Amazon just launched Prime Now in Portland. Jeff Bezos is the fifth-richest man in the world, Amazon is a terrible environment existentially speaking, and this app encourages you to tip (regardless of how that it’s 2015 and we should re-think these things).
But that’s just the entire point of all this: absolutely no real issue in the world is solved by Amazon being able to deliver rich housewives homewares by marginalized citizens. However, issues regarding wage differences, economic structure and a concept of labor inequity are being perpetuated exponentially by the dismissive practices of modern yuppies.
Burn it down.
This is a photo I took on my iPhone. It’s nothing great. It’s an experiment about trying to drag the shutter while keeping the phone in motion at a horizontal level. I thought it was decent enough to post on Instagram. It turns out, though, Instagram just made a “game-changing” update.
It turns out, the ridiculous clickbait of an article posted by Esquire isn’t totally false: it is a turning point for Instagram. Probably as significant as their initial sale to Facebook, this is a giant push away from Instagram being an aesthetically conscious visual platform.
The Danger of Setting A Precedent
Instagram has existed for years without the option to break the traditional square format. Over time, photographers such as myself and, well, most that I follow pick up an app like VSCO or Afterlight to assist in processing nuances that Instagram lacks. For a while, there have been ways to show full-frame images within the square boundary the app dictates.
Instagram apparently took no notice of the visual patterns this system created in designing this update.
The essence of good design is that you do it once so you don’t have to fix it down the road. This would probably put a lot of marginally talented residents of San Francisco out of business, though, so perpetual updating and half-assed releases are a common result of Silicon Valley work ethic. It’s a free market heaven but it’s terrible for those of us trying to actually use products.
Looking at the difference between the pre-update feed and the post-update automated effort, there’s a rather stark contrast as to visual noise and overall unity in presentation. From a conceptual standpoint, the earlier versions of Instagram seemed to sacrifice nothing in order to feature photographs; now, it’s somewhat indistinguishable as to the implied hierarchy the design is there to establish between bits of information.
Lazy Idiot Billionaires
This is probably appealing to everyday users who don’t want to go through any sort of steps to show off their photos; they just want to retain a full, un-cropped presence without jumping through any secondary hoops. Which, in a free-market sensibility, is just fine. Those of us who do want to do all that are free to make that choice.
But putting the burden of choice on the consumer is lazy design. Good design is being able to maneuver a user through their decisions to best use a product efficiently and effectively with maximum value. Instagram has always been a photography app first; now it is simply becoming another feed app.
These choices matter because the companies that run the future—Facebook, Amazon, Google—are showing little interest in the concept of ‘lifetime warranties’ under the notion that most, if not all, of this technology will have changed within 50 years anyway.
Which begs the question: if we’re not building sustainable practices to maintain consistency to a user base and are just passing time until the next big change comes along, why all the hype to this shit anyway? And if they are, in fact, establishing the foundation to the next version of ‘society,’ should these companies not pay more attention to the legacies they are setting up with irresponsible attention to media consumption?
The irony is not lost on me that Mr Robot is the show whose finale is being delayed by a horrific incident. Instead of being depressed about waiting 168 hours to indulge new televised content, consider that we live in a society that had to postpone a fictional storyline portraying a dystopia because of actual dystopic events. (Also remember: Phone Booth and basically everything immediately following 9/11.)
But I am thinking about freedom. Of course no one on earth is ever perfectly free, and there are as many ways to be unfree as there are people: your debt, your depression, your unreturned love, your job, your worry, your longing. One of the ways to be unfree, I think, is to be obliged to mean something. Freedom is the freedom to be meaningless. Is that obvious? A white man writing about sports, to pull an arbitrary example out of the air, is not operating in an arena where his mere participation will be construed as a political act: I am permitted to be, say, a lyric weirdo about soccer without my weirdness ramifying much beyond my own brain. This is the discretion of privilege, this leisurely prerogative whereby individuality draws its own boundaries. The more of one’s meanings are imposed from the outside, as a general rule, the further from privilege one is.
One of those phases where you think too much about too little to the point where your perception of reality is disproportionately skewed toward the insignificant; no instinct to solve this problem can really be trusted, thus no future seems possible.
While there’s never an explanation for the sort of madness and tragedy that occurred live on air in Virginia today, there is a very important thing to note: this was a precedent and it will not stop until enforcement brought from hope and not fear is implemented.
People naturally push boundaries. It’s what we do to try and define ourselves. Identity development is an act of violence, as noted by Marshall McLuhan;
McLUHAN: Particularly in countries where literate values are deeply institutionalized, this [electronic decentralization] is a highly traumatic process, since the clash of the old segmented visual culture and the new integral electronic culture creates a crisis of identity, a vacuum of the self, which generates tremendous violence–violence that is simply an identity quest, private or corporate, social or commercial.
PLAYBOY: Do you relate this identity crisis to the current social unrest and violence in the United States?
MCLUHAN: Yes, and to the booming business psychiatrists are doing. All our alienation and atomization are reflected in the crumbling of such time-honored social values as the right of privacy and the sanctity of the individual; as they yield to the intensities of the new technology’s electric circus, it seems to the average citizen that the sky is falling in.
Avenues for identity development are becoming increasingly visible as well as increasingly unpredictable. Social norms include such a wide swath of behavior with general acceptance that for some minds, violence is the only obvious form of asserting distance. (Include the rampant and unpredictable influence of media and general social unrest and it’s honestly amazing this hasn’t happened before.)
The point is that each time there’s another insane shooting, we forget about the last insane shooting. The edge just keeps getting pushed further and if people think this course will correct itself in any way other than blood for blood, well, this is how these things start.
Next comes paranoia and increased suspicion on the part of the general public. This creates a demand for more police and strong-willed governors to lead them. Pretty soon it’s fascism. It sounds like crazy talk, but so would the on-air murder of journalists or the gunning down of 20 children without any response from a democratic society.
I sat in a coffee shop and talked identity politics with a man named Nobody yesterday for a couple hours, interrupted briefly by a guy mid-way through an acid trip who thought sitting in on a conversation about feeling trapped in your body was a good thing for a head full of LSD.
It’s increasingly apparent to me that these concepts of identity will be the next wave of mainstream think pieces, as it’s the primary conversation I’ve encountered in the art world for some time. However, the cross-section of technological expansion, identity dissolution and capitalist rule will provide for an interesting array of fireworks before this dust settles, I’m sure.
Meanwhile, I am working on things.