The Deconstruction-Machine that is the Web

Jamie Bartlett nails it: Silicon Valley is dividing society, and making everyone really angry. (via Martin)

This is the internet’s final gift to identity politics. Silicon Valley’s utopians genuinely but mistakenly believe that more information and connection makes us more analytical and informed. But when faced with quinzigabytes of data, the human tendency is to simplify things. Information overload forces us to rely on simple algorithms to make sense of the overwhelming noise. This is why, just like the advertising industry that increasingly drives it, the internet is fundamentally an emotional medium that plays to our base instinct to reduce problems and take sides, whether like or don’t like, my guy/not my guy, or simply good versus evil.

It is no longer enough to disagree with someone, they must also be evil or stupid. And for all the newfound fear of social media creating echo-chambers or filter-bubbles of likeminded people, I think it often does the precise opposite. It’s incredibly easy to find opposing views on social media. I’ve never seen so many knaves and fools as pollute my timelines. Social media allows you to find the worst examples of other tribes (which are of course shared by your own one). It’s not a place to have your own views corroborated, but rather where your worst suspicions about the other lot can be quickly and easily confirmed. Nothing holds a tribe together like a dangerous enemy.

That is the essence of identity politics gone bad: a universe of unbridgeable opinion between opposing tribes, whose differences are always highlighted, exaggerated, retweeted and shared. In the end, this leads us to ever more distinct and fragmented identities, all of us armed with solid data, righteous anger, a gutful of anger and a digital network of likeminded people. This is not total connectivity; it is total division.

I'm saying this stuff for ages now, basically since Gamergate and more detailed since Trumps election, but yeah, this seems more legit than filterbubbles or social bots or fake-news-paranoia (which, ofcourse, all play their role in this game). In his last sentence he comes up with the internet as „total division“, but I think it's actually more of a total deconstruction in a postmodernist sense. Not much we can do about this, I think, and deconstruction is a powerful tool not to be dismissed – which leaves the question: What next?

Related from earlier today, this podcast: Did Derrida make us do it? Is Post-Modernism to Blame for our Post-Truth World? (MP3, Soundcloud):

Post-Truth is a consequence and reaction of Postmodernism and thus the beginning of a movement out of Postmodernism. Both Postmodernism and Capitalism are in crisis […] Is our current situation the inevitable outcome of the intellectual adventuring of the twentieth century that critiqued grand narratives and challenged absolute truths? Or should we call upon the critical scepticism of post-modernism and post-structuralism with renewed vigour, to better see through the smoke and mirrors of contemporary culture? We ask what the relationship is between facts, alternative facts, and fiction, and explore the precarious status of truth in the twenty-first century. | Professor Mark Currie, Dr Alison Gibbons, Professor James Ladyman, Hilary Lawson | Did Derrida make us do it?