πŸ“‘ The Perfect User

Bookmarked The Perfect User β€” Real Life (Real Life)

Digital wellness movements insist there is a single way to β€œstay 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 β€” the Perfect User β€” 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 β€œhuman” subject it requires.

2 responses on “πŸ“‘ 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.

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