Reload The Love!
Software now facilitates many aspects of daily life, whether it’s your phone, your car, your bank, or your refrigerator. Though immaterial, software is still a designed object created by humans. I’m interested in how those designs serve its creators, as well as the systems those creations reside within. Why do those designs result in certain kinds of human-computer interfaces? How do those interfaces interact with humans to achieve their goals?
For this project I’ve explored these questions by focusing on a small but important aspect of Facebook’s interface: their notification icons. These icons, small white numbers wrapped in red ovals, indicate newness, something that needs checking or tending to. A pending friend request, a new message, or another ‘like’ of your status. How often do you find yourself checking these icons? Once a day? Once an hour? More?
Perhaps more important is how these icons make you feel. Are you happy to get a new friend request? Are you anxiously awaiting the next personal message? Or are you sad when you check the site only to find those icons dull and lifeless? If you aren’t getting the response you want, then Reload The Love! is for you!
Reload The Love!
Reload The Love! automatically detects when your Facebook notification icons are at zero and artificially inflates them for you. If new notifications arrive after Reload The Love! has inflated them, they will instantly revert back to accurate values. And any time you want to reinflate them, just reload the page to Reload The Love!
Follow the above link to install a copy of Reload The Love! for yourself. It runs in Chrome, Safari, or Firefox. Installation instructions are on the install page.
The Interface As Agent
The value of Facebook lies in the breadth of its data. The source of that data is the unwaged immaterial labor of its users. Every time a Facebook user enters a status, links to a page, or adds a friend, it further details a profile of themselves that Facebook can sell to advertisers.
What role do these icons play in Facebook’s overall economy? Do they train us to despise silence? Do they want us, or need us to pay attention to them? How do these icons as interactive interface play on our insecurities and narcisisstic obsessions to encourage further unwaged labor?
One way I explored these questions was to first post the software on userscripts.org, the primary internet repository of web browser scripts. Userscripts houses bits of software that alter the functionality of common websites, whether it’s hiding ads on Gmail, or changing the font on the New York Times. The only description I provided there was of its literal functionality, that it “artificially inflates your notification numbers whenever they are zero.” This description alone led more than 300 people to install the work on their own browsers. What role does this software play for them?