Live blogging the Post Truth @dataandsocity thing
by Doc Searls Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Some context setting here.

I'm in the front row at Data & Society (@datasociety)in New York, about to live blog Databite No. 96: Maurizio Ferraris and Martin Scherzinger on the topic Post-Truth and New Realities: Algorithms, Alternative Facts, and Digital Ethics

You can watch the whle thing here:

Maurizio apparently doesn't tweet, but Martin does, at @ScherzingerM, and so does the moderator, Robyn Caplan @robyncaplan .

Maurizio is up first, talking deep and clever shit. Between his accent and not being able to see his slides through Martin and Robyn, it's going to be hard to keep up. But here goes...

I now have three new favorite fuzzwords: ironization, de-sublimation and de-objectivication. Somehow these lead to post-truism or Post-(s)tru(c)thrualism. then to (yes, he says this) bullshit.

On the slide now: Documentality. Object=recorded act. Inflation of documents. Used to be on paper, and now on zillions of mobile devices. 

Book: A crisis of Truth, by Richard Firth Green.

The Web is a gigantic construction of documents. It's primarily for recording, and not just a communication. Its primary action is to move to action, not to transmit.

The Web is real, not just virtual, and it's emerged, not construction.

The web is primarily mo... missed it. Mobilization, maybe.

Documediality + mediality instead of capitalism. Fact checking and reputation not part of the problem.

Documediality is still not aware of the power of the Web.

We need a practical reason for the Web.

Martin is up now. Says if you start typing "Are women," Google's autocomplete will finish with "evil." Just tried this, didn't work, but I'm bad at following commands. Or anything, which will be a problem here, because I thought, or hoped, that Martin would be less intellectual and clearer than Maurizio, but he's even more intellectual and speaks three times faster. Trying to keep up...

Something about a false dichotomy. Post-modernism, antonymic human knowledge... Michael Pence (though not the VP, but I'm not sure)... 

This is the most intellectual talk I've been to in years, and I go to a lot of intellectual talks. Working hard not to have my mental gears stripped. Failing badly.

"You demote the friction of document encounter, and elevate (something) to theory." Did I just hear "false conjuncture?"

I like "the status of irrefutable." Way too much of that, yo.

"Is (something) realia (re-alia) ...something post-truth fact?"

I want to play back this guy at 1/4 speed.

"A true fact but deeply problematic." 

"Viral formation that functions like cancer or cholera." Been writing about that myself here. More specifically, here. More recently here.

"Artifacts of false witness." Good one.

"These are indifferent to our ... " Something about social objects that behave like gravity." 

Note: we no longer have gravity on The Giant Zero. Thus spake my wife, who is smarter than me about this shit. And pretty much everything else. 

He asks a question about "socially constructed truth" that we have to deal with as if it is real.

Is there an emoji for truth? Just asking. 

"Is the real structure of society ... intentionalist?" (Did he say "intentionalist"? Hard to tell through his accent and my high-mileage ears.) "Society is not a place where people (something) each other. It's a place where people (something else) each other." I can't tell whether a word he uses is "poor" or "cruel," but it is probably neither.

"Because they decided to do this, they don't know what is happening." (He did say that. I think.)

"You can't say who invented traditional music. You can say the same for religion, politics." Yay! I understood that one!

I've lost weight, but my ass still hurts on this hard chair. That's just truth. Wanted to weigh in on that.

"So the question of financialization." Was there one?

"Grant writers are advancing the notion that this is about neurogenetic diseases... executed... Spotify is interested in beat induction technology... production this kind of platonic object... the question is how it gets financialized." Um...

"Google wants to keep culture free. But there is always a price to be paid... they are all parasites for monetization... ways in which subjectification... the old model of code... contort our bodies... some kind of panopticon ... we know we're being watched, but we behave as if we aren't."  

I'm not. I see mindfuck eyes everywhere.

The paradox for "us in the humanities" is that the Macedonian teenagers hacking the election with adtech is that they did if for money rather than politics. I think he said something like that. I know from elsewhere that it's true. Nothing post- about it.

Q&A time. 

I want to say "Can you repeat all that stuff  veeerrrryyy slllooowwwllllyyy?"

First question is about computer vs. mathmatic code. Deep somethingization of mathematical objects.... Huh?

Robyn translates to the panel: "How are we constructing truths?"

"Mathematics is technology." Something about competence without comprehension. I like that. Not sure why. Maybe because I almost understand it.

"Using symbols without a clear idea about how we're doing it."

"The realm of technology is much wider than we can imagine.... and this gives a good answer... Kant said in order to act we need a concept. Such as of a table when we look at one.

These guys come across to me like those musicians who understand and love atonal music, and can play it very very fast.

"What kind of social text is mathematics? What kind of object." Alex Galloway talks about a screen layer.

Something about a neutrality stance. "The screen layer is hierartized." (Did he say that? No idea.)

Something about "the way they cluster things." Asynchrony or hetero(something), numero(something), heteromophology... different sort from the (something) projected on the screen layer. Holy fuck. What?

"Modeling human perception... requires a different gaze into how the algorithms work." And something about being theory laden.

A good question from Cathy O'Neil, mathbabe about making all this shit simple. Please. (hell, if she doesn't get what they're saying, it can't be gotten. srsly.)

"There are different modes of selecting, heirarctizing..." Cathy ain't buying it. I don't know what's being sold.

Q: We can point to choices being made that have far-reaching effects. Another Q about capital biasing truth production, bolstered by an ad model that does construct an ecosystem where it is possible for these two sets of alternative realities to exist simultaneously. That was a good one.

A: Algorithms create regularities, but truth is not regular.

Something about the capitalism of a like in Facebook. Because the goal of a like is not money, but is to be recognized. Is that sane or insane, to be recognized? If you want to understand what is happening—this is important—(something I can't understand, but has something in it about surviving, I think).

Keep analytic layers provisionally apart before we bring them together. Keep financialization apart from the social layer and what's projected on the screen, and then how it functions as a mathematical object. The bias is transversal from something about "secrete" and "bias." I think. Sure I got some of that right and most of it wrong. But man, I'm trying. I do know it matters.

An aside: the sense I get from Data and Society is that women are in charge now. I mean, of everything. Hope so, anyway.

Q about severe limitations on people taking up code... creating classifications for algorithms. "Does that make sense?"


The way Cambridge Analytica combining the combination of (something about logic, deconstructing, the OCEAN method...) The difference with political profiling is that what you need to do is not buy what they want (as with normal commercial brain-hacking), but a politician. Can be 86% accurate.

Done. Clapping now. Happy hour.