robertogreco + navneetalang   17

The internet is too big
"Scale produces a vicious cycle wherein size facilitates both the problems and the "solutions."

Similarly, Twitter's userbase of hundreds of millions is what allows for the targeted, radically asymmetrical nature of harassment, where one user can be barraged by thousands of replies. The very interconnection that enables the best of the internet also helps foster its worst.

What are we to do if we want to reclaim the best of the internet while combatting its worst? While the tech giants have work to do, it seems that one way to think about this is to distinguish between the usefulness of infrastructure at scale versus the usefulness of certain networks. On one hand, it's beneficial for everyone to be potentially connected by a neutral set of wires and hardware. On the other hand, enormous, multi-billion user networks like Facebook aren't the only way we can connect.

Now that the internet is normal and accessible for billions, perhaps we need to think about the tech giants as necessary evils that kickstarted the early internet but have outlived their usefulness. In their place, imagine a set of standards — say, a calendar that anyone can access and that is interoperable with others' but doesn't require you to be on Facebook. It's an ideal of digital technology that rests on the concept that the internet is a way of connecting people but companies shouldn't entirely own the networks on which we connect.

Earlier this year, writer Max Read suggested that the best of the internet was now to be found in the group text chat. He argued that they feel so intimate and because their dynamic "occurs at human scale, with distinct reactions from a handful of friends … rather than at the alien scale of behemoth platforms." It's about finding the best of the internet without the worst — connection enabled by how large and ubiquitous the internet is, but without the internet's scale infecting how we use it on a daily basis.

It's not clear how such a change would come about. The tech giants not only wield enormous political and economic power, they have also deeply and perhaps even irrevocably integrated themselves into our lives. But as ideals go, a return to a smaller internet is one worth fighting for."
scale  navneetalang  2019  internet  web  socialmedia  facebook  twitter  youtube  interoperability  chat  maxread  size  networks  networkeffect  calendars  communication  dicsovery  intimacy  groupchat  messaging  email  online  timcarmody  robinsloan  nostalgia  humanscale  humanism  humanity 
june 2019 by robertogreco
Apple just told us they think the iPad is the future of computing
[See also:

"WWDC seemed to me to be further confirmation that beneath all the Mac Pro bluster, Apple still sees the iPad as the future of "real" computing."
https://twitter.com/navalang/status/1135757110187134978

"Something I didn't get to in this but that I think is an implicit (or perhaps explicit) part of Apple's strategy is that an iPad is a more pleasurable computer to use. (What better characterizes Apple than the linkage of work and pleasure?)"
https://twitter.com/navalang/status/1135757541592354817
ipados  ipad  ipadpro  2019  navneetalang  ios 
june 2019 by robertogreco
The genius strategy behind Google's new Pixel 2 smartphones
"But a decade into the smartphone era, specifications aren't enough. When considering which phone to buy, consumers are no longer looking at a simple list of features; they're considering how all the parts work together to make a device — and the broader ecosystem — more compelling. Giving consumers the most effective experience requires vertically integrating hardware, software, and services so that the experience can be seamless. For example, technologies like Google Lens, which lets users identify objects using the camera, rely on a variety of things working perfectly — from the computing to the imaging tech to the machine learning. The Pixel 2's likely excellent camera also comes with free cloud storage from Google, making the device even more compelling. In mimicking this integrated Apple approach, Google can also leverage a key advantage over Apple: a head start in AI, as Apple has come to the field later and more clumsily than its competitors, while Google continues to be a pioneer.

The upsides of this holistic approach are clear: When a tech company controls each point in an ecosystem, it is better able to produce the very best experiences for users, and evade the pitfalls and lag of tech partnerships. It's something the entire industry is slowly recognizing. Google also announced the Google Pixelbook, a high-end Chromebook with a touchscreen and pen. It instantly evoked both the Microsoft Surface and the iPad Pro. The eerie similarity was symbolic: All three major computing companies are trying to achieve the same basic thing, locking consumers into an ecosystem.

