Are Mark Zuckerberg and his silicon valley tech bro progeny the modern incarnation of Ronald Reagan, Pastor Jerry Falwell and the 1980s conservative Moral Majority movement?
If you instinctively answered ‘yes’ without recognizing exactly why, you might be wondering what the connection actually is. Well, do you remember Facebook before Newsfeed? Didn’t think so. Neither do we. But we do remember a world where we had to intentionally choose what music to buy, what news to read, and what friends to talk to online. Then, on September 5th, 2006, Facebook Newsfeed launched, using AI to promote what it deems most relevant to you at any given moment.
With music by Daniel Bachman & Humanherb, Jacob Hurwitz-Goodman traces the significance of the Newsfeed launch, from the initial rage it engendered to its precipitation of the algorithm-dominated status quo of current-day digital media. Prior to Newsfeed, early internet users had static profiles and had to consciously click and search for things on the site. Upon its launch, the blueprint for media inexorably changed: we were no longer explorers, searchers, discoverers—our very experience of time collapsed into an ever-shifting present; we became passive consumers of a digital feed algorithmically curated to our every trivial fancy. Hurwitz-Goodman unpacks how the algorithms have come to inform and define how we connect to ourselves and each other. Omniscient, omnipresent and ungraspable in its entirety by the human brain, AI acts as a deity governing our lives in mysterious and hidden ways. It is a new, non-spiritual and non-human solution to the loss of community that conservatives once attributed to a decline in religious faith. Bereft of the ability to choose our reality and enjoy simultaneous, communal consumption of media, Hurwitz-Goodman suggests that we end up alone in algorithmic echo chambers with no fixed place to stand––but did we ever really have one?