There’s something about watching videos of unnecessary censorship—particularly of the Sesame Street variety—that cracks me up. Not content with simply finding them funny, I wanted to figure out why they tickle my funny bone so. It turns out that Matt has already figured it out, although he was referring to Nathan Barley:
It’s not funny because it’s rude, it’s funny because it looks like it’s funny because it’s rude.
That’s it! At first glance, it may seem over-complicated. After all, aren’t those videos of unnecessary censorship funny because they look like they’re rude? But no, they are funny because they look like they are funny because they are rude. That’s an important distinction.
Matt repurposes this sentence construction in an excellent post about the reports of the death of privacy being greatly exaggerated. He points out the huge danger in confusing the fact that technologies can be used to destroy privacy with the assumption that those technologies therefore will destroy privacy. If we fall into the trap of making that assumption then it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy:
It’s not the end of privacy because of these new visibilities, but it may be the end of privacy because it looks like the end of privacy because of these new visibilities.
Here’s another example. A snapshot on Flickr of the TripLog iPhone app interface initially drew nought but scorn from designers deriding how complicated—and therefore, frustrating—it looked. But following a comment from the app’s designer and a subsequent analysis on the 37 Signals blog, things weren’t quite so straightforward. The initial criticism assumed that the app would be frustrating to use because it looks complicated but really…
It’s not frustrating because it’s complicated, it’s frustrating because it looks like it’s frustrating because it’s complicated.
Could it be that Matt has created a snowclone?
It’s not X because it’s Y, it’s X because it looks like it’s X because it’s Y.
Maybe I’ll add it to the queue and see what Erin thinks.