Inside Media: The Black Art of Social Compression


By John Stewart

I think it's safe to say that emotion pretty much controls the world. No matter where you are, who you are, who you associate with, emotion is rooted so deeply in our lives even when we aren't aware, our subconscious acts upon emotion. Emotion drives us as humans. That being said, there are millions of things that influence these emotions on a daily basis.

Two of the main components that we frequently deal with are music and the media, meaning news and social networks. Though people often ostracize the two, when you really delve deeply into the matter, music and the media each have an immense influence on our actions; and though there is an obvious difference between your favorite song and watching CNN, the process of delivering information through these two avenues shares many parallels with the creation of music. 

Let me introduce you to the idea of social compression.

Once an EQ has worked its magic in the recording/mixing process, an engineer will traditionally add a compressor. Compression can be looked at as squeezing the frequencies/transients/electricity contained in the recording into a smaller space. What effect does this have? It limits the dynamic range (basically moves the floor up and the ceiling down) to create a more consistent feel for the recording. Compression not only has the power to make things louder, but it can also make smaller nuances more obvious. Conversely, it can also make louder instances less important. 

The media also compresses their information. Have you ever watched the news when they seem to go off on a tangent that seems like it carries no relevance, yet they try to express that it is of grave importance? Have you ever been exposed to any writing or newscast that tried to downplay a huge story? Have you ever witnessed a friend taking a small bit of drama and blowing it out of proportion? I would like to introduce my idea that I have coined as 'social compression'. It is INSANE how much this happens. Instead of just allowing us as the consumer to receive the talked about information in the same way they obtained it, news and social networks compress information to the point where by the time where we are able to process the data ourselves, it can truly become difficult to decide what is truly of any value and what is just nonsense that they are trying to sell us. 

Go to WorldStarHipHop. This is a site that is basically dedicated to attempting to twist ignorance into news. Youtube, Vimeo, and for the past year or so, WorldStar are sites that started as good ideas and now they serve as a contact to the ignorance that our culture glorifies. Whether it be videos of men hitting women, police brutality, club brawls etc etc, these sites literally make money every time you click to watch one of these videos. I've talked about it before but for some reason, a large majority of our culture is over looked and never publicized. Hurtful videos that showcase and incite further violence are what 'we' want to watch. For whatever reason, our culture has made these videos important.

'Social compression' is not only prominent, but it also effects our ability to discern what is important and our ability to base a true opinion on certain matters.



Popular Video