Sunday, 24 February 2013

New Learnings: Round 3

Or quick takes on the social media, each worthy of a separate, longer post that shall not be written.

Prologue: For those unfortunate enough to hear the words 'social media strategy' on a daily basis.
In an interview in The Guardian: Thom Yorke on Radiohead's experience of releasing In Rainbows online.
Having thought they were subverting the corporate music industry with In Rainbows, he now fears they were inadvertently playing into the hands of Apple and Google and the rest. "They have to keep commodifying things to keep the share price up, but in doing so they have made all content, including music and newspapers, worthless, in order to make their billions. And this is what we want? I still think it will be undermined in some way. It doesn't make sense to me. Anyway, All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace. The commodification of human relationships through social networks. Amazing!"
Click to watch OnionTalks on Using Social Media to Cover For Lack of Original Thought. For those gaga over QR codes, here is a Tumblr that says it all – Pictures of People Scanning QR Codes

1. When content is valued over and above the individuals creating the content, then aggregators of all hues and sizes (Google, The Huffington Post, Brainpicker etc.) get the cream while the content creators are left scrapping the bottom of the barrel. The aggregators also act as gatekeepers to what kind of information we can access and in what form.

2. Information by itself is meaningless. It doesn't exist in a vacuum. For example, sharing every mundane life activity or everything you read is nothing, but of self-serving interest, especially if it is shared only to be 'liked', which in itself is a (sad) attempt at seeking social validation. It is in no way meaningful even to the people you know. More so, if by sharing you in are in no way furthering any kind of discourse whatsoever. It is just spam and like spam it has a much neglected environmental impact.**

3. The social media makes it easier for people to team up with others who share similar interests and exclude anyone who disagrees with them. That leads to what is known as enclave extremism– hardening of extremists viewpoints, aided by a sense of being part of a group, a mob. Internet Trolls and astroturfing (often corporately funded, read about attacks on climate science and climate scientists)  successfully and often viciously drown the individual voice of reason. The social media is anything, but democratic. And also not a very polite place.

4. Social media, as Evgeny Morozov wrote in 'The Net Delusion' creates an illusion of freedom. Instead of aiding democracy it is helping secret police and censors of autocratic governments (and corporations). It makes dissent manageable. (And yes, the revolution will not be tweeted, as Malcolm Gladwell wrote in 2010, and his central premise is hard to counter. Something that urban Indians also found out in December 2012.)

5. Another off-shoot is that we are becoming dumber and less analytical. Often when searching for something people click on the first link that Google search puts up and it is Wikipedia. There is also a tendency to dismiss people who frequently ask the question why or add a dissenting note to any popular argument as cynics.

** The internet does consume less energy, for most part. However, it comes with certain caveats. The internet doesn't run on magic. Every important and nonsensical thing shared online is stored on servers that you can access anytime with a click. These servers run on electricity derived from non-renewable energy sources. So, while you maybe growing an organic garden or not using  plastic bags it all comes to not if you are an over-sharer. Consider the last 5 things you shared online. Really, was it necessary to cross post those photos on various platforms. Or those links to breaking news and badly art-directed quotes. Consider your mail inbox. You won't believe how much server space all those mails in your inbox take up.

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