Happy Thanksgiving!

Annalee Newitz: A Better Internet Is Waiting for Us https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/11/30/opinion/social-media-future.html: 'A Better Internet Is Waiting for Us: My quest to imagine a different reality: Social media is broken. It has poisoned the way we communicate with each other and undermined the democratic process. Many of us just want to get away from it, but we can’t imagine a world without it. Though we talk about reforming and regulating it, “fixing” it, those of us who grew up on the internet know there’s no such thing as a social network that lasts forever. Facebook and Twitter are slowly imploding. And before they’re finally dead, we need to think about what the future will be like after social media so we can prepare for what comes next. I don’t mean brainstorming new apps that could replace outdated ones, the way Facebook did Myspace. I mean what will replace social media the way the internet replaced television, transforming our entire culture?... There are many paths beyond the social media hellscape, and all of them begin with reimagining what it means to build public spaces where people seek common ground.... Erika Hall’s design firm Mule.... “I absolutely believe that you can design interfaces that create more safe spaces to interact, in the same way we know how to design streets that are safer,” she said. But today, she told me, the issue isn’t technical. It has to do with the way business is being done in Silicon Valley.... Companies like Facebook and Twitter lack an incentive to promote better relationships and a better understanding of the news “because they make money through outrage and deception,” Ms. Hall said. Outrage and deception capture our attention, and attention sells ads. “At a business model level, they are ad networks parasitic on human connection.”.... Siva Vaidhyanathan.... We don’t have to lose our digital public spaces to state manipulation. What if future companies designed media to facilitate democracy right from the beginning? Is it possible to create a form of digital communication that promotes consensus-building and civil debate, rather than divisiveness and conspiracy theories?... Mr. Scalzi... imagines a new wave of digital media companies that will serve the generations of people who have grown up online (soon, that will be most people) and already know that digital information can’t be trusted. They will care about who is giving them the news, where it comes from, and why it’s believable. “They will not be internet optimists in the way that the current generation of tech billionaires wants,” he said with a laugh. They will not, he explained, believe the hype about how every new app makes the world a better place: “They’ll be internet pessimists and realists.” What would “internet realists” want from their media streams? The opposite of what we have now... a more robust, comprehensive version of privacy settings, where news and entertainment would reach you only after you opted into them. This would be the first line of defense against viral falsehoods, as well as mobs of strangers or bots attacking someone they disagree with...

...There isn’t a decent real-world analogue for social media, and that makes it difficult for users to understand where public information is coming from, and where their personal information is going. It doesn’t have to be that way. As Erika Hall pointed out, we have centuries of experience designing real-life spaces where people gather safely. After the social media age is over, we’ll have the opportunity to rebuild our damaged public sphere by creating digital public places that imitate actual town halls, concert venues and pedestrian-friendly sidewalks.... As we’ve already learned from social media, anonymous communication can degenerate quickly. What’s to stop future public spaces from becoming unregulated free-for-alls, with abuse and misinformation that are far worse than anything today?... The legacy of social media will be a world thirsty for new kinds of public experiences. To rebuild the public sphere, we’ll need to use what we’ve learned from billion-dollar social experiments like Facebook, and marginalized communities like Black Twitter. We’ll have to carve out genuinely private spaces too.... Public life has been irrevocably changed by social media; now it’s time for something else. We need to stop handing off responsibility for maintaining public space to corporations and algorithms—and give it back to human beings. We may need to slow down, but we’ve created democracies out of chaos before. We can do it again...


#noted #2019-12-01

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