The soma cloud


“The computer could program the media to determine the given messages a people should hear in terms of their overall needs, creating a total media experience absorbed and patterned by all the senses. … By such orchestrated interplay of all media, whole cultures could now be programmed in order to improve and stabilize their emotional climate.” —Marshall McLuhan, 1969

“The experiment manipulated the extent to which people (N = 689,003) were exposed to emotional expressions in their News Feed. This tested whether exposure to emotions led people to change their own posting behaviors, in particular whether exposure to emotional content led people to post content that was consistent with the exposure — thereby testing whether exposure to verbal affective expressions leads to similar verbal expressions, a form of emotional contagion.” —Kramer et al., 2014

“I’m excited to announce that we’ve agreed to acquire Oculus VR, the leader in virtual reality technology. … This is really a new communication platform. By feeling truly present, you can share unbounded spaces and experiences with the people in your life. Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures.” —Mark Zuckerberg, 2014

The strategy behind the Oculus acquisition has become much clearer to me over the last week. Haters gonna hate, worrywarts gonna worry, but [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]I for one am looking forward to Facebook’s Oculus Rift experiments[/inlinetweet]. Once the company is able to manipulate “entire experiences and adventures,” rather than just bits and pieces of text, the realtime engineering of a more harmonious and stabilized emotional climate may well become possible. I predict that the next great opportunity in wearables lies in finger-mountables — in particular, the Oculus Networked Mood Ring. We’ll all wear them, as essential Rift peripherals, and they’ll all change color simultaneously, depending on the setting that Zuck dials into the Facebook Soma Cloud.

I know, I know: this is all just blue-sky dreaming for now. But as the poet said, in dreams begin realities.

At least I think that’s what he said.

This post is an installment in Rough Type’s ongoing series “The Realtime Chronicles,” which began here. A full listing of posts can be found here.

Image: detail of cover of paperback edition of Brave New World.

4 thoughts on “The soma cloud

  1. Daniel C.

    I don’t know how The Glass Cage came out tonally, but I strongly encourage you to do some stuff in this style. I was rereading “Technopoly” today, and I remembered how much I love Postman’s interweaving of sarcasm, rhetoric and informative clarity. Good to see someone carrying the torch.

    BTW, I’ve asked before, but how about another reading list post? I picked up Tim Wu and Matthew Crawford because of you, and bother were great.

  2. Charles

    “When they control what you want to do, they control what you do.”

    That was in the manifesto of a notorious young man who is currently in a mental institution for the criminally insane.

  3. Brutus

    Maybe I should be more worried, but once people begin to catch on, the behaviors of the masses tend to slip by the designs of the behaviorists. See the history of subliminal advertising. Of course, the honeymoon period will be awful, and there’s a danger too few will penetrate beyond the marketing.

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