In “You Are Not A Gadget”, Jaron Larnier argues that the choices when
designing a technology, such as the limitations made for simplicity’s sake, can
shape the way we think about not just the piece of technology itself, but also
the domain it applies to. That process of lock-in, for especially
persistent and successful designs, can end up shaping the way we interact with
the real world.
Social media as it is currently designed is an answer to the question, “what if
we made a database of people?”. Their design of structured fields in a
“profile” meant to allow people to express themselves in a remarkably narrow way
may now be influencing the way we think of ourselves. If a profile is me to
some degree, and if that profile is limited and structured, that means that
I’m only different from other people insofar as those particular fields
How can one’s Facebook profile ever reflect their kind nature, their temperance,
their compassion? There’s no series of “likes” that convey wisdom. Instead,
people allow themselves to be defined by their consumer choices, their food
preference, their ideologies. We seem to be making an effort to externalise such
nuance-less traits in everyday life by becoming more and more similar to the
group’s archetype (“the atheist”, “the feminist”, “the conservative”).
When you allow a social media profile to be a valid description of a person,
you are limiting personhood to a tiny subset of the human experience.
Gamification of human interaction degrades human