Perfect internet, algorithms and long tails

“There is no standard Google anymore”, “invisible, algorithmic editing of the web”, “The internet is showing us a world we want to see, not what we need to see.” This is what we all glory in, that whatever we want is available to us, the long tail in action. As in the post below, however, the tail has to be attached to something. The long tail says that you can profit from deviating from a norm, but the result of the algorithms that choose for us is that new norm are created. Thus we have the phenomenon of your Facebook page becoming an echo chamber. Such algorithmic editing has swallowed wholesale the arguments behind generation me, as well as the result of the culture wars where all norms are negative. What we have, then, is software as a crypto-morality. “There cannot be such a thing as a norm”, this narrative tells us, “because nobody has a right to tell me what’s normal!” There is a confusion in our conceptual apparatus, because a quantitive norm is being interpreted as a qualitative norm. There is a case where there is a cross-over, as Hegel tells us, but basic exchange of information requires this standard in terms of brute numbers. There is not a political or ethical agenda to this concept of the numerical norm.
The assumption behind algorithmic editing is that there is a perfect search result. It is a cybernetic version of Plato’s forms. There cannot be such a perfect internet experience, however, and we mislead ourselves in even imagining it is impossible. Perfect, in the sense of Lt. perfectus implies completion, of something being finished. This is nonsense, and so perhaps the ideology of perfection that underlies the thought and practice of  information technologies should be reminded of the irreducible reality of noise, of that which does not necessarily communicate a message, but without which the message cannot be communicated. We need to be able to go for a stroll with no particular destination in mind. We need that element of play in the hard sense, not hippy-dippy “y’know like whatever man”. StumbleUpon curiously tries to inhere play into an algorithm, but for me it lacks that spookily magic sense of achievement when you find something that hasn’t been linked by a thousand others already. We must realise there is a fundamental and structural contradiction in terms by attempting to make our online environment perfect for us in all ways because this leads to the isolation everyone on their own personal desert island. This simply establishes us in our own limits. Where then do we meet communally? Where do we have arguments? Where do we hear new stories, or jokes, or gossip? We need to have a norm from which we deviate, we need to have a same for there to be difference.

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