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Ecology

Five Lessons From Seven Years of Research Into Buttons

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button push

You know you want to push it. (Credit: luckyraccoon/Shutterstock)

All day every day, throughout the United States, people push buttons – on coffee makers, TV remote controls and even social media posts they “like.” For more than seven years, I’ve been trying to understand why, looking into where buttons came from, why people love them – and why people loathe them.

As I researched my recent book, “Power Button: A History of Pleasure, Panic, and the Politics of Pushing,” about the origins of American push-button society, five main themes stood out, influencing how I understand buttons and button-pushing culture.

1. Buttons Aren’t Actually Easy to Use

In the late 19th century, the Eastman Kodak Company began selling button-pushing as a way to make taking photographs easy. The company’s slogan, “You press the button, we do the rest,” suggested it wouldn’t be hard to use newfangled technological devices. This advertising campaign paved the way for the public to engage in amateur photography – a hobby best known today for selfies.

kodak

Just give it a try. (Credit: George Eastman Museum/Wikimedia Commons)

Yet in many contexts, both past and present, buttons are anything but easy. Have you ever stood in an elevator pushing the close-door button over and over, hoping and wondering if the door will ever shut? The same quandary presents itself at every crosswalk button. Programming a so-called “universal remote” is often an exercise in extreme frustration. Now think about the intensely complex dashboards used by pilots or DJs.

For more than a century, people have been complaining that buttons aren’t easy: Like any technology, most buttons require training to understand how and when to use them.

plane cockpit buttons

It takes a lot of training to know what all those buttons are for. (Credit: U.S. Air Force/Kelly White)

2. Buttons Encourage Consumerism

The earliest push buttons appeared on vending machines, as light switches and as bells for wealthy homeowners to summon servants.

Tide button

It’s almost too easy. (Credit: Alexander Klink/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY)

At the turn of the 20th century, manufacturers and distributors of push-button products often tried to convince customers that their every whim and desire could be gratified at a push – without any of the mess, injury or effort of previous technologies like pulls, cranks or levers. As a form of consumption, button pushing remains pervasive: People push for candy bars and tap for streaming movies or Uber rides.

Amazon’s “Dash” button takes push-button pleasure to the extreme. It’s tempting to think about affixing single-purpose buttons around your house, ready to instantly reorder toilet paper or laundry detergent. But this convenience comes at a price: Germany recently outlawed Dash buttons, because they don’t let customers know how much they’ll pay when they place an order.

3. Button-pushers are Often Seen as Abusive

Throughout my research, I discovered that people worry that buttons will fall into the wrong hands or be used in socially undesirable ways. My children will push just about any button within their reach – and sometimes those not within reach, too. The children of the late 19th and early 20th centuries were the same. People often complained about children honking automobile horns, ringing doorbells and otherwise taking advantage of buttons that looked fun to press.

Adults, too, often received criticism for how they pushed. In the past, managers triggered ire for using push-button bells to keeping their employees at their beck and call, like servants. More recently there are stories in the news about disgraced figures like Matt Lauer using buttons to control the comings and goings of his staff, taking advantage of a powerful position.

4. Some of the Most-feared Buttons Aren’t Real

Beginning in the late 1800s, one of the most common fears registered about buttons involved warfare and advanced weapons: Perhaps one push of a button could blow up the world.

This anxiety has persisted from the Cold War to the present, playing prominently in movies like “Dr. Strangelove” and in news headlines. Although no such magic button exists, it’s a potent icon for how society often thinks about push-button effects as swift and irrevocable. This concept is also useful in geopolitics. As recently as 2018, President Donald Trump bragged to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over Twitter that “I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”

5. Not a Lot Has Changed in More Than a Century

As I completed my book, I was struck by how much voices of the past echoed those of the present when discussing buttons. Since the 1880s, American society has deliberated about whether button pushing is a desirable or dangerous form of interaction with the world.

Persistent concerns remain about whether buttons make life too easy, pleasurable or rote. Or, on the flip side, observers worry that buttons increase complexity, forcing users to fiddle unnecessary with “unnatural” interfaces.

car button

Buttons can be hard to resist. (Credit: apiguide/Shutterstock)

Yet as much as people have complained about buttons over the years, they remain stubbornly present – an entrenched part of the design and interactivity of smartphones, computers, garage door openers, car dashboards and videogame controllers.

As I suggest in “Power Button,” one way to remedy this endless discussion about whether buttons are good or bad is to instead begin paying attention to power dynamics – and the ethics – of push buttons in everyday life. If people begin to examine who gets to push the button, and who doesn’t, in what contexts, under which conditions, and to whose benefit, they might begin to understand buttons’ complexity and importance.

 

Rachel Plotnick, Assistant Professor of Cinema and Media Studies, Indiana University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Ecology

Yukon and Northern BC First Nations tackle climate change using Indigenous knowledge and science

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YUKON, June 18, 2021 /CNW/ – The Government of Canada is working together in partnership with Indigenous and Northern communities in finding solutions to adapt to the impacts of climate change in the North.

