📑 The Perfect User

Bookmarked The Perfect User — Real Life (Real Life)

Digital wellness movements insist there is a single way to “stay human”

Cherie Lacey, Catherine Caudwell and Alex Beattie touch on the irony of the humane movement. Although those such as Tristan Harris are pushing back on the structures put in place by platform capitalism, they still fall back on traditional notion of a templated sense of identity and self. This has me thinking about digital mindfulness.

Marginalia

Regardless of how worthy their causes may be, both these apps require the user to enter into a thoroughly designed user-position — the Perfect User — to even be recognized as a subject by the socio-technical apparatus. One cannot function as a user without conforming to the modes of use that have been designed into the system. Put differently, apps like Siempo and Add Intent are actively involved in producing the kind of subject with which they claim to interact. The user of these systems remains a docile subject to be brought under control and disciplined, but the fantasy-structure of intentionality masks the ideological functioning of the apps, not to mention the broader structures of wellness capitalism itself, by encouraging an aspirational form of digital consumption. Tech humanism more or less insists that one be a user to be recognized as human. This move keeps us tethered to classic humanist structures of categorization, whereby some users are considered better than others.

The Perfect User may appear to be a self-evidently superior form of subjectivity well-suited to the pressures of our techno-social age, but that should not blind us to the relational politics and ideological entanglements that lie behind it. Though it seems rooted in wellness and empowerment, it implicitly retains the hierarchies and exclusions of enlightenment humanism by assuming the nature of the “human” subject it requires.

3 responses on “📑 The Perfect User”

  1. I found Ryan Holiday’s list interesting. For example, I scrapped alerts long ago, yet I have found myself subsequently checking for updates. I think the benefit is that this is at least on my terms. These posts are a useful provocation to at least stop and reflect.
    I was intrigued by another post recently discussing the humane technology movement and the point that although they are pushing against platform capitalism, they are still very much in favour of the templated self.


  2. The Perfect User
    Cherie Lacey, Catherine Caudwell and Alex Beattie discuss the ironic templated sense of identity perpetuated by the humane technology movement.
    Privacy matters because it empowers us all
    Carissa Véliz pushes back on the idea that anyone can say they have ‘nothing to hide’. Whether it be attention, money, reputation or identity, she argues that we all have something worth getting at.

    Also on:

  3. … A Question of Context

    An example of such a transaction is my recent work supporting schools with the loading of literacy data into the central repository. One of my many hats. We had created a guide that walked people through the process. However, as more and more schools made contact it became apparent that there were many assumptions at play. Whether it be user access within the system, expectations based on past habits or working through various data errors, each of these issues needed to be contended with patiently, especially as the problem was not always evident to the user at the other end. Although it is easy to step back now and breakdown some of the difficulties faced, how to improve such transactions in the future is not always clear.

    In some ways the recording of data needs to be covered in training. The problem with this though is that currently such workshops are mash together of different focuses and needs. Added to the mix is the reality that every school context is different. In the case of literacy data, for some schools it is the responsibility of someone in administration who enters the results, for others it is the learning and teaching leader, or even the literacy coordinator. This all depends on the school and the outcome desired. However, the training workshops are usually aimed at those working in administration, because they are usually in-charge of ‘transactional’ matters.

    In an ideal world, school users would be able to call on their prior knowledge to debug any issues. However, the templated nature of the technology neither allows nor encourages any notion of heutagogy and self-learning. Rather than working things out, people often fall back on guides, only then to scream out in frustration (usually on the phone) when nothing makes sense …

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