Last week I linked to this piece by Molly Fischer about the “Millennial aesthetic” (published in March 2020 but new to me). You can probably conjure an immediate mental image of said aesthetic, but if not, the article describes it vividly. One of its basic qualities, embodied in its hard lines, bright colors, and sans-serif typography, is legibility. Fischer writes: “‘Instagrammable’ is a term that does not mean ‘beautiful’ or even quite ‘photogenic’; it means something more like ‘readable.’ The viewer could scroll past an image and still grasp its meaning, e.g., ‘I saw fireworks,’ ‘I am on vacation,’ or ‘I have friends.’” Obviously, the need for more of our environment to become Instagrammable follows from the fact that software increasingly filters our perception of that environment (especially during a pandemic). But Fischer’s description invokes another possibility: that the aesthetic’s true audience, for whom readability matters even more, is the software itself. Those brief descriptions—I saw fireworks, I’m on vacation—sound like tags for posts that a machine would have no trouble classifying. After more than a decade of digital brain-smoothing, it’s difficult to say who has more appetite for nuance, the users or the computers.