Conceptualising the User
24 September 2021
A discussion between Zara Dinnen and Niall Docherty (moderated by Tom Sutherland and Scott Wark)
Tom: To begin with, I thought it might be useful for both of you – Zara and Niall – to reflect upon the ways in which your own research relates to the overall themes of the Pause for Thought project.
Niall: My research looks at how ‘digital wellbeing’ has become something of a buzzword in recent years, as it relates to the idea of living with technologies in a healthy manner. It responds to a growing sense that perhaps there’s something amiss or something wrong with the way that technology plays a role in human lives, like our day-to-day lives, whether that’s in a personal or professional or an artistic kind of way. And I think there’s been quite a singular response to this kind of problem, which is quite a complex problem: simply, that you can control how you interact with these technologies personally on an individual basis. And specifically, that you can control your time spent on each of these different devices, applications, and various pieces of software that we live our lives through these days. And if you control the time you spend on them, then all your ills – all the ills of that technology – will be healed. For instance, if you’re feeling stressed whilst emailing someone, you might simply block out moments of your time for emailing as opposed to letting those emails invade every aspect of your life, and then that’s seen as a time-management solution to the problem of email. And obviously, that idea is embedded into these scheduling tools, or perhaps, into limiting the time you spend on devices and all these other temporal nudges that we get via the devices, or computers, or any of the kind of application that we may use. For me, all of this atomises the problem of stress to something akin to a simplistic relationship between an individual and the technology (in this case email) in question, without actually exploring the broader reasons why that stress may exist. Is it the email itself, or is it that your work routine is overburdening you and therefore you can’t deal with it? Where does that burden come from? Does it come from relations of labour power, for instance, that are embedded in your world? Are you being pressured more because you are identified as a woman or a man or a certain race? I want to explore how these various unequal social relations impact upon that feeling of stress – in such a way that it can’t simply be individualised. So, I think, for me the problem of temporal management as the solution to technological ill is precisely this atomisation of social relations on a very simplistic plane of human-computer interaction. This idea that, you know, problems can be solved through very, very simplistic solutions on devices, when actually wellbeing and stress (or whatever you want to call it) is obviously a holistic result of really complicated and multifaceted processes.
Tom: When you speak of ‘atomisation’, I take it you mean both an individualisation, but also a sort of responsibilisation, right? Placing the blame on you as an individual, insinuating that you have used your time incorrectly in the past and that’s the burden that you now must address.
Niall: Definitely. It introduces a moral economy into the way we understand digital wellbeing. And obviously you can see how responsibilisation relates to broader neoliberal socio-political moves, which have been persistent for the past four decades or so. And I think it reflects a ‘business as usual’ logic, appearing to respond to social pressures without actually addressing the underlying causes. It’s very much related to this broader neoliberal hegemony.
Tom: So what’s the benefit to a company like Apple or Facebook in providing these sorts of tools for supposedly managing or controlling one’s time?
Niall: I think it could operate on two different levels really. The first, most simplistic, way you could view it is as good PR. It could be akin to something like greenwashing – the appearance of corporations being responsive to social justice issues such as climate change. Maybe you’d call it ‘healthwashing’ or something like that, where having the ability to track your technological time is like saying: ’Oh, yeah. We recognise the problem. We can look after you. We can help you. Don’t question your relationship to that device on a fundamental level because we’ve got you covered, no stress’. It’s similar to the whole discourse about plastic straws and so on. The individualisation or responsibilisation of large-scale issues. Another way you could view it is in the perhaps more amorphous terms of productivity and what it means to have healthy users functioning in capitalist societies. Like, a healthy user is someone who is productive and able to work. You can compare this to wellbeing regimes in workplaces: productivity suffers when people are depressed; so what are the modes by which you can allow people to work better and work more?
However, I think it’s hard to talk about a general notion of digital wellbeing. Because what Apple will get from digital wellbeing differs from what Facebook might get. It differs from what any other tech company, or even organisation that utilise these wellbeing tools, would get. The question is then: What is the function of wellbeing within the particular aims of the businesses in question? What is wellbeing doing? What is it holding in place?
