Technology, Self, & Society in an Era of Digital Rankings
We have always competed for better deals, for popularity, for prominence as an authority or a desirable person. But just as our metabolic systems are ill adapted to a world of cheap, hidden sugar, the social cues and instinctive emotional responses that we’ve developed over evolutionary time are not adequate guides to the platforms on which our algorithmic selves now must compete and cooperate. To navigate them properly, we need the help of thoughtful observers who can understand today’s strategies of self-making within a larger context. The first step toward protecting the self in an age of algorithmic manipulation is to recognize such manipulation as a problem. One also needs anchors of integrity, in more substantial “sources of the self” (in Charles Taylor’s evocative formulation) than points, likes, and faves. Protecting oneself from algorithmic domination requires more than deploying counter-manipulation to nudge ourselves back to optimal states. Rather, we must accomplish a nimble fusion of old and new: a commitment to renewing the traditions from which one draws meaning and value.