted and mainstreamed "quirkiness" or "expressiveness", "emotion", even "empathy" (blargh)—just paired with telemetry.

So are alternative interfaces going to help, or is it kind of accelerating what is already mainstream, producing more defined target audiences in the process?

@despens True there's some colonial drive in the alternative stuff too. But I guess I was thinking more of the less flashy (but perhaps trashy) more non-design, naive kinds of interfaces and communities of practice: TUIs, niche web-apps with unusual metaphors, skins, culturally specific games, live-coding, regional message boards, etc.

I feel like there's this continual pressure, if something has some small success, to then make it look and act more in line with the dominant UX norms. And this crushes some of the space to be and see differently in the world.

For me, the existence of strange, configurable and small-social software means I can be a part of something without this constant pressure to conform.

@praxeology Good point, especially the configurability. Configuration is something that has historically had a bad name in mainstream design, where configuration is seen as a decision the user is burdened with, instead of power given to them, no matter if HCI, UX, ED, or whatever else was the current hype.

@despens The term I like recently is "composability" meaning you can kind of plug things together or make changes that allow small tools to work together. Unix pipes (and of course Plan 9 stuff) but also things that are scriptable, pluggable or even just support common data formats or cut'n'paste, can fit that description.

@praxeology @despens I like “composability”. Papert used to refer to this as a form of bricolage, which is how he though computers should work.

@praxeology @despens 'UX' stems directly from Californian Ideology era Silicon Valley--techno-utopian-libertarian new age modernism... All of professionalized western 'Design' is still poisoned by the Modernist notion of universality and optimization for capital (including actual money, but also an ideological framing of everything as a transaction or value exchange). This leads to prioritizing things like: ease of use, efficiency, hegemonic aesthetics, app-itis, etc etc.... it's a good part of what sent me running from the software/interaction design industry a few years ago.

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