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Links and articles about technology, design, and sociology. Written by Rian van der Merwe.

Frictionless content sharing and the shifting burden of understanding

Frank Chimero reflecting on Facebook’s advances in “frictionless sharing” of content:

Any physicist knows that it’s impossible to exist in a frictionless universe, and that friction hasn’t been diminished with Facebook’s sharing model so much as transferred the work of making sense of things from the one sharing to the audience.

I recently mentioned that reducing the effort needed to share and communicate with others might be inching us closer to a post-literate society. Frank’s remark adds another consideration: the reduced effort required to share information places the burden of understanding much more on the audience than on the person sharing.

“Frictionless” sharing of what song you are currently listening to sounds interesting at first, and then it just starts to sound creepy. But even if you can get beyond the creepiness factor you’re faced with the fact that it becomes the audience’s responsibility to make sense of that information. How interesting is knowing what song I’m listening to without an explanation why I’m listening to it and what it means to me?

At what point will all this lazy sharing result in lazy audiences who can’t be bothered to go hunting for the meaning in the information? At what point does the audience become mere “consumers” of content in the true sense of the word - “to destroy or expend by use” – and end up in a similar situation as the obese passengers on the Axiom?