Towards a Planet-Wide Census of Legs, Eyes, and Minds
Long-time follower here - thank you for ditching Twitter! I finally quit Facebook in 2018 (after years of trying), never used Twitter, thank goodness. I'd hoped I'd be part of a huge exodus, but since then it's been frustrating to see even the people most perceptive about "social" media mechanisms so unable to get free of them or imagine alternatives.
For instance, I was just reading a piece by Zeynep Tufekci in the NYT (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/04/opinion/elon-musk-twitter-free.html). She's very smart (as usual) about the toxic social media mechanisms, but winds up like this: '“Just get off social media” sounds as much of a solution to me as telling people to stop watching news about a war on TV — the war is on, and influencing so much regardless of personal decisions to stay free of it.'
No, isn't it actually more like calling on the soldiers to desert? It's clear that she doesn't want to see herself as part of the problem, and that makes me want to tear my hair out! Interestingly, the vast majority of the people in the comments section pounced on exactly the same sentence - they're just as fed up by journalism's Twitter addiction. Tufekci replies to a few comments, but keeps making the same self-referential point - that journalists have to be on Twitter because that's where journalism is happening... as if they weren't making it happen by being there.
So there's this bizarre spectacle of the majority of readers yelling at journalists to get off Twitter because that's not the "news" we want to read, and the journalists yelling back that, sorry, that's where the "news" and the "vibe" is at, and you as the reader will eat what's put on your plate. It shows so clearly that the "news" is a completely self-contained Twitter-driven system that only marginally has anything to do with the real world that's out there to be written about, or with the millions of readers who want to hear about the real world...
I would love to hear about journalists and writers who are thinking of alternatives and ways to decrease "social" media dependency. I do hope Substack will be a viable option, though I was disillusioned to read your recent post about how Substack is pressing you to do various things to "increase engagement". Given the modus operandi of Twitter and Facebook, it's hard to read "increasing engagement" as anything short of "algorithmically whipping people into an endless frenzy of hatred to fuel our corporation's infinite growth model."
Anyway... I really enjoy your writing, whether on webs, eyes, legs or whatever, and I'm so glad you decided to go on writing what you damn well please and not succumb to the seduction of the engagement algorithm. As Alexander Kluge says, "wir müssen antialgorithmisch arbeiten"...
Justin, Sorry for the new. subscriber posting error. I was worried I'd post twice. Oh well to put your reply in context my original post was to let you know I was using a passage from one of your essays as a chapter epigraph in a forthcoming book out from Doubleday next summer. It was something ypu wrote about the way science/materiaism can "jump the fence" to realms beyond their ken. I saw
it when Big Data invaded Shakespeare attribution studies.
More details in an email and will send you an Advance Reading Copy. Glad that this has led me to your substack
--Ron Rosenbaum author, :"Explaining Hitler", "The Shakespeare Wars"
Hello, Just subscribed. Wanted to let you know I use a paragraph you wrote I particularly liked as a chapter epigraph for a forthcoming book(from Doubleday). The graph is about how science/materialism can "jump the fence". Book won't be out til next summer but would like to send you an Advance Reading Copy when they are available. Will share more details if you'd email me at
<email@example.com>--Ron Rosenbaum author of Explaining Hitler and The Shakespeare Wars.
“war is hell, and can even turn you into a dualist” Would have been a great tweet, alas. 😉 Very interesting essay. FWIW: how simple things are classified isn’t always so clear even parochially. Supposedly some Spanish speakers add “de pie” at the end of “dedo” when they mean the English word “toe” (“digit of foot”), but my native-speaking wife never does and I have never heard it among her friends and family. In fact, adding “of foot” underlines the fact that, for at least many Spanish speakers (and maybe Italian too?) ‘dedo’ means either finger or toe. Funny, considering how different they are! Why in Europe this strange divergence (perhaps south of France)?
I will miss Twitter because I used it as a kind of news aggregator, and not to promote anything. Not a benign experience even with that aim, but I will still miss it. Twitter was/is *particularly* unsuccessful from the capitalist, algorithmic-regulation point of view, which I think had something to do with making it more bearable, at least for me. I never saw many ads, and I blocked anything I hated. Plus, not having many followers is a gift - the key to enjoying Twitter I think. No one cares about you, which is perfect. Cheers.
Thank you for the fun excursion to start this week with! :) Perfect relish to go with all the Radical Enlightenment grand tour I’m currently pursuing, reading Jonathan Israel and digging up infernal clandestina from the Gallica BNF portal! (Thanks to one of your delectable footnotes). Have a great week & glad to see the Twitter rats abandoning ship or going down rabid with it.
Gregory Bateson's notion that mind is an aggregation is an important one I think. In this way, the Earth is a mind. A painting is a mind.
I would go a step further and say that our engagement with the cosmos is our personal experience of mind. This engagement is the ultimate ethical proving ground.
Re. the reincarnation lottery - my understanding is that in most traditions that believe in reincarnation, what you get reincarnated as is not random, but dependent on your past life.