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Internet Culture

Day 717 and Walled Garden

The walled garden debate is back in Silicon Valley. What is a walled garden you ask? It’s a closed ecosystem in which your entry, exit and experience in the garden are controlled by a central entity. While modern social media has very centralized ownership structures, we’ve basically aligned on allowing sharing of content and interactions across and between platforms. We’ve homestead the modern social internet by tilling our profiles and tending our communities.

But people are straining at the compromises we’ve made over the years. Elon Musk is attempting a rather heavy handed walled garden strategy on Twitter by banning linking and promotion of competing websites.

It’s unclear if it will last at the moment as within hours Elon apologized for making a massive change without a vote. Whatever that means. It’s been six hours of chaos as people reactively extremely negative to being told you cannot link to your Instagram or Facebook accounts. A few dickriders attempted to defend it by saying it was freeloading but it isn’t really tragedy of the commons that Twitter can’t make money off my hard work.

I’m old enough to remember the sheer indignation of Linux dorks had for the all encompassing closed systems that is Apple. Jailbreaking was a pastime for a whole generation of nerds. Sure the money folks kept trying to contain their ecosystems giving us nonsense like America Online, but information wanted to be free right? Well Stewart Brand fans know that isn’t the whole quote

Information Wants To Be Free. Information also wants to be expensive. Information wants to be free because it has become so cheap to distribute, copy, and recombine—too cheap to meter. It wants to be expensive because it can be immeasurably valuable to the recipient. That tension will not go away. It leads to endless wrenching debate about price, copyright, ‘intellectual property’, the moral rightness of casual distribution, because each round of new devices makes the tension worse, not better.

Stewart Brand Whole Earth Catalog

Whatever is going on inside Twitter and Elon Musk’s mind is unclear. But the basic tension of the internet has not changed. We built tools to network together whole worlds and that has been fucking with ideas of ownership and who gets paid since day one. Capitalism usually finds a way to ride on top of these issues of ownership and value but the technological progress came out space old norms quite quickly.

And we are in a moment where skepticism of these norms is being challenged. Why shouldn’t we get to chose how we engage with our own property online? Maybe we don’t own the land but we definitely homestead our little plots of internet land.

Because the nature of the internet is wild and untamed. It takes work to make it usable. And most of us don’t mind paying a fee to keep the grass trimmed. A few of us might even prefer a country club experience. But the trouble with any commons starts when enclosure starts.

And Elon seems to be going for something that’s more heavy handed HOA than parcel of land outside of county lines. And like your average president of the homeowners association, he seems to be taking concerns and criticisms quite personally.

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Internet Culture

Day 716 and Slightly Embarrassed

I spent my entire day on Twitter. I’m not embarrassed by that to be clear. It felt like a vacation day. And even though I live in a majestic mountain paradise, I will spend my time off inside looking at my phone.

Yes it was absolutely gorgeous day in Montana. I marveled at the playful pinks of the sunrise over the mountains in our backyard while drinking coffee. And then I got back in bed and on my phone. And you better believe I fucking doomacrolled.

I just gorged myself on cheap attention calories. Gimme that dopamine drip. I did not even try to modulate my consumption pattern or prevent myself from going into fight or flight. It was goblin mode. I’m still not embarrassed.

But Twitter is a fucking mess. Watching people go tribal on Elon Musk is worse than people going tribal on the president somehow. Maybe because it feels more personal to me? Don’t get me wrong Trump felt existential, but Elon Musk is personal.

And it’s fucking embarrassing watching people react to him and his decision making. Here it is my industry’s moment in the spotlight. The technology industry showing itself as a keeper of common goods and open discourse right? Absolutely fucking not. We’ve shat the bed. Old management was incompetent sure. But new management is not an improvement.

I went into Twitter being purchased by Elon Musk modestly optimistic. He’s our guy right? He’s one of us. He likes startups and capital and technology. He reads the same science fiction as me. We’ve got friends in common. This is what it’s like to be a fan of the home team right?

Well fuck me sideways it has been going poorly. The site is pretty broken but I’m over that. It’s just the constant mayhem. Dave Kellog termed it adhocracy. Some random bullshit happens and the whole website has to lurch around conspiracy theories and rationalization.

It has frankly not been a fine showing for techno-libertarians. Not sure about showing up for a monarch executive now that you’ve seen your civil rights up for terms-of-service revisions by fiat huh? I’ve always thought the neo-monarchists to be dickriders but that’s a sentence that’s only comprehensible to the terminally online. And yes I should go outside and touch snow. I’ll do that now.

