D&T Special Edition #10

Artists vs Algorithms

Hi there!
This is our tenth edition of D&T Special! We’re nearing a year of this format of D&T and we’re glad to be delivering these longer takes on our thoughts around design and tech.

Now back to our regular programming.

Today’s topic – How to consume the internet without the internet consuming you.

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✍️ From the Canvs Research & Editorial Desk

You are what you eat, goes the adage, or simply put, what you consume essentially (and literally) makes up what you are. Much like how the agricultural revolution was vital to our cognitive arrival, the upcoming information revolution aims to solve our existential one. Humans, in both the agrarian and informational sense, have overindulged first and then dealt with the costs afterwards. Staying aware of what you consume thus becomes a crucial responsibility.

This raises a few important questions: how did we get here? How do we cut off the noise?

Most people’s internet consumption revolves around surfing a permutation of media platforms and going through the google search box for a more exploratory or inquisitive use. These are the two primary systems in which people interact with the internet.

There is a two-pronged problem that arises with containerising content like this; first and foremost, these platforms run on proprietary, black-boxed algorithms — all of which are tainted by some kind of bias. This can lead to a situation where the user has no control over their own content and data. Additionally, it is often difficult to access this information outside of the platform, making it appear as if the information is only free if the platform is allowed to own and control it. This not only creates a feeling of unease and distrust within users, but it also severely limits the ability to move content from one platform to another.

Ways to stay in control of your consumption online:

1. Understanding the biases you can fall prey to

It’s no secret that the secret sauce enabling platforms like Instagram, Pinterest and Youtube to capture an audience at such mass has been the algorithms they use to push content. The recommendation engines that work behind the scene are not designed to serve your best interest, rather they are set up to hedonistically feed into patterns it sees fit to build an addictive pattern.

2. Maintain and purge (when needed)

The algorithms that act as content scouts are highly malleable. How many times have you gone into a rabbit hole of a topic that interested you for maybe a day, only to keep getting recommendations for the same topic? Just like quicksand, the algorithms have a tendency to bind you to what it thinks you like.

It should be a ritual then to purge your favourite platforms from your past sins. Keep it fresh by regularly clearing out your watch history. Maintain your list of subscriptions and sources and regularly remove what doesn’t work. It helps to be a little indifferent about your sources and regularly Marie Kondo-ing your content closets.

3. For content creators: Try to break from the algo-pleasing pattern

The other side of this dubious coin is the effect these systems have on people who depend on them for livelihood. The modern-day content creator always seems to be at the mercy of some code that changes randomly and frequently. Imagine playing a high-stakes game where the rules change, but you are not told what they are. Additionally, the more you feed into this pattern,
the more you can affect this algorithmic disaster.

📚 What we were reading this week

Hindenburg is a research company and a short seller. Short selling is the act of betting against a company’s stock. Hindenburg doesn’t just bet against stocks. They also release a very detailed report afterwards outlining why they are shorting the stock in the first place.

Indian tech workers have so far stayed away from unions, as they see them as blue-collar entities; they also fear backlash from employers.

Last week, a particularly scandalous video shook the internet when it appeared to show a very loose-lipped top Pfizer executive leaking one company secret after another to a seemingly random date. Watching the video, we can only hope that alcohol was flowing as luxuriously as the secrets at that restaurant’s table.

How UX was proclaimed dead (again), what do AI and Elon Musk have to do with it, and what poses a real treat to the discipline of design.

Life’s too short to build something nobody wants.

The Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch vendors may not attend the show.

Some highlights from the past month of D&T

And that’s the lot! Thanks for checking out what we had to share with you this week, we shall catch up with you next Wednesday. Incase you aren’t subscribed to the newsletter, you could subscribe here.

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Canvs Club