designing an internet that encourages deep knowledge

Photo by Fakurian Design on Unsplash

Deep knowledge is defined as “knowledge that is concerned with underlying meanings and principles; integration of facts and feelings with previously acquired knowledge. for deep knowledge to be acquired, a series of learning activities needs to be set in place”

Deep knowledge has little value in the modern world — and the way the internet is designed only encourages this.

Despite this, deep knowledge is an integral part of good decision-making skills. It allows us to consider more possibilities, have a wider world-view, and more accurately judge others.

how does the internet discourage deep knowledge?

internet as a replacement for memory

The internet is often thought of as a replacement for our memories — if we need to know something, we can search it up and find the answers. This is known as ‘just-in-time learning’. This means that we do not have to have a wide world-view, since we do not have to store knowledge in our heads — but what is good for us is not often easy.

information overload

We are surrounded by so much information on a daily basis that our brains shut down and do not take any of it in (an example of this is binge-watching shows on Netflix — how much do you really remember from these shows?) Typically, this is referred to as ‘mindless consumption’ or something to that effect. Mindless consumption means we are not learning, and especially not remembering. Information overload is no new thing — but thinking about what it could bring long-term is especially terrifying.

echo chamber effect

The echo chamber effect describes how social media feeds us views we agree with, continually, until we are in a digital bubble of people who have the same outlook as we do. For some, this creates a sense of safety — as a trans person, I understand this. But in the long-term, it gives us less information about different perspectives, leading to poor, one-sided judgement. Learning about different views is not the same as putting up with hatred — there can be a healthy line, for the sake of mental health, that still introduces you to people who have different ideas.

what damage does this do?

If we do not store a lot of knowledge in our heads, when we are introduced to new concepts, we see them from a very one-sided perspective. This means the knowledge that we do have is superficial or shallow (based on the depth of knowledge framework), which has proven to result in poor decision-making skills.

The internet and the people who voice their opinion on it are often seen as having very little critical thinking skills — this is affected by this lack of deeper knowledge caused by the digital age we live in. Cancel culture, the increasing divide between left and right-wing in much of the world, poor decision-making skills on executive and governmental levels, increased anxiety in teenagers, are but some of the consequences of the way we use social media (go look up the studies if you don't believe me, it’s quite frightening), which is mostly to do with how it encourages arguments and discourages healthy compromise. Healthy compromise, of course, does not get enough clicks.

how could this change?

On a surface level, individuals can practise being more mindful about the content they consume, and how they go about their digital life, but this is like fighting against everything that is thrust at us. Deeper change is needed — the idea that individual changes can cause systematic change is an idea that we are told so that we do not actually try to change anything.

Changing to more human-centred design philosophy, rather than user-centred design, would affect change on an industry level. We need to design in a way that employs the use of long time thinking, and basic human compassion. The idea that user-centre design is not ethical enough to look after users' wellbeing is becoming more and more popular — but this needs to be looked at with regard to the internet as a whole.

Of course, there can be no systemic change without government and regulation of some sort — as is the case with all digital issues. Most issues created by the digital landscape can be traced back to the fact that there is little to no. r regulation of. what tech companies can do when creating online platforms, content, etc.

It is quite clear from my writing that I believe the profit-driven capitalist society is to blame for all of this. This has influenced the way the digital landscape has been designed. How else could you explain an internet that actively discourages us from making good decisions, than capitalism?




they/he | UX Designer | 3rd-year Digital Media and Interaction Design | writing about the interconnection of UX with philosophy and social issues

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lou machugh

lou machugh

they/he | UX Designer | 3rd-year Digital Media and Interaction Design | writing about the interconnection of UX with philosophy and social issues

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