In an awkward half hour gap between two meetings in Paris some weeks ago, I found myself in a back corner of a bookstore tumbling down a black hole of Mark Greif’s Essays Against Everything, which all too conveniently jigsawed into my current stance on the industry, the world, et cetera. Of course, I was then late and flustered for my meeting. Fortunately, critique of leftist critical theory was a sufficiently strange excuse.
Try it some time.
You’ll get away with murder.
Walking home later that evening, my mental note to read more as a lame 2017 New Year’s resolution evolved into a horrifying admission as to how much my information consumption spectrum has shrunk since I finished studying earlier this year. Going from forcibly absorbing hundreds of pages of text a day as a minimum expectation to running autopilot on the same points on branding, growth strategy, retail structure honestly goes unnoticed because it’s easier. It’s easier to succumb to society’s knee-jerk propensity towards specialisation – to split one job (and so, attention span) into four in lieu of efficiency and evolution. That is, until you wake up one morning with no mental momentum to speak of, and a dangerous starvation that creeps up with blind routine.
By some meandering deduction, Eli Pariser’s “filter bubble” phenomenon then becomes increasingly relevant to the way our collective consciousness is now interacting with objective knowledge (if there can be such a thing). Before technology democratised creative aptitude as an acquired taste (so to speak), and the internet democratised information for the masses, there was a more manageable pool of universal “truths” filtering from the top. Fuck the system, we said – we want more truths. We want to dictate our own truths. Decades elapsed and we got more access to truths than one mind could ever fathom (otherwise known as Google). But, you know – it’s easier to stay in my lane. Don’t even start – I don’t want to hear it. Surround myself in the truths that don’t infuriate me to the point of disillusionment. Subscribe to the podcasts that I can just vigorously nod my head at and text to a mate with a fist bump emoji, and dismiss anyone else’s divergent truth as WRONG. Ok? I mean, look, it’s a fact, ok?
Simultaneously, Pariser points out that this same enabler of knowledge doesn’t want you to cross the line either. Your view of the world through your search engine and smart device of choice is unavoidably abridged by the truths that you have, in the past, sought out. Much like your values on women’s role in society or your relationship are inescapably shaped by your family unit. Or how your political inclinations are shaped by how many of your homies also read New York Magazine.
Like yeah, I read that Jonathan Chait article too.
It’s the apocalypse.
Where did all these hooligan states come from?
I don’t know, man. I thought the Edge of the Earth was an hour out of Manhattan or London or Sydney too.
Google didn’t tell me about them.
[ENTER STAGE RIGHT: US Election PTSD]
Aside from the unsuspecting rive gauche bookstore that instigated this spiralling realisation as to the scandalous narrowness of my 2016 cognitive landscape, this helpless outpouring with no real conclusion or call to action (which is very on trend for publishing and social media and corporate bureaucracy at large) has absolutely nothing to do with this self-portrait series I shot for Chanel and Bergdorf Goodman in Paris a while back.
But if you skipped to the end for the SparkNotes:
- I’m ok with the mildly acceptable delusion that Marine Le Pen has no chance
- I can’t believe I’m wearing a dress without pants (sorry, Mum)
- I can’t believe it’s December
- And my 2017 New Year’s Resolution is to read more