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by Kyle Chayka

FILTERWORLD by Kyle Chayka

FILTERWORLD is forthcoming in the US and Canada with Doubleday on January 16th, 2024.

From New Yorker staff writer and author of The Longing for Less Kyle Chayka comes a timely history and investigation of a world ruled by algorithms, which determine the shape of culture itself.

From coffee shops to city grids to TikTok feeds the world round, algorithmic recommendations dictate our experiences. The algorithm is present in the neon signs and exposed brick of an Internet cafe in Nairobi, and the skeletal, modern furniture of an Airbnb in Portland. Over the last decade, this network of mathematically determined choices has taken over, almost unnoticed, as we’ve grown increasingly accustomed to an insipid new normal. But to have our tastes, behaviors, and emotions governed by computers, while convenient, does nothing short of call the very notion of free will into question.

This ever-tightening web woven by algorithms is called “Filterworld.” Kyle Chayka shows us how online and offline spaces alike have been engineered for seamless consumption, becoming a source of pervasive anxiety in the process. Users of technology have been forced to contend with data-driven equations that try to anticipate their desires—and often get them wrong. What results is a state of docility that allows tech companies to curtail human experiences—human lives—for profit.

The evidence of Filterworld’s flattening of culture is everywhere, from plastic surgery-enabled “Instagram Face” to popular songs that use the same palette of hushed voices and synthesizers. The lowest common denominator is promoted at the expense of what is complex, diverse, or challenging.

In Filterworld, Chayka traces this creeping, machine-guided curation as it infiltrates the furthest reaches of our digital, physical, and psychological spaces. With algorithms increasingly influencing not just what culture we consume, but what culture is produced, urgent questions arise: What happens when shareability supersedes messiness, innovation, and creativity—the qualities that make us human? What does it mean to make a choice when the options have been so carefully arranged for us? Is personal freedom possible on the Internet?

To the last question, Filterworld argues yes. But in order to escape Filterworld, and to transcend it, we must first understand it.

“Necessary reading for anyone who has wondered just how, in expanding our world, the internet has ended up emptying our experience of it. Chayka’s wide-ranging anatomy of algorithmic curation —which, he argues, is increasingly the cultural substitute for human choice itself—makes a bracing case not only for creativity exercised beyond the confines of digital constriction, but also against the dehumanizing sameness algorithms have introduced into our societies and lives. Timely, erudite, important.” —Ayad Akhtar, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of Homeland Elegies

“Kyle Chayka is a vital observer of how digital technology shapes our culture, and Filterworld will change how you think about the internet. In his invigorating new book, Chayka demonstrates how everything from movies to music, design, media, and travel is at the mercy of algorithms. From record labels to influencer marketing to the design of airports, cafes, and cities, nothing is safe from algorithmic forces.” —Ben Smith, author of Traffic: Genius, Rivalry, and Delusion in the Billion-Dollar Race to Go Viral

Filterworld is a vital interrogation of algorithmic technology and its unrelenting power in shaping both our online and offline experiences. Chayka deftly explains how today’s social media ecosystem operates and, more importantly, reveals a way out of the ever-tightening grip of this stifling digital filtration. From influencers to entrepreneurs and creators, all must contend with algorithmic recommendations; Filterworld is required reading for anyone who uses the Internet. —Taylor Lorenz, author of Extremely Online: The Untold Story of Fame, Influence, and Power on the Internet

KYLE CHAYKA is a staff writer at The New Yorker, where he writes a column on digital technology and the impact of the Internet and social media on culture. His debut nonfiction book, The Longing for Less, an exploration of minimalism in life and art, was published in 2020. As a journalist and critic he has contributed to many publications, including The New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, The New Republic, and Vox. He was the first staff writer of the art publication Hyperallergic. Kyle is also the co-founder of Study Hall, an online community for journalists, and Dirt, a newsletter about digital culture. He lives in Washington, D.C.

This title is already sold to the following:

▪ UK: Bonnier

▪ Korea: Miraebooks

▪ Spain: Gatopardo

▪ China (simple): China Translation & Publishing House

▪ Dutch: Ten Have