Now this is what I call blogging™

So you buy a house.

It’s a nice house. It takes some getting use to. You learn where everything is. How wide the halls are, how many people can get along aside you in them. How the windows are best opened. There’s the bathroom and a closet and they are -this- big and -this- small. You have a living room and a dining room furniture and gadgets.

And one day you come home and realize all the furniture’s been moved around. Someone’s painted the rooms a different colour. The grandma floral-print couch and curtains have been replaced by minimalist Ikea furniture.

In other words my bank changed their online user interface today and I don’t recognize my stuff.

I’ve been complaining a lot about interface changes (mostly to Matt) and occasionally on here. I literally do not use Youtube very much anymore because I don’t understand it and can’t be bothered to relearn the whole interface again.

((Did I mention I have this problem with bathrooms? You know-some bathrooms have hand dryers, others paper towels. But sometimes those paper towel dispensers are automatic, sometimes they’re not. There’s a mall in my city that has none of the above. No, their hand dryers are cleverly hidden in the sink and are a part of the faucet. It’s like I’m in Ravenclaw and have to solve a riddle everytime I want in to my own house.))

When you travel to a different country, Matt pointed out to me, the electricity is different.

Mac and Windows have different interfaces. Have you ever watched me try to use a Mac? It’s terrible. They also can’t use the same programs, not with out adapters and specific versions, and you need special tools to connect Macs to non-apple products.

So I’m lost on my banking account. Paypal did this to me too. As did youtube and other accounts  that I only occasionally visit (and really how many online accounts does the average person in Canada have nowadays?). Maybe my house metaphor is wrong. Maybe it’s more like driving somewhere, except what the hell they’ve changed the roads and now there’s a Walmart and a Starbucks but where is the dentist that used to be on the corner?

Maybe I’m just not good with new rules. And I mean situational behaviour-guiding rules. For example: In a class room you speak like this (“I find the sentiments that Millennials have no patience to be incorrect”), at home you speak like this (“yo fuCK Time magazine”) and these reflect different constructions of the self. But how many versions of “I” can we split ourselves into? Even if you don’t think you’re a different person on Twitter than on Tumblr you’re using a different interface and having to function within a particular community with particular customs. How many different interfaces are we capable of managing? I’m not capable of that many, or at least, not as many as are being demanded of me.

And why do we have so many different interfaces? Open-source coding (if I’m using the correct term in the correct way) allows us to work together and make complementary technologies. I’m so glad most things use USB cords now.  Similarly, look at XML. It only works because its shared, because we all, mostly, agreed to do things “this” way. But I’ve noticing that the market seems to be diversifying technology and mediums–and making their products very exclusive.

There are numerous things happening that I am trying to get at:

  1. Interfaces changing when maybe they don’t need to & changing often so that users become lost. Many popular websites are guilty of this.
  2. The diversity of online interfaces and the way they demand different ‘social’ versions of ourselves and different ‘user’ versions of ourselves
  3. The diversity of technological interfaces
  4. Incongruousness between technological and online interfaces and their demands of us

So there’s a lot of stuff being thrown at us. We are constantly having to relearn things. Remembered when you changed your password that you relied on for five years? You made the new one yesterday but you can’t remember it. What happens when a website (Say Tumblr) decides to switch the places of the “post” and “close” buttons? You’re like, “this isn’t my house”.

On thinking of on it briefly I can guess that the reasons some companies are diversifying their user interfaces. You need need to buy the additional products of that company to work with your first product. So $$$ right there for the company. You would think that making it more accessible would be better because it should be more useful, and therefore appeal more to buyers but alas. Secondly, if you get your users used to a particular platform that works very differently than other platforms, you will essentially “wire” those users to that platform–making other platforms difficult or frustrating to initially use and thus, you have in fact, successfully “wired” those users to be incompatible with competing products. In the end you have a what we’ve mentioned before in class, the “guaranteed audience”.

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One thought on “Now this is what I call blogging™

  1. Wow–what a host of great observations about the way that interfaces impact on lived experience. I love both the house and the city layout analogies: they both work. And also, since you referred to Harry Potter, what about those staircases that are moving around on you all the time. There’s confusion!

    What you say about the tension between interoperability and proprietary interests is dead on. Believe me, back in the day, Macs and PCs couldn’t even read disks (those things that came before USB keys) for each others’ machines, let alone swap word processing files, which is mostly true now (I found to my sorrow that this is still true of some external hard drives, but it’s still way better than it used to be). I too find it very disconcerting when interfaces change, so it is a real question why some large corporations change their interfaces so often. I suspect it’s as you say a desire to distinguish themselves, an attempt to improve their products, and perhaps also a catering to the novelty on which consumer culture thrives.

    Apple updates its interface with each major release of an iPhone, I believe. What about androids: do they do the same? Would people be as likely to upgrade for the sake of the hardware alone, as opposed to the coupling of hardware and software?

    Like

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