On shaping our information environment

September 21, 2021


New articles:

Voluntary Censorship: Our education bestows on us a ‘common sense’ that narrows our vision to only those things that ‘can be said’. We censor ourselves and, as a result, have a schizoprenic approach to important issues.

George Orwell noted in his suppressed introduction to Animal Farm the “sinister fact about … censorship … is that it is largely voluntary … It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is ‘not done’ to say it … Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness.” This form of censorship is a product of our education. Not just that of school, but that of the information we choose to consume. The solution is pretty simple. Listen to some different shit.

Full article at bottom of email

Amusing Ourselves to Death: Since the invention of the telegraph, information has become increasingly atomized, incoherent, and irrelevant. Our media technology encourages entertainment, not discourse by default. Information ‘from nowhere’ and ‘to no one’. This default doesn’t have to be our default.

Certain technologies bias the way in which we communicate information. The oral tradition gave birth to proverbs and rhetoric. The written tradition gave birth to long-form discursive exposition. The telegraph and the photograph encouraged short-form, context-free information—information ‘from nowhere’ and ‘to no one’. News which is atomized, incoherent, and irrelevant. News that elicits opinions about which you can do nothing because the news has nothing to do with you. The television takes this further still, and encouraged entertainment as information. Information that discourages discourse and encourages fragmentary and emotional ‘impressions’ the gives a sense of knowledge but in fact provides none. Postman feared that we were ‘amusing ourselves’ into a cultural death. His critique is no less relevant today. Internet media are a media more biased toward entertainment than ever before. But the internet also makes space for information of different kinds. The proverbs of twitter. The rhetoric of the podcast. The discourse of the blog. It’s up to us to seek it out.

Recently updated:

The predictability of humans: The human animal is an animal first–responding adaptively to the environment around it. Humans are only unpredictable because we’re obsessed with the human mind and uncomfortable accepting how influential our environment is.

We often claim that humans are ‘unpredictable’, but this is less true than we’d like. It is well known that human behaviour is the product of emotion. Emotions are the product of our body preparing us to respond to an environment that is somehow dysregulated. They are merely a complex extension of the basic autopoeitic drive all organisms display—the seeking of good states and avoiding of bad states. Our autopoietic states are often dressed up as ‘needs’ or ‘goals’, but the important fact is that they are just preferred states of the world. The crucial feature of this autopoetic drive is that we respond just as easily to the threat of a bad state than the bad state itself. We are, then, animals first. Not unpredictable. Just not paying close enough attention to the environment we’re in.

Highlights from the Marginalia:

What animals think of death: Having a concept of death, far from being a uniquely human feat, is a fairly common trait in the animal kingdom

High culture is the new counterculture: High culture now functions like a counterculture, entailing a conscious act of dissent from the mainstream


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That’s all from me! Enjoy.

Warm regards,

Dorian | The Armchair Collective

This week’s article selection: Voluntary Censorship

You’re reading this on the site, so you can just go to the article.