What's Instagram Doing to Us?

  • 2016-04-13
  • Complex

Big pictures are hard to find on the Internet. There are a lot of little pictures—happy-hour selfies, GIFs from last night’s political debate, thumbnails from photojournalists attached to news stories—but as soon as some pattern becomes perceptible in the deluge, social networks have a way of erasing the pattern through an infinite churn of reinterpretation and novelty. Lev Manovich was one of the first theorists to attempt to pull some meaning from the flood of the Internet.

The Russian theorist and City University of New York professor’s 2001 book, The Language of New Media, helped build a philosophical framework for understanding what was happening to culture as it merged with computer screens and the things powering them. He described the Internet as “a communal apartment [of] the Stalin area; everybody spies on everybody else, [an] always present line for common areas such as the toilet or the kitchen.”