In the Economist article, “The Scientists Who Make Apps Addictive” there is a prevailing notion that people are subject to the widespread slot machine of our time – the cellphone. Harris realizes this and states that “Whoever controls the menu controls the choices” (Leslie). He continues to explain this notion stating that “the news we see, the friends we hear from, the jobs we hear about, the restaurants we consider, even our potential romantic partners – all of them, increasingly, filtered through a few widespread apps, each of which comes with a menu of options”(Leslie).
If we assume that prominent apps like Facebook, Snap Chat, Twitter, etc. have widespread use because of their entrenchment in our daily life and not because of their positive effects, user have to become conscious of their unconscious default setting to using these apps before they can reclaim their agency.
Intention is an app that allows users to search for an app that addresses a task a user wants to accomplish. For example, a user could type in “find a cooking buddy” and then an app will surface that specializes in this. Facebook will not come up; it does not have a direct path to accomplish this task. Facebook only has unobvious paths to accomplish this task where advertisements and other distraction detract from the user’s end goal. Intention guides users to apps that will directly address their needs to repave our mental model around engaging with apps. Users will see apps as a tool to achieve a goal opposed to a blackhole of endless options plagued with attention tactics. Intention aims to keep user’s focus on the task at hand by offering the quickest path to task completion. When a task is completed, users are informed of how much time they saved.
If this design were to exist in the world, there would need to be a plethora of diverse apps that are in competition with mega-companies. The market would need to favor task specialization and not user saturation ex: Facebook Messenger is used because everyone uses it and not because it is the best instant messaging app. Google Scholar is an example of task specification that does a better job of finding academic articles than a regular Google Search, but people default to the latter. There would also need to be a general awareness that there are other apps beyond the mega-companies (Facebook, Twitter, Snap Chat, Amazon, etc.). The application would also need to have an expansive knowledge of the types of actions that apps can do and the average amount of time it would take to complete the task.
Reflecting on the idea presented in the reading that “Whoever controls the menu controls the choices”, this idea challenges the doomed nature of this statement. Yes, users are subject to the behavioral manipulation by Silicon Valley tech developers, but that is only because user have not brought their unconscious behavior into consciousness. With Intention, users can interact with their apps with a clear purpose in mind and the app will suggest an app that will ensure that task is completed with the least amount of time and distractions. With this slight shift in mentality, users can demand the app market provide more helpful apps instead of the apps that merely take our valuable time and our attention.
Leslie, Ian, 2016. The Scientists Who Make Apps Addictive. 1843 Magazine. October/November 2016. https://www.1843magazine.com/features/the-scientists-who-make-apps-addictive