Maria Montero

The Ethics of Internet Culture: A Conversation with Taylor …

Taylor Lorenz was In high demand this week. Perhaps not surprising as a prolific journalist at The Atlantic and a member of Harvard’s prestigious Nieman Fellowship for Journalism. Nor was it the first time she had a moment: Lorenz has already served as an internal social media and internet expert for several major companies, while also writing and editing for publications as diverse as The daily beast, The hill, People, The Daily MailY Business Insider, while staying on the cutting edge and in touch long enough to currently serve as something of a zeitgeist youth translator, in his role as technology writer for The Atlantic.

In fact, Lorenz is publicly busy enough to be one of the only two people I personally know who openly “ditched email”, the other being my friend Russ, an 82 year old retired engineer and MIT alumnus who literally he spends all day, almost everyone, working on a plan to reinvent the bicycle.

However, I wonder if any of Lorenz’s previous professional experiences could have matched the weight of the events he faced in recent days, when the nightmarish massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand brought together two of his greatest areas of expertise. : political extremism (which she covered for The hill), and internet culture. As your first Atlantic Piece after the shooting, the Christchurch Killer Manifesto was “designed for the troll.” In fact, his entire heinous act was a calculated effort to manipulate our current rules of communication and Internet connection, for fanatical purposes.

Lorenz responded with a distinctive perspective, focusing on the ways in which the stylized internal subcultures that the Internet supports can be used to confuse, distract, and mobilize millions of people for good and truly evil ends:

Before people can begin to understand the nuances of today’s internet, they can become radicalized. Platforms like YouTube and Facebook can send users to marginal communities where extremist views are normalized and advanced. Because these communities have so successfully adopted irony as a cloaking device to promote extremism, outsiders are left confused as to what is a real threat and what is simply tracking. The darkest corners of the internet are so fragmented that even when they spawn a mass shooting, as in New Zealand, the shooter’s words can be nearly impossible to parse, even for those who are extremely online. “

Such insights are among the many reasons I was so grateful to be able to speak with Taylor Lorenz for this week’s installment of my TechCrunch series, which questions the ethics of technology.

As I wrote in my previous interviews with author and critic of inequality Anand Giridharadas, and with the award-winning Google executive who became award-winning tech critic James Williams, I come to tech ethics after 25 years of studying religion. However, my personal approach to religion has always been that it plays a central role in human civilization, not only or primarily because of its theistic beliefs and “faith”, but because of its culture: its traditions, literature, rituals, history. , and the content of their communities.

And since I don’t mind comparing technology with religion (not to say that they are the same, but that there is something to be learned from the comparison), I would say that if we really want to understand the ethics of technologies. We are creating, particularly on the Internet, we need to explore, as Taylor and I did in our conversation below, “the ethics of Internet culture.”

What turned out was, like Lorenz’s work in general, sometimes whimsical, sometimes cool enough to fly right over my head, but all the time fascinating and important.

Editor’s Note: We published the first 11 sections of this interview. Reading time: 22 minutes / 5,500 words.

Joking with the pope

Greg Epstein: Taylor, thank you very much for talking to me. As you know, I’m writing for TechCrunch on religion, ethics, and technology, and I recently discovered his work when he brought them all together in an unusual way. They captioned the Pope, and it went viral.

Taylor lorenz: I know. [People] they were going crazy

Greg: How was that experience?

Taylor: The Pope posted on Twitter an insane tweet about how Mary, the mother of Jesus, was the first influential person. He posted it on Twitter, and everyone was spamming me, because I wrote a lot about influencers and I was laughing. There is a meme on Instagram that Jesus was the first influencer and how he committed suicide or faked his death for more followers.

Because it is fluid, it is a lifesaver for many children. It’s where your social network lives. It is where the expression of identity occurs.

I just tweeted it. I think a lot of people didn’t know the joke, the meme, and I think they just thought it was new and funny. too [some people] We were saying, “How can you joke that Jesus wants more followers?” The Pope literally compared Mary to an influential person on social media, so calm down. My whole family is Irish Catholic.

A lot of people were sharing my tweet. I was like, oh god. I’m not trying to lead to some religious controversy, but I did wonder if my Irish Catholic mother would laugh. She has a very good sense of humor. I thought, I think she would laugh at this joke. I think it’s okay.