Note — Jan 24, 2021

The Internet Didn’t Kill Counterculture—You Just Won’t Find It on Instagram

I have to admit that this piece by Caroline Busta didn’t go quite where I thought it would, she goes in search of what today’s counterculture looks like and if it exists. In the process Busta finds some that look the part but aren’t, young people creating counter-futures, and some e-deologies, before settling on a topic I’ve pointed to a few times: dark forests of the internet. Because, “to be truly countercultural today, in a time of tech hegemony, one has to, above all, betray the platform, which may come in the form of betraying or divesting from your public online self.”

In an era more profoundly organized by Big Tech than our own elected governments, the new culture to be countered isn’t singular or top-down. It’s rhizomatic, nonbinary, and includes all who live within the Google/Apple/Facebook/ Amazon digital ecosystem (aka GAFA stack). […]

Despite being informed by billions, this new technological hegemony isn’t democratic; it’s a swarm-led form of para-governance programmed to maximize engagement while obfuscating responsibility for the social and environmental damage it wreaks. […]

But in terms of engendering more or less counter-hegemonic potential, the dark forest is more promising because of its relative autonomy from clearnet physics (the gravity, velocity, and traction of content when subject to x algorithm). Unlike influencers and “blue checks,” who rely on clearnet recognition for income, status, and even self-worth, dark forest dwellers build their primary communities out of clearnet range—or offline in actual forests, parks, and gardens (e.g., cottagecore and related eco-social trends)—and then only very selectively or even absurdly/incoherently show themselves under clearnet light.