Picture of Marie Kondo Speaking
Picture of Marie Kondo Speaking

“Hold each item in your hands, as close to your heart as possible. And then, pay close attention to how your body responds. When something sparks joy, you should feel a little thrill running through your body, as if your body is somehow slowly rising up to meet the item, embracing it even.”
Marie Kondo

If an object does not ‘spark joy’, then professional declutterer Marie Kondo believes we should throw it out. It’s a thought-provoking idea. Objects embody emotion. Or they don’t.

A picture of the cat you had when you were a child, a love letter from…

How do you create a map?

You schematise the world. You signify, you symbolise. You leave elements out, while drawing attention to others. On a map, every detail of the territory can’t be displayed. If it were, the map would be identical to the very territory it represents, as per Borges excellent story, On Exactitude in Science, which is concise enough that I can repeat here in its entirety:

This verb, ‘afford’, and its noun ‘affordance’, seem to have a capacity to powerfully articulate our relationship to our world. They’re hugely important in the field of design, given how they interrogate how we interact with designed objects.

Don Norman talked about them at length in his book, The Design of Everyday Things, a seminal piece of literature to designers of all stripes. Many designers and UXers are familiar with the terms, but even they can disagree on exactly what the terms mean or why they’re important.

Affordances seem to be able to describe neither a subject nor an object…

The cover of Capitalist Realism by Mark Fisher
The cover of Capitalist Realism by Mark Fisher

In Capitalist Realism, cultural theorist and philosopher Mark Fisher noted that capitalism is:

“more like a pervasive atmosphere, conditioning not only the production of culture but also the regulation of work and education, and acting as a kind of invisible barrier constraining thought and action.”

Mark Fisher spent his life — cut far too short — exposing the harms of this ‘invisible barrier’ that he saw as so dictating both our personhood and the society that engendered it.

Half a century earlier the Frankfurt School philosophers said much the same thing. In Dialectic of Enlightenment they discussed how capitalism’s products…

A photograph of London Fields with many people in it.
A photograph of London Fields with many people in it.

One frustrating aspect about working in digital technology is that your ability to make an impact is limited by a rather constricting medium. All you have as your tableau is a computer or a mobile phone. The way that you go about understanding a problem is necessarily through the purview of a screen.

Not only does this force the problem into a space that isn’t always applicable to addressing the problem, the problem you are trying to address often doesn’t even have a neat centre to be addressed. …

via Claudio Shwarz

I run a Philosophy and Ethics in Technology salon in London. Its members are individuals who are involved in many different fields, but all have a special interest in technology. Each month we tackle issues and questions relating to technology. This month we discussed the topic:

“Watching Your Workers: How Surveillance Technology Can Change Remote Working”

Some insightful themes and solutions manifested themselves, which are worth sharing here.

A New Capacity for Spying

One of the things that is striking about changing the paradigm of work is that new ‘capacities’ occur. Managers can now easily spy (I won’t use quotes…

We get a warm and fuzzy feeling when we dwell on concepts like truth, love, and freedom. They seem so immutably transcendental — these concepts have no single physical correlate. Instead, we feel like we can point to them high above us as vague yet unchanging figures. Still, we strive to reach them — perfect forms for our capture (or our dismissal, if they are negative concepts). Plato, in his Theory of Forms, would argue that love has a perfect, unachievable form; all love in our world is a mere shadow.

Plato and Aristotle discussing something *more perfect*

This is a romantic notion that doesn’t reflect the…

Umberto Boccioni, 1913, Dynamism of a Cyclist

I spend my working days at a company that builds a social media management platform for charities. We recently conducted user testing on landing pages that advertised our product and kicked off our onboarding process. The idea was to explicitly ‘get across’ what our platform was like prior to having users sign up and actually use the platform. We wanted users to ‘get it’, and understand the advantages of our platform without actually having to use it first (as signing up can be a barrier for some people).

But in testing our advertising and landing pages, we received a lot…

The world is endable. It may be ending now.

No, seriously. What I mean is that the potential of our world: democratic, open, progressive, free — it *can* end.

Of course, the natural hubris of looking from within a time period counteracts this narrative, the state of the world appears inevitable and immovable: There’s no way that basic things like democracy can end!

Of course it can. All societies can end — we just don’t believe it. We think of ‘ending’ as a dystopian society decimated by an apocalypse. …

In the final scene of El Camino, the new Breaking Bad movie (spoiler upcoming), Jesse drives off on a long, curving highway towards the snowy peaks of Alaska. Via this scene we know his fate: he has succeeded, won, and now will now live a happy life.

Stories often end with this notion. In the closing scenes of a movie, characters quite literally drive or walk into an imagined Utopian state. They transcend their story and now live in a permanent stasis, an enshrined bliss. Their problems are fully resolved so off they go into their final, perfect state.


Vikram Singh

Lead UX @lightful. MSc in HCI Writes about UX, Philosophy of tech, Media, Cognition, et cetera. https://disassemble.substack.com/ for deeper takes.

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