The Order of Cybernetics: An Archaeology of User-Friendly Design
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This dissertation evaluates the concept of user-friendliness not only as a preeminent philosophy of software design, but as an integral element of the metaphysics of software and the very conceptualization of both cybernetics and digital computers as such. My analysis traces the reductive nature of user-friendly design and its politics of mimetically simulated conviviality and consequent instrumental occlusion to the earliest rhetorical arguments in favour of digital computation as a reliably universal means to model stochastic phenomena. It traces the implicitly reductive tendencies of cybernetic theory as an ontology and epistemology from the earliest intellectual history of digital computation through to its negotiation of early commercial markets and he effect that consumer and corporate demands have had on the valorization and formalization of increasingly user-friendly software designs. Especially attuned to the linkages between technology, culture, and intellectual history, this dissertation also demonstrates the conclusive links between this particular axiology of computer design and the rise in invasive, oppressive practices such as endemic mass and targeted surveillance via cybernetic technologies—a state of affairs which is mediated, aided, and abetted by the values of user-friendly design and the vicissitudes they beget.