Tags: technology

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.)

The History of the URL: Domain, Protocol, and Port - Eager Blog

From the ARPANET to the internet, this is a great history of the Domain Name System:

Root DNS servers operate in safes, inside locked cages. A clock sits on the safe to ensure the camera feed hasn’t been looped. Particularly given how slow DNSSEC implementation has been, an attack on one of those servers could allow an attacker to redirect all of the Internet traffic for a portion of Internet users. This, of course, makes for the most fantastic heist movie to have never been made.

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.

Jeremy Keith | < A > | HTML Special, CSS Day on Vimeo

The video of my talk on hypertext at the HTML Special before CSS Day. I’m pretty with my delivery here. There’s a bit of Q&A afterwards as well.

Audacious Fox: Mini Interview: Loren Brichter on the Sale of Letterpress to Solebon

Colin pointed out this interesting perspective from an iOS developer moving to the web:

My work for the last few years has been on the web, and honestly, it’s a breath of fresh air. Instant refreshing, surprisingly good debugging / perf tools, intrinsically multi-platform, and most importantly, open.

Web tech gets a lot of shit from native devs (some of it deserved). But the alternatives are worse. I find the entire concept of App Review morally questionable despite Apple’s good intentions. So I sleep better at night not being part of that anymore. Sure, the web is messy, and it’s delicate, but it’s important and good and getting better fast.

Remarks at the SASE Panel On The Moral Economy of Tech

People who excel at software design become convinced that they have a unique ability to understand any kind of system at all, from first principles, without prior training, thanks to their superior powers of analysis. Success in the artificially constructed world of software design promotes a dangerous confidence.

Great stuff as usual from Maciej, ending with a rallying cry for us to pay attention to history:

This is not the first time an enthusiastic group of nerds has decided to treat the rest of the world as a science experiment. Earlier attempts to create a rationalist Utopia failed for interesting reasons, and since we bought those lessons at a great price, it would be a shame not to learn them.

There is also prior art in attempts at achieving immortality, limitless wealth, and Galactic domination. We even know what happens if you try to keep dossiers on an entire country.

If we’re going to try all these things again, let’s at least learn from our past, so we can fail in interesting new ways, instead of failing in the same exasperating ways as last time.

Human scale technology — Medium

A wonderful rallying cry for the indie web:

Do it yourself. Strip it down. Keep control. Make it for your community. Don’t do it for the money.

And this is where I start to understand what my friend Rebecca Gates means when she says that technologists and designers have a lot to learn from punk and indie rock. Leave the expensive, large scale, commercial arena rock to Facebook, Google, and Twitter.

We can be The Ramones.

And Bad Brains.

We can press our own records, and run our own labels.

We can make our own spaces based on our own values.

Such a shame that it’s only on Medium—the MOR of online publishing.

Man-Computer Symbiosis

J. C. R. Licklider’s seminal 1960 paper. I’ve added it to this list of reading material.

The title should, of course, read “Person-Computer Symbiosis.”

Dave Goes Build - daverupert.com

I think I’ve gotten tired of Google telling me “This is how you have to build websites now.” Or Apple coming down from the mountain once a year saying “Here are the two new products you will buy this year.”

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.”

I, Website | CSS-Tricks

Chris’s homage to I, Pencil.

I, Website, am a complex combination of miracles.

The New York Herald, August 7, 1865

A transatlantic cable, hurrah!

Terraforming on Vimeo

There’s that Acheulean hand ax again.

The first ever object to be designed by man 1.7 million years ago was a flint hand axe. Flint has the same molecular structure as a crystal and they both consist of silica. The project juxtaposes the flint hand axe with the latest crystal technology; Xero chaton the world’s smallest precision cut crystal measuring 0.6mm in diameter, smaller than a grain of sand.

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.”

Eternal 5D data storage could record the history of humankind

360 terabytes of data stored for over 13 billion years:

Coined as the ‘Superman memory crystal’, as the glass memory has been compared to the “memory crystals” used in the Superman films, the data is recorded via self-assembled nanostructures created in fused quartz. The information encoding is realised in five dimensions: the size and orientation in addition to the three dimensional position of these nanostructures.

Watch the Watchers

Monika’s end-of-year piece is rather excellent:

The map exposes the network of fibre optic internet cables that lie deep below the sea giving an unfettered glimpse of the government’s counterterrorism tactics and the murky justifications behind them.