Categories
Emotional Work Internet Culture

Day 711 and Excession

So Elon, this isn’t likely to actually make it to you, but this is my blog, I write every day for myself, so why not, I can give it a try and pretend. If it turns out this is any good I’ll ask a mutual friend to send it to you.

tldr: I feel a (parasocial) connection with you & I want more from you (and maybe also for you). I know it feels cool and edgy to wink at taboos but you’re getting rekt by fuck bois, sycophants and opportunists.

I know we are all Galileo in our own mind shouting “and yet it moves” to narrow minded Papists but you realize being a martyr requires your death right? I don’t want you to die.

You certainly don’t remember this, but we met a number of times in the mid-teens. Times like when a friend of mine hosted a blow out birthday party in New York. We sat next to each other in some awful club and discussed chess with a small group. The same friend had a big wedding. I remember goofy dancing. Your sons made snow angels in the confetti. It was nice.

You seemed as uncomfortable as the rest of us nerds. Your autism didn’t seem any worse than mine though. I remember finding that comforting at the time. It has curdled into alienation over time as your fame far outstripped your origins. And I’m sad to have lost the feeling of love I had for you.

Before we “met” I had slight case of hero worship. I remember thinking here is someone just like me. He likes the same science fiction. He dreams about the singularity. He’s neurodivergent. And he wants to get us off this damn rock. And he’s got more money and power than I do so maybe he is worth admiring. I was young and stupid and hadn’t yet gone to real therapy.

I would tell my friends I wanted to die outside the earth’s gravity well. I thought perhaps you might be the man that got us there. Had I not had a chance to see how much you were just like me, perhaps I’d still be a stan.

Never meet your heroes. Everyone is just people. Now I’m worried I’ll die here on Earth filled with grief like Captain Kirk. There are no dicks left to ride once you realize we are all just humans.

What I see now from you isn’t power and happiness, it’s isolation and sadness. But I want you to know it doesn’t have to be this way. You don’t have to listen to the flattering dick riders. They want shit from you. They want their agendas and they see your money and power as a way to achieve it. I know you know this.

It makes me angry to see you coddle the parasites. I’m shocked your mother hasn’t told you to knock it off. She seems like a cold bitch who gets shit done. I’m sure she’s told you that you are better than them. The nerds and autists did not inherit this Earth just to squander it for the roar of the crowd. If it is all bread and circus, remember you are a king and not a clown.

Maybe you think their slavish slobbering attention is a fair trade for some of your magic, I used to be emotionally slutty like that too.

Being an attention whore isn’t unusual for someone with distant parents. Shitposters gotta post right? Once again, I feel a kinship to you on the compulsion to post and roast. I’m addicted to Twitter too. We are all filling up the holes leftover from our childhood. I’ve got daddy issues so I’m sure you get it.

And yes, I am projecting my own insecurities. But maybe I can tell you a story that will comfort you in the big wide universe. Maybe it will comfort someone else. Maybe it’s just to comfort myself.

I read you named your family office Excession. I’m also a fan of Ian M. Banks. Since 2008 or so, I carry around a paperback of Excession with me whenever I vacation. Which isn’t a lot. I normally use a Kindle to read but this paperback has become a kind of totem. It signals to my hindbrain that I am in a sympathetic state of rest and digest. I reread it over and over in 20-30 page chunks. It bounces me out of fight or flight now after much repetition, it’s my comfort book.

A picture from September 2014 in Miami. We seem to have come full circle on Ukraine
Here is a picture of you with the same copy in 2015 while in Sun Valley.

Your love for Ian M. Banks all felt very relatable to me as I’ve been dreaming of a post-scarcity world where my AI space ship friends shuttle me around as they pursue their inscrutable intentions. I want to sublime. Maybe not for a few thousand more years though. But I want to make it through the singularity to the other side, or at very least avoid dying in William Gibson’s jackpot. I feel like you get what apocalypses preoccupied my mind.

Most of my fantasies and fears have been touched by my love for science fiction. I saw in you someone who saw the same possibilities as me. You were very much one of us.

I also see someone being used for their dreams. They are harnessing you and your power to drive the rest of us to focus on their nightmares. Don’t let them steer you.

But your posting is reaching people. It’s annoying to some, but it hits. Maybe it hits too hard. But the isolation I imagine you feel isn’t necessary. Power laws can separate just as effectively as they bring us together. You don’t have to be surrounded by reply guys. There is a path to connection even for the most singular among us.

Now of course, I want something from you too. I want you to get us off this rock before it’s too late. I know it’s a big ask.

