When tech stop working for us and instead held us hostage to what their corporations wanted?
What follows is a stream of (unedited) thoughts that decided to wake me up at 6am this morning and felt too good not to unleash on my phone first thing. I also know this is one of those “he has way too much tech privilege” posts, I hope that doesn’t spoil the sentiment too much!
There was a turning point some time at the start of this century where corporations realised that instead of exchanging goods for money, they could give us our goods, take our money and simultaneously sink their teeth into us and suck our blood and thus placing us entirely under their control. And yes, I’m saying corporations are vampires.
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Technology, or so I thought, is supposed to work for us. It’s supposed to make things/life a little easier. Though at times it feels more like I’m getting tangled up in options and choices and ways of doing things and this subscription and that system and which is best and which is popular and… oh … my… gosh.
For me personally, I tend to find I fight with tech. I want it to be simple and out of my goddamn way. Tech that you notice is, in my opinion, tech that is failing.
Two recent specific examples:
I run my desktop computer with all (but a very very small number) notifications fully disabled. On macOS this doesn’t mean “none” out of the choice of banner or alerts, I mean off, as in: I will never let apps nag me.
Just yesterday a notification appears on my desktop, showing a Safari icon and prompting me to “Try the new Safari”. The problem with this is that Safari has its notifications fully disabled.
In taking my complaint to twitter (where all complaints seem to go), some people noted that this could be the App Store notifications. Problem is: there’s zero settings for App Store notifications – they don’t exist, plus, you can’t install Safari from the App Store because it comes installed whether you like it or not (and don’t ever try removing it: it’s part of the fabric of macOS).
Others suggested it’s a operating system level notification, a tour notification. Except, again, I can’t control these and I installed the operating system some 6 weeks ago.
Bottom line: this tech doesn’t care what I want, and how I want my notifications. This corporation sold me my tech, their teeth are still sinking deep in me and they won’t let go any time soon. I’m a hostage to this tech.
Here’s another, much larger example that to this day I’m battling to free myself of.
In our household we have two adults and two children all of whom want to listen to their own music. For our sins, we have Google Home devices scattered around our rooms (kids bedrooms, office, kitchen and dining).
We also have “smart lights” (Philip Hue lights). What I want, is for my littlest, in her room, to be able to play her music and to control her lights. Sounds reasonable I think. Except, so far, it’s not possible.
It’s not possible, as far as I can determine, because my littlest is legally a child, and legally she can’t be tracked/advertised/sold as a product by the corporation (Google in this case) so they can’t sink their teeth in and so they don’t have a solution we can buy for that situation.
The technical wall, in this situation, is that to make good use of a household with smart devices, they want to all be linked. But to play music (I’ve bemoaned this before) household individuals need to have their own music account (Spotify for us) so as not to stop music playing for other individuals.
So to allow for individual music accounts (to allow for individual music listening) requires individual Google devices which requires individual Google Homes. Which no longer allows for a single smart household and is way too much hoop jumping.
The solution I’ve cobbled for us is that Julie (my partner) owns the music account that runs our bedroom and kitchen devices, I own a music account that’s used on my desktop computer (so there’s speakers on that), my son is using an Alexa that’s connected to his music account (and Amazon Alexa knows nothing of the household yet somehow is able to control every light), and my daughter has a Google nest (the small dot things) signed in to a spare phone that’s entirely signed in for her connected to her music account. What. The. Actual. Fuck?
This Jenga tower of tech just about works, except my daughter can’t control her lights from her device. “Make my room red!” she cheers to much disappointment from Daddy who explains: “I just can’t work it out yet”.
I am a goddamn hostage to tech.
Pre-21st century, we’d all have tape or CD players in our rooms and we’d play the music we want. Of course today we have all the music we want and back then we were stuck listening to only the music we had gone out to Woolies to buy (sorry, UK oldie reference there).
At some point I decided that convenience of having any music, paying (effectively) forever subscription (and not cluttering space with tape and cd cases) was worth the cost of those corporate fangs in my skin.
It’s horrifying to me that this is the status quo that I have, and many of you have just come to accept.
We’re products to the corporations that we give our money to. We borrow their tech and use it only for the express functions they deam correct.
For us: convenience. The cost: becoming an unwitting hostage.