Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Neither Good, Nor Bad, Nor Neutral

Zeynep Tufekci, the Atlantic:

On February 2, GameStop closed at $90, less than 20 percent of its all-time high, which it had reached just a few days earlier. Like many internet stories, the narrative may start with the “little guy” winning — David against Goliath — but they rarely end that way. The little guy loses, not because he is irrational and too emotional, but because of his relative power in society.

Similarly, Facebook was first celebrated for empowering dissidents during the Arab Spring, but just a few years later it was a key tool in helping Donald Trump win the presidency — and then, later, in clipping his wings, when it joined with other major social-media companies to deplatform him following the insurrection at the Capitol. The reality is that Facebook and Twitter and YouTube are not for or against the little guy: They make money with a business model that requires optimizing for engagement through surveillance. That explains a lot more than the “for or against” narrative. As historian Melvin Kranzberg’s famous aphorism goes: “Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral.”

As Tufekci writes, the social contract broken by those with power makes us want to see the relatively minor gains by the rest of us for more than they really are — at the same time as wealth and power continue to concentrate.