Ian Bogost starts with today’s badly-working sensor-driven toilet as an icon for technology’s displacement of more servile, and less autonomous gizmos, and he spins a condemnation of our society from that starting point.
So many ordinary objects and experiences have become technologized—made dependent on computers, sensors, and other apparatuses meant to improve them—that they have also ceased to work in their usual manner. It’s common to think of such defects as matters of bad design. That’s true, in part. But technology is also more precarious than it once was. Unstable, and unpredictable. At least from the perspective of human users. From the vantage point of technology, if it can be said to have a vantage point, it’s evolving separately from human use.
This is just the point of departure. Bogost weaves in the postnormal disconnect for working people’s disenfranchisement as a second element of the disassociation of people by technology. Bogost goes on:
“Precarity” has become a popular way to refer to economic and labor conditions that force people—and particularly low-income service workers—into uncertainty. Temporary labor and flexwork offer examples. That includes hourly service work in which schedules are adjusted ad-hoc and just-in-time, so that workers don’t know when or how often they might be working. For low-wage food service and retail workers, for instance, that uncertainty makes budgeting and time-management difficult. Arranging for transit and childcare is difficult, and even more costly, for people who don’t know when—or if—they’ll be working.
Such conditions are not new. As union-supported blue-collar labor declined in the 20th century, the service economy took over its mantle absent its benefits. But the information economy further accelerated precarity. For one part, it consolidated existing businesses and made efficiency its primary concern. For another, economic downturns like the 2008 global recession facilitated austerity measures both deliberate and accidental. Immaterial labor also rose—everything from the unpaid, unseen work of women in and out of the workplace, to creative work done on-spec or for exposure, to the invisible work everyone does to construct the data infrastructure that technology companies like Google and Facebook sell to advertisers.
But as it has expanded, economic precarity has birthed other forms of instability and unpredictability—among them the dubious utility of ordinary objects and equipment.
He tries to make the connection between the oddball oversensitivity of automatic toilets – that flush unnessarily, wasting water – and the end goal of corporations that deploy these toilets, which is to have fewer employees cleaning the bathrooms. But, he really is arguing that these highly technological gizmos – the self-flushing toilet, Amazon’s online store experience, the vagaries of what shows are available today on Disney, search results on Google – the uncertain nature of how they work becomes internalized:
But why would new technology reduce rather than increase the feeling of precarity? The more technology multiplies, the more it amplifies instability. Things already don’t quite do what they claim. The fixes just make things worse. And so, ordinary devices aren’t likely to feel more workable and functional as technology marches forward. If anything, they are likely to become even less so.
Technology is not an agent, acting like a colony of ants or a class of capitalists.
This is the center of Bogost’s fearful insight: the more technology multiplies, the more it amplifies instability. But his scifi leanings – where he ends up wondering if technology is acting for its own end, evolving independently of us – slides off the rails:
Things already don’t quite do what they claim. The fixes just make things worse. And so, ordinary devices aren’t likely to feel more workable and functional as technology marches forward. If anything, they are likely to become even less so.
Technology’s role has begun to shift, from serving human users to pushing them out of the way so that the technologized world can service its own ends. And so, with increasing frequency, technology will exist not to serve human goals, but to facilitate its own expansion.
I think Bogost starts strong and ends weak in this piece. Technology is not an agent, acting like a colony of ants or a class of capitalists. I think he veers away from pointing a finger at the real culprits behind the dehumanization of technology. He fails to ask the question ‘who benefits?’
The same people who gain and consolidate power through the growing precarity of workers – the 1% and the deep government that serves them – are also served by technology ephemeralizing all work, just like they’ve benefitted from all other workforce reductions, and the zeroing out of the power of counterinstitutions like the unions, and civil and social activism.
