Chapter 14. Digital Environment

No metaphor is more misleading than “smart.”


Variant Modes and Digital Places

THE RULE-DRIVEN MODES AND simulated affordances of interfaces are also the objects, events, and layouts that function as places, whether on a screen alone or in the ambient digital activity in our surroundings. So, changing the mode of objects can affect the mode of places as well, especially when objects work as parts of interdependent systems.

For example, let’s take a look at a software-based place: Google’s search site. Suppose that we want to research what qualities to look for in a new kitchen knife. When we run a query using Google’s regular mobile Web search, we see the sort of general results to which we’ve become accustomed: supposedly neutral results prioritized by Google’s famed algorithm, which prioritizes based on the general “rank” of authority, determined by analyzing links across the Web. Google also defines “quality” for sites in general. On the desktop Google site, there are paid ad-word links that are clearly labeled as sponsored results, but the main results are easy to distinguish from the paid ones.

But Google’s Shopping site is a different story: when searching for products there, all of the results are affected by paid promotion, as illustrated in Figure 14-1. I actually wasn’t aware of this until a colleague pointed it out to me at lunch one day.[273]

Figure 14-1. When in the Shopping tab, search results are ...

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