Filter people

Two things happened yesterday that together made me think. Neither of these things were particularly surprising or unusual but, to me, together they point to something that I have intuitively been aware of without clearly thinking about it properly.

The first thing that happen was when a friend of mind referred to a well known Swedish political scientist and commentator – I had to amit that I had never heard of her. This is not unusual for me. I am Swedish but have grown up abroad to I have a limitations to the shared Swedish socio-cultural history. But this was different. I was not ignorant about a childhood tv show or modern historical event or person. The woman in question has appeared in recent years. My lack of awareness cannot be excused thorugh my historical ignorance.

The second event was even more common. I turned on the tv and within minutes the show was paused for commercials. In irritation I switched off the tv and runed back to my computer. This is a pattern I see more and more. TV, which was once a central part of my life, has become irritating. I still like screens, but cannot abide by the lack of control.

Of course the answer is that the actions in the second event very much explain the first event.

But looking at what I do, which media I consume is actually interesting. Or rather the effects are interesting. I listen to a lot of radio – but at home it’s internet radio mainly in English, on the road it’s a constant stream of fascinating podcasts – none of which are Swedish. I follow masses of blogs, but only a few are Swedish, at work books and articles are almost 100% English.

Now it’s natural that without the language barrier Sweden has a low chance of creative success. It has a small population so this means a comparitvely low amount of creativity. Cases of Swedish international success cannot be seen as examples that the system of global culture works but are more unusual exceptions to the rule. Swedish crime success must be an enigma to publishing – who knew? Even if Swedes were much more creative per person we still only have a population of 9 million. The rest of the English speaking world has a huge advantage.

When you throw off the limitations of national cultural borders you are flooded with an (almost) infinite sources of cultural production. This realization makes me wish I could speak more languages to be even more flooded. All these choices means that there are huge demands on our time. All this choice makes me filterfocused. I pick and choose, I discard sources with incredible ease. If it does not catch my attention – it’s gone!

I am sharing culture, ideas and data with people like me but these people are. Not those who are geographically around me. This is nothing new. Cass Sunstein wrote about the Daily Me already in the first edition of Republic.Com but what he was writing about – And what most energy is focused on – is using this kind of focus & filtering as a reason for why they become extreme. From terrorists to the Norwegian mass murderer Breivik the lack of multiple sources of information play an important part in explaining why they become extreme.

But my interest here is not about the extremism. Its about the lack of connection to the geographically located people. What will the long term effects of this? In particular among those normal users who do not become extremists…

For example: If a nation state attempts to motivate it’s existence through a shared culture and history. But what is the nation state without a shared culture?

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