The value of ontology as the semantic half-life of words collapses

This extract from L.M. Sacasas captures something I’ve been struggling to articulate for years about how the parameters of meaning are being transformed by social platforms:

Also, the semantic half-life of certain words under digital conditions is such that they become relatively useless at an alarming rate. But, more troubling still, they continue to circulate as if they still meant something. One of the first examples of this dynamic that I remember catching my attention was the phrase “fake news.” The scale and structure of the digitally mediated information ecosystem is such that key terms, which would ideally focus debate and discussion, instead become worse than useless.

In this setting ontological reasoning, thinking in systematic ways about what an entity is and the nature of its relations to other such entities, inherently has the potential to be reparative. The problem comes when we consider the social life of theory because the circulation of ontological accounts is governed by parallel imperatives which valorise novelty and faddishness. I see this tendency towards avant-garde theorising as expressing the cultural logic of platform capitalism; a preoccupation with the shock of the new, expressed through a shallow novelty orientation towards accumulating visibility.

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