Conspiracy theories = Culture of the digital

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

In 2016 Felix Stalder published “Kultur der Digitalität” ("Digital condition"). The central theis of his book is that the cultural expressions brought forward by digital technologies are characterised by “Referentialität, Gemeinschaftlichkeit und Algorithmizität” (“Referentiality, commonality and algorithmicity”). Today Felix made the following observation:

In which he notes that while this did not come to his mind when writing the book, conspiracy theories are an excellent example of the type of culture enabled the digital environment:

They are referential (“they consist of hardly anything other than the merging of existing material which is given a new meaning”), they are communal (“not only because they are endlessly rewritten by different people, but also because they generate a shared world view and action orientation among their followers”) and they are algorithmic (“because their distribution is directly fueled by the recommendation algorithms of social media”).

I think this observation is spot on, and it fills me with joy to see a new observation perfectly fit an existing thesis/analytical framework.