Discover more from escape the algorithm
Not your usual subscription confirmation
Or why you shouldn't ignore the back catalog
Something a little bit different today — I’m experimenting with subverting the form of the confirmation email people receive when they sign up for Escape the Algorithm and thought I’d share it with all of you too. Apologies to the handful of people who subscribed in the last day and will receive this twice.
Substack etiquette dictates that this email should simply thank you for subscribing and let you know that you will start receiving updates in your inbox. But this is a newsletter about the algorithms that pull and direct our attention. And one of the biggest lies that internet culture tells us is that something is only important and interesting if it is new. As someone whose day job is at a nonprofit newsroom, I have a front row seat to the consequences of that lie. Convincing anyone to read a story that is more than a week old is an uphill battle, the underlying ideology of which is clear: problems, solutions, ideas, conversations, and stories are only as worthy of attention as the recency of their timestamps.
Do we want an information ecosystem that only reacts to loud noises, or one that considers and participates in the low, steady hums of the everyday world, for all its flaws and beauties?
I’m here to tell you that there’s a distinct and unique value in ignoring the shiny new object instinct, in digging into the things that are more than a gut reaction to the day’s events. So bear with me while we dig into the ~shudder~ archives of this very newsletter. It’s scary, I know. But I’m here to hold your hand!
If you’ve subscribed, here are some pieces I think you might enjoy. I invite you to click through to one that speaks to you, and even ~gasp~ share it if you like it:
On unraveling the mystery of zero-follower Instagram accounts:
We had encountered a glitch. A mistake, made either by human or machine, or maybe both, but either way, the mistake was unmistakeably human. In a world so heavily designed, we were shocked to find ourselves standing outside of design, or at least, outside the world designed by Designers. We had broken something. We were experiencing a virtual meet cute with humanity.
On the soft power of Google Doc publishing:
Google Docs may wear the clothing of a tool, but their affordances teem over, making them so much more. After all, you're reading this doc right now, and as far as I know I'm not using a typewriter, and you're not looking over my shoulder. This doc is public, and so are countless others. These public docs are web pages, but only barely — difficult to find, not optimized for shareability, lacking prestige. But they form an impossibly large dark web, a web that is dark not as a result of overt obfuscation but because of a softer approach to publishing. I call this space the “Doc Web,” and these are its axioms.
On what happens when you train TikTok to show you videos you'll hate:
But as it turns out, IckTok was way less likely to show me content that made me numb; instead, my feed became an endless barrage of videos that repulsed me. Maybe it’s because other people’s obsessions can be deeply interesting if you look at them closely enough. Or maybe because TikTok has decided that attention born out of tantalization is more profitable than that born out of enrichment. In place of videos of sports, I saw a dermatologist reacting like a sportscaster to a close up of pimples being popped. In place of window caulking, I saw Jordan Peterson.
Chia Amisola on love and websites:
A website is an act of demanding space for yourself and the people you love and constantly tending that space. It's a way of naming: to take on a URL and courageously ask to be witnessed, visited. I understand certain sites that I frequent as continuous labors of love, whether they're directed to a specific person or something broader. I see making websites and making in general as nothing more than a way of asking to be loved.
And if none of the above catches your eye, feel free to play around with my random Substack button:
Jumping through 🔀 Scrubstack is more akin to the experience of walking into a stranger’s home and taking a random book off of the shelf. What you read may not interest you, may not be meant for you, may be written for an imagined audience in the distant past. But it also gives us some insight into some of the things Substack doesn’t want, or at least isn’t designed for, you (specifically you) to see.
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