#nodigitaldarkage? — Blog of the Long Now

A note of optimism for digital preservation:

Where a lack of action may have been more of the case in the 01990s, it is certainly less so today. In the early days, there were just a handful of pioneers talking about and working on digital preservation, but today there are hundreds of tremendously intelligent and skilled people focused on preserving access to the yottabytes of digital cultural heritage and science data we have and will create.

Banjos and Discrete Technologies | stevebenford

An examination of how sites like The Session are meshing with older ideas of traditional Irish music:

There is a very interesting tension at play here – one that speaks directly to the design of new technologies. On the one hand, Irish musicians appear to be enthusiastically adopting digital media to establish a common repertoire of tunes, while on the other the actual performance of these tunes in a live session is governed by a strong etiquette that emphasizes the importance of playing by ear.

There’s an accompanying paper called Supporting Traditional Music-Making: Designing for Situated Discretion (PDF).

The Facebook-Loving Farmers of Myanmar - The Atlantic

A fascinating slice of ethnographic research in Myanmar by Craig. There’s no mention of the web, which is certainly alarming, but then again, that’s not the focus of the research.

Interestingly, while Facebook is all omnipresent and dominant, nobody is using it the way that Facebook wants: all the accounts are basically “fake”.

What I found fascinating are the ways that people have found to bypass app stores. They’re basically being treated as damage and routed ‘round. So while native apps are universal, app stores would appear to be a first world problem.

Now if there were only some kind of universally accessible distribution channel that didn’t require any kind of installation step …hmmm.

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.

I Dreamed of a Perfect Database | New Republic

A really nice piece by Paul Ford on the history of databases and the dream of the Semantic Web.

Sometimes I get a little wistful. The vision of a world of connected facts, one big, living library, remains beautiful, and unfulfilled.

One thing though: the scrolling on this page is sooooo janky that I had to switch off JavaScript just to read these words comfortably.

Museum of Endangered Sounds

Sounds from our collective technological past.

(I’ll look past the fact that the sound labelled “ZX Spectrum” is using an image of an Amstrad PCP 464)

New design thinking by Mikey Allan

Web technology is no longer limiting us or scaring us into “staying safe” moreover it’s enabling us to get inspired by our surroundings and go and create some truly amazing, Web-Specific design.

Occasional blog of Tobias Revell: Haunted Machines an Origin Story (Long)

Any sufficiently advanced hacking is indistinguishable from a haunting. In the same way that many Internet of Things objects are referred to as ‘enchanting’ or ‘magical,’ with an intervention, they can very quickly become haunted.

Meet Walter Pitts, the Homeless Genius Who Revolutionized Artificial Intelligence

The fascinating story of logic, learning, and the origins of electronic computing. Russell, Shannon, Turing, Wiener, Von Neumann …they’re all in there, woven around the tragic figure of Walter Pitts.

It is a sad and beautiful world.

Thanks to their work, there was a moment in history when neuroscience, psychiatry, computer science, mathematical logic, and artificial intelligence were all one thing, following an idea first glimpsed by Leibniz—that man, machine, number, and mind all use information as a universal currency. What appeared on the surface to be very different ingredients of the world—hunks of metal, lumps of gray matter, scratches of ink on a page—were profoundly interchangeable.

Web Design - The First 100 Years

A magnificent presentation from Maciej that begins by drawing parallels between the aviation industry in the 20th century and the technology industry in the 21st:

So despite appearances, despite the feeling that things are accelerating and changing faster than ever, I want to make the shocking prediction that the Internet of 2060 is going to look recognizably the same as the Internet today.

Unless we screw it up.

And I want to convince you that this is the best possible news for you as designers, and for us as people.

But if that sounds too upbeat for you…

Too much of what was created in the last fifty years is gone because no one took care to preserve it.

We have heroic efforts like the Internet Archive to preserve stuff, but that’s like burning down houses and then cheering on the fire department when it comes to save what’s left inside. It’s no way to run a culture. We take better care of scrap paper than we do of the early Internet, because at least we look at scrap paper before we throw it away.

And then there’s this gem:

We complained for years that browsers couldn’t do layout and javascript consistently. As soon as that got fixed, we got busy writing libraries that reimplemented the browser within itself, only slower.

