Astra Taylor is proficient in social media, filmmaking, and journalism, so it’s no surprise that the Internet is full of her talking about her book The People’s Platform in detailed interviews. The People’s Platform this month’s book here at Between the Lines Book Club.
You can find Taylor giving videos on film and on paper. Here are some highlights from a few of her interviews.
I notice that you continue to use Twitter, even as you recognize the flaws in some of its business practices. How do we reconcile our enjoyment of social media even as we understand that the corporations who control them aren’t always acting in our best interests?
I can’t wholeheartedly say I enjoy Twitter, or at least I’m enjoying it less and less these days, but I don’t think there’s a contradiction. I use lots of products that are created by companies whose business practices I object to and that don’t act in my best interests, or the best interests of workers or the environment — we all do, since that’s part of living under capitalism. That said, I refuse to invest so much in any platform that I can’t quit without remorse, since you never know when there will be a significant change to the terms of service or to the service itself. Facebook’s invitation to “pay to promote” status updates was a tipping point for me and I jumped ship.
Taylor: Okay, this will seem like a silly example, but look at the whole discourse around “selling out,” a concept people say is irrelevant because there’s no more distinction between mainstream and underground, inside and outside (which I don’t really believe, but that’s another issue).
Rumpus: We used to get so enraged by Nirvana. Now it’s like, whatever.
Taylor: Yeah, and I’m a little bit of that old guard. My point, though, is that if lines have indeed shifted, it’s not so much that the younger generation just doesn’t care, it’s that we have ceded more and more of our public life over to the private sector. If you grow up with advertising at school, you have come of age in a sold-out world.
SL: Could you say a little bit about the ideal role of government in the Internet and tech?
AT: The public interest is aligning less and less with tech corporations—once seen as our allies against the old oligarchs—and more with government regulation. The scandal about collusion to keep down engineers’ wages at Google and Apple? You need antitrust laws. The terrible conditions at Amazon’s warehouses and Apple’s factories? You need strong labor laws. State and corporate surveillance? Privacy protections. Essentially what the protesters in the Bay Area have been saying is: “We want to tax Twitter. We don’t think they should get a huge break to come here and then have all the wealth that they generate used to evict people.”
What do you think?