No Channel Changing

Social medias structure is a single vertical – the feed with no organisation that makes sense to the user. There is/are no ways of changing the channel on twitter or facebook.

8 minutes

Bix posted a really thought provoking post yesterday called The content, mine and yours.

Bix takes a tour though recent posts from around the web about the war in Ukraine and the feelings of “structural dissonance” and/or “context collapse” that people are feeling. A feeling that GarbageDay’s Ryan Broderick called “the inherent weirdness of viewing […] the horrors of real life through the trivializing structures of the internet”. I mentioned that people would be feeling this the other week, in turn reaching further back to a talk I gave in 2013 called ‘Viewer discretion cannot be advised”.

Bix hits the nail on the head when they say that it’s not The Internet per say that is generating tis trivialising dissonance. Instead it’s the organising principle of social media – specifically: the feed.

Growing up, I wasn’t watching three minutes of Star Trek, interrupted by thirty seconds of an apologizing politician, followed by one minute of Benny Hill, and then another two minutes of Star Trek. Each different thing had its own time and breathed its own air, and even if we went right from one thing to another, each one thing required an attentional focus that’s almost entirely disputed by the feed.

At issue here is not any level at all of the internet’s structure. The problem isn’t structural, it’s organizational.

The structure of TV is different from social media – obviously. TV is made up of discrete verticals of content that you purposefully have to move between. Content is organised in these verticals linearly, one show after another. The organisational logic of how you consumed content was left up to you.

The structure and organisation of TV did however give rise to the phenomenon of channel surfing:

McLuhan believed that the advent of electronic media signaled a return to acoustic space. “The flow of images and disjointed nature of channel surfing disrupts the linear character of typographic culture. Television enabled a stream of images and information from different times, places, and sources. Thereby reviving the “all-at-once-ness” of acoustic space and inaugurating the electronic global village.

The difference between content in the feed, and channel surfing however is agency. The algorithmic feed churns up what it wants you to see based on its preferences for engagement and dwell time. You channel hop because you want to.

I agree with Bix that the problem of social media is organisational rather than structural. Again, from my 301 on TikTok

Jenkins goes on to explain that reality television was the first form of television to leverage channel surfing as a phenomenon. Reality television is built around ‘attractions’. “Short, highly emotionally charged units that can be watched in or out of sequence.”

I go on to argue that Tik Tok is the ultimate expression of reality television as a form. But back to social media in general, Bix highlights the following:

everything in one pot with no rhyme or reason organizing principle of the feed nonetheless presents some cognitive challenges (and not just for autistic and anxious people like me for whom feeds have been known actually to hurt). Where the “structural dissonance” posit and I diverge, I guess, is not just that in reality social media has no true structure whatsoever (which is part of the actual problem) but that Bailey seems to talk about this admixture of, say, lifestyle posts and war posts as if it transgresses in some moral capacity, as if it’s simply somehow unnatural for social media to be used to communicate “the horrors of real life”.

Social medias structure is a single vertical – the feed with no organisation that makes sense to the user. There is/are no ways of changing the channel on twitter or facebook.

The post also drifts in to some of the moral statements made by people talking about the uncomfortable nature of content on The Feed to which Bix says:

The “structural dissonance” critique, at least as framed by The Content Mines, very much lands for me as an ugly sort of victim-blaming. Internet users, on the whole and in the main, are at the mercy of an organizing principle over which they have little to no control, and they shouldn’t be held responsible—certainly not morally so—for making use of the tools that exist.

The whole post is fantastic and I think you should check it out. Its sparked all sorts of ideas and connections to things I’ve thought about and posted elsewhere over the years that as it coalesces this post might become something larger – eventually.

I have maintained for a decade that society hasn’t been ready for the horrors of other peoples literal ‘everyday lived experience’.

We have been though 10 years of critique and hand wringing about authenticity, and inauthenticity of peoples selves and presentation on social media, and it’s going to continue for another decade or so at least.

One of the most urgent tasks that we all have in 2022 or perhaps this decade is to re-think how and why we use social media and the internet in the first place. It’s no longer novel – I’ve been on Twitter for 14 years at this point – and personally I think its time we gave some consideration to if ones own engagement with the feeds (and our behaviour once we are there) is having a positive or negative effect on the world.

Your Attention is Sovereign

Photo 365


Wen’t to Hampton Court this week. Did the audio tours, was great!

Permanently Moved

Collective Endeavours

One band is a collective endeavour, two bands make a scene.

The Ministry Of My Own Labour

  • Started even more bits of writing – didn’t finish anything I said I wanted to finish.
  • As this post goes live, I’ll be attending an all day workshop on regenerative ag, DAOs, and AI and more with the Terra0 crew.
  • Coupla calls happened this week inc a panel discussion I was asked to sit on last min.
  • Day off
  • Flailing around, thrashing against the twin chains of procrastination and self doubt

Dipping the Stacks

Chinese scientists want to add wings to bullet trains to make them even faster – Impact Lab

Chen Yu, a research engineer with Tongji University in Shanghai who was not involved in the study, said there were some extremely challenging engineering issues to overcome to put wings on trains.

In LA, ‘Atheist Pirates’ remove religious signs from public streets and overpasses

‘The only way we can have streets that are welcoming to all is if all religions can equally go through them and be on them without feeling like they are less than.’

The Singularity Already Happened; We Got Corporations | Quiet Babylon

One of my favourite recurring tropes of AI speculation/singulatarian deep time thinking is mediations on how an evil AI or similar might destroy us.

Seaweed farming has vast potential—but good luck getting a permit

In Washington state, the permitting process involves nine different agencies, and is so burdensome and time-consuming that few people bother.

How WordPress and Tumblr are keeping the internet weird – The Verge

I try to make as few decisions as possible and really say, “How do we push that out to the teams, the divisions, the edges of the branches of the tree versus the trunk?” The assumption is that none of us are as smart as all of us, so now what do we build in there?


I read Ghazghkull Thraka by Nate Crowely this week. Nate is one of my fav writers. Him tackling one of the biggest/best characters in warhammer lore was a great ride. The novel is quite short, and built around the format of an interrogation. Bonkers at times, Crowely has outdone himself.

I finally started reading Martin Gurri’s The Revolt Of The Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium. I’ve had it on my kindle for… 2+ years? maybe 3? Initially published in 2014, and re-released in 2018 with a new chapter (post trump/brexit etc) the book is contextualising a lot for me. Not so much the content, but I’m now able to guess at tagging all the people in my life around me that I read it when it came out. lol

Music Spotify Playlist

Bartees Strange – Heavy Heart (Single)

I’ve you had told little old me at the turn of the Millennium that 4AD would have a midwestern emo AND R+B artist on its roster in 22 years I’m not sure what I would have thought.

Its good news tho as Batleees Strange’s Heavy Heart is an absolute banger. Captain jazz, Get up kids, American Football are all in the mix along with anthemic indie songwriting taking cues from the likes of Bloc Party, and The National. There’s horns and all sorts on Heavy Heart. The main thing is that its just SO REFRESHING to hear some dynamics on a record!

It’s a real treat. After listening to this single I immediately went and checked out his 2020 LP live forever, which is fucking awesome too. Boomers is catchy as hell track, but its the verse’s guitar riff that elevates it above other songs.

As I said to a mate about Bartees Strange this week “It’s like American Football or the promise ring fell got really into sound cloud rap and decided to start a band like block party”

I listened to the new Charli XCX album a couple of times. So good.

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