What does Twitter tell us about technosocial acceleration? (You’ve most probably already forgotten.)
— Urban Future (2.1) (@UF_blog) February 19, 2014
As new media systems become (intimately annexed) parts of people’s brains, thinking about them is conducted through them. To some considerable extent, they are twisted through people, in order to think about themselves. The spiral of involvement is already at work. It becomes increasingly compelling to think (about) how it thinks.
Blogs accelerated the media circuits of composition, publication, feedback interactivity, and revision. Writing became unprecedentedly ‘conversational’ and rapidly responsive to its own effects, which is to say: nonlinear. As culture adapted to Cyberspace it was shaped by torsion, susceptible as never before to capture by self-sustaining eddies or ‘singularities’ with unanticipated wandering vectors of their own. Pursuing a line of thought, while always experimental, was now intricately entangled with estrangement as never before. The ‘inner’ threads of memory — binding cognition to an experience of subjective integrity — stretched beyond their natural tolerances and succumbed to technical substitution.
Twitter accelerates this process further — much further. Each tweet is a micro-completion, and thus an opportunity for the termination of memory. Rather than following the internal chain of its own thoughts, or remembering what it is thinking about, the twitter mind immerses itself in the information stream, where interaction takes over. The frenetic stimulus and feedback from incoming messages pulverizes attention, returning continuity through exteriority, as a staccato succession of feedback signals — responses, favorings, and retweets. The thread of thought has been pulled free from the self-contained, organic mind (or from its long-enduring persuasive illusion).
The ‘cultural critique’ of this amnesiac, distracted, obsessive, jittering intelligence almost writes itself. Twitter is undoubtedly junk. Its addictiveness, however, is by no means the least of its lessons. Tight feedback-circuitry (or cybernetic intensity) is inherently enthralling, irrespective of any extraneous ‘rewards’. The brain tends automatically to dynamic interconnection, even when the cost is a comprehensive surrender of identity. Whatever is coming will have sucked us in, before we get to decide what we think about it. The trend would be starkly obvious, if we could only remember where we have been.
ADDED: Twitter and polarization (via @benedict)