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Thoughts on the book Filterworld by Kyle Chayka

Image over flavor

Popularity has less to do with how the coffee tastes than how it looks in an Instagram photo. -- Kyle Chayka

He pointed out something I've seen but never really noticed or realized what was going on; Stores are creating "perfect" places to take photos for instagram, so they will decorated walls that are designed to make great backdrops for photos. They do this so you'll tag the store thus getting them more business (and more people to come in and replicate the photos.) ; this also points out that instead of optimizing their stores for better tasting food, they are instead optimizing to be content which is probably fine, since the people that are coming there are coming to take pictures, not to enjoy their food. (kind of the same thing of people that review a restaurant based on the drinks or how good of a time they had there instead of the actual food.) 5 stars! best backdrop of any shop yet!

Race to the bottom

the least ambiguous, least disruptive, and perhaps least meaningful pieces of culture are promoted the most. Flatness is the lowest common denominator, an averageness that has never been the marker of humanity’s proudest cultural creations. -- Kyle Chayka

In passively consuming what I was interested in, had I given up my agency to figure out what was truly meaningful to me? -- Kyle Chayka

If you don't curate what goes into your mind, someone else will, along the same lines as: "if you don't use your time, someone else will" there is always someone out there that wants your attention, time, money, and if you are operating on autopilot, they are just going to take it.

The feed structure also discourages users from spending too much time with any one piece of content. If you find something boring, perhaps too subtle, you just keep scrolling, and there’s no time for a greater sense of admiration to develop—one is increasingly encouraged to lean into impatience and superficiality in all things. -- Kyle Chayka

This is my main takeaway from this book; you need to slow down and really dig into the things you consume; really get to know the people that made the content, listen to the album instead of just the song in whatever medium you are in. Watch movies because you are interested in the directory and the way they build their movies the same way you would read books by authors that tell stories you find enjoyable, and don't watch movies just because netflix is pushing the content they currently have available to you.

When you find something you like, dissect it, figure out how it works; find out why you like it. From a creative standpoint, find out how to take the parts you like and bring them into your own works, maybe it's just a short riff pulled out of a song, or the way the cameraman shoots the scene, or the way the photographer frames their image. And if you find it interesting, look into the person that made the work, and try to find out what inspired them to make it; who do they consume from?

Flipping it around, you should also keep track of things you consume that don't generate any ideas so you can stop going back to that source. If you follow a blog that never sparks anything in you, then why keep reading it? One idea is to create a small journal entry every time you consume a website; writing down what you found interesting or if you found nothing interesting and you just spent 10minutes wasting your time (this is even more important to note). Now you can come back and curate your information feed, removing all those things that never spark interest.

I've always had this idea for an RSS reader where you could rate how interesting and article is and then sort (and then clean) your feed based on the feeds that have the most interesting articles, so for example if you have a feed that has hundreds of posts and you haven't marked any of them interesting, you could see that and purge it out.

Consumption without taste is just undiluted, accelerated capitalism. -- Kyle Chayka

The path of chasing something that will appeal to, or at least avoid offending, the highest number of people leads to homogeneity. -- Kyle Chayka

When you use a service that is continually providing content to everyone, they'll be providing the most bland content that they can push on everyone.

By contrast, building smaller communities of consumption devoted to more specific subjects can lead to a much deeper sense of engagement, both with the content and among the users. Sustainability at a small scale still counts as success. -- Kyle Chayka

But if on the other hand you are in a group that is focused on one specific thing, they can provide a deep experience on that one thing they specialize on. It's like a restaurant that has a small menu of things they do well as opposed to the 20 page cheescake factory menu where everything is mediocre.

Programmable attention

The poet Eileen Myles said that it is impossible to separate the creative process from digital technology: “You may not use social media, but it’s using you. You’re writing in tweets, like it or not. -- Kyle Chayka

During my peak periods of usage, when an idea came into my mind, it arrived subconsciously made for Twitter, restricted to a hypothetical 280 characters. I was no longer aware of the translation between thought and tweet; my brain had been completely trained on the dopamine hits of social media attention, like Pavlov’s dog salivating at the ringing of a bell. -- Kyle Chayka

I've run into the exact same thing of having my thoughts trying to fit into a twitter post, causing me to cancel my twitter account. This also means if you can find a better way to think, then you can program yourself to think like that. (programmable attention) What if you framed all your thoughts in the form of a Lab Notebook entry and then every time you had a new ideas your though process would around how to pull apart the idea and understand it instead of the twitter thought of "how can I fit this complex idea into 200 witty characters that will get me likes"


Paul Cavalconte Sunday night program from 6-9pm or can be found in the archives

As Bartlett from Criterion told me, “We don’t need to be at the level of those huge streaming services. If we have a loyal, dedicated audience, we should be able to sustain ourselves at the level that we need to be able to continue.” Beyond the technology, the capitalist growth-at-all-costs mindset is also fundamentally to blame for the flattening of culture in Filterworld. -- Kyle Chayka

Finding services that share media because they generally like it, as opposed to a service that has to provide "content" for everyone and needs to continually be making more and more money. Find good curators, and curators you can trust (not people just shilling)

Idagio a classical music streaming service.

To resist Filterworld, we must become our own curators once more and take responsibility for what we’re consuming. -- kyle Chayka

The Criterion Channel

Since 1984, the Criterion Collection has been dedicated to publishing important classic and contemporary films from around the world in editions that offer the highest technical quality and award-winning, original supplements. No matter the medium—from laserdisc to DVD, Blu-ray, 4K Ultra HD to streaming—Criterion has maintained its pioneering commitment to presenting each film as its maker would want it seen, in state-of-the-art restorations with special features designed to encourage repeated watching and deepen the viewer’s appreciation of the art of film.


One of the actionable items I'm taking from this book is to understand the media I consume, so for example, Reading Hitch and then using Criterion to guide me through his films so I can have a deeper understanding of what is going on, and why he did the things he did. The same goes for the Idagio service; taking a deeper dive into an artist and their background. Reminds me of a quote from someone saying that "traveling is more interesting if you read a book about the place before you go."

And also cleaning up my rss feed to Only follow people that you would talk to and find interesting at a party.