Zara: I was thinking, Niall, as you were talking about the different reasons that platforms come up with for time management applications and so on, it is also to keep us, the user, on the platform. So, as you say, obviously, it’s a way of healthwashing bigger structural issues around the economy of labour and work. But also, within that is a way of you never needing to switch off. Facebook or Apple can say: ‘We’ve already worked out how you can switch off. You switch off by staying on’. There’s a way in which you never disengage, and that also feeds into the way in which users’ data is collected and whatever things they learn about you as a company. But the primary aim for a company must always be to ensure that you never stop using, and for you to perhaps understand that use in a context of need. And obviously, for you to not join the dots; although, even when we do join the dots, we’re so disempowered that we don’t necessarily get anywhere.
I guess, if Niall is thinking about the management of time within these platforms, perhaps I’ve come at it as a way of thinking about a kind of slightly more abstract condition of temporality in relation to computers as processors doing things in the world and also in relation to kind of human-computer interaction and use. So, in the work I did for the The Digital Banal (2018), I was initially thinking about the way that digital media tend to efface themselves in culture. We rarely encounter digital technologies as such, and that’s partly the world that Niall is describing in terms of time management apps that continually push away the material processes which are leading you into computer use or stopping you from switching off. I was thinking about banality as a reification of novelty, whereby you have already bought into the inevitability of new things and as such novelty itself is made banal. It doesn’t hold any possible friction. And I was thinking about the way that digital technologies are structurally banal. They reify novelty as new devices and new affordances, new ways of being more efficient or more productive whilst blocking an affective experience of novelty as a more radical kind of disturbance. And for me, that process is also a temporal process. It’s a process that’s taking place in time. And that happens at a couple of different levels. So at the level of a program running and being executed, in terms of the software and also hardware, even if things are working in nanoseconds and feel imperceptible, there is actually time passing and there are relationships to futurity and history that are bound up in the ways that technology operate. These are often experienced by users imperceptibly but are nonetheless there. Time is one of the ways that we are bound up with technology.
I have also been thinking about this more recently – and this is where I think Niall and I share a research interest – in terms of the user specifically as a kind of tensed or timed subject position that we come to take up as human users. And also, there are digital users, there are programs that take up the user position in relation to other programs (which I know Scott’s talked about in his work on digital subjectivity). So trying to think about how the process of our being a user is the process of our becoming a user: we are not and then we are, but when we are we also come into a position that is written as if it were inevitable, so we somehow already were at the same time. And that’s where I think there’s a question about agency and how we might or might not occupy user positions differently.
Tom: Both of you are presenting the figure of the user as something that isn’t just self-evident, but is in becoming, constantly torn between different desiderata and exigencies. Which leads naturally to the question of what the ‘user’ is, exactly. How do we understand the emergence of this concept?
Zara: The user is a position, a subject position that is both constructed and imagined by computer engineers and programmers. So if we think about the history of human and computer interaction or think about the history of computing in terms of its human uses, interfaces, and programs, every design is always designed for use; therefore, embedded inside the use that it is designed for is also the user who is imagined to need to use it. When you read, say, a textbook about human and computer interaction or a programming textbook, the ‘user’ is a term presented as if it were a neutral objective point. It’s just a node in a series of events that will happen in order for things to be in use, in order for programs to run, in order for technology to do its thing. But what’s important – and this is in Sara Ahmed’s (2019) work on use, but it’s also in lots of other places, Elizabeth Ellcessor’s work on access and digital media for example – is to recognise that the user is always also an ideological construct and it presumes capacities for use and it presumes kinds of subjects. Niall mentioned earlier that time management applications are partly also a way of keeping people at their most productive. And we can think about the way that they’re in turn designed for a user who can access them in particular ways, from particular contexts, and will perform in particular modes. And so thinking about how the user is talked about in the world of computer programming, but also how culture, popular culture, narrative culture, and public discourse thinks about the ways that we are users or become users is really key to understanding subjectivity in the digital moment. The ‘user’ is not a neutral thing. We have to know what we’ve been imagined to be as we take up positions of use.
