I would interpret the quote a little differently, but then, I tend to think of the story as the confluence of characters, plot, and setting.
And yeah. I don't think there's any plot that can ultimately be separated from the people acting in it. You could say something like the growing-up plot is "universal," but on the other hand, we have a lot more stories of how white male teenagers grow up than we have of Puerto Rican female teenagers in New York growing up- and I think they'll be different.
I just stumbled over this, and thought maybe I should give you some context: my point was that some authors are so very, very sincere about their story, and it gets tiresome after awhile. Some even go so far as being preachy, but I'm sure you know what I mean: you just get that feeling that the author takes the story oh-so-very-seriously.
As for the button-pushing, that was in reference to the recent craze in literature/genre to be "edgy". Seems to me, "edgy" is little more than a marketing term, and most often applied to stories that made the audience uncomfortable. Sure, Jane Suburb may find, say, shoplifting and skateboarding edgy, but the characters (who are doing it regularly) probably consider it pretty mundane.
A purposeful write-to-hit-buttons is easier to identify than extreme-sincerity. Just look for anything that would be unusual to the average reader, is described in breathless or titillating or dramatic tones, and yet would be an everyday-boring event to the actual character. Voila, edginess for the sake of edginess. *snore*