“Hold on, we’re in charge of the machines”

I just read this brilliant interview with Aleks Krotoski in The New Zealand Listener about her new book, Untangling the Web. You should buy it NOW – I just did!


Me behind Aleks Krotoski at State of Play conference in Singapore. I told her I was a fan right before or after this was taken. I’ve never felt more like a stalker!

My enthusiasm escalated quite early here:

Dr. Aleks Krotoski, a US-raised writer, broadcaster and academic, says real serendipity in online searches or online dating, for instance, requires an aspect of “wrongness”. “I’d be fascinated if, when you hit on Google I’m Feeling Lucky, instead of delivering exactly the results that the machine thinks you want, it delivers things that are kind of wrong, and you as a human being would go, actually, that’s taken me off in a completely different direction.” Sometimes you want exact searches, she says, but sometimes you want stuff that’s a little bit different from what you are looking for.”

She likens it to the dérive, or structured wandering, of French theorist Guy Debord. “The dérive, the wander, is a wonderful thing, and in order to dérive and wander through the web, you’re getting all kinds of interesting information. But it’s information that’s curated … in many ways what I’m seeing is it’s actually reducing the wandering, or rather, as we used to say in the computer game industry, it’s wandering on rails.”

The whole article is worth your attention because Mark Broatch seems to know exactly what he’s doing.

This is my constant (or pet peeve) when discussing worries about the future of our society (not technology). To me serendipity and randomness is so meaningful to my own advancement that I fear that I’ll stagnate without it. Mind you, this was a subject I discussed rather vigorously with fellow students back when RSS Feeds were introduced and newspapers were focusing substance on what would generate most clicks. It turns out that only a few (I miss my Google Reader) subscibed to reading the internet through RSS, so my worries were unjustified, unless I count my own use. I remember being worried about what kind of society we would become if we only read news that is within our “interest feeds or words”. What if “war” isn’t listed in my interests, does that mean that I can just block out all news that has anything to do with war? And what kind of society do we become when we can filter such important things away from our daily in-take?

Even though RSS isn’t as popular as I thought it would be, I suppose it’s still relevant somehow since we do filter a lot of our news through who we follow on Twitter and Facebook. My fear has always been that we will end up just having people who understand each other in communities and who will never experience something completely new and unexpected. How does a society advance then? Perhaps it is because I’ve never really felt understood or accepted by any community that I’ve encountered – or that my outsiderness is making me a sceptic?

I love randomness and I love getting inspiration and learning new things from all around me. No – I’m not always that optimistic. Sometimes I do miss having a community that knows what I know and be able to discuss things that are important to me. Thankfully – I have this blog! ;)

Recently I was completely thrown off course by sound design. I’ve met several sound designers and plenty of inspirational people who have talked about sound in games like Kristine Jørgensen – but I had written off sound as something other people are interested in. These past few months a lot of my projects have been about sound and suddenly I’m extremely interested and find myself recording sounds all around me and having a REALLY great time with it! This was not a path I would have wandered down if it wasn’t for a few chance meetings the last half year.

In short – I love chance, randomness and serendipity! And I would love to have Google have randomness in search that would be “kinda wrong”.

Definitely looking forward to reading the book by Aleks, who BTW is the first person I’ve ever said “I’m such a fan” to! I still am – she’s living the life that I wish I could dare to and she continues to be super smart and productive – most definitely a voice to pay attention to! ;)

The title is taken from her last quote in the article:

“I have taken Twitter holidays. It’s one of those puch-backs that we as a society need to recognise – in the same way as identity and search. These are the boundaries where we need to say, “Hold on, we’re in charge of the machines.”

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