Getting results for anyone

To be honest, I regret not spending all those years only working for causes I believed in, and instead just learning about how to achieve an end – how to get a result. I really know how to get a result now – and I can do it for anybody.

Brittany Kaiser, Former Cambridge Analytica exec says she wants lies to stop.

Joanne came back from TEDSummit 2019 saying "Carole Cadwalladr is my new hero." As a result I watched both her TEDSummit interview and her earlier TED2019 talk. Although I was familiar with the Cambridge Analytica scandal, what I learned shocked me. Although I knew about Cambridge Analytica while it was happening, and I fully expect Facebook to ignore people's right to privacy, I was shocked by how these powerful companies came after Cadwalladr. I suppose I shouldn't have been.

Shortly after this, The Great Hack was released on Netflix. What struck me when watching it was the quote above from Brittany Kaiser. During the film, Brittany Kaiser explained her reasons for moving from an Obama social media intern and human rights campaigner.

Coming across a company where you could actually see your impact was really exciting for me.

While there were other financial reasons for her decision, it was this focus on "impact" and "results" that stuck with me.

I began moving away from UX as I saw it start to change away from it's origins in human-centered design to adopting (often clumsily) the language and techniques of behavioral economics.

I watched someone I respected give a talk that extolled the virtues of the addictive qualities of slot machines and how it could be applied to design. I spoke with another designer that I had a lot of respect for who told me, "I would basically do anything to increase conversion."

What was missing in all of this was the "why." When we use any trick in the book to get a result for anyone, we're no different than Cambridge Analytica. This applies to most people that I know in this industry (myself included).

When we do anything for a result for anyone, we're designing against people's best interest. We're complicit in a toxic digital environment that attempts only to hold people's attention rather than supporting them in attaining their goals.

The Internet of today is very different from what we hoped it would be when I started doing this in the 1990s. In many ways, it's the opposite of what we thought it would be. It's not all negative, but I feel a responsibility to understand what has happened and try to find a way of fixing where we've wound up.

Queries permalink

  • What changed and when? How did we go from human-centered design to behavior change being the focus of what we do?
  • How do we move back to a focus on helping people attain their goals rather than co-opting them into achieving ours (or the company we're working for)?
  • Is there a relationship between this shift to behvior change and hooks and the toxic environment that much of the internet has become?