There is a problem looming here for Google, though. In theory, the Pixel line is supposed to function like Microsoft's Surface in that it highlights the company's ecosystem at its very best, spurring on development from its broad range of partners. But inevitably, there are competing interests at work. Samsung is also recognizing that power lies in the stack; it developed its own voice assistant called Bixby rather than relying on Google's Assistant. You can, however, access both services on a new Samsung phone. It's redundant, and a little ridiculous, but perhaps demonstrative of the tension at work. Where once there was overlap and cross-pollination, things are tightening into vertical silos, and partnerships are a thing of the past. What remains to be seen is whether Google can keep on this path without alienating its partners — or, if push comes to shove, have Android continue to succeed on its own without them."
apple  google  samsung  android  ios  technology  navneetalang  iphone  pixel  hardware  2017 
october 2017 by robertogreco
Can the online community be saved? Is it even worth saving? - The Globe and Mail
"It seems quaint now to speak of online communities in romantic terms. I’ll do it anyway. For the past few decades, we’ve been in love with them.

What made them so appealing was the way that made the world suddenly seemed to open up. Bulletin boards, and then forums, then blogs allowed everyone from knitting enthusiasts to politics nerds to find and talk to others who shared their interests or views. We liked that, and made hanging out there a mainstay of life. But as can happen with love, things can sour bit by bit, almost imperceptibly, until one day you awake and find yourself in toxic relationships.

It wasn’t always this way. Years ago, in the mid-2000s, I sat in a Toronto basement apartment, adding my thoughts to posts on a site called Snarkmarket, which delved into the artsy and philosophical sides of technology and media. To my mind, these wide, wild, intimate discussions seemed to capture everything wonderful about the new modern age: I found like-minded individuals and, eventually, a community.

And then, I was on a plane, flying over the deeply blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico in November, 2013. Somehow, a blog comment section had led me from Toronto to Florida. A group flew in from all over the continent to St. Petersburg, and brought our online discussions to life around tables replete with boozy pitchers shared on patios in the thick Florida air. Putting faces to usernames made fleeting connections feel more solid, and years later, a small number of us are still in touch: so much for the alienating nature of technology.

It does, however, already feel like a different era, and that such recent history can seem so far away brings with it a strange sense of vertigo. Logging on each morning now, I sometimes forget why I ever had so much faith in all this novelty, and wonder if it can be saved at all.

The first fault line was when the centre of gravity of our online socializing shifted to giant platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and more. With that shift to mainstream sites composed of tens or hundreds of millions of users colliding together in a riot of opinion and expression, online communities started to seem unwelcoming, even dangerous places."



"It is tempting to say, then, that the solution is simple: barriers. A functioning community should draw a line around the kind of people it wants, and keep others out. But that’s also demoralizing in its own way. It suggests those lofty ideals that we could find community with people of all sorts across the globe are well and truly dead, forever.

Anil Dash doesn’t believe they are – at least not fully. A mainstay in the American tech scene after founding the blogging platform Typepad in the early 2000s, he has been vocal in his disappointment that platforms such as Twitter have been slow in responding to abuse. “The damage can be done now is so much more severe because everyone is on these networks and they have so much more reach,” he says on the phone from New York. “The stakes are now much higher.”"



"At a scale of tens of thousands or even millions of people, it’s not just notions of community that are lost, but norms, too, where what would be obvious offline – don’t yell at someone to make a point, don’t dominate a conversation just because you can, and so on – are ignored because of the free-for-all vibe of much social media.

Britney Summit-Gil, a writer, academic and researcher of online communities at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, suggests that while sites such as Facebook and Reddit can be full of hate and harassment, there are increasingly effective tools to build smaller, more private spaces, both on those platforms, and on other sites such as messaging app Slack, or even group text chats.

Summit-Gil also argues that in adopting the idea of community, these huge platforms are responsible for endorsing the principle of guidelines more generally: rules for how and by what standards online communities should operate, that allow these spaces to work at all.

Our online relationships aren’t dead, but our sense of community has become more private: hidden in plain sight, in private Facebook or Slack groups, text chats with friends, we connect in closed spaces that retain the idea of a group of people, bound by shared values, using tech to connect where they otherwise might not be able to. Online communities were supplanted by social media, and for a time we pretended they were the same thing, when in fact they are not.

