Self-Obsession

I really enjoyed reading the first chapter of Technology As Experience by McCarthy Wright. When thinking about the media communication aspect of technology, we tend to have the impression that technology makes us self-obsessed. My generation grow up editing our facebook profiles on a weekly, if not daily basis. The Millennials pick out who they want to date on Tinter with a simple finger swipe. When taking a closer look at these so-called internet self-obsessions, we slowly realize they might not be as “self-obsessed” at all, because they are not about the Self to begin with.

As Lev Menovich pointed out when commenting on the interactivity aspect of technology, he suggests that a certain egocentric aspect of internet culture is illusionary. The physical act of clicking a mouse button give us a sense of agency. However, the design of the interface and the hyperlinked text on the computer screen limits our thought process. The result is we click through someone else’s thinking process while mistaking it for our own. Internet culture is confusing because it is both isolating and interactive at the same time. We are free to explore the Self in a context that’s often very reactively based on external feedback. We somehow still haven’t figured out a way to really cope with how internet can be so seemingly accepting yet abusive at the same time. On social dating apps like Tinder, we have the freedom to reveal however much about our physical appearance as we want, however keeping in the back of our minds that we could be rejected from someone’s life with a simple screen swipe that happens within the blink of an eye.

Positioning interactive technology as experiences allow us to separate the physical interactivity from the emotional, aesthetic and spiritual aspect of interacting with technology. When it gets to physical actions that can be easily measured with time, “fast time wins on most occations.”(Scheuerman, P291, 2009). However, experience has an aesthetic and spiritual aspects that defies external measurement. Experience has no concrete beginning and end. It is an ongoing process of identity formation, somewhat like a child’s play (McCarthy, 2004), and adults imagining the plots of a literature book. In the world of child’s play and imagination, there are no cripples, deaf, and disabled. Everyone owns as much as the limitation of what he or she could imagine.

I can’t help asking how academic discussions of emotional and spiritual computing will translate in the real world, when computation is ultimately packaged into software and hardware products and delivered through consumption. Computer interface seals actual information processing into a black box. Through simple clicks, digital images are generated, narratives are formed, the virtual world is realized. As a result, the spectator is forced to acknowledge that the use of the computer is based on a “genealogy of conventions”(Menkeman, 2010), while in reality the computer is just another tool that can be used in many different ways. We need a new intervention that allow spectators to be exposed to the process, and not just the result of creation.

I’d like to hope that coding is voice, is education, is knowledge. Coding is personal and fun. It also carries a high political stance that can sometimes be overlooked. Coding is the vehicle to new consciousness. 

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