So about after our bathrooms were updated (only after a tornado destroyed the football field house) they installed automatic flushing toilets( because people are nasty). So one day I just walk in, open the stall and this
My depression’s been kicking up so I wrote this to cheer myself up a little. My idea of what got Kaidan asking Shepard to go on their “sanity check” date on the Citadel, I guess. Kind of a sequel to this and also references this though you don’t necessarily need to read either to understand this ficlet.
Kaidan stumbled out of the men’s restroom, wiping his tired
eyes as the toilet automatically flushed behind him. He internally bemoaned the
reality that he now had to make 3 A.M bathroom runs, where just a few years ago
he didn’t have to.
The joys of getting
older, he thought wryly as he padded softly down the hall. His feet tugged
him towards the direction of his bed, and he found no reason to resist… until
he saw the light on in the observation deck.
He stopped and frowned, wondering if someone on the night
crew was taking their break. Typically the lights shut themselves off if no one
occupied the room. Better make sure, he
thought with a shrug as he detoured towards the deck.
As he stepped inside, the room greeted him with silence. It
took a moment or two of glancing around before he caught the reason the lights
were still on.
have you ever thought about how many small things we take for granted that the exhibits would be totally hyped over? like
ahk freaking out over a fridge or a freezer i mean, larry DID YOU KNOW YOU CAN PRESERVE YOUR FOOD AND HAVE ICE ALL YEAR LONG?
wea using the microwave whenever she gets a chance because OMG YOU CAN REHEAT HOT DISHES AFTER THEY GO COLD WTF
atilla purposefully spilling shit because THEN HE GETS TO RIP OFF ONE OF THOSE DISPOSABLE TOWELS MADE OF PAPER FROM THE MAIN ROLL
teddy tivo-ing everything because BACK IN MY DAY WE CONSIDERED MOVIES A PASSING FAD LOOK AT IT NOW
lancelot like PEOPLE HAVE ENOUGH LEISURE TIME THAT THEY CAN PRETEND TO BE KNIGHTS
octavius rifling through spice catalogues because WTF THESE ARE SO CHEAP AND I’VE NEVER EVEN HEARD OF THIS ONE OVER HERE
jedediah looking at the automatic flush toilets, faucets, soap dispensers and hand dryers like THIS IS SO FREAKIN CONVENIENT
and of course all of them poking around the internet absolutely fascinated with google and project gutenberg and HOW THE FUCK DO YOU REMEMBER ALL THIS LARRY THERE IS SO MUCH INFORMATION OUT THERE AVAILABLE RIGHT AT YOUR FINGERTIPS
i mean they dont make horrifically big deals out of it every night but they’re impressed and fascinated nonetheless because holy shit the future is awesome
5SOS Preferences: Daddy 5SOS Dealing with Potty Training Mishaps
This was a 5SOS preference sent to my inbox, and I was just going to answer it, but then it got out of hand and really long, so I just decided to post it here. I really like writing these, so send me more 5SOS preferences! I really like Daddy!5SOS too, so that happened….
Luke: Luke was playing video games in the back of the tour bus with Michael while the 5SOS wives were out shopping. Ashton was out running or lifting weights somewhere, leaving Calum in the front of the tour bus with all the 5SOS kids. You guys had the door propped open so you could catch glimpses of the kids every now and then. After awhile, Michael paused the game, eliciting an annoyed whine from Luke. “I just have to piss. Gimme two minutes,” the man laughed as he stepped out of the room, door swinging closed behind him. Luke threw the controller down on the couch and pulled out his phone as he waited.
"We were both skipping class at the same time in the bathroom but someone passed by and now were hiding in a cramped stall" percabeth AU, that would be awersome!
A/N: I hope you like it! This was super fun to write!
Annabeth didn’t always skip class.
No, she was better known for her spotless attendance record and strict regard for the rules. She came in early most days, huddled in the back of the library, nose deep in her textbooks and soaking in as much information as she could before the first rays of sunlight spread out against the morning sky. Her grades reflected her meticulous study habits and the harsh expectations she set for herself. She was a straight-A student with a flawless permanent record.