Social media is the street; the community is the house you step into to meet your friends, and like any house, there are rules: things you wouldn’t do, people you wouldn’t invite it in and a limit on just how many people can fit. We forgot those simple ideas, and now it’s time to remember.

My own online community that took me to Florida was, sadly, subject to the gravity of the social giants. It dissipated, pulled away by the weight of Twitter and Facebook, but also the necessities of work and money and family. Nonetheless, we still connect sometimes, now in new online places, quiet, enclosed groups that the public world can’t see. New communities have sprouted up, too – and I still dive in. I’m not sure I would do so as easily, though, had it not been for what now threatens to be lost: that chance to get on a plane, look down from above and see, from up high, what we share with those scattered around the globe.

That sense of radical possibility is, I think, worth fighting to save."
navneetalang  socialmedia  online  internet  web  anildash  britneysummit-gil  2017  consolidation  tumblr  instagram  twitter  facebook  social  lindywest  snarkmarket  community  gamergate  reddit  scale  typepad  abuse 
may 2017 by robertogreco
Who Gets to Be a Restaurant Critic? - Eater
"That, however, is just the trouble with standards: They don’t translate well across types of people, or the group divisions that help define those standards in the first place. The tension between haute cuisine and populism, a Times review and Yelp, is about competing ways of deciding what’s good — of whether chips should be fat and soft like in a chippy, or thin and crisp like bistro frites. But when the public discourse around food is so overwhelmingly dominated not just by highfalutin critics, but those who are often white, middle-income, and left-leaning, the assumed standards by which food is judged tend to reflect and replicate exactly those values. If critics these days seem to most value food which presents a vision, highlights the ingredients, or inventively mixes influences, it’s because those are the values of upwardly mobile, culturally omnivorous eaters who believe in conscious capitalism.

This is why the Chicken Connoisseur feels so pleasantly unusual. It checks off all the boxes for what modern food criticism looks like, self-reflexively paying attention to its own status as criticism, but instead of taking you to places with small plates, or omakase, takes you to chicken shops in Hackney or Tottenham or any number of other London areas that haven’t been entirely subsumed by gentrification. Those shops are, in a simple empirical sense, the kinds of places where millions of people eat, but that people concerned with food as signifier of cultural capital would rather ignore — perhaps because such places don’t represent change or novelty, the necessary fuel of the media, but also perhaps because the change they might stand for isn’t considered relevant. In putting a critical vocabulary people were already using into a polished, appealing YouTube show, however, Quashie ends up providing a model for what a food criticism that speaks to a broader, browner, less-wealthy audience might look like. It’s fast food, framed as a product of its place and time, by someone who is winning and funny in front of a camera, and who happens to be young and black. But Quashie also stands as a challenge to all kinds of institutional critics, urging them to grapple with — and take seriously — the things that a majority of people hold dear.

This is, I think, exactly as it should be. When literary criticism moved away from Leavis or the New Critics and started to dabble in feminism or postcolonialism, its emphasis wasn’t simply on the politics of how literature got created or the representation therein. It was also on aesthetics, so Woolf’s feminism wasn’t just in her message, but her prose. Cuisine’s import and relevance isn’t just in “what story a plating tells,” but our culturally loaded expectations about what food should be. Say what you will about four wings for around two dollars, but the demand that they be crispy and spicy is a standard, and one that people care about. At root, it’s a question of what the object and nature of criticism should be: a narrow slice of food that represents the bleeding edge and demands the language of a specialist, or a shifting set of criteria that tackle both the highbrow and the everyday without insisting one is more culturally significant than the other.

************

There is, at the dawn of 2017 — what feels like a decidedly new phase of history — something like a lesson there. In the aftermath of Brexit and Trump, there was a gnashing of teeth over the rise of populism as a transatlantic, if not global, phenomenon. But the attention paid to the gaping distance between the media and great swaths of the country was framed as either a problem to be solved using the same tools people have always deployed, or a thing to be dismissed because of ignorance or racism. When one also considers the boggling number of people who didn’t vote at all, perhaps this new era demands some sort of reckoning with what is popular, common, and reflects how the majority of people actually talk about food.

