Last weekend I learned about push notifications. A ‘push notification’ is digital design jargon, referring to a type of online interface: one of those immensely irritating pop-up boxes which will only disappear from the screen if you click on it somewhere – like a cookie banner, for instance, demanding that you accept cookies on your web browser. A push notification, I was told, “forces the viewer to take action.”
Viewers taking action? That could be a good thing. Less passive resignation and more active involvement. The meek inherit the earth!
But force? No one should be forced to do anything. Not even accept cookies.
Today I attended the Women for Independence conference in Perth. There were around a thousand women there, travelling in from all over Scotland on a dreich and dreary wet Saturday. A thousand politically engaged women demanding a more compassionate and democratic social order. How many more were there with us in spirit, unable to attend in person?
The first half of the programme involved an open mic opportunity for anyone who wished to contribute. The tone throughout this session was unfailingly gracious, hopeful and courageous; the individual voices of women collectively articulating their thoughts and aspirations. No forcing, but likewise no backing down. As one speaker said, “We’re not here to seek power. We already have power.” Another spoke as though reading from the script of my heart: “Empowerment is about not being invisible.” (Well shit – that sums up four years’ worth of blog posts in a mere six words. Succinct I am not.)
Push notifications themselves are not the problem. Every moment of life contains a push notification of one sort or another. We can click on the screen as directed or suffer the fate of the cookieless… but we might also take things into our own hands, just shut the screen off altogether and speak with a fellow human instead. We might choose to step away from what has been constructed to contain and direct us, and do our own thing.