user interface design

The Calculus of Small Change: An Ethnography of Unlearning

MARIJKE RIJSBERMAN Technological innovation obsolesces not only earlier technologies, but also the knowledge, skills, and expertise of the users of those technologies. Individual obsolescence is generally written off as the cost of participation in a vibrant capitalist economy, a small price to pay and part of the creative destruction that makes the entire system work. This paper takes a closer look at the individual costs of such obsolescence, through an investigation of the particular class of changes that present themselves subsequent to an individual’s adoption decision—updates, upgrades, service packs, redesigns, patches, bug fixes, feature releases, versions, and other putative enhancements crowding into the contemporary technological landscape with increasing frequency. Updates make up a much-neglected but significant proportion of the total number of changes that make their way to those who participate—whether whole-heartedly or with reservations, willingly or as the unsought consequence of their participation in the labor...