Thursday, April 15, 2010

Matthew Fuller in his essay “ It looks like you are writing a letter” notes the “disastrous” excess of features in Microsoft Word:

“Since its early versions Word has swollen like a drowned and drifting cow. The menu bar has stretched to twelve items, the number of toolbars to eighteen. Don a white coat, open a calculator, multiply these two figures, then cube them and you get a scientifical idea of the extent of the domain which Word now covers.”

According to Fuller, this changes the nature of “writing a letter” in Word because, “the user or worker or soldier appears only as a subsystem whose efficiency and therefore profitability can be increased by better designed tools.” However, “a program such as Word doesn't deny autonomous work or the desire for it, but parasites it, corrals and rides it at the same time as entering into an arrangement of simultaneous recomposition of scope.”

Here I notice that Fuller acknowledges that Word doesn’t deny the “desire” for “autonomous” work --- personal projects “whose goals s/he has invented and whose criteria for success are not socially predetermined”. However, here we can also notice that the desire of the workers is manipulated by the tool they are using: they wouldn’t have had the desire to use a lot the features if Word didn’t invent them and put them out there. For example, a user who’s never seen so many fonts before he sees them on Word, will have the desire to write his letter in fancy fonts once Word gives him the options. The tool transformed the workers’ desires, and even “created” some desires --- “false desires”, according to some Frankfurt scholars.

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