Mining for attention
Life in the company town
Today’s salon will be at 11am Eastern time, and will broadly focus on the concept of decentralization. This includes technology like Bitcoin, but also politics, economics, and culture. Decentralization as a theme comes up a lot in our work, and in the broader narrative of the Internet. Yet it rarely gets interrogated or scrutinized in a manner that befits a salon. So let’s dig into it as a group.
Not sure if we’ll use zoom, as we’re experimenting with new platforms. Therefore rather than provide a link, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org before Tuesday at 10am and we’ll send you the link for the 11am session before the session starts. Alternatively it will be available via our Twitch channel.
My brain is definitely starting to short wire. I’m packing knowledge into my head at a pace and quantity that is unprecedented. Although such volume is necessary if I am to keep my pandemic related rage at bay.
I’m making progress on a range of narrative fronts, although that matters little in the larger scheme of things. However it does allow me to flirt with more provocation and propaganda.
For example I started working on an argument against journalism. A sacred cow no doubt, but being the contrarian that I am I felt compelled to explore the concept.
The Association for Media Literacy seemed like a safe space to make such a radical argument, ironic given that I’m still not comfortable making that argument here on this newsletter. Though that may be because our subscribers include deans of journalism schools, retired journalists, and even a few active ones. I’m hesitant to piss off my readership directly, hence why I do so via other subscribers, in this case our friends at the AML. :)
I’m also trying to argue, as you know, that AI should be biased, that data is not always desirable, and that we need better policies that help us make the most of our technology, while mitigating the harms.
Narratives provide us a better means of understanding our world, yet narratives can also prevent us from reaching this understanding. This is why I like to create contrarian stories that counter or even contradict the stories I’m enjoying.
On Twitch I’ve been enjoying the story that it is a platform of creators. That people are making media, and even doing so collaboratively.
This impression is partly fueled by the audience that exists on Twitch. That almost everyone in the audience is themselves a creator. That there are no consumers, only producers.
Yet what if that is itself propaganda. What if the illusion creates the perception that these people are producers, when in reality we are all miners. Miners in the attention mines.
And if you step back and exercise some critical distance, it’s easy to regard Twitch as part of the larger Amazon company town.
Many of the creators and participants on Twitch are minors. In the under the age of 18 sense. And these minors are sent down into the attention mine, to extract as much attention as possible, which gets converted into scrip, or points, that can be redeemed at the company store.
One of the reasons Twitch is popular, is that it makes it easy monetize content and audiences. Yet for who’s benefit? Largely Amazon’s. Although it is not content being monetized, but rather attention. Who’s attention? Kid’s attention. Although not exclusively.
It’s a really dark dystopia, that embodies the evolution of the opiate of the masses.
The problem with dystopian narratives however is that they can come true. Similarly unless done with exceptional detail and beauty, they’re not really want audiences want to buy.
So instead I make propaganda in order to observe its effect.
There’s a lesson here in the exploitative yet also collaborative nature of attention markets.
Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Yet attention is the ultimate corruption.