The Buttonization of Society

In the first half of Software Studies, Matt Fuller takes a look at software and its implications from a totally different perspective and really intrigued me with his idea of “buttonization”. He suggests that because our society has become so dependent on technology and yet oblivious to the underlying software, the button almost represents society’s attempt to control and compact everything that is complicated or too complex into a few simple ‘exit options’ for us, seemingly providing us choice, but in fact is really limiting our options. He illustrates an example in which Apple’s iTunes requires a user to either “accept” or “decline” a contract stating they agree to 4000 words of terms in order to proceed. There is no option to partially agree or negotiate terms; Apple gives us two options, and we all know which one most of us go with.

Do we really know what’s happening behind our clicks? Like what happens when we click “buy” on a site, how many transactions and different types of charges or taxes go on behind that. This reminded me of sites like amazon with “one-click” purchase buttons that I’ve almost clicked by accident thinking I was simply adding the item to my bag (they seriously look alike). Or how about spam or viruses (when they were more common on our PCs) back in the day? They came with deceiving layouts and luring buttons that in fact cost a lot of companies millions of dollars due to security breaches caused by fooling employees into giving over information (this is known as social engineering). In fact wasn’t the most recent celebrity nude photo leak confirmed to not be because of malfunctioning Apple iCould security software, but because celebrities were tricked by emails, or deceiving buttons that urged them to type in and verify their account information!

Is this really the buttonization of our society? Are buttons really that tempting? Sure, we all love pushing buttons and seeing things seamlessly and instantly happen without having to consider or worry about what happened in between. But are we really going to be zip lining, sailing, tanning, skydiving, or seeing the world all from our living rooms soon? Rather than going out and really experiencing life in all its randomness and obscurity, are we going to opt for pre-set simulations of life through an easy click of a button?

Something interesting I also thought about was Nest, which is a company specialized in home thermostat automation. It was a “learning thermostat” in which it can figure out the user’s schedules based on a series of sensors and algorithms and create a model of temperatures that fits the user’s lifestyle. Google purchased Nest, and then Nest acquired Dropcam, the maker of a cloud-based video monitoring system, for $555 million using Google’s cash. Nest is working on integrating Dropcam into its software systems, and I’m sure Google has plenty of plans for the both of them in the future as well. Knowing how well Google knows our profiles already, based on cookies and our browsing history, it’s a little scary to think how much more about our lives they will know – because of how easily lured we are by buttons.

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~ by ixangelala on October 3, 2014.

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