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'Familiar Shapes' Update and News

While the first season of Familiar Shapes is done (and, yes, I'm researching for a second season) the short version of the film is cooking away, with Hamilton Ward shooting and editing the remaining supplemental footage. Fingers crossed we put this puppy to bed soon! In other news, the podcast and I have been in the news.

Familiar Shapes was included in the Charlotte Observers a list of Queen City-based podcasts to hear in 2021, and I couldn't be more honored and pleased (especially since I'm so excited to listen to a bunch of the other podcasts they list!)

Next, I've made a couple of local media appearances these last few months as an 'expert in social media'. Have spoken with actual experts in social media, I definitely don't feel like one. At the same time, events of the last couple weeks (*ahem*) have made me realize maybe I'm a bit more of an expert that I thought.

I spoke to WCNC in November when most of us were anxiously awaiting the presidential election results and social media was awash with, well, a lot of stuff, including a lot of disinfo.

I also spoke with WSOC TV about the banning of Parlor by Apple and other companies. It aired two nights ago, and may or may not be posted to their website, but the quote they used was:

“I think the thing that is tricky to remember is that these [Apple, etc.] are private companies, that they decide what they want to do. And basically, when you sign up to use one of these companies, you’re agreeing to use it on their terms. These aren't public spaces, these are no public platforms. even though they feel that way when we are using them.”

Okay, that last part was admittedly a little confusing. I'm new to this talking to media thing. Basically, social media sites feel like 'public squares' -- but they're not truly public squares. They're more like, well, large courtyards inside the palaces of powerful corporations. They can let in and keep out whoever they want, and mostly they've let everyone in.

But these court yards for so large, palacial, and convenient, we forgot they belonged to corporations. We started to treat them like public squares (let's face it -- it was a nice, fancier space than the dirty, decrepit public space down in the village.) That is social media sites feel like public spaces to us users, and so we used them that way and thought about them that way.

So now many people are suddenly surprised because these corporations are suddenly realizing how dangerous this big, palacial courtyard is getting and they're shitting the crazy down. They didn't mind us thinking it was a public space when their revenues were going up. Suddenly, when a terrorist insurrection happens, they freak out and start shutting things down. Which is way, way too late.

But really, a lot of problems would have been averted if they'd made it very, very clear that, yes, this is a nice palace courtyard, but you're just visiting for a while, and you can only use it certain ways.

Social media sites are not public utilities, and they're not here for the public good. But the companies that own them benefited from users thinking about them this way. And their shareholders benefited too.

And now we're all basically paying the piper, as it were.

These are scary times, no doubt. As someone addicted to reading about history, but also a mom, I'm periodically haunted by visions of my son in an armed conflict and wonder, are these the nightmares mothers had in 1914? In 1939?

I have to hope it's not actually too late, that there's time to 1) radically reform social media and the companies that own them and 2) pull ourselves out of this 'post-truth' hell we've fallen into. But what that looks like, and how we'll get there, I'm afraid I don't know.

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