It finishes with three differing visions of the web, one of them desirable, the other two …not so much. This presentation is a rallying cry for the web we want.

Let’s reclaim the web from technologists who tell us that the future they’ve imagined is inevitable, and that our role in it is as consumers.

The Internet That Was (and Still Could Be) - The Atlantic

A fantastic piece by David Weinberger on the changing uses of the internet—apparently in contradiction of the internet’s original architecture.

Some folks invented the Internet for some set of purposes. They gave it a name, pointed to some prototypical examples—sharing scientific papers and engaging in email about them—shaping the way the early adopters domesticated it.

But over time, the Internet escaped from its creators’ intentions. It became a way to communicate person-to-person via email and many-to-many via Usenet. The web came along and the prototypical example became home pages. Social networking came along and the prototype became Facebook.

Paul Ford: What is Code? by Paul Ford

It seems grossly unfair to refer to this as an article. It’s a short book. It’s a very good short book; lucid and entertaining in equal measure. A very enjoyable read.

It is, unfortunately, surrounded by some distracting “enhancements” but perhaps you can use your cleaner-upper software of choice to route around their damage: Instapaper, Pocket, Readability, whatever works for you.

Hazards Of Prophecy by Arthur C. Clarke

A PDF of Clarke’s classic essay on the follies of prediction. From the 1972 collection The Futurists, edited by Alvin Toffler.

Sound Mirrors

Before there was radar, there were acoustic mirrors along the coast of England—parabolic structures designed to funnel the distant sound of approaching aircraft.

Alex Feyerke: Step Off This Hurtling Machine

I love this talk.

Alex takes a long-zoom look at the web and our technology stacks, from ’60s counterculture to start-up culture, touching on open source and the indie web along the way.

Codebar Brighton from Matchbox HQ - Matchbox Mobile

Jo writes about hosting Codebar Brighton. I share her enthusiasm—it feels like a great honour to be able to host such a great community event.

isolani - Web Standards: Flash’s slide into irrelevance

Mike runs through the history of Flash. Those who forget the history of the web are doomed to repeat it:

The struggle now seems to be turning to native apps versus non-native apps on the mobile platform. It is similar to Flash’s original battle ground: the argument that the Web technology stack is not suitable for building applications with a polished user-experience.

The Brighton Makerlab - where technology meets awesome! by Simon Riley — Kickstarter

Still a few days left to back this great project for Brighton:

Build, tinker, make and play! For anyone with imagination, The Brighton Makerlab lets ages 8 to 80 create cool stuff with technology.

The Web’s Grain by Frank Chimero

Superb. Absolutely superb.

A magnificent tour-de-force by Frank on the web’s edgelessness.

Read. Absorb. Read again. This is the essence of responsive web design, distilled.

SpringForward - A celebration of women in digital and technology - March 2015, Brighton

There’s a whole bunch of great events happening in Brighton this March: Codebar, Curiosity Hub, She Codes Brighton, 300 Seconds, She Says Brighton, and Ladies that UX. Lots of these will be downstairs from Clearleft in Middle Street—very handy!

BBC - Future - The invisible network that keeps the world running

Tim Maughan reports on the same container ship trip that Dan W. is sending his postcards from.

I like the idea of there being an Apollo-sized project all around us, if you just know where to look.

First, towering above and over the ship, are the loading cranes. Vast structures mounted on huge, four-legged frames, they resemble the naked scaffolding of unbuilt skyscrapers, and trigger nostalgic reminders of Saturn V rocket launch towers from the 1960s.

Once in port at night I saw one suddenly fire into life next to the ship in a stroboscopic explosion of lights, before it tracked slowly above my high vantage point, bathing me in the orange glow of a dozen small halogen suns.

The challenge for web designers in 2015 (or how to cheat at the future)

Designing primarily in a laptop web browser and testing with a mouse rather than fingers may come to look very out of date soon.

Why James Cameron’s Aliens is the best movie about technology

Tim Carmody on James Cameron’s meisterwerk (and technology in sci-fi films in general).

The Nor: A Paranoid Cartography

James walks the site of London’s old wall, documenting the instruments of London’s new wall.

He wrote about his experience in “All Cameras Are Police Cameras.” It is a history lesson, a present lesson, and a future lesson, all in one.

Overwhelmed by Code · An A List Apart Blog Post

Focus on what you want to learn; not what you think you should learn.

