Tags: culture

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Fix the internet by writing good stuff and being nice to people · Woman. Legend.Blog

Whereas before content used to be spread out on numerous domains in numerous ways, content now mostly makes its home on the three domains that are most hostile to thoughtful human discussion: Twitter, Medium, and Facebook.

So what? you may ask..

Think about how many times you’ve tweeted. Or written or commented on a Facebook post. Or started a Medium draft. These are all our words, locked in proprietary platforms that controls not only how our message is displayed, but how we write it, and even more worrying, how we think about it.

Tentacular: Douglas Coupland on Helvetica, clip art and the gangly beast that is the internet

Douglas Coupland on web typography.

When I discuss the internet’s feel and its random rodeo of fonts, I think of the freedom, naivety, laziness, greed, cluelessness and skill I see there — it’s a cyberplace as wondrous as the bubbling cradle of pea-soup goo from which life emerged. The internet has a rawness, a Darwinian evolutionary texture. It’s a place where metrics totally unrelated to print typography dictate the look and feel.

Bob Baxley: Don’t Judge. Just Observe. | Design.blog

The challenge of being in tech when you’re over 40 is the challenge of constantly setting aside your expectations of how things should work, repeatedly questioning your assumptions, and constantly re-evaluating your positions. It’s the challenge of being a lifelong learner; cultivating the humility of the beginner, the passion of the practitioner, and the joy of the master. It is the challenge of not being so quick to apply old analysis, rely on outdated experience, or expect what worked before to work again.

What’s wrong with big data? | New Humanist

The view that more information uncritically produces better decisions is visibly at odds with our contemporary situation.

A superb piece of research and writing by James, skewering the technological determinism that underlies the current faith in “big data.” At best, this misplaced trust is inaccurate; at worst, it is deadly.

To the algorithmic imagination, the practice of journalism and the practice of terrorism appear to be functionally identical.

Rockets of India – Medium

The fascinating history of India’s space program is the jumping-off point for a comparison of differing cultural attitudes to space exploration in Anab’s transcript of her Webstock talk, published on Ev’s blog.

From astronauts to afronauts, from cosmonauts to vyomanauts, how can deep space exploration inspire us to create more democratic future visions?

Can These Pornographers End ‘MILFs,’ ‘Teens,’ and ‘Thugs’? | The Nation

A fascinating look at an attempt to redefine the taxonomy of online porn.

Porn is part of the ecosystem that tells us what sex and sexuality are. Porn terms are, to use Foucault’s language, part of a network of technologies creating truths about our sexuality.

Reminds of the heady days of 2005, when it was all about tagging and folksonomies.

The project, at its most ambitious, seeks to create a new feedback loop of porn watched and made, unmoored from the vagaries of old, bad, lazy categories.

The 1989 CBC Massey Lectures, “The Real World of Technology” - Home | Ideas with Paul Kennedy | CBC Radio

I’m about to start reading Ursula M. Franklin’s The Real World of Technology based on Mandy’s recommendation. The audio files from original series of lectures on which the book is based are still available here, but alas not in any huffduffable form.

Shipping vs. Learning » Mike Industries

Some typically smart thinking from Mike—what if success were measured in learning rather than shipping?

Organizations that learn the quickest seem the most likely to succeed over the long haul.

This really resonates with me, and it aligns so closely with our values at Clearleft that I think this is something we should be pursuing. Fortunately Mike’s post comes with plenty of examples and ideas.

Why The Longplay Face | Collection

I giggled at quite of few of these mashups.

The Forgotten Kaleidoscope Craze in Victorian England | Atlas Obscura

A wonderful investigation of a culture-shifting mobile device: the kaleidoscope. A classic Gibsonian example of the street finding its own uses for technology, this story comes complete with moral panics about the effects of augmenting reality with handheld devices.

(I’m assuming the title wasn’t written by the author—this piece deals almost exclusively with pre-Victorian England.)

Science and Culture: The value of a good science hack

The story of Science Hack Day …as told in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America!

(a PDF version is also available)

The Internet | Thought Economics

The World Wide Web, with all of its pages, blogs and so on- has allowed human expression in ways that would have been uneconomic and out of reach before. The most dramatic effect has been this ability for almost anyone to express himself or herself whenever they want to- and potentially be heard by many others.

