When the Town Square Shatters

Once again, science fiction fandom shows us how to use the internet.

An undated early flier for GEnie’s Science Fiction Round Table.

When it comes to the social internet, chances are that science fiction fans got there first. The first non-technical discussion forums on the internet — ancient mailing lists — were devoted to sf. The original high-traffic non-technical Usenet groups? Also sftnal. (This isn’t always something to be proud of — long before Donald Trump’s dank meme army, before Gamergate, sf’s “Rabid Puppies” and “Sad Puppies” were figuring out how to combine pop culture, the internet and far-right conspiratorialism into a vicious harassment machine).

Sf’s mix of technophilia, subculture, and its long tradition of gluing together a distributed community with written materials made it a natural for digital, networked communications.

Long before Twitter created — and then destroyed — a single, unified conversation that linked practitioners with the people who normally lived far downstream of their work, science fiction had created a single, unified “town square.”

And decades before a mediocre billionaire uncaringly smashed that unified conversation into a million flinders, sf fans and writers were living through their own Anatevka moment.

Twitter users bemoaning the end of the “unified conversation,” I am here from your future to tell you what happens next.

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Pluralistic: What the fediverse (does/n't) solve (23 Dec 2022)

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Pluralistic: Better failure for social media (19 Dec 2022)

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Pluralistic: 08 Nov 2022 Tech a la carte

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How to Leave Dying Social Media Platforms

(without ditching your friends)

An imaginary dialog box from a future Facebook; the user is being asked whether they want to continue to follow a friend who has left Facebook and is now on a small, community-managed social media service.

Lazar: Tevye! Tevye, I’m on my way.

Tevye: Where are you going?

Lazar: Chicago, in America.

Tevye: Chicago, America? We are going to New York, America.

Lazar: We’ll be neighbors. My wife, Fruma Sarah, may she rest in peace, has a brother there.

Tevye: That’s nice.

Lazar: I hate him, but a relative is a relative.

Collective Action Inaction in Action

In the opening scenes of the 1971 film adaptation of Fiddler on the Roof, the narrator, Tevye, introduces us to his village of Anatevka, which is a pretty fraught place where people are unhappy and danger is on the horizon. Nearly three hours and (spoiler alert) innumerable indignities and terrors later, Tevye and his neighbors leave the village, all to go their separate ways.

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Twitter Arguments

A theory of change

semachthemonkey/CC BY 3.0 (modified)

The kind of activism I do has a serious structural barrier: it’s esoteric. Even today, tech-policy issues are extremely niche. Indeed, tech-policy is a niche within a niche —most people have little technical knowledge and most people have little policy expertise, and the stuff I do requires that you have some of both.

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Pluralistic: 26 Jan 2021

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Pluralistic: 04 Aug 2020

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Pluralistic: 10 Jul 2020

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Pluralistic: 25 May 2020

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