Tag: social media (page 2 of 15)

Mainstream social media is a behaviour-modification system

A couple of years ago I would have said that this analogy of an atom bomb being exploded over our information ecosystem is a bit extreme. Not now.

I’ve said this over and over, that, really, this is like when 140,000 people died instantly in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The same thing has happened in our information ecosystem, but it is silent and it is insidious. This is what I said in the Nobel lecture: An atom bomb has exploded in our information ecosystem. And here’s the reason why. I peg it to when journalists lost the gatekeeping powers. I wish we still had the gatekeeping powers, but we don’t.

So what happened? Content creation was separated from distribution, and then the distribution had completely new rules that no one knew about. We experienced it in motion. And by 2018, MIT writes a paper that says that lies laced with anger and hate spread faster and further than facts. This is my 36th year as a journalist. I spent that entire time learning how to tell stories that will make you care. But when we’re up against lies, we just can’t win, because facts are really boring. Hard to capture your amygdala the way lies do.

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Today we live in a behavior-modification system. The tech platforms that now distribute the news are actually biased against facts, and they’re biased against journalists. E. O. Wilson, who passed away in December, studied emergent behavior in ants. So think about emergent behavior in humans. He said the greatest crisis we face is our Paleolithic emotions, our medieval institutions, and our godlike technology. What travels faster and further? Hate. Anger. Conspiracy theories. Do you wonder why we have no shared space? I say this over and over. Without facts, you can’t have truth. Without truth, you can’t have trust. Without these, we have no shared space and democracy is a dream.

Source: Maria Ressa: How Disinformation Manipulates Elections | The Atlantic

The Un-Grammable Hang Zone

Instagram has never been a place I’ve ever wanted to spend any time or attention. But its impact on physical spaces is undeniable.

This post (newsletter issue?) by Drew Austin cites a couple of other authors who perfectly skewer the Instagram aesthetic as being a grammar that quickly conveys that somebody… did a thing.

Living my best life

The Blackbird Spyplane newsletter recently made a valuable contribution to the pantheon of essays about how the internet has transformed the physical world: a hopeful manifesto in praise of the “Un-Grammable Hang Zone,” the definition of which will be obvious if you’ve spent enough time in the Instagram-optimized settings that have proliferated in cities during the past decade—places that BBSP describes as a “high-efficiency, low-humanity kind of eatery where you point yr phone at a QR code and do contactless payment before eating a room-temp grain bowl under a pink neon sign that says ‘Living My Best Life’ in cursive.”

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Affirming the interchangeability of “millennial” and “Instragrammable” as descriptors, Fischer pinpoints the force that really drives them: Instagrammable “does not mean ‘beautiful’ or even quite ‘photogenic’; it means something more like ‘readable.’ The viewer could scroll past an image and still grasp its meaning, e.g., ‘I saw fireworks,’ ‘I am on vacation,’ or ‘I have friends.’” If Instagram as a medium demands readability, in other words, it puts pressure on the physical environment to simplify itself accordingly, at least in the long run.

Source: #178: I Can See It (But I Can’t Feel It) | Kneeling Bus

Dark patterns and gambling

Given that most gambling these days happens via smartphone apps, and that the psychological tricks used by gambling firms are also used by, for example, for-profit centralised social media sites, I found this fascinating (and worrying!)

Person climbing up a stack of dice

Kim Lund, founder of poker game firm Aftermath Interactive, has made a career out of game design and has seen at first-hand how cold, hard probability defeats the illogical human mind every time – and allows the gambling companies to cash in. “All gambling games are based on psychological triggers that mean they work,” he tells me. “The human brain is incapable of dealing with randomness. We’re obsessed with finding patterns in things because that prevents us from going insane. We want to make sense of things.”

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In her 1975 paper The Illusion of Control, Ellen J Langer conducted a series of experiments that showed that our expectations of success in a game of chance vary, depending on factors that do not actually affect the outcome. One of the variables that makes a big difference to how gamblers behave is the introduction of an element of choice. In one of Langer’s experiments, subjects were given lottery tickets with an American football player on them. Some subjects got to choose which player they wanted, others were allocated a ticket at random. On the morning of the draw, everyone was asked how much they would be prepared to sell their ticket for. Those who had chosen their ticket demanded an average of $8.67, while those who had been allocated one at random were prepared to give it up for $1.96.

Source: What gambling firms don’t want you to know – and how they keep you hooked | Thee Guardian