A few days I was on Facebook and saw an advertisement to add ‘glitter’ to my profile. And then I came across Russian net artist/curator Olia Lialina’s highly entertaining essay called Vernacular Web 2 (which comes complete with an ‘almost spam’ URL).
Lialina’s exploration of the new forms of ‘vernacular’ design explores the transition from ‘My Home Page’ to customised ‘services’ (iGoogle, MySpace, Facebook etc).
Why does Google want us to feel like home on their pages? Not to bind us to themselves, that’s for sure – they don’t need that; they’ve already got us hooked. When they offer me to “feel at home”, they mean something different. They mean home as opposed to work. What they’re saying is “Relax, have fun. Play around while we work. We are professionals; you are amateurs.”
It might sound paradoxical, but by encouraging the user to “feel at home” services create more distance between the users and themselves. Simplistic, silly graphics, senseless gadgets, customized pages with virtual puppies and kittens of the day heaped together with CNN news and bites of wisdom from Oprah – all of that subtly serves to show the user his proper place.
This dovetails nicely into a series run late last year on Graphpaper.com about class and visual design (final part linked) and the much talked about preliminary notes of danah boyd comparing Facebook and MySpace demographics.