Reading Response #7

to Artful Design • Chapter 7: “Social Design”

Nicholas Shaheed

November 13, 2022

Music 256A / CS476a, Stanford University

For this week’s reading, I will be responding to Principle 7.5 from the seventh chapter of Artful Design, which states:

Principal 7.5: Simple is Satisfying

I think that Principal 7.5 is particularly interesting in the context of its encompassing section: “Designing for Strangers.” Here, “simplicity and anonymity” are being prized. Above is the social aspect of the Ocarina app, so this is contextually placed firmly in the space of online social interaction with strangers. In this context, I see the use of simplicity as more of a necessary restriction of interaction to avoid the more… unpleasant parts of dealing with anonymous strangers online. For something like Ocarina or the game Journey, this serves as a form of automatic moderation: communication is either so vague or restricted that anything that could be deemed explicitly offensive or unpleasant is, by design, not communicable in the app.

This has a lot of benefits. If online communication can be accurately modeled by Penny Arcade’s Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory, which states that “Normal Person + Anonymity + Audience = Total Fuckwad,” then such intense simplifications of human communication are necessary to ensure a consistently pleasant experience. Even though this webcomic was made way back in the distant year of 2004, it has continued to prove astoundingly accurate with the rise of social media platforms. This leads into Principal 7.7:

Principal 7.5: A Little Anonymity can go a Long Way

As talked about in Artful Design, this anonymity can be freeing from social pressure and expectations. However, that goes both ways, and I think it’s very much worth thinking about social design for online platforms in a way that is aware of these difficult issues involving moderation of online communities. Reddit is one such example of the many different ways this can take form, since subreddits have their own individual moderation policies these can range from laissez-faire moderation strategies where the community fully decides the content of the subreddit to the more heavy-handed moderation approach (such as r/askhistorians) that facilitates mannered discussions by stringent enforcement of rules. There’s obviously benefits and drawbacks to both, and in my ways their effectiveness at fostering community is proportional to the size of said community.