I understand the point to be that existence is higher or fuller when things are acting through us rather than action arising from us, reflecting an involvement in our situation rather than a detachment from it. To reclaim the Homeric gods doesn’t necessitate polytheism but it does mean cultivating a sensitivity to the range of potentials inherent in each situation, overcoming what has gradually lost in modernity.
This monologue from speed-fuelled gonzo journalist Cameron Colley in Iain Banks’ 1993 novel Complicity suggested something interesting to me about social media. Have social platforms made this accessible to the masses while simultaneously cheapening it by leading us from who gets to speak to who gets heard?
The digital platforms you and your family use every day — from online games to education apps and medical portals — may be collecting and selling your children’s data, says anthropologist Veronica Barassi. Sharing her eye-opening research, Barassi urges parents to look twice at digital terms and conditions instead of blindly accepting them — and to demand protections that ensure their kids’ data doesn’t skew their future.
“At a time when full political information, necessarily worldwide ins cope, is available only to the professional, and when statesmen have found no other clue to world politics than the blind alley of imperialism, it is almost a matter of course for the others, who vaguely sense our worldwide interdependence but are unable to penetrate into the actual working of this universal relationship, to turn to the dramatically simple hypothesis of a global conspiracy and a secret worldwide organization.”
Why is mass commercial social media ‘mass’ and ‘commercial’? This is a question I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about in recent years as I’ve gone through a cliched journey from enthusiasm to sceptic. This hasn’t involved a fundamental shift in how I see social media as much as […]
From Amitav Ghosh’s The Great Derangement pg 83: This pattern is epitomized by the career of the novel, which in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries often included frontispieces, plates, and so on. But all of these elements gradually faded away, over the course of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, […]
The patterns of life that modernity engenders can only be practiced by a small minority of the world’s population
From Amitav Ghosh’s The Great Derangement pg 91: What we have learned from this experiment is that the patterns of life that modernity engenders can only be practiced by a small minority of the world’s population. Asia’s historical experience demonstrates that our planet will not allow these patterns of living to […]
The fast eat the slow, the rich eat the fast. Or, the moral economy of Thomas Friedman’s digital illiteracy
I thought this was an interesting extract from Imperial Messenger concerning Thomas Friedman’s advocacy of a digital imperative (‘get-wired-or-die’) which he himself is insulated from. As Belén Fernández writes on loc 668: Quoted in Foreign Policy as saying “I talk the talk of technology, but I don’t walk the walk,” Friedman elsewhere […]
I thought this action by Eventbrite was really interesting. Platform firms reliant on face-to-face interaction face a difficult future and their relationship with their user base is one of the key resources they have access to: On Thursday, March 19, we sent a letter to the White House and Congressional leadership urging them […]
From Tim Wu’s The Master Switch pg 214: The age of “mass media” upended by cable television was actually a period of unprecedented cultural homogeneity. Never before or since the sixty-year interval from the 1930s to the early 1990s had so many members of the same nation watched or listened […]
This is an important point by Current Affairs editor Nathan Robinson which echoes an argument Will Davies made a couple of years ago. The claim of being suppressed, being denied a platform, plays an increasingly crucial role in how reactionary celebrities build their platform. It draws attention for their work, provides […]
This illuminating Vanity Fair article captures an important transition in digital politics, as the data science driven Clinton campaign was eclipsed by the social media savvy Trump campaign: While Democrats spent the last decade running A/B tests and refining their voter models, Republicans stumbled into learning how to weaponize content […]
This extract from Tim Wu’s The Attention Merchants pg 343 captures something important about the sociology of Donald Trump’s presidency. I think he’s correct about the use of constant strife, echoing the argument by Will Davies about the blurring boundary between war and peace, to dominate the media agenda in […]
This passage from pg 333 of Tim Wu’s The Attention Merchants connects to my analysis of cultural binging. It brings to life the specific cultural characteristics which encourage binge watching, even if they don’t create it: While House of Cards might have made binging mainstream, in the decade before, writers of shows were […]
This suggestion from Tim Wu on pg 352 of The Attention Merchants asks a question which has been on my mind a lot in the last year. If we accept the idea that distraction increases in a digital environment, in the sense of a difficulty in sustaining focus driven by the multiplication […]
In Tim Wu’s Attention Merchants pg 276-277 he tells the story of BuzzFeed’s Jonah Peretti going viral for the first time as a graduate student, as an e-mail exchange with Nike circulated to millions after he forwarded it to a few friends: While goofing off—“ surfing the web” in the […]
This passage from Tim Wu’s The Master Switch pg 225 offers a useful account for making sense of the rise of a figure like Lawrence Fox. When the ‘arms race of exposure’ is more intense than ever because social media means a great many of us have entered into it, […]
From Tim Wu’s Attention Merchants pg 202: Among the sources of such comfort would be AOL’s infamous chat rooms. Chat rooms had actually been invented by CompuServe in the 1980s (under that ’70s handle “CB simulator”), but AOL allowed the creation of “private rooms,” which anyone could open, hosting up […]
This extract from Tim Wu’s Attention Merchants pg 192-193 makes clear how the immersive character of video games has been treated as addictive from the outset. It raises the question of where the former characteristic ends and the latter begins: In both markets Space Invaders was a sudden and unexpected […]
I saw an exhibition at the Scott Polar Museum yesterday which made a passing referencing to ‘wikibombing’ as a practice. In this case there was a concerted project to produce wikipedia entries for female explorers and scientists who were absent from the site. I’m recording it here because it’s a […]