Niall: The idea of the user and what the user relates to offers a similar set of questions that surround the idea of what it is to be a human: what is the human and what is the user? And through these questions we can talk quite readily about the history of the subject (or different types of subjects) that can be traced genealogically through modernity. We’re fairly astute at understanding the problems of subject-object distinctions and so on, and recognising the holes within its epistemologies and ontologies and modes of relating to the world. ‘Man’ and ‘Nature’ and all that – the idea of being separate from the natural world and so on. We’re quite good at disentangling or undermining the problems associated with those certain ways of thinking about the self. But when it comes to the user, it’s not quite as developed. I think there’s been a tendency to view the user as being just a neutral position that emerged almost ahistorically, as if it exists on its own and only in relation to particular technological systems. And this kind of ties it in with the whole question of what technology is and what it is doing. There’s a tendency to view technology as a tool through which human beings can master the world around them in order to express their imagined autonomy. And there’s been a lot of work pushing back against that in the past couple of decades, exploring how technology doesn’t just exist as a neutral intermediary. Technology actually changes the world and changes the person that interacts with it by virtue of mediation. So I think the figure of the user is a way of understanding mediation and the generativity of technological relationships beyond this useless tool-view of technology that we’ve inherited.
Tom: I was wondering how we might distinguish the concept of the user from, say, that of the ‘reader’?
Zara: When I’ve talked about this work before, particularly in the context of literary studies, which is the field that I teach and (sometimes) work in, I often get questions about reading and readers. And for me, there are obviously some overlapping conditions – being an audience, being a user, being a reader – there has been scholarship on the ‘uses’ of literature, and cultural studies and fan studies are disciplines that are interested in practices of ‘use’ that ties audiences, producers and textual objects together. I think the thing that feels different to me is that the user is not only implied in a text but built into the operation of digital media in a way that might be primarily extractive and laborious. And coming back to something that Niall was saying before, thinking about histories and mediation (see Bernard Stiegler, as well as Sarah Kember and Joanna Zylinska’s work on mediation) is the way in which we think about the human as a subject that emerges because of technology: ‘until you have fire, you don’t have the human’. And that imbrication of one with the other is foundational to the Western epistemology of human subjectivity. And as Niall was saying, there are ways that we can query and unsettle this. But I think that the technology is built to run with the user (or with the user position, which may not necessarily be human, but nonetheless is there). It doesn’t work otherwise. But if we think of cultural production as also technological, then maybe users is a useful way to think of readers.
Tom: Given that you’ve both characterised the user as something constructed, it would be helpful if you could speak a bit more about illustrative sites or instances wherein you see this construction as occurring or being especially pertinent.
Niall: The idea of social networking in general is a fairly easy access point to understand how certain practices become normalised through technological embedding. Social networking relies upon an atomistic idea of an individual as a node that is only connected to others by virtue of the benefits that the other can bring them. On Facebook we have a particular profile that has our preferences, our interests, and our wants and needs – our social position. And we are defined by the relations that we have to others within this particular social network. We’re supposed to be viewed in relation to them by virtue of what they can give us. It’s predicated upon an idea of self-interest which in and of itself is quite an abstract idea of the human actor, the human agent. And this is actually built into Facebook’s model for justifying what it’s doing or why it exists: ‘people want to connect, so we connect them to each other’. And they do have a large body of psychological research that they draw upon, a large history of HCI computing that they draw upon, to configure their users as rational agents of self-interest. So when we’re talking about the technological construction or production of users, it’s not just the material construction but also the discursive construction of them and what bodies of knowledge certain companies or designers build upon to construct the user as such. Because it’s got to come from somewhere. There isn’t an essential starting point of the human that we could draw upon that will say: ‘okay, our user wants to do this because we are all human’. We know that’s not true. Part of the idea of looking at the user is to be able to see where particular visions of the human being come from. What bodies of knowledge are drawn upon and how are they operationalised in particular ways in order to produce the user as such? It’s a question of the discursive material configuration of the user rather than simply its material effects afterwards.
