Revealing Errors

“When technology is accepted, when it becomes invisible, [humanists] really need to be paying attention.”

In Benjamin Mako Hill’s article, Revealing Errors, he describes how technology designers hold so much power through their control of what users see and understand. This resonates with me because I have just begun to learn how to code in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, and I now understand what it is like to control a page and transform it into anything I want. I feel a sense of both power and satisfaction when I type in certain codes and instantly see how the page changes, which shows me that I have the ability to manipulate any aspect of the page I want in order to emphasize what I think is important and/or aesthetically pleasing.

This has also led me to look at other websites differently and think about what certain interfaces allow and do not allow users to see or do. Before thinking about coding, the web design of a page usually did not cross my mind, and the limitations of certain pages were invisible to me. I think making a glitch in a code can be a very political act, because it challenges the restrictions imposed on people by certain technology designers who dictate the form of the medium in which we interact with technology. When errors reveal the so-called “man behind the curtain” of technology, they allow the technology user to reflect on the inner-workings of the function of the platform they use, and the user can then question the impact and effectiveness of said platform.

Hill goes on to discuss the misprinted word, which made me think about the autocorrect errors that I often encounter while typing on my iPhone. The function of autocorrect was to improve the typist’s spelling and grammar, but often results in a completely different word than what was originally intended. This is not necessarily a technological error, but a result of a technology that aims both to correct and to constrain the scope of one’s typing, which often misinterprets the typed word. Hill points out how users of t9 will encounter difficulties when typing profanities, which many may have experienced when the word “fucking” is notoriously autocorrected to “ducking,” which totally removes the intensity from the intended use of the word. Such technology can either improve one’s spelling, or restrain one’s self-expression through language, and ironically create errors rather than solve them.  Are the so-called “bad” words the errors, or is the censorship the real error?

Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 10.02.01 AM