Effortless Slippage

Effortless Slippage - e-flux Architecture - e-flux (
Fascinating look at the dimensions of citizenship in current and future networked systems by Ingrid Burrington.

Some passages of interest:

The historical maps made of the internet—and, later, the maps of the world made by the internet—are both reflection and instrument of the ideologies and entanglements of the networked world. They are one way we might navigate the premise of the networked citizen and her obligations to her fellow travelers in the networked landscape.


The tendency of users to remain in filter bubbles and propagation of myopic communities via platforms and recommendation engines has been well-documented, as has the tendency of these narrow environments to enable mass harassment, misinformation, and propaganda campaigns. In response, companies offer resources on media literacy and piecemeal hiring of content moderators or fact-checkers. But placing the onus on individuals to season their news feeds with opposing viewpoints (rather than, say, designing a platform optimized for bringing multiple viewpoints to users) or assuming the issue is the ability to critically discern sources (rather than recognizing that many users are entirely media-literate but happen to hold racist or fascist beliefs) suggests platforms consider power something that the invisible hand of the market has clumsily pushed them into against their will, and not something abused in the absence of a meaningful praxis. Furthermore, it assumes that greater legibility of a user and their nuanced perspectives is a desirable outcome. Users have agency to reshape the territory of their digital bubble, but they remain mapped subjects.


That being said, transgression, rebellion, and personal expression can and does still take place within and around the margins of the platforms. A sovereign is only ever as stable as its underworld, and it’s worth asking whether recent manipulation of platforms to propagate misinformation and hate speech is an example of transgressive use, or the platform working exactly as it was intended. Like most spaces of transgressive exception, some blank spots on the map exist in part due to the benevolence and discretion of other powerful actors (lest we forget that the Tor Browser wouldn’t exist without the Naval Research Lab and the State Department). But remaining on the imagined fringes of the network might only afford us the kind of freedom Barlow opined for in 1996: the convenient imaginary of outlaw cyberspace, the wild frontier in which white men can always mean well while moving fast and breaking things, or where the privileged prepper can build her own infrastructural enclave apart from the platforms, but remain no less complicit in isolationism.

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