Document ID: 53373-176743424.0

A disgusting, glaring white background reminds you of a whiteboard or a corporate presentation. All of the elements have illiberal margins ranging from ten, twenty, sometimes thirty pixels! "Keep It Simple Stupid" not a principle of development frugality, but more an insult hurled at the audience. It is no surprise to see various design obscenities emerge from an environment of micro-managing, number-crunching, profit-margin-constrained overseers. Consider a little-known horror of the industry: Eye-tracking and page "heat-maps" - metric tools to analyze readers' attention in bulk and design is implemented out of the averaging of individual readers' viewing habits. In any other realm of society, a reasonable person would recognize the parallels between such Naturalization of Design as at best a naive failure to consider the sociopolitical construction of Design and - at worst - maliciously bigoted evo-psych pseudoscience. A work of art can be analyzed in various ways: color, depth, composition et cetera. We can wistfully ruminate on which came first: the principles of design or their particular expressions. Either way, Web2.0 design sees this all as a mathematical problem to be solved by brute force aggregation.

The trend did not begin with Web2.0. Hyper-modernism, upon any honest reflection, resembles the worst characteristics (unfairly) ascribed to the caricature of Brutalism: rounded edges, brightness, Optimistic Brevity and minimal, pastel color pallettes are draped across across interfaces less in the manner of tasteful and well-contemplated decoration, but more like the very flesh of the Key Demographic Viewer herself peeled off with a dull blade and sewn haphazardly onto a freakish automaton - the inhumanity of which can only be masked by the incessant "interactivity" demanded of the veiwer by the powerfully addictive Infinite Feed, "interactivity" which at once blurs the monstrosities' uncanny contortions and gives the User (Used) an illusion of agency and autonomy which grants their Kicked-Cat Consciousness a rare and irresistable respite.

Let me explain one of my favorite personal lessons on the Politics of Design... In the late 80's and 90's there was a trend of visible circuitry in consumer electronics. This trend was so hot that in my own archeological work on ephemeral novelty electronics of the era, i once came across an artifact so profoundly absurd that i was overtaken in a second-hand store expedition by hysterical laughter: A device which, rather than sporting a transparent housing to display its inner components to imaginative and mystified kids and adults alike, it featured the same plastic window but in place of circuitry was a printed sticker of a circuit board. The true hilarity was that, with some inspection the sticker with a circuit board photo on it was placed directly over a real-life circuit board. What kind of postmodern jokester must have designed this product? Surely a fan of Deleuze and Lyotard. While I myself before learning about electronics was also caught up in this fad, fascinated by the strange, mystickal sigils of printed circuit boards, I always had a sense that there was a more arcane truth to find in it... It was after hearing Zizek's deceptively humorous analysis of the Ideological Design of Toilets that I could instantly pinpoint the source of my suspicion on the phenomenon and its bizarrely abrupt disappearance. In the 80's and 90's, home videogame consoles and computers were just becoming affordable to the bedroom communities of suburbia. The naive sensibilities of a now-mythical American "middle class" which saw themselves as economically secure - the rightious inheritors of Capitalism's benefits - were delighted by gadgets which were not merely an exhibition of Western opulence, but talismans of power which reminded Americans of their moral superiority.

The obscurity and complexity of the Printed Circuit Board was, for a short time, not seen by a technically-illiterate public as intimidating or condescending, but rather as the product of the genius of white heroes like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, who embodied the American Dream. With the emergence of the internet, with a brooding disillusionment with deindustrialization and outsourced manufacturing, with 9/11 and the looming housing and dotcom bubbles, almost like a bare, animalistic reflex, the aesthetics of tech changed overnight. No longer could the anxious and overwhelmed consumer be further reminded of the failure of technological progress to give them their rightfully owed economic security - No longer could they bear to see circuitry, seams, any vestiges of the manufacturing process - these were too "traumatic". Instead, electronics and computers must have the sleekest and simplest possible interface. Apple, with the iPod and MacBook pioneered the design style of the computer as Magickal wish-granting Oracular Tablet devoid of blemishes or hard edges, with peripherals and interfaces so innocuous they truly become cybernetic extensions of the human. The Computer or Smartphone can not be experienced as what they are (a profane widget produced in bulk in sweatshops through slave labor), they must appear as Holy Relics endowed by the benevolent and merciful Gods of Tech, which allow the User (Used) access to the divinities of Instant Information; Instant Entertainment; Instant Escape from the mundane decline around them.

This analysis seems quaint to the cynical or experienced critic, disillusioned with the abject failures of culture-jamming and anticonsumerism, and in all honesty this author has provided nothing more than universally accepted truisms... The point of this text is not to provide novelty. It has been too long that the discontented among us have sought "new" critiques, "new" answers, "new" philosophies et cetera. This never ending search, this annual turnover of new movements and activist campaigns is reminiscent of the Infinite Scroll of social media. In reality, even the most "innovative" critiques offered by the likes Nietzsche, Freud and Marx fit into a historical context in which they were not alien geniuses, "disruptive" forces, but merely studious scholars of the body of knowledge which came before - a body of knowledge which expanded not through Divine Intervention and Creative Design, but through slow, random mutations of a repetitive reproductive cycle. We have all ironically fallen for the marketing campaign of Web2.0 and the dotcom bubble: that the internet has changed the political and social landscape completely and fundamentally. This obfuscation is not at all different in kind from all the past forms used throughout history to decrease morale and misdirect struggle.

What this text hopefully conveys is the necessity and value not of some abstract "progress" and novelty, but of the concrete practice psychoanalysts call repetition, what militants call discipline, and what engineers call redundancy. Marx, on speaking of commodity fetishism, echoed the last words of Jesus Christ speaking of his murderers: "They know not what they are doing" - Zizek inverted this, giving us an tougher riddle: "They know very well what they are doing (is wrong, immoral, ineffective etc), yet they are still doing it." If we, as actors in history, "still do" what is demanded of us to reproduce the existing social order, whether we "know very well" or "know not" what we do, then how are we to be truly autonomous, active participants? Whither agency, spontaneity, free will? In Cushvlog, Matt Christman offered an answer informed by Zizek: our agency does not come from the ideas in our heads and our faculties of reason and discernment; Freedom and agency are not lifestyles we choose, but Destinies we are compelled to enact. The eventuality of genuine Struggle and Agency comes to us in a violent moment of Zen awakening like a command from God: You Have No Other Choice but to be Free



This article was created by Elucidated.Voyyd






This article was created by Elucidated.Voyyd