The future is gatekeepers

There’s a lot of talk about information flows today. Big data. Filter bubbles. And just in genereal – too much information. Too much to the extent that convenience trumps quality. Paying a given amount of money each month to gain a lot of “good enough content” is generally looked upon as the new normal. One implication of the “too much information”, is that it also becomes hard to find truly high quality content. Because quality content is generally less popular than low-/mid-quality entertainment, and as such never gets recommended by our current gate keepers.

Why do I make such an aggravating claim?

Well, because quality takes effort. And I find myself too in that situation from time to time. Too tired to be present, and as such it feels like a waste to consume true high quality media. As a consequence I revert to Youtube or whatever. However, Youtube isn’t what it used to be. Instead of being this place where you could discover a little bit of this and that, it has become a commercial video platform, where you constantly get recommended what Youtube think you will like – because everybody else seem to like it. That is all fine – if it would have been that simple. The question is however, are the amount of views on a video really a good metric to estimate quality? It really makes the assumption that people make “the correct choices” and that they have a critical enough mindset to evaluate what they are watching in a meaningful way.

What is generally true for this kind of content is that it is fast paced and moderately stimulating. I rarely feel “wowed” by a Youtube video these days (I rarely get wowed by anything in terms of video content). I have to really search hard to really find something that even remotely lives up to my expectations on how I’d like to spend my time. As such I mostly use Youtube for those days when I want to waste my time. Which is a truly gloomy perspective, but one that I’ve recently found myself fall into more and more often, which in itself has gotten me to question my “digital life” even more than in the past.

A product of this thought is today’s discovery. Commentaries of commentaries. Apparently streamers are streaming when they comment on somebody else’s stream. I assume the sole purpose of this is to create content for the sake of creating content, and not because it is in any way meaningful. Here’s an example:

Now, I’m not a wow-player, so what do I know, this might be of utter importance in the context of the community. But from my point of view this begs an important question. Should we really let this “crap content” replace our own thoughts in those moments of when resting would have otherwise been the appropriate action?

For me. I think we’re simply not constructed for these kind of information flows. We need filters, and what we’ve done here is really opening a sort of Pandora’s box. Tech companies have picked up on this, and are trying to figure out solutions where we can monitor our screen time – feel like “oh no”, when we see how much time we spend on our devices each day, and as of that voluntarily limit ourselves. For myself, I’ve removed all notifications in all apps that is of no importance. I don’t have any sound either. So I won’t notice anyone trying to call me. Making my phone no more than an “on demand” device. I am pretty sure, would we not have such connected devices as they are today – would information flows not for the most part be so overloaded with pointlessness – then I would probably still have them all turned on. I’ve become resistant to all notifications – good or bad, important and not important.

Asking a person the question to filter content manually, is for many a cumbersome task – and possibly asking a bit too much of the end user. I rather believe in filters – gatekeepers, that make sure that whatever content reaches us is relevant to ourselves, but also our current state of minds. That make sure that we don’t miss out what is important, but also help us sort out what isn’t important. This could be device level. It could also be solved on content creator and digital platform level. If Youtube would reward those who create truly high quality content a little bit now and then, and possibly punishing those constantly putting out mediocre content, it would be better for everyone. If local newspapers stopped posting news constantly, and just weekly putting out magazines of meaningful content, I am sure that would be better for everyone.

This scenario is extra prominent in music today. In a sense music isn’t that obtrusive, so maybe it doesn’t matter that much. But today “anyone can make music that sound professional”, and there’s composers specialized in making songs that fulfill the purpose of being “ear fillers” (source: Gramophone.co.uk). We have great gatekeepers – eg. Spotify, but removing the artistry and as in Spotify’s case, replacing it with mass produced generic creations, raises some important questions on if we (the people) are really equipped with the tool sets to evaluate what we’re consuming. Maybe one reason to why we aren’t equipped with the right tools, is because we lack the right references. We haven’t heard what’s out there, and as such we settle with generic copies of what’s out there.

A few weeks back I listened to an episode of Lamour podcast (based in my home city, Gävle (and as such the podcast is in Swedish)), interviewing Karin Roiseux, former manager/label person of Robert Miles, Danny Tenaglia amongst others. In the podcast one important topic that got brought up was the labels role in choosing what should be released. And while advocating that may sound evil-ish, it also represents an important gate keeper that doesn’t quite exist today. Following a couple of well respected labels back then could mean getting hold of a couple of monthly releases. Today, following a “promoter” on Youtube usually means a handful of releases reaching you every day – from one single promoter. Needless to say, the difference in quality control between those are likely quite big.

Keeping people in a half-assed, “always wanting more, better, faster”-kinda state doesn’t help any one person. It just distracts us from those media, people, moments of true value. We have become quality aware in terms of many things, but in the consumption of intellectual property, we are not. The question is who will take control of this situation first. The people? The tech companies? Or the publishers?

For the people to take action there needs to be alternatives. Alternatives that make you realize that what you want isn’t more – but better. Or on the other side of the coin, incentives for content creating people to create fewer and further between content. There’s already some movement towards this, with labels releasing “vinyl only” EPs and skipping Spotify/digital releases altogether. One prerequisite to make this work however is that the quality is high enough, so the potential target market feel inclined to buy what’s on offer.

A beautiful House song that goes by this concept, that I however would not buy is this one:

One of my goals with Henkus Digitalis, on Facebook, as well as here and possibly more platforms in the future is to push what I find interesting in the context of a given audience. The given audience being people interested in technology, AI, design, music, media in a broader sense, and how all those things intersect into a field I believe is not yet quite discovered. I take interest in the intersection between technology and human. Philosophy and psychology is core of that. AI, design, movies, music – are all products of human in interaction with technology – artefacts. I try to go full circle and stay relevant to myself. Not becoming superficial. Not delving too deep. Just deep enough for what I write about – or repost, to be meaningful for whomever is following me. Or my ideation of who I think is following me.

Not to say that I am better. I have only had a little bit over a 1000 views here on my blog since I released it, about 6 months ago. That’s about 5-10 views a day. Which isn’t a lot. But hypothetically speaking, what if all of you that visit are here because you want to be here? Because you want to read this article, and not scim through it in search for that meme that made you click on the post. What if this then were a partly sponsored article, for a platform that offers exactly what I am proposing. A site that offers truly personalized and filtered content… Wouldn’t you be at least a little bit intrigued?

This is of importance. What I am proposing with this quality content mumbo jumbo isn’t an idealized world where “the good ones” should be rewarded for making what’s best for mankind. No, that’s only a bi product. Key in this scenario is situational awareness. Your presence in the situation. If you consume less content, that is of true value to you. You will be more susceptible to what you actually consume, and as of that also to the advertising in it. In comparison to if you see an advertisement box in a video on Youtube, where you don’t really care about the video, nor the not even remotely related ad. Point being, the relevant metric for success in advertising isn’t how many that are interacting with certain content – it’s the engagement of each individual when they interact with any given content.

And as such, both for the sake of advertising and the general health in people, the only way forward is to pace down with the purpose of creating quality interactions. And even though I don’t get a dime doing it, I try to do just this. Even though I could post some design meme every other day, I don’t. Because that is not meaningful. Not to you. Not to me.

That is what I believe is the future – having more people that’s really deriving meaning into what they do and that holds a lookout for true high quality content, posting that in moderation. Instead of always pushing “something”, just to stay relevant and always in the given audience’s scope of attention. However this will not come without monetary incentives to do just that.

For me, I will keep on posting until it doesn’t feel meaningful. Whenever that is.

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