The week in quotes (2019W03)

Sebastian Greger

This past week, I encountered these quotes worth sharing, and sources worth reading:

Anne Gibson, presenting an alphabet of 26 human beings relying on accessibly designed websites:

[…] many of us are only temporarily able-bodied. […] At any given moment, we could be juggling multiple tasks that take an eye or an ear or a finger away. We could be exhausted or sick or stressed. Our need for an accessible web might last a minute, an hour, a day, or the rest of our lives. We never know. We never know who. We never know when. We just know that when it’s our turn […], we will want the web to work. So today, we need to make simple, readable, effective content.

Privacy activist Heather Burns in an interview on the struggles of defending human rights in open source tech projects:

[…] there is antipathy at best, aggression at worst, towards privacy in some projects, because leaders and influencers think it’s about legal compliance and government interference. The thing is — it’s not about people in Europe telling you what to do, it’s about human rights and values.

Eli Pariser looks at the history, and calls for a renaissance, of dignity in the age of platform capitalism:

Growth hacking and -gamification—pursuits at the core of most consumer–facing -startups—are about nothing if not treating people instrumentally, as means to the end of growing active usership and revenue per user. […] Our ability to make choices that really reflect our values is subsumed by nudges to do more of what platforms want.

Over our history, we’ve found ways to create tools and spaces that call out and amplify the best parts of human nature. That’s the great story of -civilization—the development of technologies like written language that have moderated our animal impulses. What we need now is a new technological -enlightenment—a turn from our behaviorally optimized dark age to an era of online spaces that embrace what makes us truly human.

When intimate moments are merely evaluated based on their shareability, how does this affect friendships, human relationships, asks Alexandra Molotkow in “New Feelings: Selfish Intimacy”:

Most of the time, what feels monumental to you is a trifle to anyone else; describing it out loud, absorbing an outside response, can put you at odds with your own emotions. Posting pictures of a loved one is, on one hand, like placing them on a work desk; on the other, it seems obscene to consider the image’s likability. Posting pictures of friends means using their image, in some way, to augment your own, inviting the sort of self-presentational calculus from which friendships are, ideally, an oasis.

Shawn Wang uses the innovative term of “learning exhaust” to describe something that both this blog and many of my blogroll’s favourite sources run on - putting out sometimes half-baked thoughts and inspirations to enable discourse and shared learning:

You already know that you will never be done learning. But most people “learn in private”, and lurk. They consume content without creating any themselves. Again, that’s fine, but we’re here to talk about being in the top quintile. What you do here is to have a habit of creating learning exhaust. Write blogs and tutorials and cheatsheets. Speak at meetups and conferences. Ask and answer things on Stackoverflow or Reddit. (Avoid the walled gardens like Slack and Discourse, they’re not public). Make Youtube videos or Twitch streams. Start a newsletter. Draw cartoons (people loooove cartoons!). Whatever your thing is, make the thing you wish you had found when you were learning. Don’t judge your results by “claps” or retweets or stars or upvotes - just talk to yourself from 3 months ago.

A (more or less) weekly collection of inspiring, surprising or otherwise noteworthy texts, talks and podcasts. Usually around my core topics of usability, ethics, and digital society. Previous issues in the archive.

I'm Sebastian, Sociologist and Interaction Designer. This journal is mostly about bringing toge­ther social science and design for inclusive, privacy-focused, and sustainable "human-first" digital strategies. I also tend to a "digital garden" with carefully curated resources.

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