Ernesto Priego is a senior lecturer at the Centre for Human-Computer Interaction Design at City, University of London. This piece was written originally as a Bluesky thread and therefore reflects the constraints of such a medium.
If you’ve followed me on the other platform [Twitter, now X] over the years you may (or not) know a recurring theme is email and its discontents.
It’s pretty bad when emailing becomes:
- a) an obstacle to doing what you’re meant to do, and
- b) the main thing you end up doing.
It’s like an overpowering force…
Developing workflows where email is not an end in itself, nor the priority, but a means to achieve priorities will affect how ‘responsiveness’ and ‘efficiency’ are perceived, and it may mean some tasks may take longer to complete. This is a consequence as well of having too much one is expected to do.
There is a myth that technological advancement, particularly in computing, has led to increased efficiency (efficiency in terms of what and for whom, that is the question).
In reality, devolving service to the user rather than a dedicated human via software has increased everyone’s workloads. [ed note: As a sociologist who has studied household divisions of labour, this long predates computing.]
We are seeing that same false narrative being applied to, say, Generative AI. A dominant discourse is being built on the repetition of the idea that it will make things ‘easier’.
Instead what we have is replacement of tasks.
As with email, the tool will take a life of its own, becoming the thing, the environment, the process, the tasks, the centre of our focus, and where we’ll spend our time and energy.
We won’t be sitting back and watching it all unfold- we’ll be working on it and for it (or against it).
This post was originally posted as a thread on Bluesky on 5 October 2023. It has been lightly edited and related posts added.