November 30, 2018 Fabian Raith

So, hello again. As my first week got such great feedback by thousands of readers, I have the great pleasure to go again.

As we talked about immersion, hypermediacy and transparency this week and played the great game Stories Untold to be more aware of those theoretical concepts, the concept of immersion also crossed my way in Sarah Masons Text on gamification in the gig economy.

The algorithm is at the heart of the ride-hailing game, and of the coercion that the game conceals. In their foundational text Algorithmic Labor and Information Asymmetries: A Case Study of Uber’s Drivers, Alex Rosenblat and Luke Stark write: “Uber’s self-proclaimed role as a connective intermediary belies the important employment structures and hierarchies that emerge through its software and interface design.” “Algorithmic management” is the term Rosenblat and Stark use to describe the mechanisms through which Uber and Lyft drivers are directed. To be clear, there is no singular algorithm. Rather, there are a number of algorithms operating and interacting with one another at any given moment. Taken together, they produce a seamless system of automatic decision-making that requires very little human intervention.

The rest of the week, I was caught up in the ongoing debate about what the (German) left should look like. Yes, this debate is still ongoing. This week it was pushed this week by the release of a new book by Bernd Stegemann, dramaturgy professor at our school, going along with an astonishing interview in the FAZ, a debate with him and Albrecht von Lucke in Deutschlandfunk about morality and moral, a congress held at Schaubühne, where several people, most prominently Didier Eribon, discussed about what kind of left is needed (Waaah! It’s a facebook link!). A lot of them demand for a “new left realism” and left populism, often in the sense of Chantal Mouffe. Her new book and also the ideas she offers, were greatly discussed by Thea Ricofrancos in n+1:

Whereas scholars of populism have long noted the phenomenon’s ambiguity—its reactionary as well as emancipatory variants—in media discourse the term has come to be much more narrowly construed. In this framing, the options are reduced to a battle between neoliberal technocrats and aspiring authoritarians. Those options may narrow further. Self-styled saviors of democracy from Yascha Mounk to Peter Beinart to John Judis to, most recently, Hillary Clinton exhort liberals to embrace tough-on-immigration nationalism, to prevent this powerful form of social cohesion from being monopolized by the right. In fact, it is precisely those who paint themselves as defenders of liberalism who are the readiest to defer to its mortal enemies. Or perhaps that is too generous to liberalism. With decades of triangulation, the bipartisan establishment has abetted nativism. In acceding to reactionary demands for border militarization, deportation, and criminalization, they helped create the monster whose potent political energy they now alternately decry and seek to channel.

The debate goes on and I can only follow it with eyes wide open, full of surprise about how the nation state seems to have a comeback as the political entity of will.
And hey: Let’s not call social media social media anymore, but instead advertisments with a social background or even antisocial media, because that’s what they are. They decrease creativity and oversimplify. And if you don’t believe me, check this interview with Siva Vaidhyanathan.

We shouldn’t have lost the notion that a commercially driven media ecosystem is unlikely to foster the kind of rich analysis and deliberation that we need as an advanced technological society and as a democratic republic. The world is so complex that we actually need better forms of analysis and better forums for deliberation than the ones we inherited from the 20th century. And instead of building those, we trusted Facebook and Google. Google said, “Hey we're going to build the library in the future! Let's defund the libraries of the present!” Facebook said, “We will build a public square that will liberate the world and spread democracy!” And everyone went, “Great!”

I am gonna enjoy the greatness of female german pop music now and so should you. After you read everything of course. Have a nice weekend.


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