My best is advice is to go reread Excession and get yourself out of this persistent “fight or flight” cortisol pump. Get focused back on the shit that matters. Maybe find yourself a nice autistic sociopath who will love you for you. Maybe she can protect you from some of the pain. I’m sure you will figure it out.

I want you go to therapy. Mine is pretty good if you’d like an introduction. She’s an aristocratic 80 something Swedish woman, so you might like her. She’s perfect for working through attachment issues. She’s quite good at dealing with poor little rich kids with mommy and daddy issues. Her neighbors are all billionaires so she won’t be impressed by your bullshit. She has a sub-specialty in sex so she can probably help with that dick riding problem too.

And most importantly, she’ll be the only person who doesn’t want anything from you. And you need that more than anything.

Categories
Internet Culture

Day 709 and Stan Armies

I think I might be living and participating in corporate and cultural warfare. Which is the most cyperpunk dystopian thing I can imagine. Which automatically makes it a little bit cool. But I really do think we are being drafted as a stan army of useful idiots in the culture war that has hijacked the meme space in Elon Musk’s brain.

Our most brilliant entrepreneur and erstwhile scientist reaching for the stars is now fighting a battle against attention whores. And I guess that’s how we fund things in late stage capitalism. It is honestly very cool even if it is very scary.

I know we have all read Ian M Banks. We love the Culture. Bring on AGI! Fun fact, Elon Musk’s family trust is called Excession. That’s the book I read on vacation every year. Clearly I have a lot of the same interests as the guy. So I get it. We want Elon to win.

But our boy is fighting some fights he might not even be aware he is in. He being used. He’s been recruited for a host of interest groups to launder some of the weirder corners of Reddit.

One narrative that outlines this agitprop civilian targeted skirmish is that Musk is freeing us from the tyranny of wokes. He represents the the real Americans populists who like goodness, dynamism and slightly dehumanizing working conditions.

And also somehow it involves grooming and pedophilia. Meaning that QAnon has come for Silicon Valley. So I’d be going to ground if I were a target, as you don’t want to be found by the crazies at the end of the internet. What Elon Musk just did to Yoel is at best naive and lacking impulse control, but at worst, puts a former employee at direct and extreme personal risk.

Silicon Valley used to be its own culture war. We fought for free information and open source software. We wanted cryptocurrencies and privacy. And now we have instead differing factions fighting for their own inscrutable means. Except maybe getting us to the singularity. I think he’s been clear on that. But beware fringe political movements flattering your ego. They just want your power.

Categories
Culture

Day 690 and Status Games

Noblesse oblige. Literally translated from the French as nobility obligates. It’s commonly understood to mean that aristocracy has a responsibility to act graciously towards the civilization which has granted them status.

It’s a turn of phrase I’ve written about before, specifically how in our post modern times, we are challenged to understand who is pursuing a life of virtue and what their obligations may be to the rest of us.

No one is sure if they are nobility or peasantry. No one is noble or good. Which means nobody deserves anything they get. Which is about as close to the war of all against all as I can imagine. Hobbes would be pleased.

JFredrickson.com Day 45

Humanity has always been rather clever at inventing new classes. We need fresh blood from the bottom to keep revolutionary sentiment in church. Every century we are finding new ways to fight it out for new types of status and virtue.

Business values money. Old money values class. The intelligentsia values intellect. Hipsters value taste. The religious value faith. And around we go with status games as we trade social capital for actual capital just so we can get something to eat.

There is always an emerging new game that upsets the underlying order. The printing press destabilized the church and its priestly cast. The internet destabilized the media and it’s editor cast. You know the drill.

Right now there is a massive internecine fight over which order rules over Twitter. And depending on whose camp you fall into you are probably signaling different things. And that lack of shared cultural values is leading to some pretty silly reactions. A lot of dickriding is happening across every major faction.

Which if you take away the reactionary specifics, is totally understandable. If one class of person values money but the competing group values taste than you aren’t really fighting for the same things. Different values are different.

But you’ve got to be careful with your own reactions. Ask yourself if you are responding out of some shared cultural loyalty that is overshadowing your own common sense. Your attention is valuable and powerful people recognize your attention for the commodity that it has become.

Don’t buy into bullshit just because it’s your team. The chance that someone is making a buck off of your attention sure ain’t zero. And America being a free country and all means you shouldn’t be living enthralled to someone else’s priorities.

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Internet Culture

Day 689 and Dick Riding

As chaos continues to unfurl around the world, the tendency towards hero worship is getting out of control. Cults of personality are having a moment absolutely everywhere, even as we are treated to even more spectacular variants of the Emperor Has No Clothes. You’d think the recent flameouts in finance, technology and politics just this week would make us all a bit more skeptical of authority and yet that does not appear to be the case.

