Drivers of Division


McLuhan coined the phrase “Global Village” thinking that we would communicate more effectively across the globe and become closer. He did not envision the ugliness and dysfunction that would be created as we increasingly live in isolated Echo Chambers created by businesses, special interests, computer algorithms and our own interests. Ironically, the media technologies that empowered us to learn as never before have also perpetuated our ignorance and virtual parochial isolation.

A Marshall McLuhan expert annotates the Google Doodle honoring the internet visionary

A Marshall McLuhan expert annotates the Google Doodle honoring the internet visionary




Good morning, Quartz readers!

Marshall McLuhan, the late Canadian philosopher and intellectual, is celebrated for predicting that digital media would tilt our communication toward a culture centered on interaction, a style closer to ancient storytelling than the silo-building printed word. Google, which honored him with a homepage Doodle this week, centers its corporate rhetoric on the “global village” McLuhan famously envisioned.

McLuhan was off by a little bit, in ways that now mean a lot. The internet came to be essentially controlled by businesses, which use data and cognitive science (and our own tastes) to keep us spellbound and loyal, fueling the relentless rise of hyper-personalization.

Google just rolled out a new news feed driven by your particular search history. Amazon launched its Spark shopping tool, an Instagram-like mobile app that combines the company’s personalization algorithm with the power of social “likes.” Netflix, its stock soaring, uses a thumbs-up, thumbs-down feature to better match viewers to what they’ve enjoyed in the past, ensuring we’ll be unchallenged by the kind of movies we rarely watch—and undelighted by random discoveries. On Twitter and Facebook, algorithms collect all the updates from the people you’re already talking to, fortifying social-filter bubbles. (Sorry, town-crier types, you’re probably still posting to the proverbial choir.)

Some critics argue that it’s time to rein in the code-making behind those filters. Alternatively, we could leave the internet giants free to experiment, and hope that digital literacy saves us. (We may be more curious and concerned about the experiences of others than we’ve acknowledged, and more than our tech masters would like.)

For now, though, be prepared for one version of the future, that each of us creates in our own image. Deep-learning powered services promise to become even better custom-content tailors, limiting what individuals and groups are exposed to even as the universe of products and sources of information expands. If only we happened to have Mr. McLuhan right here. —Lila MacLellan

McLuhan would blow hot and cool about today’s internet (The Guardian)



A Colony in a Nation 

by Chris Hayes (Author)

FOR SUBJECTS OF AUTHORITARIAN rule, humiliation is the permanent state of existence. “There is the man at the top,” Frantz Fanon wrote of his native Martinique, “and there are his courtiers, the indifferent (who are waiting), and the humiliated.” That’s it. In a colonial system, you can have power and be close to those with power, or you can be humiliated.

The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker (Chicago Studies in American Politics) Kindle Edition

by Katherine J. Cramer  (Author)

NYTimes: The Alienated Mind by David Brooks

The Alienated Mind

Alienation, the sociologist Robert Nisbet wrote, is a “state of mind that can find a social order remote, incomprehensible or fraudulent; beyond real hope or desire; inviting apathy, boredom, or even hostility.”


Of course this is all complicated and exaggerated by bullshit.  Click here for a definition.