On the Media on the enshittification (pt 1)

The power of a great interlocutor.

Cory Doctorow
5 min readMay 6


Jean-Leon Gerome’s painting Pollice Verso, 1872, depicting gladiators in an arena with noble onlookers giving a thumbs-down gesture. The tapestry before the nobles has been replaced with a US $100 bill in which Ben Franklin’s mouth has been replaced by an Amazon smile logo.

This afternoon (May 6), I’ll be in Berkeley at the Bay Area Bookfest for a 3:30PM event with Glynn Washington for my book Red Team Blues; tomorrow (May 7), it’s an 11AM event with Wendy Liu for my book Chokepoint Capitalism.

Weds (May 10), I’m in Vancouver for a keynote at the Open Source Summit and a book event at Heritage Hall and Thu (May 11), I’m in Calgary for Wordfest.

I’m many kinds of writer — novelist, journalist, activist, editorialist, screenwriter — but at core, I’m a blogger. Every bit of interesting stuff that crosses my path gets turned into a blog post, which gets lodged in both a WordPress database and my mind, where it rubs up against other interesting stuff and crystallizes into longer, more considered pieces:


It’s an iterative process, and it follows a predictable and often very exciting life-cycle. First, I encounter an idea in the wild that niggles at my attention and I try to capture what it is that’s making it so interesting. The act of writing about some little fragment for strangers makes me think about it harder. That means that I end up making connections to other ideas that I’ve thought about, and things I continue to encounter in the wild.

As I write about the subject over and over again, over days, then weeks, then years, it gets sharper and more focused. I get better at talking about it, sure, but I also get better at thinking about it. This is an activity Bruce Sterling once called “advancing and demolishing potential political arguments that have never been made by anybody but me”:


At a certain point, the idea “tips.” The act of repeatedly writing about it, relating it to new stuff happening in the world, makes it clear enough to me that it becomes clear enough to explain it to other people, too. Then I’m no longer “advancing and demolishing arguments” for myself — everyone gets in on the act.

That’s what happened with enshittification. I coined the term while on vacation last summer:



Cory Doctorow

Writer, blogger, activist. Blog: https://pluralistic.net; Mailing list: https://pluralistic.net/plura-list; Mastodon: @pluralistic@mamot.fr