Today, Minister of Northern Affairs, Daniel Vandal, along with Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages (Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency), Larry Bagnell, highlighted progress on three unique, Indigenous-led projects that are helping communities in Yukon and Northern British Columbia adapt to the challenges posed by climate change.

The Minister and Parliamentary Secretary met virtually with Carcross/Tagish First Nation (C/TFN) to learn about their community-led climate change monitoring program. C/TFN has partnered with Tsay Keh Dene Nation (TKDN) and Chu Cho Environmental of Prince George, British Columbia, to build a community-led monitoring project that examines environmental data and Indigenous knowledge to create a holistic picture of how the climate is changing across C/TFN and TKDN traditional territories. The project combines tracking of current and historical climate trends with knowledge shared by Elders while also providing opportunities for youth mentorship and climate change awareness.

The Taku River Tlingit First Nation (TRTFN) is also leading a unique project to assess the impacts of climate change within their traditional territory. Climate change is causing many of the culturally significant ice patches to melt, exposing organic artifacts to oxygen and leading to rapid deterioration. The TRTFN ice patch mapping project will involve performing archaeological assessments to prevent the degradation of artifacts. Research will be guided by traditional knowledge, Elders and oral histories, when available, and heavily involve community, Elders, youth and Knowledge Keepers.

The Pelly Crossing Selkirk Development Corporation is leading the Selkirk Wind Resource Assessment project through the installation of a Sonic Detection and Ranging (SODAR) system. The initiative includes a feasibility study leading up to the construction of a renewable energy facility, including wind, solar and battery energy storage. Expanding clean energy within the region will have direct benefits for communities, including reduced reliance on diesel, job creation and revenue generation for Selkirk First Nation. 

These projects are delivering important environmental, social and economic benefits that lead to healthier, more sustainable and resilient communities across Yukon and Northern British Columbia. They also build community clean energy capacity and help to avoid the impacts of climate change.

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Ecology

Atlantic Provinces Ready For Aquaculture Growth

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Aquaculture is an important economic driver for rural, coastal and Indigenous communities, and Atlantic Canada is well positioned to increase aquaculture production as global demand for sustainably sourced seafood grows.

That is why the ministers responsible for aquaculture in the Atlantic provinces have agreed to the ongoing development and management of their industries based on common principles. A new memorandum of understanding has been signed by the four ministers, which extends the previous agreement signed in 2008.

“In a time when food security is especially important, it is good to see our aquaculture industry has grown steadily and is poised for continued growth in 2021 based on environmentally responsible, science-based policies and practices,” said Keith Colwell, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture for Nova Scotia. “Our Atlantic partnership continues to help the industry grow sustainably.”

Cooperation between the provinces and the aquaculture industry has led to improvements in pest management, environmentally sustainable aquaculture methods, aquatic animal health and policies to support the shared use of marine and freshwater resources. It also aims to align regulation and policy between the provinces to make the regulatory requirements easier to understand by industry and the public.

Each province has a comprehensive and robust legislative and regulatory framework to ensure environmental sustainability, economic prosperity and public accountability. The provinces update their legislation and regulations regularly. Nova Scotia revamped its regulatory framework in 2015; New Brunswick received Royal Assent for a new Aquaculture Act in 2019 and is working on the supporting regulations; Newfoundland and Labrador completely revised its aquaculture policy in 2019; and Prince Edward Island has recently drafted a new Aquaculture Act.

The ministers have agreed to continue to use science-based evidence for management decisions, thereby increasing public and investor confidence in the Atlantic Canadian aquaculture industry.

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Ecology

COMING SOON: A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy 2.0

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We all want the same thing: a clean and responsible energy future for our children and future generations while continuing to enjoy a high standard of living.

On December 11, 2020, the Prime Minister announced a new climate plan which he claimed will help achieve Canada’s economic and environmental goals.

The proposed plan by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) entitled “A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy” will have an initial investment of $15 billion of taxpayer’s money. It is built on 5 pillars of action:

  1) Making the Places Canadians Live and Gather More Affordable by Cutting Energy Waste

2) Making Clean, Affordable Transportation and Power Available in Every Community

3) Continuing to Ensure Pollution isn’t Free and Households Get More Money Back

4) Building Canada’s Clean Industrial Advantage

5) Embracing the Power of Nature to Support Healthier Families and More Resilient Communities  

In my paper, “A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy 2.0” I will objectively critique each pillar in the government’s new climate plan and provide alternative solutions to the same issues.

  This is an alternative plan that supports workers, protects lower income earners and creates economic growth while respecting the environment and focusing on the dignity of work.

  This plan abandons virtue-signaling projects and relies on Canadian ingenuity to build our economy and restore Canada’s role of responsible leadership in the world.

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