Artist and founder of MINUS
In this interview Ben Grosser talks about his latest London exhibition Software for Less examining the cultural, social and political effects of software on contemporary society.
He also gives insights about MINUS, a finite social network he created where you only get 100 post -for life. There is a minimalist design with a single feed, no-follow, no likes.
It is in response to the design creep of the big tech, social media platforms (...) So with minus, I really wanted to toss out almost everything. Make it as simplified as possible. The feed is just a single column. As you said, it's a narrow column by design, even if you make your browser huge, it's only about 500 pixels wide. It's good for reading text, there are no images, you can't even post an image or a photo, you can post links, you can post emoji, and you can post text and combinations of those, but no images, except for your avatar, your profile image. There's no infinite scroll; you scroll to the bottom, you have to click the button to get the next bunch. So you have to make a choice every 20 or so posts: Do I want to keep doing this? There's a bell for notifications, but that bell will never light up. And it will never give you a number. If you want to go see if there are notifications, click on the bell. And you will see them, if you don't, don't click on the bell. And that's basically it. There's no messages built in. There's no marketplace or anything else. It's just a feed posts, you can go to your own profile page and just see your history.
"I purposefully want this network to not feel like it's ever trying to induce your engagement."
Here is what Ben says on the impact of visible metrics in social networks:
The presence of like metrics, of follower metrics etc. have dramatic effects on how we feel and what we do, how we think, how we think about what we should be doing within these platforms. The presence of the numbers teach us what to post, and what not to post. They make us more competitive with our friends. They make us feel more compulsive like we have to keep checking to see: Do we have any new notifications? Do we have a new friend requests? Do we have any new likes?
They also they become the way through which we evaluate what we see. The presence of the numbers on the feed, for example, turn us into number scanners first. When we scan that feed, we have been conditioned to watch the numbers as a guide for what to stop at and pay attention to. When someone follows us, and we go to see who that person is, we've learned to use how many followers they have, and how that number compares to our follower count as a guide for whether or not we might follow them back.
Absent, all of what I just described is: reading the bio of the person who followed us, looking and reading the posts that they've put up before, or reading the posts on the feed. And so by removing the metrics in all these Demetricator projects, but then also in Minus, my intention is to put the focus back on the content, on the who in the what, rather than the how many in the how much. And I will say that, in Minus there is one metric visible, right? So there's no like counts, there's no follow counts, there's no notification counts. But there is one number and it's the post remaining count. It's the only visible metric, and it's a metric that can only go down. As you post that number goes down, eventually you get to zero. That's it, you're out!
You can watch the unabridged version of the interview here and shorter clips about metrics and timestamps.