You cannot go onto Twitter without exposing yourself to someone’s daddy issues disguised as a low rent business school case study thread. I was concerned about the information hygiene as platform capacity degraded. But I honestly wasn’t expecting the first disease that actually emerged. Twitter is in the throes of an emotional venereal disease.

I am talking about dick riders.

If you are not familiar with the term, being a dick rider means praising absolutely every move of someone you perceive as having more power than you. Dickriding is a particularly uncomfortable form of reply guying wherein you praise absolutely every move of the person whose dick you are riding.

It’s especially virulent among regular people without personal expertise or exposure to the problem at hand. Not knowing any better is not however a prerequisite for dick riding. You can lend your credibility to someone else by using your expertise to rationalize just about anything.

Humans love power and hierarchy. I guess it makes us feel safe to believe that someone knows what the hell they are doing when we are afraid. But the sad reality is that we are all human. Even the most accomplished and brilliant among us are still saddled with bias, self doubt, insecurities and blind spots. If you are inclined towards the religious, we are all sinners. Though I’d recommend you combine that with a side of grace as I don’t mean this to be judgmental.

I realize it’s pretty funny to bring up the redeeming power of grace in the context of sexually explicit slang. But I do think it’s helpful to remember that even the worst of us have redeeming qualities and even the best of us have flaws.

So if you are tempted to engage in dickriding because you think someone is better than you, might I encourage you to consider that we are all equals in the eyes of God. Or at very least equal in the face of a good shit post.

I’m a straight woman so I like riding dick but I don’t know what excuse the rest of you have.
Categories
Culture

Day 686 and Code Switch

The social contract in America is breaking down but none of us have agreed on the new rules yet. Of course, some populations have never lived within the consensus social contract in America.

And yes there are a lot of Americans that don’t live inside our social contract. Being black or queer (or god forbid both) even in 2022 means speaking a foreign language in your own land. If you aren’t familiar with the term code switching I’d encourage you to look it up.

I’ve almost always lived within consensus norms. At least appearance wise. I pass as a nice white lady with a nice seems white husband. He’s Jewish so only the incredibly woke or the incredibly racist disagree. Though eventually even that protection may give way if we don’t have children.

Code switching isn’t cost free. You’ve got to think about your audience constantly. You adjust who you are based on the acceptable norms of discourse. And it’s an exhausting exercise if you’ve never had to do it.

One of the reasons Twitter has been such a combustible place is that people code switch all the time. If you get caught in a context collapse situation where what you said is fine in one community and heresy in a another you might find yourself getting canceled. Speech norms have always been context dependent.

I’ve recently become more aware of how much code switching I do because I’ve been trying to solve a problem that isn’t considered polite to have in rich stable white American society. If you follow me closely you know it’s related to immigration.

I really need to fix this problem so I’ve been asking around quietly and obliquely trying to sense my way around adjacent communities with rules that won’t turn me into a pariah. And it’s a ton of work. It requires the kind of sensitivity and social graces I’ve previously prided myself on only to discover it’s just the rules for the Western upper class whites. Everyone else knows justice isn’t for them.

As you might imagine plenty of people live with entirely different contexts and social graces than the Eurocentric worldview. And they are all fully and completely aware of the indignities of my problem and the varied ways in which one solves for it. And no one is judging me for it. But it’s been a bit shocking to me. I fully believed playing by the rules would eventually reward me. And of course that’s the real reasonable we code switch. Because different rules apply to different people.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 682 and Almost

My original handle. The very first one I took into social media. Which today couldn’t function as a signifier in 2022 given the acute gender essentialism culture war. The handle was AlmostGirl.

I began writing in university (maybe 2005) about my deep deep deep ambivalence about adopting any culture or identity symbol of consensus success. How I continued to be offered entry into luxury spaces and class identifiers I couldn’t stay. I continued to fail at being part of the status quo. I could only ever be “almost” the thing. As you can tell I’ve been painfully earnest most of my time online.

When I was younger I regretted my inability to fully commit to what I was supposed to want. I’ve really always failed at attempts with adopting conventional status symbols. I always craved being at the norm of whatever was high status. But I just won’t commit to the bit.

Categories
Aesthetics Community Preparedness

Day 628 and Intensity

If my brain is a sponge I think I’ve been sopping up more than I am designed to handle. But I am holding on and facing a lot of new information and acting on it quickly.

I’m at a wilderness medical first responder class. And I’m the odd duck out on the class. Everyone else is living with much harder realities than I do. They are the ones that fight our wars. Provide our security. Fight our fires. They keep up with where our most vulnerable live. It’s an on the margin make your best call world.