There is a lot of pressure out there: to learn new things, to spend all your time coding, to be the super developer. I now believe that to be impossible and unhealthy. It means you aren’t living a balanced life and it also means that you’re living under constant stress and pressure.

The boring front-end developer - Adam Silver, Front end developer, based in London

My name is Jeremy and I am a boring front-end developer.

Tech’s tunnel vision (Phil Gyford’s website)

I really like Phil’s braindump of conference ideas. Frankly, many of these ideas work just as well as watchwords for building on the web:

  • Different models for start-ups. Co-operatives. Employee ownership. Normal, slowly-growing, profit-making businesses.
  • Technology for people who don’t live in the first world. (There’s a lot of them and they have a lot of technology, but most of us know nothing about it.)
  • Websites that make the whole Web better.
  • New services that work fine on technology that’s been around for years.
  • Services designed for people who have little money.
  • Services designed for people who aren’t fully able.
  • Models for keeping services running over the long-term. (What happens when your company closes, or to your personal projects when you die?)

Valley of the Meatpuppets | superflux

Slides and transcript from Anab’s terrific dConstruct talk.

Drip, Drop, Groundswell

Cole Peters calls upon designers and developers to realise the power they have to shape the modern world and act accordingly.

It is in those of us who work in tech and on the web that digital privacy may find its greatest chance for survival. As labourers in one of the most pivotal industries of our times, we possess the knowledge and skills required to create tools and ecosystems that defend our privacy and liberties.

I don’t disagree, but I think it’s also important to recognise how much power is in the hands of non-designers and non-developers: journalists, politicians, voters …everyone has a choice to make.

Twelve Tomorrows | MIT Technology Review

This year’s collection of twelve sci-fi stories from Technology Review features three dConstruct speakers: Lauren Beukes, Cory Doctorow, and Warren Ellis.

Improving Reality 2014 — Visibility Is A Trap

Lighthouse are putting on their Improving Reality conference again this year. It’s the day before dConstruct. Come to both!

The Eccentric Genius Whose Time May Have Finally Come (Again) - Doug Hill - The Atlantic

A profile of Norbert Wiener, and how his star was eclipsed by Claude Shannon.

Valley of the Meatpuppets | superflux

The transcript of Anab Jain’s talk from the FutureEverything Festival.

Signs from the near future

We better get used to them…

How We Got To Now with Steven Johnson - YouTube

Steven Johnson’s new television series will be shown on BBC in a few months time. Looks like it’s going to be good Burkian fun.

It’s OK not to use tools by Jonas Downey of Basecamp

Today, a basic HTML/CSS site seems almost passé. But why? Is it because our new tools are so significantly better, or because we’ve gone overboard complicating simple things?

He’s right, y’know.

Where Time Comes From on Vimeo

A profile of Demetrios Matsakis, keeper of time at U.S. Naval Observatory, America’s equivalent to Greenwich in its importance for timekeeping in the modern world.

How America’s Leading Science Fiction Authors Are Shaping Your Future

Eileen Gunn writes in the Smithsonian magazine on the influence of science fiction.

Science fiction, at its best, engenders the sort of flexible thinking that not only inspires us, but compels us to consider the myriad potential consequences of our actions.

James Bridle — Where You Are

The GPS system is a monumental network that provides a permanent “YouAreHere” sign hanging in the sky, its signal a constant, synchronised timecode.

Wearables versus there-ables.

Some interesting thoughts that follow on nicely from Scott Jenson’s ideas around just-in-time interactions:

What if the technology was actually already in the room when we got there? Maybe that’s the kind of Internet-of-things that will be more sustainable and will win long-term.

Dr. Easy on Vimeo

I finally got around to reading Red Men by Matthew De Abaitua recently. It’s like Nick Harkaway crossed with Jeff Noon.

Here’s hoping that this short film will be developed into a full-length feature.

1995 Vannevar Bush symposium: closing Panel

So Doug Engelbart, Alan Kay, Ted Nelson, and Tim Berners-Lee walk into a panel…

Our Comrade The Electron

This is a wonderful piece by Maciej—a magnificent historical narrative that leads to a thunderous rant. Superb!

