Media in the Age of Algorithms
Tim O'Reilly
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This a fascinating topic and one that we’re all clearly just getting started on. What I haven’t seen, and I’m curious to know more about, is a more sociological perspective on the manner in which not only “truth value” is a byproduct of means of production (selections, algorithms, behaviors and interactions — which include likes, shares of what are our mediated “social facts”) but is a product of the framing device of media more fundamentally. McLuhan may have argued that Trump was to twitter as Kennedy to tv and Stalin to the radio — personality and character well-suited to the amplifying characteristics of the medium of the era.

With mass now having co-opted social media (at least in legitimation of social as a source of social facts and discourse), what impact has this had on the conduct of “conventional” political process? What forms of discourse (consider the “free speech” values of the 60s) have become socially, culturally, and “technically” complicated by the bias and distortion that social media — with its strange brew of public, private, social capital, attention economy, and gestural/semiotic signifiers—introduce to discourses that in the past emphasized claims, reasons, issues, positions, and policies, and not attitudes, opinions, verbal challenges, proclamations, and exclamations?

Truth value, if there is such a thing, is a quality of discursive statements. Social media — and thus the means of production of today’s social discourses, not only undermine the relationship between social fact and empirical reality (truth as fact); they emphasize Truthfulness (sincerity) of the speaker because the medium is not one of text but one of talk. And I think we’ve seen in this election a lot more ad hominem claims than reasoned policy debates.

The media may now be “normalizing” the spectacularly abnormal. Does the medium, too, “normalize?” Is the medium the message?

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