Essay: Our meta-gaze and the dawn of ‘Duocracy,’ where Sacramento’s culture, politics and community get ruptured by a digital divide

Photo by Dix Sept

By Waverly Hampton III

Welcome All! Welcome to a world of infinite ones and zeroes! Welcome to a world you have envisioned but never truly seen! Welcome to Sacra-Meta!

This is not to be confused with Sacramento, the actual city. Meta-Sac is a metropolis built from the fabrics and contours of the Digital Age. It’s a haven for information exchange and idea-generation, thee post-to-post capital – the place one goes to be free from our everyday reality. In Meta-Sac, it is easy to organize with like-minded individuals. In Meta-Sac, it is easy to speak out. In Meta-Sac, problems can be deliberated and solved within 300 characters. In Meta-Sac, decisions are final and there’s no uncertainty.

Meta-Sac is a place where one is a part of a whole. In Meta-Sac, you belong, or you don’t.  

In the Sacramento that we actually live in, organizing is difficult. In the real Sacramento, speaking out is met with hostility. In brick-and-mortar and flesh-and-blood Sacramento, problems are deliberated for hours and then decisions take months or even years to come – or they never come at all. In the true Sacramento, uncertainty is common. But this is also a Sacramento where you either belong or you don’t.

The meta version could be something better, but lately it isn’t.

Consider Sacramento and Sacra-Meta as sister cities existing in entirely separate states. They started off as their own identities; though, as time progressed, the cities began to mimic each other. When Meta-Sac is angry, Sacramento is angry. When Sacramento is fearful, Meta-Sac is fearful. Now, many people live in two places at once. Some as two different people, even.

As the online world has become more and more inhabited, the world IRL (in real life) is becoming smaller and more chaotic. There appears to be a proportional relationship between the two states. At first glance, it does not seem that way, until you look long enough – and then see the effects that actions in one world have on the other.

Let us examine this past primary as a case study. Turnout in Sacramento’s latest election was considerably low, given the amount of money, time and energy that was put into many campaigns. Residents of Sacra-Meta would believe they reached more voters and supporters than ever before through social media posts, advertisements, virtual meetings; yet then they would go to IRL Sacramento to see how unenthusiastic registered voters really were. If you lived in Sacra-Meta, your candidate won. In IRL Sacramento, your candidate has no authority.

The same phenomenon happens when it comes to policy making. Residents of Sacra-Meta have voted for how they want to get more affordable housing, environmental protections, labor unions and better school strategies. Those same issues in IRL Sacramento are still being debated. I would argue this isn’t entirely bad since it presents an opportunity for all voices to be heard. Although, residents of Sacra-Meta see this aspect of real Sacramento as too bureaucratic and cowardly. Sacra-Meta is just a faster-paced society. I guess it has advanced beyond the conventional norms of engaging with constituents. In Sacra-Meta, leaders from factions make a rule and their followers obey, lest they be cast out.

In Sacra-Meta you are being watched— and this is where it becomes problematic.

Photo by UK Black Tech.

But let us go back to IRL Sacramento for a bit. Our lives are increasingly becoming digitized. With algorithms and a few lines of source code, your life and identity is being mapped out. A construct of your being exists online; at least, it does if you’ve ever used a search engine, sent an email, uploaded a photo or video, created an account, posted a blog, commented a review, streamed entertainment, or even just looked up directions. Do you know what you are? You are a set of data points. Do you know who you are? You are who you have to be.

That can make it feel like, in IRL Sacramento, you must behave in a manner fit for Sacra-Meta. Do not say anything that could be misinterpreted. Do not do anything that could be recorded. Do not believe Sacra-Metans are not watching – watching to see if who you are who they assume you are in their world. They’re watching for education. They’re watching for their entertainment. Watching for your mistakes. You can’t like that tweet, or someone might see. You can’t post that picture of yourself or it may come back to haunt you. You have to be in private mode. But is there really any such thing? If you have a role in Sacramento, you must live that life in Sacra-Meta too. Your livelihood depends on it. Are you a teacher? You must join the ranks of teachers in Sacra-Meta. Are you a business owner? You must conduct business in Sacra-Meta, too. Are you a leader? You must lead the way in Sacra-Meta.

Wait. What’s this? The protesters in Sacra-Meta are protesters in real Sacramento? The journalists in Sacra-Meta are journalists who work the actual streets of Sacramento? The entertainers in Sacra-Meta are entertainers on genuine Sacramento stages? The leaders in Sacra-Meta represent Sacramentans who breathe the air outside?

The result of such an entanglement is that inequality increases because those without access to the internet or devices are abandoned or feel out of touch; progress is halted because the people making decisions become too confused and concerned with upsetting someone in their other world; communication becomes muddled because too many people are speaking at once; and civilization collapses because trust and understanding is gone.

This system we have inadvertently made is one we are now stuck with.

Welcome to our new age of government. Welcome to the dawn of Duocracy.

Duocracy: A system of government in which a decision-making body, composed of elected representatives or influencers, exists in two separate states (i.e. physical and virtual), yet actions in one state affects the other. Copyright 2022 Waverly Hampton III.

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