D.T. Pennington

Writer – Photographer – Creative Coach

Anti Algorithmic

  • Murder by Death with J. Roddy Walston

    Murder by Death with J. Roddy Walston

    Thoughts and such from the June 7th, 2024 show at The Grey Eagle in Asheville, NC. What does it take for a musician to make a decent living in this…

  • Anti Algorithmic

    I also struggle with the whole “scrolling on my phone for too long” thing. I wouldn’t feel guilty about it if I were seeing something noteable or worthwhile. Lately, it…

  • Big Dumb Truck

    The first car I ever bought brand new was a 2013 Tacoma. It was the best truck, the perfect size, and did all the stuff I needed it to do.…

  • The Silly Simplicity of Tenkara fishing.

    The Silly Simplicity of Tenkara fishing.

    “Heaven knows we fly fishers are suckers for every new gizmo we think will give us a leg up on catching fish,” writes Yvon Chouinard in Simple Fly Fishing (a…

  • Arbitrary Authority

    An idea I’m working a lot with lately: nothing is real, there is no control. An extension of “only worry about the things you can control” mixed with “well, I…

  • The West Was Always Queer

    The West Was Always Queer

    I’ll be straight with you, it was a lively scene. For those of you who may not yet know, Orville Peck is a bit of a hero in the LGBTQ…

I also struggle with the whole “scrolling on my phone for too long” thing. I wouldn’t feel guilty about it if I were seeing something noteable or worthwhile. Lately, it seems my feed is just full of aspirational content about the great life that exists outside of the very feed the content is made for.

The promise of “the algorithm” was simple: we watch what you like so we can learn what stuff we should suggest to you. Who doesn’t want more of what they love? Turns out, it’s hard to suggest things people will like when creators stop making things for people to like and keep making the kind of stuff that appeals to “the algorithm” (I may forget to put this in quotations here and there, but just know that I don’t think the social media algorithm is a real thing that has any sort of control over what we see).

The refrain lately has been the same from people who rely on the platform: my content just isn’t getting any views anymore. No one is liking my work. It’s just not reaching the same level of people as it used to. It saddens me that there are people who still rely on social media platforms to promote their work and find clients. This is no longer social media, this isn’t about connecting with new friends, these platforms are just built for marketing. It is the equivalent of getting one hundred catalogs from retailers delivered to your house every single day.

None of this should surprise anyone. It was never about showing users like me more of what they like, but the hope that I’ll hang around hoping to find something I like long enough to be shown a bunch of ads. In the end, there is nothing I need to see. In the end, it is just content about content – not much to engage with, not much to do but scroll on.

Two types of Anti-Algorithmic approaches:

  1. Instead of showing you stuff you like, you’re shown stuff you will specifically not like. Whatever your politics or values or beliefs, we will only show you content from the other side of the spectrum. It happens all the time, it’s called trolling.
  2. The second is to go to sources that have no connection to referral engines that use your data to show you something you probably want. Go to a place that has nothing to sell you. Find the randomness.

The second approach is built around the library. I stopped in the other day, as I do most weeks, to keep their numbers up. I grabbed a seat in the air conditioned periodicals section and leafed through a handful of new and old issues of magazines I wouldn’t normally bother with. Then I read through the headlines of a few different local and national papers, checked out the movie racks, and picked up a few books from the “needs to be reshelved” stack.

(of the many things I need to do with this website, getting my book notes and thoughts on what I’m reading uploaded and updated regularly. There is also the point that all of this silly trending content is definitely what caused me to forget how to read.)

Clive Thompson introduced me to the idea of Rewilding Our Attention (Medium Paywall Possible):

Instead of crowding your attention with what’s already going viral on the intertubes, focus on the weird stuff. Hunt down the idiosyncratic posts and videos that people are publishing, oftentimes to tiny and niche audiences. It’s decidedly unviral culture — but it’s more likely to plant in your mind the seed of a rare, new idea.

Unviral. Rewild. Anti-Algorithm.

The algorithm never delivered on what it said it would.

May as well get back to the old ways of doing things.