It is of course true that part of criticism’s function it to both engage in a dialectic with a craft, challenging it to do better, while also calling attention to broader, systemic issues. A food reviewer who only ever judged fried chicken joints without ever calling attention to factory farming or the environment would be in dereliction of their duty. And Quashie does at one point mention that a less-than-stellar wing from a chicken which “did not live a good life” tasted of sadness and suffering. But perhaps the first step is making room for a food criticism that speaks to people where they are, and like all criticism, through standards that they too value and understand.

At the end of Quashie’s first post-fame video, he acknowledges his sudden success — and then squints as an off-camera voice says “Chinese!” It turns out this fave, like any, is problematic. Still, it’s troubling to see talk of ethnic food that has been “elevated” by removing it from its context or, conversely, to see the food that most people eat derisively dismissed, and the Chicken Connoisseur is a rejoinder to both.

In episode 6 of The Pengest Munch — the one that first went viral and now has over 3.5 million views — Elijah Quashie mentions he chewed on a bone in a strip burger, then looks at the camera and says with a smirk, “Bossman: I don’t know wha gwan, but that can’t run. That can’t run fam.” You might also say the same of a food culture that ignores so much of the population, pretending that its own standards are somehow objective, while those of critics like Quashie are not simply arbitrary, but just wrong. If food criticism is to grapple with the populist present, that situation, it seems fair to say, fam, can’t run either."
navneetalang  culture  criticism  foodcritics  foodcriticism  food  2017  populism  elijahquashie  thepengestmunch  accessibility  elitism  everyday  standards  restaurants  howweeat 
march 2017 by robertogreco
Review: David Sax’s The Revenge of Analog extols the superiority of ‘real things’ - The Globe and Mail
"The key change wrought by digital is that, where scarcity was once the norm, surfeit is now our default. Digital thus represents a kind of inversion. Once, more was better: Technology was improved by more features, knowledge increased with ever more facts and greater choice. Now, it is subtraction that in fact adds to a scenario. The best digital services are those that constrain in some fashion. Netflix and Spotify have both succeeded because they have figured out how to recommend small numbers of titles from thousands of choices.

In his book, Sax outlines the many ways in which analog tech bests digital because of what it does not do. Your paperback novel cannot interrupt your reading to tell you the weather, your newspaper has a start and a finish, and your analog recording studio forces you to make decisions and just cut a track, rather than the malleability of digitally creating “a moving target of unachievable perfection.” In the face of such endlessness, it is subtraction, boundaries – less – that is the strategy for survival in the digital era.

For many, though, this upending of Western thought also represents a world gone topsy-turvy. Sax echoes Sullivan’s complaints about the relentless pace of digital, and its related psychological effects. These are real issues, not to be dismissed lightly. At this early stage of the digital era, we are still stuck on how to achieve balance, particularly now that our technology and the flood of information it brings is with us all the time. When Sax cites the tendency of even young millennials to prefer print, it is because they, like we, are seeking relief. Digital as a tool or medium seems primed to plug most directly into our receptors for pleasure, for the dopamine and serotonin centres that thrive on novelty, lust or conflict, and the unending flow can quickly turn to excess. In contradistinction to that torrent, it is the tactile, physical nature of analog that is its saving grace – its seeming permanence, it’s there-ness, its tendency, quite unlike digital, to be in one place at one time doing one thing. In his book, Sax’s lively, evocative prose conjures reminders of the physical world: Record presses spit and heave, cameras satisfyingly click, and paper crinkles and smells in ways pleasingly familiar.

But the neat line separating digital from analog is more fuzzy than it might appear. Sullivan, Sax, and I – all part of a generation who spent their formative years before the Internet and their adult ones completely saturated with it – have also grown up with plastic Nintendo controllers, button-filled digital cameras, and DVD players armed with an array of LED lights. My own home is littered with the tactile remains of no end of technology, and the chubby, reassuring thickness of the first iPhone I still keep tucked in a drawer has already taken on the same sheen of nostalgia I reserve for old school notebooks or sweaters.

As Sullivan’s piece spoke of a return from the seductive screens, Sax’s constantly extols the superiority of what the text calls “real things.” It is, however, a world cleaved neatly into two neat spheres, digital and analog – so much so that near the end of the book, Sax claims that “digital is not reality. It never was and never will be.” It’s a claim that one might generously characterize as nonsense. To assert that the almost unfathomable explosion of human creativity that fills the Internet sits somehow lower on a hierarchy of ontological realness is absurd.

