Jeremy Philip Galen

Product Marketing at Facebook. Cinephile. Cynic. Levinasian.

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Living with distraction: a rejoinder to Louis C.K.


Over the last few days I’ve rewatched Louis C.K.‘s Conan clip several times and talked of it with anyone who will listen. His point of departure is the case for denying his children smartphones, but he soon dwells on a much more disturbing subject, namely the threat that continuous connectivity poses for selfhood.

The bit is funny because, like pretty much all good standup, it is at once patently obvious and painfully true: solitude is a challenging experience and we’re hopeless at turning down an opportunity to feel part of the human community. Even if the gesture of inclusion is shallow and short-lived, like a text message, we spring for it instinctively.

What’s really interesting here (and probably the source of the routine’s comic weight) is that he’s willing to go out and admit that a text message from a friend momentarily resolves the existential anxiety he

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On Design, Rationality, and Ethics

For a while I’ve wondered why exactly an experience with good design should be satisfying. You could say that when something is well designed it achieves its purpose efficiently, it’s easier to use than what’s preceded it, or perhaps it’s more elegant.

What’s nagged at me though is the sense that we don’t quite use the right vocabulary for expressing the first-person experience of good design. Especially with digital products, should we use words like “user-friendly” or “useable” or “ergonomic”? Do any of these words capture what we mean? Perhaps this explains the ubiquity of “well-designed” as a term of praise. We can’t easily be more specific so we just refer to it tautologically.

In an essay called THE SENTIMENT OF RATIONALITY, the philosopher William James argues for an affective component in the recognition of rationality:

“The transition from a state of puzzle and perplexity to

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