How Does Software Make You Feel? | 2023


Pleading, demanding, hopefulness and rejection. These are the emotional responses that the mechanics of twitter arises in me.


Tales Of The Next Internet:
Episode 2004 – Make No Distinction:

Permanently moved is a personal podcast 301 seconds in length, written and recorded in one hour by @thejaymo


How Does Software Make You Feel?

Alongside my regular themes of what constitutes long term thinking when it comes to our society and technology. I asked what a 500 year or 1000 year internet would look like? I mean who ever heard of the 100 year website?

I also talked about how in the near future a much larger focus will be placed on how software makes us feel. This is in my mind the biggest mindset change and problem facing the UX discipline today. You can read the full transcript of the talk on my website. I’ll put a link in the show notes. But I’m going to except a little bit of the audio here:

What do I mean by β€˜how software makes us feel’? People sink hundreds of hours into mobile games like Candy Crush and clash of clans, as whilst playing it it makes them feel a certain way, separating temporarily from their commute or whatever else is going on in their lives. 

Some other examples are:

Chat apps like whats app or telegram feel to me like complicated emotional tennis volleys.

For me Music Software highlights the sweeping inevitability of the passing of time. Broken and divided artificially by bar numbers, time signatures and bpm. 

Or the machine like algorithmic coldness of complicated resource management strategy games like Civilization or Age of Empires. 

A great deal has been written already on the gamification of metrics inside web apps like Twitter. Yes this world is full of terrible people but the software design itself makes them worse.

In the medium term future systems should adapt to us, not the other way around.

Because at the end of the day software and the internet is a tool. You wouldn’t keep a hammer or a kettle around in your house for long if it actively made your life miserable. We shouldn’t tolerate it with software, or the internet. A technology that is increasingly more and more deeply enmeshed in our day to day lives.

More sympathetic emotional software is vital in very short term

Jay Springett – Tales Of the next internet

So how does software make us feel? Earlier this year in Episode 20-04 I said that Slack was the open plan office of the software world. Full of visual pollution and distractions that I suggest may ultimately have impacts on human health. 

I gave a few examples in the clip but writing SQL and interacting with a multidimensional database is another one. I used to experience a hugely rewarding emotional state when manipulating arrays of flat data and joining them together to get to the information I was after presented in the format I wanted. We used to call it SQL surfing. 

The closest thing to what it feels like to me is similar to manipulating platonic solids in mental space as part of geometric visualisation exercises. 

Many years ago I described the mechanics of twitter in this simple four line poem:

Please read this
Pass it on
I have more
But you can go away.

Jay Springett – Twitter (Poem)

Pleading, demanding, hopefulness and rejection. These are the emotional responses that the mechanics of the platform arise in me. 

If anyone can point me towards UX research that focuses on individuals’ somatic responses to software I’d be really interested in reading or seeing it. 

If you follow my blog you’ll know I’ve been playing a lot of Animal Crossing. I’ve been trying to pinpoint how the game makes me feel for a while.

There is something about the game that feels like a soft bean bag or something you can sink deep into. Built on top of a very simple set of ludic mechanisms, there’s something interesting about the way the game moves the entire moment to moment task list into the players mental space. 

Yes there are higher order meta tasks like paying off your loan or one level down – completing the nook miles challenges. But really, the game lets you evolve a complex headspace. Last night watching Eve play, she ended up 4 or 5 levels deep. The first layer building out our new bamboo forest, the second wanting to build furniture for that new area, the third was going on a fetch quest for the crafting materials, whilst doing that she found a fossil introducing a 4th layer which was a detour to the museum. 

These levels or layers of self directed tasks, create a complex mental environment that is full of immediate and meta goals that need to be addressed in turn. The complexity or depth of this environment is dependent on the user. This variable I think is the key mechanism that influences how people feel when they play it.

The fact that this game has been such a godsend to players during lockdown is not only because it is β€˜Fun’ but also because of the way this headspace makes them feel. 

What if industry software was designed from the ground up to evoke a feeling, I’d like to be involved in that.

The above is the original script for the episode. It may differ from what ended up in audio due to time constraints.

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4 responses to “How Does Software Make You Feel? | 2023”

  1. […] episode 2023 I mentioned my own emotional responses to writing SQL and interacting with databases. The feeling […]

  2. […] The other was called: How does software make you feel? […]

  3. […] the years, I’ve talked about how software makes you feel, the topology of transcendental objects, about wind-up worlds, metaverse as […]

  4. […] episode 20-23 I excerpted part of the talk on that subject at Sonar+D in Barcelona back in […]

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