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Response to Ford's Reboot the World

This essay reminds me of a quote from “Writing the Web’s Grain”: “the less you have to do, the less say you have”. Being autonomous on the web is a wonderful thought, but it becomes increasingly harder to achieve. Independence on the internet comes at a price of time (and in many cases money) spent learning the skills to be independent. If we as designers want personal databases disconnected from centralized mega-corporations, we must become a pseudo-backend developer. If we want our websites to be seen but not taken advantage of, we must learn search optimization without relying on SEO tools. I have this growing internal conflict about how much time and energy I should expend to learning these skills, versus focusing on what my career path directly entails (design). Am I being over-ambitious and wasteful trying to learn skills like backend, or is this just the new state of affairs that designers must accept? A large part of being a designer is considering the platform you are designing on, and the systems it plays into. When considering the points brought up in this essay, it feels negligent and irresponsible as a designer to not at least make an attempt at autonomy.

I think part of the solution to achieving a democratized web space lies in making skills and education accessible. In the essay, Ford states “skills should be a basic part of living in a transparent and open culture where individuals are able to communicate on an equal field of play”. Right now, this seems too high an expectation– I personally don’t blame people for resorting to Facebook as a platform. For individuals to carve their own spaces out, we need to level the playing field, and lessen the barrier of entry. As I have gone through college, I’ve realized that much of this barrier is a result of just not knowing where to start learning. Designers are often in the unique position of being a middleman between the interface the general public sees, and the highly engineered, technical side. I would like to see more designers speak openly about technologies and skills they have been exposed to, and make an effort to publicize these skills, even if they are not an expert in the material. We can't all be experts in every one of these skills– we need to make it easier to be permissibly okay in everything, so that we can establish a collective online that still maintains individuals' independency.