The Big Flat Now

The sheer volume of information available puts a lot of pressure on the speed of communication. Creative content must be understood instantly, otherwise there is no traction. The paradox of this output is that it must be familiar and uncomplicated, but also astonishing and new. To do this, creatives often combine well-known, but apparently unrelated, design categories. The more obscure the connection and the more familiar the archetypes, the more surprising the result. The negative space between references is the engine for novelty. For some platforms, such as Facebook or Twitter, the negative space itself is their core activity. These forums are engines for polarization, and they rely on exaggerating differences between users to create content chain reactions: a statement is made, your response generates more content, others respond with new content, and so on. The law of entropy describes how energy systems degrade from concentrated to dispersed over time. Petrol is burnt. Ice melts. Young people get old. Arguers get bored. Eventually, all potential is exhausted. To stimulate polarization, these platforms have to constantly inject new energy. They have to manage unreactive users into conditions of engagement. This might mean helping isolated individuals with common interests unite (producing subcultures), but can just as easily involve provoking disunity (integrating trolls).

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