Kyle Chayka

POSTED: February 26, 2024

The bad news: I cannot keep up with everyone and everything I feel I should know about. The good news: the world has an infinite amount of new and interesting things for me to discover.

Both amount to the same thing, so I choose to concentrate on the good news (which consists of exactly the same stuff as the bad news).

Today I came across the writing of Kyle Chayka, who I probably should have known about years ago. I came across him through an article from last month in The Guardian called The tyranny of the algorithm: why every coffee shop looks the same. In this he writes that:

If these places were all so similar, though, what were they authentic to, exactly? What I concluded was that they were all authentically connected to the new network of digital geography, wired together in real time by social networks. They were authentic to the internet, particularly the 2010s internet of algorithmic feeds.

He refers to an earlier piece called Welcome to Airspace and published in 2016 in The Verge. Here first develops his ideas and notes that:

It’s possible to travel all around the world and never leave AirSpace, and some people don’t. Well-off travelers like Kevin Lynch, an ad executive who lived in Hong Kong Airbnbs for three years, are abandoning permanent houses for digital nomadism. Itinerant entrepreneurs, floating on venture capital, might head to a Bali accelerator for six months as easily as going to the grocery store. AirSpace is their home.

As the geography of AirSpace spreads, so does a certain sameness. Schwarzmann’s cafe phenomenon recalls what the architect Rem Koolhaas noticed in his prophetic essay “The Generic City,” from the 1995 book S,M,L,XL: “Is the contemporary city like the contemporary airport—‘all the same’?” he asks. “What if this seemingly accidental—and usually regretted—homogenization were an intentional process, a conscious movement away from difference toward similarity?”

I head over to his Wikipedia page and discover, among other things, that he has a new book forthcoming called Filterworld: How Algorithms Flattened Culture.

I will add this to my list of books to seek out.