Black and Blue, or Gold and White?

We are the ones scrolling through our feed, purchasing online, clicking on others profiles. We are the ones giving these companies our information. 20 years ago we could blame whoever we wanted as technology came to surface, but now we are the ones running it, letting it takeover our lives.

Douglas Rushkoff has written many columns for the Daily Beast and has a book called Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age. He also makes films on media, technology and pop culture. He’s won an award for Career Achievement in Public Intellectual Activity as well. In this blog, I’ll be reviewing Rushkoff’s article, We’ve spent the decade letting our tech define us. It’s out of control.

Remember, the dress? The one that 50% of people saw black and blue, and the other 50% saw gold and white? That is kind of metaphorical to the way technology has trained our digital platforms. It was a ginormous debate on what color you saw, and people were disagreeing back and forth and couldn’t understand how someone could ever see a different color than them. Rushkoff says, “we are increasingly encouraged to identify ourselves by our algorithmically determined ideological profiles alone, and to accept a platform’s arbitrary, profit-driven segmentation as a reflection of our deepest, tribal affiliations.”

The whole idea Rushkoff is talking about is how we as a society have all been thrown into this digital culture, yet we all see it differently. We all read the same articles and see the same photos, but we all take something different away. The argument being made here reminds me of a few things- one being the political battle in the past few years.

The past election was one of the most dividing elections in the history of the Presidential elections in the United States. The candidates themselves divided the country through Twitter. Supporters of each political party took their beliefs to social media as well, where they commented nasty remarks on the opposing viewpoint just because it was different. Riots and protests were also a huge part of the election this year, organized by groups online.

A big part of why people are stuck on their beliefs of who was a better candidate has to do with the algorithm they were given on their social media platforms. The technology knows what you want to see, so they keep giving it to you to keep you engaged. “We’ve spent the last 10 years as participants in a feedback loop between surveillance technology, predictive algorithms, behavioral manipulation and human activity. And it has spun out of anyone’s control,” Rushkoff said.

Before my journey with Digital Studies, I too was someone who thought technology was amazing and thought of all the possibilities it had for the future. Both Rushkoff and Broussard in her book Artificial Unintelligence talk about how the digital age has brainwashed us all. Technochauvinism is a term Broussard references and is defined as the belief that tech is always the solution. Both of these passages remind us that people came before technology, and that we are capable of so much more than hiding behind the algorithms.

I can now identify the way in which my technology is trying to loop me into buying things they know I want, or only seeing my view on politics or the world, making it seem like my view is the right one. Having education on these topics is the only way people will see the other side of things- that they’re all living in a technochauvinist world. In my experience with social media, everyone tries to find their identity through Instagram, when in reality, our identity comes out with the conversations we have, the people we surround ourselves with, the food we like, and the places we go.

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