Author of The Longing For Less and a contributor to The New Yorker and NYT Magazine, Kyle Chayka’s FILTERWORLD focuses on the history and investigation of living in a world ruled by algorithms, which profoundly determine and shape culture in both digital and physical spaces, leading to flat and frictionless experiences that are remaking human identity.
How Algorithms Flattened Culture
by Kyle Chayka
Doubleday, Fall 2023
(via Frances Goldin Literary)
You’ve seen the smooth, uncanny artifacts: a blank, white café that looks like it could be located anywhere in the world; TikTok dance videos repeating in a dull echo; restaurant design and food plating which begs to be posted on Instagram; endlessly bingeable streaming television; influencers’ faces made up and surgically altered towards a certain photogenic ideal. While appearing in different mediums, these pieces of culture are characterized by a slick sameness. Rather than provoking us, they’re pleasing, ambient, frictionless.
In this new book, Kyle Chayka argues that these seemingly disparate cultural phenomena all have been shaped by a similar force: the algorithms governing and filtering the content that appears on digital platforms. We increasingly live in a world where the culture we encounter is not simply curated by these algorithms, but in which algorithms profoundly determine and shape culture itself in both digital and physical spaces. Chayka names this new reality, of a world both inescapably mediated and changed by algorithmic filtration, “Filterworld”.
In FILTERWORLD, Chayka traces a brief history of how we arrived in this place—from the rise of the algorithm through the corresponding erosion of human curation and taste—before launching a penetrating exploration of the flat hallmarks of Filterworld byproducts and the way that algorithmically determined taste is fundamentally reshaping human identity. Ultimately a pointed critique of the frictionless culture of Filterworld, the book turns towards what we might do to escape and dismantle this numbing cycle.
Building on the popular criticism Kyle Chayka has published for both The New Yorker online and elsewhere, FILTERWORLD is the product of a career spent as one of our keenest observers of the intersection of technology and modern culture. While much has been written about the way that algorithms impact everything from news to policy, there has been no major book published on the impact of algorithms on culture.
FILTERWORLD will appeal strongly to readers of Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror and Jenny Odell’s How To Do Nothing: a book that not only seeks to give language to the slippery ways that technology is reshaping our lived experience, but also gives readers tools to imagine a world in which things could be otherwise.
Kyle Chayka is a freelance writer and critic whose work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, New York Magazine, the New Republic, Rolling Stone, n+1, Vox, the Paris Review, and other publications. He has contributed chapters to Reading Pop Culture: A Portable Anthology and A Companion to Digital Art. Chayka is cofounder of Study Hall, a newsletter and digital community for journalists. He began his career as a visual art critic for Hyperallergic in Brooklyn, and now lives in Washington, D.C.