April 12, 2015

2012 06 13 conformism

One of the things I have long argued is the any desktop (or now app) environment is a personal thing.   We don’t all drive identical cars, wear the same clothes or generally believe in one size fits all so why assume there is an optimal desk top environment?  I’ve tried Blogo for a few days and it has some nice features but the text editor I find frustrating.   So I am now trying Mars Edit and will then check back on Ecto.   OK the latter two have an issue with featured image but I can quickly manage that when I check the web posting.   Either way by the end of the week, somewhere in between Washington DC and Bogota I should have made up my mind.  It will work for me, I will be habituated and able to operate without thinking too much about it.

Now there is a lesson in the opening image, we can be tribal.  I confess in clothing to being a Rohanist to the point where I am mocked for it in the context of day to day wear.  When I meet a fellow addict on the streets there is a form of bonding, especially if they bought their first item in Long Preston.  Yesterday on the top of Pen y Fan there was a binding moment with fellow users of Paramo outdoor gear.  So we like to see similarities, but we see them as differentiating us from others.  We may mark ourselves out but we rarely do it in complete isolation, mostly difference is simply another form of identity and can also be a form of control if imposed on us, even if we volunteer as in brand adoption.  

Now when it comes to a desktop we need conformity as power in most corporate environments.   I once said at a conference of IT Directors in Hong Kong that I could take 30% of their budget away by simply stopping them managing things they don’t need to manage and the whole desktop environment, hardware and software is one of those.   We don’t separate work from play these days and having different computers is a menace and in some ways a form if infantilisation.  Instead of learning to use different tools and gaining the intuitive (or technically autonomic) knowledge of both head and fingers we learn to follow an average pattern of response.   The Windows environment at work, a Mac at home and for play is all too common.  Playing the security and reporting card is a classic play but with little validity.  HTML links to secure documents, forcing use of a single email address for work related business with encryption, there are many many ways to handle those needs without forcing people to all use identical environments.   

It’s a major issue of complexity theory – the nature of the constraint and where you impose them.   If its an ordered system then you have rigid or governing constraints. That means that everything is contained within the constraints.    If a complex system then you have enabling constraints which create sufficient but not excessive coherence and limited conformity.   Think of the difference between an exoskeleton and and endoskeleton.  The former creates the visible structure, the latter enables multiple variants.   Its a key metaphor for the role of constraints in complexity and order.   In a future post I’ll go more into that along with hydroskeletons and cytoskeltons both not strictly in a metaphorical sense.

But the lesson for today is simply one of where you draw the line, at the moment we are too much exo not enough endo in terms of the way we use technology and allow people to interact with it.

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