Interfering with the black-box-tradeoff model: Gephisto, a one-click Gephi for critical technical practice

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This paper presents and justifies Gephisto, an experimental tool visualizing networks in one click. Gephisto’s design exemplifies how we can interfere with a user’s utilitarian goals, by giving them what they wish (an easy way to get a network map) but in disobedient ways (the produced map is different every time the tool is used) that encourage them to engage further with the tool’s methodological tenets. As an apparatus, Gephisto aims to incentivize untrained users to become more critical of their network mapping practices. As an intervention into the field of digital methods, it aims to show that tools that support critical thinking do not have to be hard to use and hostile to beginners. We criticize the idea that tools range from easy-to-use black boxes for unreflexive lazy-thinkers, to complex and demanding instruments for hard-thinking experts. We argue that learners need ease of use and critical thinking at the same time, and that it is possible to design tools that support both needs at once. We offer an alternative model where we acknowledge the active role of the user in deciding the tradeoff between learning to master the tool, and progressing toward their utilitarian goals. We argue that the design of the tool should not oppose the beginner’s need for assistance in decision making, but find other ways to incentivize critical thinking.
TidsskriftConvergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies
StatusE-pub ahead of print - 16 nov. 2022


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