I’m finishing reading absolutely astonishing “Designing Calm Technology” by Amber Case and I’ve had a little epiphany, long time in the making.
“The telephone was metabolized in a very gradual way, over the course of decades, and it helped that it began with public telephones in places like post offices and banks, to make the technology feel “under control” and less intimidating. It also helped that it was building on the precedent set by the telegraph. By the time the first telephone exchanges were opening in the 1880s, the telegraph had been in operation for more than 40 years, and “reported via telegraph” was a common notation in the newspapers Americans and Europeans read every day. This helped the telephone feel like a next step, not a complete disruption.”
I’ve always hated the popular term ‘disruption’ but could not quite put a finger on why. I thought it’s just an allergy to corporate lingo. The above paragraph is perhaps the first time I’ve seen disruption described as a bad thing. Nevertheless, one day in the last decade this word became the ultimate description of approval in computing world – ‘it’s truly disruptive’ became the seal of quality.
And, for what it’s worth, that was a good choice of a word. Technologists do seem to be hell bent on disrupting. New this, new that, new system, new standard, new way, new architecture, new single source of truth, new orchestration engine yadda yadda. Calling current mode of progress in computing ‘disruption’ is a precise description. That is exactly how it feels like.
The problem is that it’s a self-serving thing to be doing.
Attempting to disrupt the world of pizza delivery is actually a claim to customer’s time, effort and attention. It’s a slap in the face, saying ‘drop what you’re doing and learn how to use me’. It’s technical egoism. It’s a presupposition that pizza delivery app actually gets the luxury of being recognised and remembered. “Calm Technology” makes great observations about humans having a limited attention span. We shouldn’t wage war for part of that small attention span both from moral standpoint, but also from business standpoint – it’s a risky and very volatile investment.
By creating a riot of a technology we get our 5 minutes of glory, user’s undivided attention is there, metrics going up and all is well in the world. Until the app is deleted, the ‘no distraction’ mode is turned on, the social media detox is put into effect and the reality sets in. As a user I don’t want to know the names and settings of every app, every website and every home appliance I own. I like the most, I feel even sorta connected to the things that do not bug me with their claim on my attention. I decide when to pay that attention. I don’t want my day to be disrupted.