📑 How the Internet Turned Us Into Content Machines

Bookmarked How the Internet Turned Us Into Content Machines by Kyle Chayka (The New Yorker)

Kyle Chayka discusses two new books about the Internet—“Content,” by Kate Eichhorn, and “The Internet Is Not What You Think It Is,” by Justin E. H. Smith—which examine how social media traps users in a brutal race to the bottom.

In reviewing Kate Eichhorn’s Content and Justin E. H. Smith’s The Internet Is Not What You Think It Is, Kyle Chayka explores the way in which the internet has turned up into content machines. These books continue a long tradition of books critiquing the internet and its influence on us, including Eli Pariser’s The Filter Bubble and Shoshana Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. Eichhorn discusses the way in which “content begets content”. This is captured in the term ‘content capital’, referring to a user’s ability to create additional content.

Eichhorn uses the potent term “content capital”—a riff on Pierre Bourdieu’s “cultural capital”—to describe the way in which a fluency in posting online can determine the success, or even the existence, of an artist’s work. Where “cultural capital” describes how particular tastes and reference points confer status, “content capital” connotes an aptitude for creating the kind of ancillary content that the Internet feeds upon.

On the flip side, Smith’s portrays the internet as a ‘living system’ that is the product of centuries of work. We cannot just undo all of this, instead what we need to do is better understand ourselves.

To understand the networked self, we must first understand the self, which is a ceaseless endeavor. The ultimate problem of the Internet might stem not from the discrete technology but from the Frankensteinian way in which humanity’s invention has exceeded our own capacities.

In some ways, this reminds me of Ethan Zuckerman’s discussion of the ‘good web‘. I wonder if the solution is in the actual discussion and reflection.

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