Casual Power: Understanding User Interfaces through Quantification

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The paper draws parallels between quantification as found in the
user interfaces of video games, to similar elements of more “serious”
devices, in particular mapping and navigational platforms. I present
an autoethnographic study of a mundane experience that would be
familiar to many Google Maps users: locating a nearby place of interest and figuring out how to reach it. The navigational case is used as a
canvas for a further analysis of the role of quantified elements in user
interfaces. My autoethnography shows how the mundane actions
performed on the screen are informed by the necessary reductions
that mapped media perform on the physical world. Such reductions
are imitated and enabled by user interfaces designed to control and
guide user attention. Designers aim to simplify and streamline user
interactions with the system and such practices are built on tracking
the user and habituating the actions she performs through the screen
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)107-122
Number of pages16
JournalDigital Culture & Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2016


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