The political and internet activist Eli Pariser coined the term ‘Filter Bubble’ in 2011 to describe how we have become sheltered from opinions that differ from our own. Pointing the finger at such mechanisms as social media streams and the ‘personalised’ results delivered by online search engines, he warned that the online experience of news and culture was coming to resemble an echo chamber. Our Twitter and Facebook feeds repeat back to us our own points of view, expressed by others who share them; our browsing history makes it possible for advertisers and news sites to guide us towards other things that its algorithms suggest we ‘might like’, shielding us from anything that we might not like, anything new. We become entrenched in our opinions, unable to understand, enter into dialogue with, or even countenance difference. The polarisation of political perspectives in the United Kingdom, United States, and across Europe seems increasingly to bear out this analysis.
It is our hope that little magazines such as The White Review might in some small way work against this tendency towards intellectual isolation, the withdrawal into what Pariser calls a ‘personal ecosystem’. We are privileged to be able to place together radically different things within the pages of a single publication. That is much in evidence in this issue, which juxtaposes the systemic critique of Martin MacInnes with Elizabeth Peyton’s emotionally charged still lifes and portraits; a discussion of Cally Spooner’s scripted performances against the lyrical experimentalism of Geoffrey G. O’Brien’s poetry; Evan Harris’s attempts to find the appropriate form for his experience of the failures of British education beside Sophie Seita’s investigations into the properties of language. The art critic Orit Gat investigates the tendency towards homogeneity in the way that art is presented on the internet, and calls for a new plurality. We hope that print publications such as ours can offer new and surprising encounters.
Yet, as we have noted in previous editorials, patterns seem to emerge in each issue, though their form might (like clouds) be informed by the reader’s own state of mind. The reminiscence prompted by the recent celebration of our fifth birthday might explain why, when reading through the first proofs of this issue, we were struck by the recurrence of memory as a theme across the issue’s wide variety of styles. Gary Indiana, the great writer and filmmaker, talks in an interview of his disdain for our generation’s lazy nostalgia for decades past, while considering how it’s possible to transform personal experience into literature. Chris Kraus and Alexandra Kleeman explore how time changes our relationship to place, to other people and to ourselves, demonstrating how memory’s propensity to mislead can be realised in fiction. In a different register, the philosopher and novelist Tristan Garcia plays upon our notion of a cultural inheritance in a story about pop music, plagiarism, and the fallacy of creative inspiration. Lawrence Abu Hamdan – an artist and ‘private ear’ whose work was submitted as evidence at the UK asylum tribunal, and who has collaborated on legal cases with Defence for Children International – proposed the publication of a verbatim transcription of an interview undertaken by a refugee in application for asylum. The applicant is asked to speak, without pause, for fifteen minutes, so that her accent can be used to identify her. She talks of her childhood, her memories and her formative experiences.
A single issue – in the example above, of the relationship between memory and cultural identity in a rapidly changing world – can be addressed and understood by a plurality of approaches. We share the same concerns, but have different perspectives upon them. We hope that this little magazine might, in its own particular way, remind us to seek out and attempt to engage with styles, forms, and ideas other than those to which we have already declared allegiance.