Metaphors of Scale

“A million dollars isn’t cool, you know what’s cool? A billion dollars.”

So much of Fincher and Sorkin’s “The Social Network” is wound up in matters of scale and scalability: orders of magnitude are a new kind of currency, a new way to keep score – for the current oligarchy maybe the only way that matters anymore: ninety-nine to one % in our time. In the film, the night Facebook signs it’s millionth user, Zuckerberg’s originating partner Eduardo Saverin finds his 34% stock holding in Facebook has been diluted by more than three decimal places – the new offering leaves him with .03% of the company. He recouped somewhat in the settlement negotiations that bookend the film, but the Winklevoss twins (Winklevii?), featured here as runners-up in the Henley Royal Regatta, fared worse: so far Zuckerberg has made 9 billion from Facebook, the twins settled for 90 million, that’s two full orders of magnitude difference – or the same relationship the earth has to the sun.*

In this sequence shot with tilt/shift lenses and with various uses of tight focus and extremely narrow depths of field, the old ‘social network’ of crew clubs, school penants and crested blazers seems to be constricting, its significance dilating out through the back end of a telescope. The self-importance is still there – witness the remarkable way the athletes seem to force themselves into closeups as they row – but the world (and many others) has grown tiny, especially by comparison to the giant social club Mark Zuckerberg has created: as of January, 2013, it has 1.1 billion members.

*In terms of diameter that is. When it comes to their relative masses even Zuckerberg hasn’t outpaced his competition by quite that margin.

Hat tip to Durga Chew-Bose.

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