Tom: On that point, what is the motivation in a company like Facebook purporting to ground the development of its platform in this psychological and sociological literature?
Niall: This literature offers the user a readymade grid of intelligibility, or a ready way of understanding, the impacts your user-ness has on you as a person. And again, in this way you are diverted away from other ways of interpreting your behavior. For instance, Facebook presents themselves as facilitating human connection, which has always existed throughout time and has always been what humans need and what humans want – so therefore, there’s no problem, really. However, Facebook has to balance this idea with the fact that they are making a lot of money because of those interactions. They’re profiting from supporting those interactions. So, it would seem to me that Facebook, by providing this framework, are telling us: ‘you’re using Facebook to connect and that’s good for you because you’d be doing it anyway and all we’re just really doing is helping you. Okay, we’re going to profit off your interactions, but you get the chance to flourish as a human being in your true natural capacity as a human being, so don’t worry about it’. Going back to the idea of the banal, as Zara was discussing, this offers another seamless, frictionless way to interpret our behavior in the world. And it forecloses any potential ruptures that we may have that would challenge our use of Facebook. I really like the idea of rupture that Zara was just talking about. I think that’s what it’s perhaps doing. It’s stopping ruptures that could help us reflect upon broader power structures or relations, broader social-technical correlations of power.
Zara: It also provides a particular historical fantasy that becomes an alibi: namely, that we’ve always been this way. That Facebook’s interpretation of connection is the connection that has always existed. When in fact, the architecture of Facebook determines what connection and collectivity is in ways that are not at all self-evident. There’s plenty of historical examples of social collectivity functioning in ways that are not possible according to, say, the architecture of Facebook. I think this is something really interesting – it’s this retroactive priorness – it says: ‘from here, we know that we have always been this’. But it’s also anticipatory, because it’s always hedging bets on the future horizon too – it’s determining what we’ll be. And that, I think, is what’s weird about the user position and the way that the user is imagined and becomes. And it’s there in the stories Facebook tells about human connection.
Scott: As an aside, this is captured in Facebook’s ambition to become the default social network, right?
Zara: Yes. It will have always been inevitable because it’s not a historical contingent actor, it’s just simply how people are.
Niall: There’s almost a sense of there being an a priori subject, an a priori user, that needs to be paradoxically constructed. And then through that construction it becomes almost real or operable because people are inhabiting that space. It’s similar to the idea of the transcendental subject that you find in modernity, which is supposedly universal, but is always threatened by, you know, slavish habits or by the other. And it’s continuing this teleological progression of becoming, but it’s based upon an app. It’s abstract – it’s not really real. But it’s becoming something and on that journey of becoming, it’s creating all these other things, all these other things are built upon it and grown through it. It’s retroactive. You’re making something that you fabricated real and then things are built upon that fabricated realness.
Zara: In Judy Wajcman’s work on digital calendars, she talks about our use of digital calendars. I’m not a Facebook user, but I am an obsessive Google Calendar rearranger. I somehow think that I can control everything by just moving my reminders and meetings and boxes around and around and around each day. And Wajcman says, in thinking about the digital calendar and the way that Silicon Valley understands time: ‘Time is portrayed as an individual resource to be husbanded, rather than as relational, a collective accomplishment’ (2019: 1285). Which really gets at this idea of the myth of time as a thing that an individual experiences rather than a thing that only exists as relational. One cannot actually have an individual experience of time. That’s not what time is, exactly.
Tom: Early on, Niall, you mentioned a ‘moral economy’ established through these tools – premised upon self-control and so forth. And it seems to me that one of the ways that these quite peculiar modes of communication or sociality are naturalised or hypostasised is through inserting communication and sociality into this moral order. If you’re not always connected, but you might not necessarily be considered a ’bad person’ in the conventional moral sense, but you are committing a certain faux pas. This pressure or injunction is maybe part of how the user becomes real?
