Control

Marketing, propaganda, and disinformation long pre-date digital publishing and social media. But as marketing moved into all realms of our lives, fueled by ever faster and increasingly decentralized information systems, technologies of control look very different than a bossy totalitarian overlord. Now they're useful, intimate, reassuring. The idea of carrying a ubiquitous location tracker armed with cameras, microphones, and lists of all our friends would have seemed horrifying just a few decades ago. Now we're nearly as horrified at the idea of forgetting our phone.

As these tools of efficient control spread throughout our lives, the question of who controls what grows more urgent and harder to answer. Services like Facebook control their feeds, algorithmically choosing what each user sees out of the vast range of possibilities. But it also bases this choice on what each user wants to see. So the success of their control system is measured by the degree someone desires this control, how frequently they seek it out.

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