Anatomy of a failed rendition | booktwo.org

A superb bit of sleuthing by James:

From London to the Mediterranean, to Malta and back again, over multiple countries and jurisdictions, through airspace and legal space. The contortions of G-WIRG’s flight path mirror the ethical labyrinth the British Government finds itself in when, against all better judgements, it insists on punishing individuals as an example to others, using every weasel justification in its well-funded legal war chest. Using a combination of dirty laws and private technologies to transform and transmit people from one jurisidiction, one legal condition and category, to another: this is the meaning of the verb “to render”.

STET

From the lovely people behind Editorially comes STET:

A Writers’ Journal on Culture & Technology

Unfashionably profitable

Rachel talks about some of the old-fashioned technologies and business practices driving Perch.

This reminds of a talk by Marco Arment at Webstock a few years back when he described the advantages of not using cutting-edge technologies: most of the time, “boring” well-established technologies are simply more stable.

Robert Cailliau’s world wide web on Dazed Digital

From CERN to singularity - the digital pioneer and cofounder of the WWW on 20 years of webscapades.

Immaterials, dConstruct and Culture Ships on Vimeo

Iain M.Banks and dConstruct, together at last.

dConstruct: Artists grapple with the culture of technology surveillance

Honor’s piece for The Guardian on this year’s dConstruct.

Three themes from dConstruct 2013

A smart and thoughtful write-up of dConstruct from Lee, pulling together three emergent themes:

  1. how we interact with machines and each other,
  2. how we co-evolve with machines, and
  3. making the invisible visible.

A great, thought-provoking day that proved, once again, that there are many brilliant, generous minds working in or around the future of technology and human experience today.

dConstruct 2013: “It’s the Future. Take it.” | matt.me63.com - Matt Edgar

This is a terrific write up of this year’s dConstruct, tying together all the emergent themes.

Inspiring Tech Quotes

Some of the more idiotic, harmful, stupid and nasty things said by the thought leaders of Silicon Valley.

The apparent difficulty of living in my head, freelancing, working for large organisations and then descending in to paranoia.

I have a lot of admiration for Reverend Dan Catt.

I don’t want to be in a position where I say “Hey, I’m working at Google, no no, don’t worry, the good bit of Google”, because goodness knows I did enough of that at Yahoo.

When politicians get the internet wrong, the internet can be ruthless by Caroline Criado-Perez

Oh, dear. An otherwise perfectly well-reasoned article makes this claim:

But the internet is peculiarly adapted to deftly pricking pomposity. This is partly because nothing dies online, meaning your past indiscretions are never yesterday’s news, wrapped round the proverbial fish and chips.

Bollocks. Show me the data to back up this claim.

The insidious truism that “the internet never forgets” is extremely harmful. The true problem is the opposite: the internet forgets all the time.

Geocities, Pownce, Posterous, Vox, and thousands more sites are very much yesterday’s news, wrapped round the proverbial fish and chips.

The Killing Machines by Mark Bowden in The Atlantic

How to think about drones—an in-depth and fairly balanced article by Mark Bowden on drone strikes and the politics behind them.

In the long run, careful adherence to the law matters more than eliminating another bad actor. Greater prudence and transparency are not just morally and legally essential, they are in our long-term interest, because the strikes themselves feed the anti-drone narrative, and inspire the kind of random, small-scale terror attacks that are bin Laden’s despicable legacy.

Kids can’t use computers… and this is why it should worry you - Coding 2 Learn

This is a really well-written and worrying piece that pokes at that oft-cited truism about kids today being “digital natives”:

The parents seem to have some vague concept that spending hours each evening on Facebook and YouTube will impart, by some sort of cybernetic osmosis, a knowledge of PHP, HTML, JavaScript and Haskell.

The causes of this lack of digital literacy can be traced back to school:

We’ve mirrored corporate networks, preventing kids and teachers access to system settings, the command line and requiring admin rights to do almost anything. They’re sitting at a general purpose computer without the ability to do any general purpose computing.

Also, this article has the best “TL;DR” description ever.

The Ecuadorian Library by Bruce Sterling

A good ol’ fashioned rant.

stevenberlinjohnson.com: How We Got To Now

This sounds like it’s a going to be a good: a new TV series by Steven Johnson on the history of technology and innovation. Sounds very Burkian, which is a very good thing.

We Need More Communism by Scott Jenson

A terrific lighting talk by Scott on the need to think bigger. The solution to long-term issues is rarely “start a company”—we need to think more about creating a shared infrastructure …just like the internet.

