Why did I find Spotify using my profile picture as an album cover a little bit disturbing?

Today, when I opened Spotify, I found this (see image below):

Spotify Discover Weekly album coverLater, I mentioned in facebook that using my profile picture for the “Discover Weekly” album is a little bit scary. Moreover, I tweeted that although Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be the next big thing in UI/UX design, we shouldn’t forget taking care of the execution, the how, the form — By the way, this somehow sarcastic since tweets before I was arguing that just paying attention to the looks leads to a poor understanding of what design is (after watching the “Why Design Matters” video).

Later, someone asked me on Facebook to explain what I was meaning of my post and provide an example of how the design could be “better.” This person argued that such a design decision helps to “merge” the self and (his/her) music. I think he’s a good point. However, to me, this design decision was a shocking micro-experience with Spotify. Below, I re-write what I posted on Facebook.

The concept of agency came to my mind when I opened Spotify and saw my profile picture being used as the cover for the “Discover Weekly” album. I think it’s great to like or “plus” a song, and thus to think that I decide what music/genre I like and want to listen. From my perspective, this provides a feeling of empowerment to the user. However, I lost that feeling of agency or empowerment when I saw my profile picture. Setting the music on Spotify is part of my work routine and I was not expecting to find something like that today! Seeing “myself” as an album cover made me feel that I became a thing, an interface component; that Spotify had objectified me, transformed me in another interface component. The idea of being de-humanized crossed my mind. I know it’d sound too dramatic, but coming across this UI change provided me an example or situation wherein micro experiences are important. It’s interesting to see how just a little thing provides an element of surprise that lasts just a little bit! A micro-moment that affected my UX with respect to Spotify for the whole day today! I have to acknowledge, nevertheless, that I might be too sensitive since I’m trying to understand how these ideas of user experience, phenomenology, persuasion and rhetoric, identification and rhetoric, and denotation and connotation work in interfaces.

And about my proposal of making this UI change better, first, I have to say that I wouldn’t argue for “better.” A less shocking transition, perhaps. As I commented on FB, Spotify could have introduced me this idea of the “Discover Weekly” in a more ludic way. As it occurs when Spotify doesn’t allow you to interact with the interface and you have to wait seconds to see an ad, one possibility would be having a similar dynamics. Showing this concept and probably letting the user picking the album cover. Once set, it fades away.

Of course, there is nothing wrong or bad with that design decision for the Spotify’s interface. I’d like to emphasize that. Perhaps, this idea of the profile-album-cover has been evaluated with good results. Possibly, I don’t express the archetypical user’s desires for this case (functionality and part of the interface). Perhaps, a later evaluation will come, and a different proposal will be implemented. That’s the way design is. However, I’d emphasize that the capability of implementing smart functions in a system is just a part of the UI/UX design.

Cheers!