Dossier 15: The Perfect Feed

Beyond Named Interactions

In “As We May Think,” an essay by Vannevar Bush published in 1945, the “memex” is described, widely considered to be the first conception of the home computer. In the essay, more time is allocated to describing the owner of the memex than the memex itself. This owner, “interested in the origins and properties of the bow and arrow”, uses the memex to build trails, tie and untie related knowledge, and insert comments, either linking them to the main trail or adding them via a side trail. The memex, created by mimicking the general principles of the human brain, helps the man to expand knowledge and archive trails. There exists a symbiosis between the memex and its owner.

Nowadays, it’s hard to find these specific users with detailed user scenarios. Now, computers are designed for general purposes and “general-purpose users”1. The users of these devices, especially smartphones, have become anonymous and invisible. The introduction of the device or the advertisement of the device focuses on the improved function of the “general-purpose” computer, filled with a multitude of anonymous users engaging in their daily, nonspecific lives.

The same trend is visible in online spaces. Homepages, which users once personalised with diverse, unique aesthetics and interactions, have been replaced by generic social media feeds trapping users in endless scrolls with uniform typefaces, font sizes, colours, and buttery-smooth animations. These are endless duplicates of cubes for unspecified users.

Therefore, the user guide for these unspecified users needs to be generic, repetitive, simple, and easy to understand. Smartphones, especially, are operated based on basic interactions such as tapping, dragging, and touching—these are the most simplified and general “named” interactions.

We are now only using these limited named interactions. The endless circulation of influencing and being influenced—relationships between active users and computers—seems to have disappeared. Users have become passive, only using computers for suggested purposes, with limited named interactions. The act of naming embodies a universal principle yet fails to encompass the full range of possibilities. The named interactions clarify their presence, while removing the existence of “unnamed” interactions—interactions that are possible between users and the computer but are just removed from the passive user’s mind.

I am trying to shed light on these ‘unnamed’ interactions—the forgotten interactions that may seem ineffective and peripheral, yet are dynamic and alive. I believe these interactions will transform individuals from accountable ‘users’ into active ‘humans.’ They will influence machines and be influenced in return, explore the online space rather than merely floating in an endless flood of feeds, and eventually embrace the actual technology rather than chasing its vague silhouette.


1 This term originally comes from the book ‘TURING COMPLETE USER’ by Olia Lialina

Yehwan is a web artist and designer who creates anti-friendly, nonuser centric, unconventional, and diverse independent websites and tries to flip the general understandings of web design and subvert users’ behaviors. She believes that digital discomfort comes from a lack of consideration of diversity and the deprivation of care. Link