The internet is flat

Three-dimensional human beings can’t thrive in a one-dimensional space

There’s a line that Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian used to repeat back in the halcyon days of 2012. It went something like: ‘The world isn’t flat — but the world wide web is.’

Ohanian meant that the internet was an engine of opportunity — that it democratized industries and put people on a more even footing. You could start a business or a publication with a few clicks, and then immediately put it in front of millions of eyeballs! This, of course, was an overly utopian view (the internet does democratize opportunity — but also entrenches many power structures). Reality, as always, is far more complicated than a catch phrase.

I’ve been thinking about a different internet flattening, namely the way that social platforms collapse time and space and context into one big pancake of conflict. I wrote a bit about this phenomenon in my inaugural post for this newsletter. It’s called context collapse, which is when a piece of information intended for one audience finds its way to another — usually an uncharitable one — which then reads said information in the worst possible faith. (For that piece, I spoke to Elle Hunt, a journalist whose movie opinion tweet exploded into a culture war argument as result of this audience switching.)

This collapse is not just about movement between audiences. Kashmir Hill recently wrote a smart piece for the Times about the way that our digital pasts are weaponized against us, citing the extremely public and boneheaded decision by the AP to fire Emily Wilder for her tweets (and, likely, her past activism). Hill’s piece is grounded in the notion that, even just a decade ago, it seemed ridiculous to think that we’d all hold digital ephemera against each other. We’d grow up, get used to the spaces we were in, and we’d extend some grace. When everyone has a vast digital past, there’s some mutually assured destruction at play, right? But that’s not how any of this has played out.

Συνέχεια ανάγνωσης εδώ


Σχετικά Άρθρα