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Our profit-driven news cycles are designed to follow an entertaining Hollywood style thread. crisis -> intervention -> struggle -> resolution. However, our networked age reveals a world in which multiple events happen at once, which bounce off each other, fuse, and change form.
In the face of such expanding complexity, over-simplistic solutions are tempting, but the wisest path is found through discernment, nuance, patience, and a humble acceptance that there are few easy answers in a globalized networked world.
An off-ramp from this wise path can be found online. Which seems to offer us an insight into what others are thinking about this complex and confusing world. We swap out the failing narrative of the news cycle for the more dynamic 'network consensus' we find on social media which
appears to reveal to us the true mood of the world. However, the trending topics and hashtags of social media often obscure more than they reveal. They are even more manufactured than the legacy mass media's news cycle, reflecting back to us an amalgam of our own preferences and
biases harvested by algorithms, and rich with competing agendas driven by a legion of actors; bots, attention-hungry celebs, governments, political platforms, clickbait profiteers, and random individuals. For fleeting moments like a wave cresting, these disparate forces seem to
coalesce into a network consensus. Appearing to offer us clairvoyance into the mood of the moment. Yet, because the internet is a complex and dynamic network, its consensus can change in the blink of the eye. One can find themselves one day secure in social consensus
and the next canceled. Thus such an attempt to read the world and gauge public mood requires total dedication. We must continually sit in the crow's nest, anxiously scanning the horizon for changes in the digital zeitgeist. The totality of such a continuous surveillance of the
online mood can create a trap, where we mistake this world for the real world, and find ourselves repeatedly side-swiped by more accurate barometers of public opinion such as electoral results. What seemed like the public was only a silo.
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