Hans de Zwart has written a piece on how Al Wei Wei the Chinese artist is living in all our futures. The whole thing is well worth a read. There is a lot to unpack in it. The paragraph that points to the New Intermediaries (Google, Facebook, Netflix) that sit between us and everything else is worth a book on its own. As is Disney normalising surveillance and quantified self technology through MagicBands.
I was once asked to help someone start a business that put trackers on kids. I found it deeply creepy and still do. Though as a parent of kids a little piece at the back of your mind is going. “Well it’d be nice to be sure”. Which is why these things will probably sell despite them being creepy. The end of the piece points out another problem with constant monitoring
We need failure to be able to learn, we need inefficiency to be able to recover from mistakes, we have to take risks to make progress and so it is imperative to find a way to celebrate imperfection.
The bit that really resonated with me was on Casinos and Natasha Dow Schüll and her book ‘Addiction by Design’.
In it, she clearly shows how the slot machine industry has designed the complete process (the casinos, the machines themselves, the odds, etc.) to get people as quickly as possible into ‘the zone’. The player is seen as an ‘asset’ for which the ‘time on device’ has to be as long as possible, so that the ‘player productivity’ is as high as possible.
The comments on the use of defibrillators in Casinos is especially disturbing. The logical jump made is that
Facebook is very much like a virtual casino abusing the same cognitive weaknesses as the real casinos.
And as Hugh MacLeod pointed out
Once you realize that 90% of social media is just about the dopamine, the rest is easy 😀
— Hugh MacLeod (@gapingvoid) September 25, 2012
Of course the pointless babble and the social grooming may be the very point of social media (the clue is in the name).
Steffen Banhardt on Flickr. Licensed via Creative Commons