The Hut Where the Internet Began by Alexis C. Madrigal in The Atlantic

A wonderful article looking at the influence that Vannevar Bush’s seminal article As We May Think had on the young Douglas Engelbart.

Improving Reality 2013

The line-up for this year’s Improving Reality conference looks great (as always).

It’s the day before dConstruct so why not come on down to Brighton a day early and double your fun?

Is Google dumping open standards for open wallets?

Google’s track record is not looking good. There seems to be a modus operandi of bait-and-switch: start with open technologies (XMPP, CalDav, RSS) and then once they’ve amassed a big enough user base, ditch the standards.

A Few Notes on the Culture by Iain M Banks

I’ve linked to this before, but with the death of Iain M Banks it’s worth re-reading this fascinating insight into The Culture, one of science fictions’s few realistic utopias.

The brief mention here of The Culture’s attitude to death is apt:

Philosophy, again; death is regarded as part of life, and nothing, including the universe, lasts forever. It is seen as bad manners to try and pretend that death is somehow not natural; instead death is seen as giving shape to life.

Silicon Valley through a PRISM · Ben Ward

Ben is rightly worried by the blasé attitude in the tech world to the PRISM revelations. Perhaps that attitude stems from a culture of “log everything by default”?

I think there’s a deep rooted trait within this industry that sedates the outrage. That is the normality, complicity, and dependency on ‘surveillance’ in the software we make.

The New Aesthetic: James Bridle’s Drones and Our Invisible, Networked World in Vanity Fair

James gets profiled in Vanity Fair …which is, frankly, kind of weird.

It’s also so bizarre to read about his SXSW New Aesthetic panel as being such a pivotal moment: there weren’t that many of us in the room.

James Somers – Web developer money

A well-written piece on the nature of work and value on the web, particularly in the start-up economy.

A Woman’s Place — Everything Old is New Again — Medium

In a piece for Medium commissioned by Matter, Jon Norris describes a little-known aspect of the UK’s information technology history:

Gender equality is still a major issue in the technology industry, but 50 years ago one British company was blazing trails.

A Stormy Sky of Cranky Clouds by Scott Jenson

Scott points out a really big problem with the current state of the “internet of things”: everyone is inventing their own proprietary walled-garden infrastructure instead of getting together to collaborate on standards.

The single biggest fallacy I want to blow up is this utopian idea that there is this SINGLE thing called ‘The Cloud’. Each company today reinvents their own cloud. The Cloud as a concept is dead and has been for years: we are living within a stormy sky of cranky clouds, all trying to pretend the others don’t exist.

The open internet and the web

A history lesson from Vint Cerf. I can’t help but picture him as The Architect in The Matrix Reloaded.

When Tim Berners-Lee invented and released the World Wide Web (WWW) design in late 1991, he found an open and receptive internet in operation onto which the WWW could be placed. The WWW design, like the design of the internet, was very open and encouraged a growing cadre of self-taught webmasters to develop content and applications.

A Digital Tomorrow on Vimeo

A design fiction video depicting technology that helps and hinders in equal measure.

The Secure Transport of Light on booktwo.org

A beautiful piece by James on the history of light as a material for communication …and its political overtones in today’s world.

What is light when it is information rather than illumination? What is it when it is not perceived by the human eye? Deep beneath the streets and oceans, what is illuminated by the machines, and how are we changed by this illumination?

Meet the Web’s Operating System: HTTP

A lovely description by Paul Ford of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol.

That simple handshake is the firmament upon which we have built trillion-dollar cathedrals and bazaars, the base upon which we construct other protocols and networks.

Embracing the Medium

A lovely piece of writing from Richard on the nature of the web.

The canonical smart city: A pastiche by Adam Greenfield’s Speedbird

Sorta sci-fi from Adam.

Consider this a shooting script for one of those concept videos so beloved of the big technology vendors.

Google Keep? It’ll probably be with us until March 2017 - on average

Charles Arthur analyses the data from Google’s woeful history of shutting down its services.

So if you want to know when Google Keep, opened for business on 21 March 2013, will probably shut - again, assuming Google decides it’s just not working - then, the mean suggests the answer is: 18 March 2017. That’s about long enough for you to cram lots of information that you might rely on into it; and also long enough for Google to discover that, well, people aren’t using it to the extent that it hoped.