We live in a semiotarchy

19.46, Wednesday 16 Dec 2020

Our street seems to have become a waiting point for ride-share drivers between jobs. We’re haunted by black saloon cars, parked up with motors idling, drivers tapping their apps.

Separately, our street is periodically used as a route for large trucks and coaches – which then either get stuck going round the corner at one end, and have to reverse back all the way; or at the corner on the other end, go straight over a bollard and leave debris everywhere. I don’t know whether this is an occasional mislabelling of our street as a phantom major road, or ripples from roadworks a mile away fooling the routing algorithms.

Data in the mirror world is making it noisy outside my house. The map is intruding on the territory.

It’s contested. Los Angeles is a city of need-to-know neighbourhood shortcuts being revealed by Waze, the pro Google Maps:

The Waze algorithms don’t care about the societal cost they inflict and neither does Waze if the algorithm calculates that a cut-through may save seconds. “The instant the time penalties work out,” DwarfLord claims, “Waze will just as happily send a thousand Wazers down a Passageway as it would [a single] one.”

Local residents attempt to wrest control of the map. Anyone can make suggestions to the Waze, and so, to solve this particular problem, a Level 3 community editor suggests setting a segment at each end of a tiny road as “unpaved.” Or marking it as a “gated community.”


I suggest that we have entered a semiotarchy – like an oligarchy or a plutarchy, only our era is the tyranny of signs.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it by email or on social media. Here’s the link. Thanks, —Matt.

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