My body can feel that this reality is very different from what I live with and on different class and wealth bands. People that are more buffered from harsh realities often don’t want to face the costs of our lifestyles. But we are not in a morally neutral systems. And a lot of violence still happens on the margins.

I feel somewhat invigorated by the immediacy of decision making in these chaotic environments. If you are in a natural disaster like a wildfire your capacity to react calmly under extreme conditions is a given. So naturally we arm these people with more agency and skills as it’s a set of problems with a lot of nuance and grey areas too.

I am frankly exhausted even though I didn’t do anything that intense. I did some traumatic brain injury drills. And I worked on how to properly stint and secure broken bones if you are in the back country and need to hobble back in to society. I learned a lot about agency and context and the need for high emotional intelligence as you cope with those who are in need or duress.

I suppose with that in mind, it’s no surprise that I’d like to enjoy a good long night of sleep and a big breakfast in the morning. One has got to enjoy living when you have the chance.

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Aesthetics Internet Culture

Day 552 and Consumption

When I was emerging into my teens and early adulthood in the aughts I was fascinated by style. Coming from a small town in the Rocky Mountains, populated by hippies and techies, I’d had little exposure to fashion or cosmetics. Gore-Tex jackets, rainbow sarongs and Tevas had more purchase on the imagination than twin sets or pearls.

I didn’t chose a university known for its style either. I chose one known for crunching the numbers on our economy. My abiding interest in why we consume what we do never quite got around to being taste based. I followed fashion through export deficits, balance sheets and purchase orders. More back page of the Economist than Thursday Styles.

It was all an intellectual exercise for me. And it was mostly a numbers game. The cost of cotton and the trading flows of finished goods were much more legible to me than why a WASP enjoyed salmon colored pants.

I didn’t let an utter lack of taste, hell even exposure to taste, get in my way. I used a personal style blog hosted on WordPress (sound familiar) to comment on runway looks that were slowly emerging onto trade publications online. I used my comment sections to hold conversations with other enthusiasts. I was quite sure my opinion mattered. I guess I still am.

I very presumptuously emailed academic and authors like Valerie Steele and Virginia Postrel to share my enthusiasm. Much to my astonishment they wrote back. Eventually I stumbled into being their nominal peers, blending into the milieu of Balthazar breakfasts once I moved to Manhattan. Talk about peaking early. I’d achieved my life’s goals at 23.

But somewhere along the way it didn’t matter anymore that I lacked taste. No one had taste anymore. Our entire aesthetics stalled out sometime in the wake of the Great Recession. As I partied with the rest of Indie Sleeze crowd in my American Apparel deep v-necks, the end of distinct trends and looks was at hand. We just didn’t know it yet

Globalization and the internet gave us an amalgamation of tastes I’ve come to refer to the “Everything, Everywhere, All At Once” aesthetic. It’s all the same and it’s always been the same as long as our forever End of History Fukuyama moment continued. We’d reached terminal fashion. As the media class fractured into the creative class and struck gold in startup land, the center of gravity of taste didn’t just shift. It disappeared entirely. It was chaos and boring all at once.

No one sets agendas for style, or taste, or top down, or even bottom up aesthetic movements anymore. It’s just a stream of consumables made by fast fashion factories and sold out through Instagram and TikTok as the data miners and algorithms predetermined your desires before you’d even thought them up. Dystopian looks like getting exactly what you want.

It turned out that fashion blogs, once a nemesis for showing taste before it was ready, had been too slow. Blogging is so 2000 and late. The Everything Everywhere All At Once aesthetic is done with a look even before it starts. Because it has no beginning or end or middle.

Maybe we should have called it non-linear fashion. There are no early adopters or taste laggards any longer. It’s all very much a kind of quantum of sameness. Which is somehow even less exciting than a James Bond movie in the Daniel Craig era.

I stumbled onto a styles section piece about the disappearance of the fashion Czarinas in the wake of the Ukraine war. Global taste has collided with the brutal reality of kleptocracy. We’d ignored it for a decade or two but now it appears history has reasserted itself. Maybe that means fashion might come back? But as inflation runs rampant and supply chains crack we might be edging towards a new austerity. Which might make for a pleasant pre-war historic period.

I for one would love to know who the Neu-Weimar Coco Channel of the Boogaloo/World War 3 conflicts will be. I bet she’s an anorexic TradCath living in Dimes Square. And like her predecessor she’s definitely fucking a Nazi. Let’s pray she has taste that is more interesting than her sex life.