Lifestream, Tweets

I’m Sick of this Crap and I Want It to End

Hear, hear, Mike!

In this blog post, Mike Caulfield laments the Internet falling short of its vision.

I bought into the early hopes that the World Wide Web was really going to be a World Wide Memex, where people used it like this, as a tool for thought. And at the core of that vision was that idea that people would be using the web to try to construct and share understanding, not to argue about it.

Rather than co-constructing understanding online, we ‘share and argue, argue and share’, all the while surveilled and offered purchase suggestions. Why do we do it? Caulfield suggests reward addiction and call of the ego:

Confirming beliefs makes you feel smart and arguing with people makes you feel smarter than someone else. Both allow you to snack on dopamine throughout the day.

Caulfield suggests we need to learn – and teach – better collaboration and communication, and stop indulging ‘engagement’. There is more to it than that though – he suggests that the change in cultural practices is connected to the dominance of the Usernet-style architecture of the places we communicate – SNSs, rather than the hyper-linked, memex-like vision of the web.

The post raises questions about the degree to which technological infrastructure influences social practice – and, by the same token, how consciously changing our behaviour could influence technology through the data the behaviour produces. Commerce complicates the issue, however. As Lister, et al. suggest:

economic conditions have a direct effect upon our user experience (p. 172).


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