Threads, Carnival and the Bazaar | 2323

Social media right now feels like nothing more than a rigged carnival. “Roll up roll up, read this, pass it on, there’s more.” It’s been bad for years. But now there’s different variations of the same flavour of network on offer, I realise how sour it all tastes. 

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Threads, Carnival and the Bazaar

As of this week I am currently active on the following social networks:

Tumblr,
Instagram,
Bluesky,
Threads,
Twitter,
Warpcast,
Substack,
Mastodon,
and Vero.

This is .. a lot.

As long time listeners will know, my central thesis is: All techno-social systems should be seen through the lens of worlds. If we take this position seriously, as I do, it begs the question:

What kinds of worlds are we getting from the current balkanisation of social media?

Mostly … clones. Each network implementing short form text posts with familiar game mechanics. Likes, repost, replies, quotes and followers with counter to keep track of the high scores. After 15 years of this, none of it interests me.

Thread’s, like every other social network will end up full of the same anti-culture sludge that Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter already are. If you haven’t logged into Threads yet don’t bother. It’s full of brands tagging each other. Posting insipid nonsense using that kooky brand safe voice they incubated on Twitter. I give it 3 weeks until the whole place context collapses into a toxic hellhole full of TERFs and arguments about who is or isn’t a nazi.

Social networks are, and should be worlds. They don’t need to all be build around PvP. Why aren’t there any collaborative game modes? Where’s clan and chan affiliation? Why not make TPOT a real thing? Give them a badge. Where are the avant-garde player modes? Make work like scrabble, with letters pulled from a collective pool? Why don’t social networks have fog of war?

I’m not sure what annoys me more, the lack of innovation or the lack of imagination.

Social media right now feels like nothing more than a rigged carnival. Roll up roll up, read this, pass it on, there’s more.

It’s been bad for years. But now there’s different variations of the same flavour of network on offer, I realise how sour it all tastes.

To extend the carnival analogy a little further, there are now three types of software modes. The Cathedral, The Bazaar and The Carnival.

Eric Ryamond wrote The Cathedral and the Bazaar back in 1999, but we now know he got his metaphors backwards. The Cathedral is the free software movement. A vast multi-generational project involving work by communities of specialists. The Linux kernel is always under construction and always under renewal. Things are built and rebuilt to better suit the community’s needs at various points in time. The Bazaar is the rest of the web. Like a sook, it’s a vast warren that you need to explore.

Lastly there’s The Carnival – or social media, where everyone is a mark. If you aren’t paying to use it, then you are the product. Join the app. There’s one born every minute, step right up and try for a high score. Threads is an ersatz social media app. It looks and feels like a social network, but past all the high contrast, noise, bells and whistles, all you find is Mark Zuckerberg in a waistcoat and boater hat showing you some ads. Fleecing you for your personal data.

The problem with Threads, and the stacks more generally is the algorithmic feed. Social media was about going online, connecting and communicating with people, with the magic of serendipity thrown in.. But when an app decides what you’re going see for you, it’ll end up shovelling endless lowest common denominator effluent in your direction.

With no discernible way of training the algorithm, you might as well be watching TV. In fact for many, the Internet is just that. 4-5 channels. Facebook, Instagram, Netflix, TikTok, choose your poison. After that all you need to do is scroll.

My current favourite meme is The Simpsons bus driver tapping the sign that reads. β€œYour peers are creating the fulfilling art and media that you seek, not corporations”.

This gets to the fundamental truth of what social media, and the Internet is supposed to about. We should all be creating art for each other. This is the true promise of the Internet. The send AND receive relationship. Not create OR consume.

I am part of Generation Y; an elder or geriatric millennial as we’re sometimes called. I’m old enough to remember the time before the Internet swallowed everything. If you were interested in something, you needed to go to a place, a shop, a venue, a website, or a community to find out more. Nothing came to you.

TV and the mainstream was like the big box store, but the rest of culture was the Bazaar. You had to go out and explore, find the things you were looking for. Haggle, get advice and pointers from other with similar taste. If you wanted more of something you needed to put some effort in – nothing came to you. The only media and art that did arrive this way was mainstream, and was/and still is de facto – bad.

What are we supposed to do about the dozen social media apps full of empty culture?

I’m just so done with it.

How about we all just try to get out of the carnival’s and on our own stages? Get get a website, start a newsletter. Share the things you make and things made by others. You make it, if I like it, I’ll share it. I’ll keep making this show, you like it? You share it.

Send and receive.

Watch


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