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Jaron Lanier: I think there's two ways to get people to use your digital stuff.  One way is to lure them into a regimentation scheme and the other way is to offer them something beautiful that they love.  You can kind of mix the two, but those are two distinct things.  So, in my view, and I realize this is not a mainstream view, a lot of what goes on is people get into some scheme like a social networking thing and then, because they're so invested in it, it's like just the way that they live and they keep—they sort of keep on doing it, and I feel like, in the long term, it's a lot of effort that they're doing for both inadequate reward but also in a weird, stealthy way they're regimenting themselves.  Like, when you work in social networking, you have to run your life according to the categories of it.  Like, you start to parse yourself into hash tags and circles or whatever the scheme is of the particular social network.  And it's one of these things where in the short term it doesn't matter.  It's fine.  But after 10 years or 20 years, I think it does matter.  I think it decreases the degree to which people are really inventing themselves from scratch, and it increases the degree to which they're conforming to the expectations and the categories of others.

And so this incredible wave of conformity really concerns me.  I think excessive conformity is a soul-killer, and it also can lead to just sort of bad group behavior if we look at human history, so I really don't think it's the right way to use information systems.  But what I do think is beautiful is to create something of value and put it out there in a way that you're taking responsibility for it and also getting a reward for it, but in a way that you're really adding to the world, not as some fragment in a giant statistical effect, but in some specific thing you can draw a circle around and say, "This is what I've offered.  This is me."  Apps do that.  Kickstarter ventures do that.  Products like Kinect do that for the people who make them and design experiences on them.  That's where the future is.  I really want to promote that side of using information technology.

Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd

 

More from the Big Idea for Friday, May 17 2013

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