📑 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.

8 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 …

  4. Coming up to three years out of the classroom and not being based in a school, I am often left thinking about what this means for my identify as a teacher. Although I still work within education, my current title of ‘subject matter expert‘ seems a long way from the classroom. This is something that I have been pondering for a while. Here then are some thoughts focused on three questions: legitimacy, context and relevance.
    A Question of Legitimacy
    A colleague recently put out the request for schools to invite them into their school as the experience of being in the classroom apparently provides ‘legitimacy’. For me, this is always the dilemma with working in a central organisation across a number of schools. Although you may have up-to-date content knowledge, this is not always based on lived experience. As I have contended elsewhere, I am doing ‘real’ work, however the question that remains is whether this work is ‘legitimate’ to be called ‘a teacher’?
    The Cambridge Dictionary defines ‘legitimacy’ as “reasonable and acceptable.” Therefore, is the work my colleagues and I do reasonable and acceptable to be called a ‘teacher’? I have heard some use the word ‘transactional’ to derogatorily describe the tasks that we complete. This is based on the observation that many of the processes are seemingly repetitious and methodical. I have lived this label before when I was report report coordinator, timetabler and all-round data guy within a school. The problem I have with this is that simply labelling such actions as transactional is that although the outcome maybe set, there are often variables at play when it comes to the process. This variables demand a sense of perspective and empathy to the lived experience.
    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.
    A Question of Relevance
    Coming at the question of identify from a different perspective, Brendan Jones reflects on the world of conferences and professional development specialists wondering about the relevance of those outside of the classroom?

    Where is the line that determines when “being out of the classroom” makes someone’s work with educators irrelevant? 6 months out? 1 year? 5 years? Never in?
    — Brendan Jones 🚴 (@jonesytheteachr) July 7, 2019

    https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
    I think this is an interesting question. In part, it makes me think about teaching VCE English. I have not taught it for a few years, having worked in a P-9 college for much of my career. However, I feel that I could easily step back into that environment. I assume that there would be changes in the curriculum that I would need to grapple with, but I do not feel that my experience is irrelevant.
    In regards to conferences, questioning the relevance of presenters speaks as much to our expectations from such situations. Even if a facilitator is currently practicing within a classroom, they will not be the one to deliver the outcomes within the school so relevancy does not always seem the prime concern. In addition to this, there are some areas where no amount of knowledge and experience is going to achieve anything as the topic or technique in question has never been tackled before.
    There are also times when I think classroom experience and content knowledge is itself something of a distraction. I think that this can be the case with coaching, where the focus is on the questions, coachees and a culture of curiousity. I think that Tomaz Lasic captures this in response to Jones’ tweet.

    As someone asking the same question… You can never determine how people see you but IMO if you can show genuine empathy and curiosity for teachers’ work together with assertive acknowledgement of your own experiences (and limitations)…you’ll be right in most teachers’ eyes
    — Tomaz Lasic (@lasic) July 8, 2019

    https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    I am not sure if I am still a ‘teacher’? However, one thing that has not changed is that I care. As Dave Cormier suggests:

    Once we jointly answer questions like “why would people care about this” and “how does this support people starting to care about this for the first time” and “will this stop people who care now from caring”, we have a place to work from.

    This means having empathy for whoever it is that I am working with, being mindful of their context and identifying how I may support. This was how I approached teaching and it does not differ now.
    As always, any thoughts and questions are welcome.

    If you enjoy what you read here, feel free to sign up for my monthly newsletter to catch up on all things learning, edtech and storytelling.

