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Re: <nettime> Eli Pariser: The Filter Bubble
Brian Holmes on Thu, 16 Jun 2011 02:30:08 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Eli Pariser: The Filter Bubble

On 06/13/2011 01:13 PM, nettime's avid reader wrote:

>If "code is law", as Creative Commons founder Larry Lessig declared, it's
>important to understand what the new lawmakers are trying to do. We need to
>understand what the programmers at Google and Facebook believe in. We need
>to understand the economic and social forces that are driving
>personalisation, some of which are inevitable and some of which are not.
>And we need to understand what all this means for our politics, our culture
>and our future.
>Adapted from The Filter Bubble by Eli Pariser.

The Avid Reader has made a good pick. This article -- and the book 
behind it -- vindicates the most interesting thread of "immanent net 
critique" that's been practiced here over the last five or six years. 
Essentially it's about what Oscar Gandy long ago called _The Panoptic 
Sort_: a process of social segmentation based on the statistical 
analysis of past behaviors, in order to predict the probability of 
future ones, and profit on it. That's also the subject of a text I 
posted here:


What struck me in the Pariser article was the remark on the absurdity 
implied in pushing the "like" button for an article on genocide in 
Darfur. How to maintain the "taste" for critique in a world where 
everyone's perception is algorithmically tailored to fit their consuming 
propensities? Or -- more perversely, in a way that many readers here 
will instantly recognize -- how to keep that paradoxical "taste" from 
itself declining into a statistically sorted consuming pleasure?

The problem is that the bubble of engineered satisfaction diminishes the 
opportunities to generate social solidarity (a more fundamental notion 
than self-interested "bridging capital"). At the same time, the filter 
bubble also blinds individuals to the rising incidence of state and 
corporate repression and the continuing deterioration of living 
environments, whether natural, urban, economic or semiotic. Even more: 
deliberate efforts of selective suppression are made to safeguard this 
convenient blindness. At the extreme, which is nonetheless real, the 
model of targeted assassination becomes the uncanny mirror of the 
panoptic sort. These issues are central to the kinds of personality 
structures that we now develop, as the very basis on which a public life 
can, or can not, come into being. Such was the conclusion of Future Map:

"Our society???s obsession with controlling the future ??? and insuring 
accumulation ??? has at least two consequences. The first is the 
organization of a consumer environment for the immediate satisfaction of 
anticipated desires, with the effect of eliminating desire as such. In 
its place comes an atmosphere of suspended disbelief where entire 
populations move zombie-like and intellectually silent beneath 
exaggerated images of their unconscious drives. The second consequence, 
which we have seen with such violence in recent years, is the simple 
removal of those who might conceivably trouble this tranquilized 
landscape with any kind of disturbing presence or speech. What remains 
in the field of public politics is dampened voice, dulled curiosity and 
insignificant critique..."

The question is not only one of "understanding" the forms of cultural 
change and the technical and economic laws that underlie them. It's also 
one of finding practices that can counter those forms, that can reshape 
both objective social relations and the intimate personality structures 
which depend upon them. Art is important for this. But art is not 
enough. If cultural critique has any meaning or mission today, it would 
be to bring an awareness of these deep issues to the social movements 
that are now arising, throughout the world, in the face of the recent 
breakdowns of globalized neurocapitalism.

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