the sci-fi future of social media

#edcmooc

Annalee Newitz’s short talk about the hopeful and fearful fantasies of where social media might be taking us, as represented in science fiction, was interesting…. I don’t know most of the references, not being a sci-fi fan, but the way she put the stories in context makes me want to read/see them. I’ve seen her website before, and it’s nice to see the person behind it… (I love how this screenshot makes her look like she’s singing!)

Newitz

Her story here is that there are four big stories told about the future of social media, across the field of sci-fi:

  • some kind of artificial intelligence, or collective ‘hive mind’, will rise up from all our user-generated data – which Larry Page, the co-founder of Google, hopes … but which may be a mind that’s super smart (as in Neuromancer or Rainbows End) …. but may be ‘dumb as a shark’ stupid
  • the proverbial privacy apocalypse cometh – social media will invade and spy on every part of our lives, infiltrating our minds on the back of entertainment and advertising (as per 1984, Minority Report and the Quantum Thief)
  • mind control – we will be completely taken over by corporations, and function to passively think what they want us to think, as we fuel their desires and profits (as in the Matrix), or we’ll catch ‘brain viruses’, which are plugged into online media (as in Snowcrash and Glasshouse), so that our brains might ‘crash’, or stop functioning correctly… media will control us to obey aliens who have taken over the world (well that certainly sounds like New Media, doesn’t it?)
  • instant social revolution – popular media like TV will get hijacked by socially subversive, anti-capitalist messages (as in Max Headroom, and Transmetropolitan), and social media vigilantes will appear (like Anonymous), and bloggers will be the only reporters talking about ‘the zombie apocalypse’ (as in Feed)

Golly. So I’m getting the distinct impression that sci-fi by definition takes an extreme view, one way or another. What a great overview – very helpful. Gives me a much better sense of where last week’s short films are coming from…

She winds up with the happy thought that ‘our’ hopes and fears about the future of social media are embodied by a phrase from the movie Serenity, “you can’t stop the signal” – which might be taken as either or both ‘you can’t stop revolutionary ideas getting out’… and ‘you won’t be able to stop the signal that controls your mind’

I think I like the absurdity of the extremes. makes a point, gives you something to think about. no grey. provocative. nice

but I also think it’s funny how the focus is always on the technology… as though computers are not being directed and used by people, but the other way round. Like the reading this week that talks of blogjects – as though wildly proliferating aggregations of digital noise can be marshalled by machines to not just shift ‘information’ around, but to actually make meaning and take social action… makes me laugh…

but it doesn’t make me identify – these are not ‘my’ hopes and fears! are they yours?

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