  5. Coming up to three years out of the classroom and not being based in a school, I am often left thinking about what this means for my identify as a teacher. Although I still work within education, my current title of ‘subject matter expert‘ seems a long way from the classroom. This is something that I have been pondering for a while. Here then are some thoughts focused on three questions: legitimacy, context and relevance.
    A Question of Legitimacy
    A colleague recently put out the request for schools to invite them into their school as the experience of being in the classroom apparently provides ‘legitimacy’. For me, this is always the dilemma with working in a central organisation across a number of schools. Although you may have up-to-date content knowledge, this is not always based on lived experience. As I have contended elsewhere, I am doing ‘real’ work, however the question that remains is whether this work is ‘legitimate’ to be called ‘a teacher’?
    The Cambridge Dictionary defines ‘legitimacy’ as “reasonable and acceptable.” Therefore, is the work my colleagues and I do reasonable and acceptable to be called a ‘teacher’? I have heard some use the word ‘transactional’ to derogatorily describe the tasks that we complete. This is based on the observation that many of the processes are seemingly repetitious and methodical. I have lived this label before when I was report report coordinator, timetabler and all-round data guy within a school. The problem I have with this is that simply labelling such actions as transactional is that although the outcome maybe set, there are often variables at play when it comes to the process. This variables demand a sense of perspective and empathy to the lived experience.
    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.
    A Question of Relevance
    Coming at the question of identify from a different perspective, Brendan Jones reflects on the world of conferences and professional development specialists wondering about the relevance of those outside of the classroom?

    Where is the line that determines when “being out of the classroom” makes someone’s work with educators irrelevant? 6 months out? 1 year? 5 years? Never in?
    — Brendan Jones 🚴 (@jonesytheteachr) July 7, 2019

    https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js
    I think this is an interesting question. In part, it makes me think about teaching VCE English. I have not taught it for a few years, having worked in a P-9 college for much of my career. However, I feel that I could easily step back into that environment. I assume that there would be changes in the curriculum that I would need to grapple with, but I do not feel that my experience is irrelevant.
    In regards to conferences, questioning the relevance of presenters speaks as much to our expectations from such situations. Even if a facilitator is currently practicing within a classroom, they will not be the one to deliver the outcomes within the school so relevancy does not always seem the prime concern. In addition to this, there are some areas where no amount of knowledge and experience is going to achieve anything as the topic or technique in question has never been tackled before.
    There are also times when I think classroom experience and content knowledge is itself something of a distraction. I think that this can be the case with coaching, where the focus is on the questions, coachees and a culture of curiousity. I think that Tomaz Lasic captures this in response to Jones’ tweet.

    As someone asking the same question… You can never determine how people see you but IMO if you can show genuine empathy and curiosity for teachers’ work together with assertive acknowledgement of your own experiences (and limitations)…you’ll be right in most teachers’ eyes
    — Tomaz Lasic (@lasic) July 8, 2019

    https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    I am not sure if I am still a ‘teacher’? However, one thing that has not changed is that I care. As Dave Cormier suggests:

    Once we jointly answer questions like “why would people care about this” and “how does this support people starting to care about this for the first time” and “will this stop people who care now from caring”, we have a place to work from.

    This means having empathy for whoever it is that I am working with, being mindful of their context and identifying how I may support. This was how I approached teaching and it does not differ now.
    As always, any thoughts and questions are welcome.

    If you enjoy what you read here, feel free to sign up for my monthly newsletter to catch up on all things learning, edtech and storytelling.

  6. Stephen, thank you for the reminder of what I have missed this year after taking a step back from things. I felt that so much of my online life had become stale, repeatable and templated, I wondered if it ‘sparked joy‘ anymore. I had wondered if I was doing things out of habit, rather than with purpose. Sporadically, diving back into my feed, I added a few posts to my site, one on the AI bubble and the other on educational communities, only to discover your responses:

    Let’s allow that AI is a bubble (this saves us an exercise in semantics). Is it true that all bubbles pop? Yes, we can name many bubbles that have popped, but let’s consider some other technologies that experienced rapid growth, so much so that any ‘pop’ of the bubble was merely a rounding error. Like, say, the telephone. Cars. Aircraft. Microwave ovens. Computers. I could go on, but you get the idea. We tend to forget the bubbles that didn’t pop, because they became fixtures of everyday life.

    Source: Pluralistic: What kind of bubble is AI? by Stephen Downes

    And …

    Twitter was only ever a subset of the larger educational community, and it always felt to me a bit like a high school clique. It was pretty easy to find yourself on the outside or the subject of Twitter disapprobation; I experienced it a few times (but to nowhere near the extent of some others). If Twitter was the best we could hope for, we weren’t hoping for much.

    Source: Communities and Conversations of the Past by Stephen Downes

    They were like seeds sprouting in the garden. As always, you added perspective that spurred me to think more, a reminder of the interactions I had missed diving into the world of books.

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