2021-12-07T22:32:28+01:00

In this older article from Dave Young he writes about the change of how we interact with computers and their filesystems. He notes how the hierarchical structure of files and folders is being replaced by an app-centric interface.

In the present though, it has become increasingly clear that the interface bias of the smart OS prioritises data-access and content-delivery, focusing on consumption rather than production […] we can’t easily understand the behaviour of an app and the data it produces/accesses, we can’t explore what logs exist on our devices, and what personal data is potentially exposed to typical threats such as viruses, malware, hacks, and thieves. The perspective we have is simplified, and in this case, to simplify is to remove options, alternatives, and user-agency. The use-possibilities of our devices are parametrised, governed, and constrained by the overarching system of app-centricity, while opportunities for subversive intervention and creative misuse are reduced as we are obliged to act and respond within the increasingly powerful context of app store regimes.

This reminds me of a Twitter thread I recently saw in which teachers were complaining about their students no longer having enough knowlegde about “traditional” file management using hierarchical file systems. There seems to be a major paradigm shift in file retrieval: from knowing where your files are located (and using our own file structures), to retrieval through the use of search.

Wouter Van Rossem
Wouter Van Rossem

My research interests include distributed robotics, mobile computing and programmable matter.