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Heligo Books signs Kyle Chayka’s ‘masterful exploration of how tech is diminishing culture’ 

Heligo Books, the smart-thinking and business imprint of Bonnier Books UK, is set to publish Filterworld, a masterful exploration of a world ruled by algorithms, and how they determine the very shape of culture itself.

Rik Ubhi, editorial director of Heligo Books, acquired UK & Commonwealth rights from Carrie Plitt at Felicity Bryan Associates, on behalf of Caroline Eisenmann at Frances Goldin Literary Agency. 

From coffee shops to city grids to TikTok feeds and Netflix homepages the world round, algorithmic recommendations dictate our experiences. This network of mathematically determined choices – the ‘filterworld’ – has taken over, almost unnoticed, as we’ve grown accustomed to an insipid new normal. But to have our tastes, behaviours, and emotions governed by computers calls the very notion of free will into question. 

Internationally recognized journalist and New Yorker staff writer Kyle Chayka journeys through this ever-tightening web woven by algorithms. He explores how online and offline spaces alike have been engineered for seamless consumption. How the lowest common denominator is promoted at the expense of the complex, diverse or challenging. How users of technology contend with data-driven equations that promise to anticipate their desires but often get them wrong. 

Filterworld traces this creeping, machine-guided curation that influences not just what culture we consume, but what culture is produced. And it finds answers to the most urgent questions: What happens when shareability supersedes innovation? What does it mean to make a choice when the options have been so carefully arranged for us? Is personal freedom possible on the Internet?

Chayka said: ‘I wrote Filterworld because I felt that it was an idea that desperately needed to get out into our world: Algorithmic recommendations are influencing everything we do, consciously and subconsciously, and we need to resist their overwhelming control. The book will inform readers about their own interactions with algorithms and give voice to some of the pervasive anxieties that our digital platforms and feeds have caused. Namely, that culture — whether music, design, choreography, or film — has become stalled and homogenized, and it’s impossible to know what we actually like anymore. I’m very happy to work with Rik and Heligo to make these ideas public.’

Ubhi said: ‘As a long-term fan of Kyle’s brilliantly captivating, clever and contemporary writing in the New Yorker – which unpicks the myriad ways that technology intersects with culture – I am delighted to publish Filterworld in January 2024. Kyle dives deeply into material that others either unthinkingly take for granted or otherwise fear to unravel. Told through Kyle’s own journey within the ‘filterworld’, and an absorbing mix of philosophy, neuroscience and art criticism, this book is the definitive account of how the rise of the algorithm has altered our experience of the world – and the ways in which we can fight back to reassert our individuality.’ 

Kyle Chayka is a staff writer at the New Yorker, where he writes a column on digital technology and the impact of the Internet and social media on culture. As a journalist and critic, he has contributed to many publications, including the New York Times MagazineHarper’s, the New Republic, and Vox. He was the first staff writer of the art publication Hyperallergic. Kyle is also the co-founder of Study Hall, an online community for journalists, and Dirt, a newsletter about digital culture. He lives in Washington, D.C. 

Filterworld: How Algorithms Flattened Culture will be published in hardback, audio and eBook in January 2024.