📯 From the World
Before social media, you spoke to different “audiences” — family members, friends, colleagues, and so forth — in different ways. You modulated your tone of voice, your words, your behavior, and even your appearance to suit whatever social “context” you were in (workplace, home, school, nightclub, etc.) and then readjusted the presentation of yourself when you moved into another context. On a social network, the theory went, all those different contexts collapsed into a single context.
The problem is not a lack of context. It is context collapse: an infinite number of contexts collapsing upon one another into that single moment of recording. The images, actions, and words captured by the lens at any moment can be transported to anywhere on the planet and preserved (the performer must assume) for all time.
Content collapse, as I define it, is the tendency of social media to blur traditional distinctions among once distinct types of information — distinctions of form, register, sense, and importance. As social media becomes the main conduit for information of all sorts — personal correspondence, news and opinion, entertainment, art, instruction, and on and on — it homogenizes that information as well as our responses to it. — Nicholas Carr
First we have Context Collapse. Everything is shared through the socials and "consumed" on our phone. This has a causal change in the way that "content" is created. Remember when we had different words for articles, pictures and video? The Medium is the message, and we’ve converged on the one medium. Even pre-algorithm RSS removes the design and curation that goes with print layout.
It wasn’t just that the headlines, free-floating, decontextualized motes of journalism ginned up to trigger reflexive mouse clicks, had displaced the stories. It was that the whole organizing structure of the newspaper, its epistemological architecture, had been junked. The news section (with its local, national, and international subsections), the sports section, the arts section, the living section, the opinion pages: they’d all been fed through a shredder, then thrown into a wind tunnel. What appeared on the screen was a jumble, high mixed with low, silly with smart, tragic with trivial. The cacophony of the RSS feed, it’s now clear, heralded a sea change in the distribution and consumption of information. The new order would be disorder.
Post-Social and Cohort Futures
The primary difference between a community and a cohort is that the first is oriented around the relationships between the collective members, and the second is oriented around the progress of each individual. In short, communities are built to connect, cohorts are built to progress. — Brian Dell
In the last six months, I’ve grown close to several communities composed of people I’ve never met in person. We gather on Slack, Discord, and Zoom, share conversation and ideas. I’ve made friends and built connections without leaving my home. There are people I’ve never hugged, never high-fived, and never even spoken to in person, with whom I have profound conversations that span work, love, and ideas. The bright side of this dark year for me are the connections I’ve made, primarily online. — Anita Schillhorn van Veen, via Brian
I’ve been seeing a rise in invite-only or topic-centric, and perhaps temporary, spaces recently. Some is a response to the homogeneity of Content Collapse, and some have been direct responses to a lack of in-person events this year. And, certainly a change in my behaviour too.
Writers groups and workshops, and group chats, have always been a thing. The digital bubbling of time and space it getting baked-in in more places.
Least Reinforcing Stimulus
When a dolphin does something wrong, the trainer doesn’t respond in any way. He stands still for a few beats, careful not to look at the dolphin, and then returns to work. The idea is that any response, positive or negative, fuels a behavior. If a behavior provokes no response, it typically dies away. — Amy Sutherland
Perhaps leaving the undifferentiated media feed, and not the internet itself, is the natural response to an unsatisfactory experience. How we give feedback is a complex thing. I wonder where I can say less.
🔥 Alchemy of Creation
"I’ve got some good news and some bad news. I think we’ve solved all the easy bugs."
The time spent on full event capture and logging is worth it. We expected minor issues moving this service out of our monolith codebase. Event replayability has allowed us to release and catch edge-cases without a degraded service.
Network unreliability without downtime is an unexpected twist. If a call returns an empty response, did it pass or fail? What’s the sound of one hand clapping? When the request that has a pass/fail response, err with caution. When the acknowledgement only request fails… Turns out we have a difference between a client-centric failure and a partial-success.
📍 A Point on the Timeline
The things we get into, and somehow get out of… D311B0i, ever polite should be in jail right now. Since the shoot-out in his apartment block was highly suspicious, he’d admitted to the lesser crime of holding explosives. He told the cops they were set by WorldSat, the mega-corp, so they could build a new tower here. Legitimately true, but dodgy as fuck.
Looks like we were tried and sentenced in absentia, but the street-cops appealed on our behalf. No prison, only community service. Not ideal, but it’s the best thing that’s happened to us all week.
A psyche test later, we get hooked up to the Brain Dance VR sim. So here we are, handpicked by the cops to play hostage-negotiator to train the cops. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Oh wait, looks like they’re skipping the negotiation and going straight to kicking down the door. He we go!
One response to “WN05 Least Reinforcing Stimulus”
[…] is context collapse all over again. Tom Whyman explores how feeds are distorting our perception of time. He concludes […]