Vint Cerf there, taking part in this wide-ranging discussion with, among others, Kevin Kelly and Bob Metcalfe.

The introduction leans a bit too heavily on Nicholas Carr for my liking, but it ends up in a good place.

The internet connects us cognitively and becomes a membrane through which our minds can interact, manifesting a whole new iteration of our species, who have begun to exist in a connected symbiotic relationship with technology.

The internet is the first technology we have created, that makes us more human.

Good intentions are not enough | silversuit.net

Online discourse:

Wouldn’t it be nice if we had an x-ray that could peer into the true intention behind words on a screen? Sadly we don’t have that x-ray yet (for most of humanity’s existence, we had body language to enrich our words and enhance understanding, but we live in interesting times where so much, perhaps even the majority, of our communication lacks body language) and so we have to be mindful of how our words might be perceived, and what the ramifications of publishing them might be. That’s not to say we should hold off completely, but it does mean we should be mindful if we’re to be most effective.

Network Effect

The latest piece from Jonathan Harris explores online life in all its mundanity, presenting it in an engaging way, all the while trying to make you feel bad for doing exactly what the site is encouraging you to do.

It’s ok to say what’s ok | Government Digital Service

I really like this list. I might make a similar one for the Clearleft office so what’s implicit is made explicit.

It’s ok to:

  • say “I don’t know”
  • ask for more clarity
  • stay at home when you feel ill
  • say you don’t understand
  • ask what acronyms stand for
  • ask why, and why not
  • forget things

How Literature Became Word Perfect | New Republic

An engaging look at the history of word processing, word processed by Josephine Livingstone.

Bots | A Working Library

Absolutely brilliant stuff from Mandy (again). A long hard at today’s tech industry’s narrow approach to bots and artificial intelligence compared to some far more interesting and imaginative approaches in fiction:

  • Ann Leckie’s superb Imperial Radch series,
  • Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora, and
  • Alex Garland’s Ex Machina.

So in addition to frightening ramifications for privacy and information discovery, they also reinforce gendered stereotypes about women as servants. The neutral politeness that infects them all furthers that convention: women should be utilitarian, performing their duties on command without fuss or flourish. This is a vile, harmful, and dreadfully boring fantasy; not the least because there is so much extraordinary art around AI that both deconstructs and subverts these stereotypes. It takes a massive failure of imagination to commit yourself to building an artificial intelligence and then name it “Amy.”

Beyond Work

An ongoing photography project from Curtis:

Beyond Work tells stories about humans at work, with no judgement or glorification. It’s an attempt at unearthing the social, cultural and functional world of work, that’s become invisible in everyday life.

Hand Ax Technology - A Legend In Sustainability

Even more intriguing than their vast distribution across three continents is their time depth. Acheulean hand axes have been found at sites spanning 1.5 million years of human existence, dating from roughly 1.6 million years ago to about 100,000 years ago. That makes the Acheulean ax the most sustainable technology that members of our genus (Homo) ever developed. Consider, in contrast, the amount of technological change that has occurred in just the last 150 years (since the first telephone call), one ten-thousandth the amount of time the Acheulean hand ax was made and used. Or consider the amount of technological change in just the last 10 years (since the first iPhone was introduced), one one-hundred-fifty-thousandth the amount of time that Acheulean hand axes were made and used. In the memorable words of my former professor Arthur J. Jelinek, hand axes represent “mind-numbing technological stability.”

A Flag for No Nations | booktwo.org

This a magnificent piece of writing from James …all about pieces of metal fabric.

A single technology – the vacuum-deposition of metal vapour onto a thin film substrate – makes its consecutive and multiple appearances at times of stress and trial: at the dawn of the space age, in orbit and on other planets, at the scene of athletic feats of endurance, in defence and offence in the mountains of the Hindu Kush, on the beaches of the European archipelago. These are moments of hope as well as failure; moments when, properly utilised, technological progress enables us to achieve something which was beyond our capabilities before. And yet: we are still pulling bodies from the water wrapped in material which was meant to send us into space.