Digital Detritus

Entropic flotsam, digital detritus, cyber cruft, binary bullshit, whatever you call it: It’s astoundingly annoying. It pervades cyberspace. One finds it on a Facebook wall, following oneself on Twitter, and in a MySpace inbox. It even manages to find it’s way past the guard of spam filters and into your inbox. Most sinisterly, it is the result of well meaning friends using a digital good and leaving little reproducing wrappers all over the place.

I define digital detritus as a trail of digital litter created by the consumption of digital goods/apps — akin to a candy wrapper left behind after the candy’s consumption.

Of course, no one ever pauses to think that posting digital detritus to a friends wall might be just like taking the flavorless gum in your mouth and sticking it to your friend’s house wall, using the wrapper to cover it up and provide advertisement for the good you just consumed. If you don’t want a sticky mess on your wall, there is no option to instantly make all walls Teflon. It still introduces a burden of having to clean up after people. It takes one’s private wall and makes it public.

Public spaces tend to get less respect from certain people. People stick gum under tables. People write on walls. People draw great works of graffiti. People have raging debates in some coffee shops. People post events on the announcement boards. Companies advertise on billboards. Most things we are accustomed to these days are brought to you by marketing. Somehow marketing has managed to make it beyond your magazines, television screens, and margins of your computer screens, and onto the walls of your virtual edifice. Public spaces were meant for this, but my wall? Maybe an Andy Warhol print of a Campbell’s soup can, but that’s it.

In Facebook’s case, there are settings to keep anyone from posting to your wall. What if you want friends to be able to still have conversations within your virtual walls? You can’t just turn off apps. That is true in at least two aspects: 1) You really can’t, there’s not setting for it. 2) If you did, friends using a client like HootSuite or TweetDeck couldn’t post to your wall either.

Some games are geared towards growing their user base — this is really the only way for them to continually make more money and grow. I don’t know if “social gaming” should have ever been manipulated into requiring one to get more and more friends playing the game in order to advance game play. That’s not gaming, that’s Amway or some other pyramid scheme. If you do play these “social” games that want you to post random advertisements to your friends wall, I hope you reconsider what games you play in your spare time (and good luck posting to my wall, I’ve blocked all posts).

I want to look forward to a world that has less digital detritus to clean up. I want to see more truly social games that don’t encourage wasted bits, but rather epic game play and great challenges in order to advance. I imagine people might pay for that. I demand better!

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