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Lisa Messeri
I watched The Social Dilemma last night. If anyone is curious why STS scholars could be so upset with a documentary that at its core espouses an agreeable and important critique of social media, here's a thread. 1/11
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Lisa Messeri Sep 18
Replying to @lmesseri
I suspect most critical scholars agree with the argument of the doc (and might appreciate its ability to distill a complex problem down to its most toxic core). Namely, the mechanisms developed to monopolize user attention have far reaching and damaging consequences. 2/11
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Lisa Messeri Sep 18
Replying to @lmesseri
And yet! the delivery of this message is heinous. There are countless illustrations of how tech folks misunderstand the history of tech and their own industry. The dramatic 're-enactments' are laughably bad. They spend too much time re-broadcasting conspiracy theories (!) 3/11
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Lisa Messeri Sep 18
Replying to @lmesseri
But there is also a prob of representation. And the producers KNOW that they have mostly white male talking heads. So the fictive family is interracial. And in the first few minutes, two women are intro'ed as if they will be key but they don't appear again until much later. 4/11
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Lisa Messeri Sep 18
Replying to @lmesseri
But this isn't enough to counter the problem of centering a story of tech ethics on "reformed" tech bros. So, the doc tells a story of "I made this thing, it made me a lot of $, but, oopsy, it's not working how i intended, and so we need regulation." 5/11
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Lisa Messeri Sep 18
Replying to @lmesseri
These guys are set up as Heroes. Heroes alongside Sophocles, Asimov, and Buckminster Fuller who provide the inspirational quotes between sections. And of course Heroes in the mold of the great Steve Jobs whose ghost appears at the end as a reminder of when Tech was Good. 6/11
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Lisa Messeri Sep 18
Replying to @lmesseri
So, here are two problems i see this doc perpetuating. (1) the Hero narrative reinforces the white male genius creator. This is a doc that continues to patrol who can and can't be in tech. who tech is and is not for. nuff said. 7/11
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Lisa Messeri Sep 18
Replying to @lmesseri
More subtle is the second perpetuation of a myth: that critique and reform must come from within. This invalidates the work of so many scholars (many women, POC). But it also suggests that it's not a Problem until tech bros say it's a Problem. 8/11
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Lisa Messeri Sep 18
Replying to @lmesseri
The doc itself points out how it is precisely this myopia born out of homogeneity that has led to so many of social media's societal harms. It is simply not logical that a way forward will be forged in these self-same social circles, despite "seeing the error in past ways" 9/11
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Lisa Messeri Sep 18
Replying to @lmesseri
While the overall message of The Social Dilemma is exceedingly important, the means by which it is being delivered only exacerbates the ethos of technology that created the conditions for the crisis the doc excavates in the first place. 10/11
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Lisa Messeri Sep 18
Replying to @lmesseri
Or, as my friend (non STS scholar) summarized: F you guys. 11/11
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