Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Facebook and Google: most powerful and secretive empires we've ever known | 28 September 2016 |The guardian

Google | Facebook | Social media | Citizen journalism | Technology | Internet

We are living in the web['s goldfish bowl. Photograph: Alamy

Google and Facebook have conveyed nearly all of us to this page, and just about every other idea or expression we’ll encounter today. Yet we don’t know how to talk about these companies, nor digest their sheer power. 

We call them platforms, networks or gatekeepers. But these labels hardly fit. The appropriate metaphor eludes us; even if we describe them as vast empires, they are unlike any we’ve ever known. Far from being discrete points of departure, merely supporting the action or minding the gates, they have become something much more significant. They have become the medium through which we experience and understand the world.

As their users, we are like the blinkered young fish in the parable memorably retold by David Foster Wallace. When asked “How’s the water?” we swipe blank: “What the hell is water?”

We pay attention, sometimes, to racism, death threats, outrage. Other than that, we have barely started feeling their algorithmic undertow. We have trouble grasping the scope of it: the vast server farms, the job cuts, the barriers to entry, the public-private partnerships, the manufacturing of data, the knowing cities, the branded self, the slavish service to their metrics, the monoculture. Read more...

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