Niall: This goes back to the questions posed in the workshop: what are you supposed to be doing? What are you failing at by not being able to manage your calendar (as you were saying, Zara)? Or by not being able to connect? Or feeling awkward about not tweeting or sharing your life on Instagram? Why do you feel bad for not doing it? Where is that feeling coming from? That is a moral economy. This idea of husbandry, of looking after time, controlling time, again entails a role to fulfill. What or who is imparting this notion of looking after something into the world? Where is it coming from? Who is imparting these particular ways of being in the world? Massive multinational tech companies. Do we want these people to be the ones demarcating how we live our lives? Or do we just accept it as the current order of things? You may well find that all your interests align with this particularly corporate mode of communication as a naturalised way of life. Or you may not. Either way, it’s important to recognise the full stakes. Drawing attention to the user and to the impingements of particular temporal regimes is one way of opening up this dilemma and perhaps harnessing that critical edge.
Zara: I think exactly that. There are also ways of attending to the collective action that forms around those stresses between the temporal injunction and the experience of the person, the lived experience of the person in their body. So we might think about, say, Amazon warehouse workers: the husbandry of time that Amazon performs isn’t actually tenable for the human that it exploits. And so people get ill and hurt – these are moments of stress – but that absolute limit is also a moment where something else emerges, a collective understanding of the process that’s happening. A kind of class consciousness perhaps, in that how we are users is related to the multiple ways we are socially organised—as workers, carers, students, etc. But the interesting question is whether, particularly in the context of the tech companies that we’re talking about here, there is potential for a user consciousness that is realised through the stress and might lead to action toward emancipation, to be users otherwise.
Niall: Yeah, and that can never happen if we follow the narratives given by tech companies. So to return to your earlier question Tom – regarding the benefit for companies of maintaining this individualised, responsibilised construct of time management and wellbeing – it could be precisely just stopping the kind of collectivity Zara was talking about, those moments when stress and depression and mental health issues are viewed as relational and social, and perhaps as evidence of tangible stresses on the individual by virtue of class, race, gender and so on. Depression as a public feeling, as Ann Cvetkovich’s work talks about. Depression may be a result of extraneous circumstances pressuring individuals differently. When that is viewed as an entry point to discuss these wider systemic issues, then we can prise open these modes of resistance. Then you can say: ‘Actually, you know what? It’s pretty terrible that I’m having to stand up on my legs all day, can’t even go for a break’, when you’re talking about Amazon workers. Or when you’re responding to emails at 3.00am because you’ve got to respond to your manager. Whatever it is, rather than going, ‘Why can’t I do this? It must be a failure on my part. I need to use these tools better. I need to be a better person and improve myself’, you might think instead ‘This feeling of stress is bigger than me, and it can only be challenged by a group bigger than myself’. The individual is not enough to deal with these problems. Individuals can basically do naff all. But this psychic force and psychic pressure, instead of only being turned inward, can perhaps be turned outward as well, and that could be the political potential of these disruptive ways of thinking.
Scott: From what Tom said, I’m getting early twentieth century sociology vibes (which he’s going to hate me for saying) regarding a moral economy. Zara spoke about moments when an Amazon worker meets their limit – a moment when a user becomes embodied. It occurs to me that you’re proposing a way of thinking about the management of life and work through the figure of the user that’s analogous to time management –you could call it something like ‘user management’.
Zara: It’s about finding those positions of solidarity. Obviously we’re in a very uneven political-economic system, where we experience the realities of labour differently from our neighbours depending on a bunch of material contingencies: type of job, inherited wealth, access to the market, and so on. But there are only a tiny minority of people who are not subject to this exploitative condition of userness. And so you could think of the user-imaginary as containing a capacity for solidarity in the ways that you just described. The flip of that would be to understand how user management is a particular mode of capitalism today, of how capitalism works today.
Tom: We’ve talked mainly about social networking sites. But I’m curious how this figure of the user might extend beyond these things – the degree to which we can understand this logic of the user as existing in other contexts. How do we understand this concept of the user beyond the confines of, say, the screen in front of us?
