On My Way

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds

Another Monday, Another Naive Weekly - Curated stories on Technology and Internet Culture.

I’ve been running a bit late the past week. Monday became Thursday morning and I had still not written anything. I was close to skip this issue of the newsletter, but thanks to kind encouragement I decided to squeeze out this week’s Naive Weekly. Sorry if I owe you a reply. Sorry if the thoughts are all over the place.

During the last weeks YouTube has been under crossfire. I’m no longer really sure where it started, but it quickly went from exposing YouTube as a playground for pedophiles to Kevin Rose’s longer investigation into radicalising people.

Today there are 1.3b of people who use YouTube. That is larger than the population of China. It is more people than the entire US and Europe. I really find it hard to be surprised that there are glitches, bad people, rotten systems and many other problems when you have 1,300,000,000 humans connected.

This should not serve as an excuse or a reason not to investigate and question YouTube, rather I just wish that the complexity of the issue was reflected in reporting.

Some thoughts I’ve on my mind related to the complexity:

  1. Solutions - There are plenty of people offering solutions to “fix the problem of social media”. Most prominent is probably The Center for Humane Technology. I find it admirable that the tech industry starts to call for a new direction, but really wished they’d look towards social science more often when discussing solutions. With the industrialization and modernization, we had to learn how to deal with machines, urbanization, evolution of public and private life, democracy and society at large. There are surely learnings and frameworks to be inspired from.

  2. Outsiders - The New York Times graphic department decided to include a thumbnail of Philip DeFranco in their article about right-wing radicalization. Philip is by no means a right-wing youtuber. This seems like an innocent mistake, but I often feel that the journalists, politicians and law-makers don’t understand the platforms they cover, hence their critizism is harder for me to really take serious.

  3. Problem - In Denmark we recently had a extremist run for the national election. For years he has been publishing Youtube videos, but he was far from the parliament until mass media started to pick him up. In the end he was 0.2% votes shy of being elected, largely thanks to the “Youtube generation” who was the generation who voted the least on him. In other words, it is not only on social media we experience problems with radicalization.

  4. Positive - I recently saw a Tiktok video on Twitter. It was a dance by Harvey Bass. I had no clue who was Harvey was, so I decided to browse around to learn a bit more about him. In this process I arrived to his Instagram profile where he had a story answering different questions from his audience. One of the questions asked what his dream job was and his reply was “This! Social media is my dream job rn. It opens so many doors and I am just in shock about how many people are supporting me right now!”. It is to frown upon young people who has social media as their dream job, but for me it was hard not to get smitten by his enthusiasm for social media. Occasionally I think it is worth asking if we want to design with the bad players in mind or those who find meaningful, fun and useful ways to use social media.

Five Stories on Technology and Internet Culture

1. They Rent It

Another article telling the story of the strong trend among the younger generations to skip purchasing and rent instead. From clothes to furniture and kitchen utilities, young Americans are increasingly served by subscription based startups.

My questions:

  • Sustainability - To what degree does an increased concern with consumerism play into the trend towards renting? The article indicates it is not the prime reason. Does anyone has further readings on this?

  • Inclusion - To what degree is the subscription trend an indicator of the fact that millennials are less well-off financially compared to previous generations.

  • Ownership - Unless you purchase the cheapest IKEA chair, most items have a resell value. By continuously renting, the young people are potentially wasting a lot of money and giving power to the startups.

  • Certainty - One of the interviewed people explains she rents because everything is flux. I’m not sure it is good for society if an entire generation feel uncertain about the future and thus avoids making long term bets.

2. I’m Not Extreme, Consumerism Is

This writer does everything to think of her environmental footprint, from reducing waste to buying local produce. When we read stories of people changing their behaviour radically from the norm, we often consider them extreme, however I think she raises a fair point when she asks if it is not consumerism that is extreme.

“It's pretty amazing that our society has reached a point where the effort necessary to extract oil from the ground, ship to a refinery, turn it into plastic, shape it appropriately, truck it to a store, buy it & bring it home, is considered to be less effort than washing a spoon!”

3. Default Settings Matter

Mozilla announced that they are changing the default settings of their browser. Starting today new users are automatically enrolled into the strongest privacy setting. I celebrate their decision to make privacy the default.

“What if I told you that on nearly every single website you visit, data about you was transmitted to dozens or even hundreds of companies, all so that the website could earn an additional $0.00008 per ad!”

4. Teens’ AirDrop Crossfire

It is only this year that I’ve started to use Apple’s AirDrop feature regularly. And when I read about how teenagers are using AirDrop to share memes with each other and strangers, then I realize I am the equivalent to an AirDrop grandparent.

I often hear that people have stopped sharing on social media. Maybe we should just be inspired by AirDrop and create more spaces for sharing anonymously within ephemeral groups?

5. The Inevitable Same-ification of the Internet

If you ever wondered why gas stations, banks and supermarkets are placed right next to their competitors, then you’ll enjoy learning about Hotelling’s law. The law is also called the principle of minimum differentiation and I quite like the idea of it explaining why all websites end up looking the same.

Naive Weekly

Hi, I’m Kristoffer and I’m one of the founders of co-matter. You just read Naive Weekly - Curated stories on Technology and Internet Culture.

As always a big thanks to the six Naive Friends who chip in every month or year to support me making time to write this newsletter: NikolajSørenDriesMikkelTina & Angela!

If you are curious to learn a bit more about what co-matter actually is, then you can read this interview we did last week with Tech.eu.