Frank Chimero’s talk about recalibrating digital design speaks to me in many ways. Not only for the reference to the Amish’ approach to technology (I talked about that at an IxDA Helsinki meetup in the context of my non-use research a few years ago, and it’s always an analogy I enjoy coming back to), but for the difference between the hypercapitalist internet, focused on quick revenues and increasing control, and an internet that is deeply concerned with cultural and societal development.
Facebook, Google, Apple, and Amazon aren’t going anywhere at this point—nor should we expect them to—so it’s best to recalibrate the digital experience by increasing the footprint and mindshare of the kinds of cultural and communal value they can’t provide. The web isn’t like Manhattan real estate—if we want something, we can make space for it.
Different measuring sticks are also in order. If commercial networks on the web measure success by reach and profit, cultural endeavors need to see their successes in terms of resonance and significance. This is the new game, one that elevates both the people who make the work and those who see, use, and enjoy it.
And that’s where the Amish enter the picture:
How can the internet, something so obviously technological, seem to be Amish, a set of people resiliently holding out against technology?
It comes down to the idea of the web as a commonwealth. The Amish are not anti-technology. It’s more accurate to say they are only interested in adopting technologies which meet their community-focused criteria. While you or I make individual choices for what technologies we adopt and feel our way through the choice, the Amish collectively make these decisions, so their criteria must be much more clear.