TikTok Interface: Ignoring the Big Questions

July 10, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_t[1]Note: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

I read “TikTok Is Confusing by Design.” That’s correct. But the write up does not focus on the big questions. However, the article tiptoes up to the $64 question and then goes for a mocha latte. Very modern.

7 6 ignore red light

A number of articles ignore flashing red lights. William James called this “a certain blindness.” Thanks, MidJourney to a wonderful illustration crafted from who knows what.

Note these snippets from the essay:

  • a controlled experience that’s optimized to know or decide what we want and then deliver it to us.
  • You don’t get to choose from a list of related content, nor is there any real order to whatever you’ll get.
  • It’s a comfortable space to be in when you don’t have to make choices.
  • TikTok’s approach has become the new standard. Part of that standard is aggressively pushing content at you that the app has decided you want to see.

So what are the big questions? The article shoves them to the end of the essay. Will people persist and ponder them? Don’t big questions warrant a more compelling presentation?

Here’s a big question:

“Who gets to control what you are seeing of reality?”

The answer is obvious in the case of TikTok: Entities in some way linked to the Chinese government.

And what about online services working overtime to duplicate the TikTok model? Who is in control of the content, its context, and its concepts?

The answer is, “An outfit that will have unprecedented amount of influence over users’ thoughts and actions.” If those users — digital addicts, perhaps — are not able to recognize manipulation or simply choose to say, “Hey, no big deal”, TikTok-type content systems will be driving folks down the Information Highway. Riders may have no choice. Riders may have to pay to driven around. Riders may not be in control of their behaviors, ideas, and time.

I like the idea of TikTok as an interface. I don’t like touching on big questions and then sidestepping them.

Net net: I won’t pay for access to Vox.

Stephen E Arnold, July 10, 2023


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