Note — Jun 09, 2019

You Can Handle the Post-Truth: a Pocket Guide to the Surreal Internet

Eminently quotable piece by Aaron Z. Lewis who attended two events, Theorizing the Web and RadicalxChange, and recaps some of the topics tackled, adding his own thinking. Spread over four sections, “The ‘souls’ of virtual folk, roll-your-own reality, digital rebirth & the death of consensus, the only way out is through.” People in my feed seemed to concentrate on the virtual folk bit, I think the meta-history concept towards the end is perhaps the strongest to reflect on, as well as the escapist quote below.

Inauthenticity is becoming the hallmark of our era: faked Facebook data, faked college admissions applications, faked resumes and “bullshit jobs”, faked news, faked mortgage-back security ratings, AI pretending to be humans, humans pretending to be AI. […]

Renee DiResta, a researcher at Mozilla, explains that online conversations are ripe for manipulation because they take place on an infrastructure that’s built for advertising. This infrastructure has three main components: audience consolidation, personalized targeting, and game-able algorithms. It’s a particularly powerful combo for those who wish to sow discord. […]

[T]he internet has democratized the ability to create new reality bubbles and distort old ones. We’re just beginning to grapple with the consequences of this seismic cultural shift. […]

To go meta is to study the way history has been (and is) written. It’s trying to understand the story of the stories we’ve told about ourselves. There’s no one narrative that rules them all, no one way to connect the dots from the past to the present. The “meta” stance inspires humble curiosity and peace-of-mind amidst the many versions of reality we face in 2019. […]

Most of our narratives are quite dystopian, and we’re surrounded by a bunch of escape artists: interplanetary escapists (Musk and Bezos), apocalypse escapists (doomsday preppers and bunker buyers), drug-fueled escapists (via opioids and psychedelics), death escapists (cryonics and anti-aging research), biology escapists (transhumanists and wannabe cyborgs), mainstream news escapists (the man profiled in NYT who fled to a cabin in the woods after the 2016 election).

Previously: Back in No.69 we had Metamodern Values for a Listening Society, which is worth a re-read.