Musings on designing experiences & (re)engineering complexity

Aug 2018

Awareness or Aware-less

Tweeted the other day about some new explorations happening with indentity and authentication and it was pretty clear that it isn’t just a question about technology finding its way of being useful but not overwhelming. There is (as there is often) as sense of connected technologies either making us more aware of the surroundings around us, or making is less aware of who we are in the context of this world around us.

The commentary about the “end of the ad-based internet” also contributes to such a view. If social networking is more or less surveillance of a different term, then what we are aware of is that we have less agency to move about. If we make social media posting the default (the “Google is tracking you all the time” discussion) then being connected indeed contributes to being aware-less of the works of the world around us. We go from being purveyors of a world we are meant to discovering, to consumers of worlds in which others discover for us.

So then what does it mean for these tools and their threads to make us more aware? Is it as simple as “agency?” Can I control the flow, control the tone, or filter? Perhaps? Maybe its a sense of “turning it off without reprisal from the social-validating relationships around us?” Does being digital portend being connected to other spheres with and without agency to do something about it? And if so, what are the responsibilities left at the door of those who are connected to? What can we really be aware of when there are so many ways to connect the dots?

The answer to all of these is probably “yes.” Those who are near-native to connected spaces will find novelty in being disconnected, in taking agency around what connectivity offers. Those who are a bit less native will endow less value to connectivity that doesn’t remind them of a “more pure” version of themselves. The structures around them, while changing the rules of what it means to be “in community” will buck against their feelings of what is nature, what is honest, and what isn’t healthy (for them).

Awareness of yourself; aware-less of yourself. Almost more philosophical than it is technological and literal. Leaves us almost where we started:

When devices begin to become more embedded within one’s personal social fabric, do we gain awareness of other sensory possibilities, or do we lessen our awareness of the world(s) around us?