The ET Election Index – April 2019

In celebration / abject dread of the 2020 election cycle that is already upon us, Epsilon Theory is

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  1. While I deeply appreciate this much-needed lens into the co-evolution of political dynamics and the memetic structures they spawn, I worry about your use of the broader concept of “cohesion” in reference to memetically-precipitated tails wagging behavioral dogs.

    Despite the fact that this inverted feedback mechanism exists, it is but one reason why such narratives would show up as “cohesive”, as measured by this metric. Namely, assuming narratives possess a tie to reality–however tenuous–we must separate the degree to which narrative “cohesion” represents accurate distillations of underlying behavioral patterns as opposed to self-fulfilling fabrications.

    Else, we risk cynically blinding ourselves to the fact that narratives do in fact emerge from an underlying reality, even when that process of emergence has been co-opted by people and institutions who understand how to consciously transform digitally-meditated rhetoric into a form of supernormal stimuli (Missionaries in ET-lexicon, I suppose). Cohesion may represent primary signal in connection with the underlying dynamical reality, or it may represent a cynically manipulated simulacra of this signal. And while you rightfully encourage skepticism of the latter, this metric establishes a frame by which the latter is assumed to always overshadow the former. Interestingly enough, this tension appeared (to me, at least) as the root of most of the caveats / ambiguity that emerged during yesterday’s ET Live.

    The rationale behind my concern is best summarized by your own identification of the need for an “attention” metric as proxy for the degree to which collective focus possesses the tendency to fuse conceptual structures beyond the threshold of pragmatic utility (at least from the consumer’s POV).

    Essentially, I’m making the claim that by making invisible the contribution of meaningful underlying pattern to narrative cohesion, the “cohesion” metric appears to violate the spirit of the the attention metric as presently formulated. In my view this is a critical flaw along the “cohesion” dimension, and will likely bias reader / viewer perception of your analyses too strongly toward the notion that the tail not only wags the dog, but has in fact devoured it whole. I suspect at times it’s tempting to believe this, but am not convinced of its pragmatism.

    Aside from that–and as alluded to earlier–this is basically the only part of the election cycle to whose unfolding I look forward. Keep up the amazing work.

    In Service to the Pack,

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