Niall: Yeah, what can the term ‘user’ tell us about things beyond the screen? I go back to this idea of built environments. Following on from the topic of labour relations, there’s that famous example of offices in the 1960s being air conditioned to very low temperatures to fit the ideal worker that was expected to work in that office. There’s this age old tale that it feels colder for women and they therefore have to wear more clothes or wrap up warm and there’s a battle between the men in the office. It’s demonstrative of a particular individual being assumed to inhabit or work in that place. So the idea that there is a user or at the base of design systems may not even be restricted to computers; perhaps it is a relationship configured in all design, all built environments.
Zara: Loads of computer programmers and user experience (UX) people read general design theory. Like Don Norman, who writes about the user – designing for the user – is at the base of all kinds of engineering. So the same philosophy of designing for a user (i.e., imagining your ideal user, and trying to work out how people actually use things, and then designing for that) is everywhere, as Niall just described. In the Amazon example, extending the logic of the user to the experience of, say, Amazon warehouse workers, they are users of Amazon technology. The scanners, the timers, the trolleys, the facial scanning, the CCTV – that environment is technologically mediated and determining their routes, their access to the ways they work, what happens to their bodies, how they’re managed. But also, in this post-Fordist moment, Amazon workers are also Amazon consumers. They too shop on Amazon. Amazon is a totalising platform, because it undercuts so much that if you are online, which is its own ‘if’, it often becomes the cheapest way to live. And if you are an Amazon warehouse worker, you’re not getting paid enough. But I’ve also been thinking about the way in which so many systems of governance are computational or digital, such that the citizen subject is also a user subject. In the UK we are NHS ‘service users’ – that’s the language used. And that language is partly a way of avoiding where we are headed, where we become NHS ‘customers’ or ‘clients’. There’s something much wider in understanding the citizen as a service user, as a user of government services. Sociology of medical institutions and also disability studies has already thought so much about the user as a subject for this reason.
Scott: I was reading a story the other day about a young woman, who got arrested by four police officers in her student housing in Bristol. And there was a kind of enquiry into it because they handcuffed her for a long period of time in a state of semi-undress. And the response from the police was that the service provided by the police was acceptable.
Zara: How is that rhetorically possible, you know? How can that claim be made about the police? That work of user and service does so much now in everyday life.
Scott: It’s a role, isn’t it, really? It’s like it’s the role of the police in relation to a citizen or a user. It demarcates appropriate actions, appropriate ways of behaving. And I think that dynamic can be used to explicate a whole manner of different political infrastructures and modes of governance in numerous ways and in numerous spheres.
Zara: And it’s just another way in which it’s an alibi. The police are not a service provider. They have a monopoly on state violence.
Tom: As a way of wrapping up, I was hoping that you could both talk a little about the affordances of both your own research. Why does studying this concept of the user and its normative implications matter?
Niall: I guess the reason I look at the figure of the user in my work, and exploring how it’s constructed in social media discourses and designs, goes back to me trying to adopt an anti-essentialist research position, trying not to fall back upon a construct that mask its own vanishing point. For instance, rather than falling back upon the human/user as the core basis of communication, instead I try and push back a little bit further and ask what this human/user is, and how we can understand what work this human/user is doing in different sociotechnical contexts. Looking at the user is a way to do that within social-technical systems: rather than pretending or assuming that we know how and why people use social-technical systems, exploding the user in this way demonstrates that we actually know very, very little about social-technical systems (and also probably about the world). So perhaps we should be less hubristic in the way that we try and understand social relations. If we’re less hubristic, then we’ll not have as much confidence in the government and the corporate enterprises that use this knowledge to perpetuate exploitative regimes. We’ll realise that the knowledge that they’re building and work upon is flawed and fallible. I guess it’s that kind of disruptive unsettling, introducing a rupture in the ways in which we understand the world – that is what I think examining the user can do.
