Who serves whom

Joel Johnson:

Stop buying products that serve any other master than you.

(via Boing Boing )

Bruce Schneier also wrote something along similar lines last year, though the context was different:

When technology serves its owners, it is liberating. When it is designed to serve others, over the owner’s objection, it is oppressive.

I mentioned before that to a large extent, that’s what architectures of control are: features of products, systems and environments designed to serve someone other than the user:

Now that ’someone else’ might be ‘the good of society’, but in more cases than not, the someone else is a company [or a cartel] wanting to enforce a business model on the user, or a government wishing to enforce an ideology or mode of behaviour.

For all the hoo-hah about ‘user-centred design’, there’s a very simple way of saying what it should be: design which serves the user and helps him or her do stuff. Something can serve two masters (e.g. BitTorrent serves the user, and the community of users) but in too many cases technology is expressly created not to serve the users, but to further someone else’s agenda.