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Year in Review 2014: The Era of the Shared Disaster 

Tuesday, Dec 30 2014
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This year, like all others, defies easy categorization, except perhaps to say this is the year of easy categorizations. Or, at least, attempted ones. Social media reached its inevitable conclusion with the total ascension of the hashtag. The ancient need to name and catalog shared experience was reduced to what we used to call "the number symbol" and applied to events major and minor — political scandal, cultural suppuration, general crap. History was made here in San Francisco as the naming of a December storm actually predicted its severity. It was indeed a #stormtastrophe, no exaggeration.

The hashtagging of protest movements spilled off the screen and onto the streets of San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and elsewhere, where the sides in the conflict were helpfully illustrated by posters and T-shirts on the one hand and riot gear on the other. It was a year of disasters, and being that we live such public lives, the disasters were shared ones. People behaved atrociously, whether it was politicians making arms deals or tech innovators plotting against journalists, and all of it blew up so spectacularly.

That, more than anything, may be the tension defining 2014: Our human desire to know the world by naming and sharing ran up against the inevitable and equally human compulsion to fight, to lie, to screw up, to fail us all. The drive to order and the impulse to chaos met yet again. Hashtag entropy. But in a time when surveillance and secrecy at the highest levels of society is its own threat, at least our efforts at putting it into words, however foolish it might sometimes be, is a way of illuminating the nameless, of declaiming into the electric darkness.

2014: The Year in Tech

2014: The Year in Politics

2014: The Year in Housing

2014: The Year in Protest

2014: The Year in Policing

2014: The Year in Transit

2014: The Year in Disasters

2014: The Year in Food

2014: The Year in Music

2014: The Year in Sports

2014: The Year in Goddamn People

2014: The Year in Odds and Ends

2014: In Memoriam

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Brandon R. Reynolds

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