cover image Algorithmic Reality

Algorithmic Reality

Damian Bradfield and David Sánchez. NBM, $17.99 (80p) ISBN 978-1-68112-306-6

The false promises of the internet economy get dissected with humor and horror in this stinging polemic. Writer Bradfield (The Trust Manifesto), who perhaps surprisingly cofounded WeTransfer, employs Black Mirror–esque vignettes to fictionalize and (literally) embody the varied threats he sees poised by privacy-invading tech monopolies. In an eye-opening thought experiment, a shopper who decides not to buy a pair of shoes is followed by the salesperson, whose eerie stalkerish insistence (“I’m just wondering if you’ve reconsidered”) mimics how web ads follow people online. Though incisive, the satire is rarely subtle. Companies like Amazon (“Amazin”) and Whole Foods are portrayed in one selection as zombifying. In another, a man is arrested by corporate police for the crime of “hoarding” physical culture (LPs, books) rather than keeping them in the cloud. An ironic, schadenfreude-laced futuristic sequence depicts a tour visiting ruins, which include an old mining town and (surprise) the deserted Apple headquarters, which was abandoned after a disaster wiped out cloud technology. Art by Sánchez uses a flat, colorful, spooky schema that underlines Bradfield’s themes of corporate-fueled alienation. This slim but potent collection succeeds in raising alarm bells about the loss of privacy and autonomy in the digital age. It’s enough of a rattle to even keep readers off their phones (at least for a few days). (Nov.)