Zara: For me, the figure of the user is a way to understand agency within social-technical systems. The user feels to me like a position that is both old and also newly energised in capitalism as it operates now. The user, like a citizen, is a subject category that’s circulating and doing something in terms of mediating how people are able to access resources and to have recourse to basic rights. For me I am thinking about the user as a category that networked digital technology has occupied and monopolised but that we take up as a subject position often without realising, or really being aware of. And I think we should know about that. And then we should work out what we want to do with that agency and power.
24 September 2021
Zara Dinnen is Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Literature at Queen Mary University of London and author of The Digital Banal (Columbia University Press, 2018).
Niall Docherty is a postdoctoral researcher within the Social Media Collective at Microsoft Research New England.
Contributed as part of Workshop 1
(and additional recommended readings on the ‘user’)
Philip E. Agre (1995) ‘Conceptions of the user in computer systems design’ pp. 67-106 in P.J. Thomas (ed.) The Social and Interaction Dimensions of Human-Computer Interfaces. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Sara Ahmed (2019) What’s the Use? On the Uses of Use. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Madeleine Akrich (1992) ‘The De-scription of Technical Objects’ pp. 205-224 In W.E. Bijker and J. Law (eds) Shaping Technology/Building Society: Studies in Sociotechnical Change. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Liam J. Bannon (1995) ‘From Human Factors to Human Actors: The Role of Psychology and Human-Computer Interaction Studies in System Design’ pp. 205-214 in R.M Baecker, J. Grudin, W. Buxton, and S. Greenberg (eds) Readings in Human–Computer Interaction: Toward the Year 2000. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
André Brock Jr (2020). Distributed Blackness: African American Cybercultures. New York: New York University Press.
Eric P.S. Baumer and Jed. R. Brubaker (2017) ‘Post-Userism’, CHI ’17: Proceedings of the 2017 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems: 6291–6303. https://doi.org/10.1145/3025453.3025740.
Ruha Benjamin (2019) Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Jordan S. Carroll (2019) ‘Geek Temporalities and the Spirit of Capital’, Post45, 3. https://post45.org/2019/08/geek-temporalities-and-the-spirit-of-capital/
Michael Dieter (2014) ‘The Virtues of Critical Technical Practice’, differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, 25(1): 216–230.
Niall Docherty (2020) ‘Facebook’s Ideal User: Healthy Habits, Social Capital, and the Politics of Well-Being Online’, Social Media + Society: 1-13.
Elizabeth Ellcessor (2016) Restricted Access: Media, Disability, and the Politics of Participation. New York: New York University Press.
Kirsten Foot (2006) ‘Web Sphere Analysis and Cybercultural Studies’ pp. 88-96 in D. Silver and A. Massanari (eds) Critical Cyberculture Studies. New York: New York University Press.
Lisa Gitelman (2006) Always Already New: Media, History and the Data of Culture. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Melissa Gregg (2018) Counterproductive: Time Management in the Knowledge Economy. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Oliver L. Haimson and Anna Lauren Hoffmann (2016) ‘Constructing and Enforcing “Authentic” Identity Online: Facebook, Real Names, and Non-Normative Identities’, First Monday, 21(6).
Aimi Hamraie (2017) Building Access: Universal Design and the Politics of Disability. Minnesota, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
Scott Kushner (2021) ‘The Instrumentalised User: Human, Computer, System’, Internet Histories, 5(2): 154–170.
Olia Lialina (2012) ‘Turing Complete User’, Contemporary Home Computing. Accessed April 11, 2018.
Mara Mills (2011) ‘On Disability and Cybernetics: Helen Keller, Norbert Wiener, and the Hearing Glove’, differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, 22(2-3): 74–111.
Aimée Morrison (2014) ‘Facebook and Coaxed Affordances’ pp. 112-131 in A. Poletti and J. Rak (eds) Identity Technologies: Constructing the Self Online. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.
Don Norman (2013) The Design of Everyday Things. New York: Basic Books.
Nelly Oudshoorn and Trevor Pinch (eds) (2003) How Users Matter: The Co-Construction of Users and Technology. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
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