It is this needless, false dualism that should make one skeptical of claims not only of the superiority of analog, but that such a neat distinction exists at all. In The Revenge of Analog, the alluring material quality of objects is always highlighted, but ignores the fetishism that has led us to revalue it, skipping over the more simple fact that analog has become appealing for the same reason you can’t put your phone down: novelty. Similarly, when speaking of Silicon Valley’s tendency to use lots of paper, Sax’s claim that “analog proves the most efficient way to run a business,” simply isn’t true. One would hardly be better served by doing one’s accounting or inventory using a pen and paper. What works better is finding the right balance between analog and digital – largely because at this moment, that is the only choice there is.

***

The Revenge of Analog is at its core a business book, each chapter the revenge of a new sector – retail, print, film – and is thus a work meant to uncover entrepreneurial opportunities lying in wait. It works best as polemic, as an interjection into a world that has too eagerly assumed digital is in some simple sense better, and perhaps ignored that the limitations of analog are more vital than ever. But in the eagerness to sell a marketable idea, Sax mistakes the fact that digital things cannot be touched for the fact that they are insubstantial.

It is what can be held that enthralls Sax, however, and he is most transfixed by Kevin Kelly’s Cool Tools, a thing he calls “exhibit A in analog’s revenge.” Kelly, the founder of Wired magazine, created the Cool Tools book as an homage to the Whole Earth Catalogue, a kind of how-to guide for life from the late sixties that told you how to grow food or build a home – and the sort of thing rendered quite obsolete by the Internet. Cool Tools began as a blog, and started out simply reviewing tools that you need for a dizzying array of practical endeavours – everything from milling your own grains to ways to increase the WiFi signal in your home. Kelly then made the decision to create the book, which quickly sold out on its first run.

For Sax, the book highlights what is best about analog. It lends itself to idle browsing, drawing in anyone who happens to pick it up, its catalogue of useful things evoking the possibility of a life better lived. But beyond its obvious digital origins, or even the inevitability of its creation on and through computers, Cool Tools reveals a world forever changed by the digital landscape. The book’s non-linear mishmash of ideas, the serendipity of their discovery, is a function of its digital past, now formalized by the analog. The two spheres are inextricable, indivisible, not simply in practical terms (each review has a QR code leading to an online store) but in ideological, epistemological ones, too. We cannot help but read the book from our moment in the present where there is no offline and online, but only what scholar J. Sage Elwell calls “onlife”: an existence that is always both digital and analog at once, and irrevocably so. For now, we may struggle to pay attention, but this is our lot. It is already too late for analog’s revenge – the thing to do is figure out how to be human after digital’s victory. There is no going back."
navneetalang  2016  davidsax  kevinkelly  andrewsullivan  digital  analog  less  subtraction  louismenand  jsageelwell  humans  humanity  boundaries 
november 2016 by robertogreco
Life’s a Snap! | New Republic
"This is, even to the most cynical observer, a surprising business move. Snapchat started out as an app known primarily for sexting, then for taking up hours in an average teen’s day, and most recently for its inventive, weird filters and celebrity feuds. But while a software company moving into hardware isn’t unprecedented—Facebook is now making virtual reality headsets, and who can forget Google Glass?—Snap’s move is also less unexpected when you consider that the company’s overarching goal is to occupy attention and become a key way to communicate. The Snapchat app, for example, has blended both messaging and news in the same container, with users flipping back and forth between both. In essence, Snap hopes to replace both texting and TV with a weird hybrid of the two.

Spectacles alone is unlikely to achieve that ambitious aim. What a product like Spectacles might do, however, is help set the stage for a world in which images and video—already dominant online—are the default mode of communication, period. With a pair of glasses that records video from a user’s perspective, Snap is hoping to create a new cultural form—a deeply social form of photography and video that will form a buzzing, connective background for our lives.


Whenever one of the big tech companies does something radical, it often reveals something about its ambitions. Facebook is always trying to install itself as the default for existing behaviors, hoping to replace texting with their Messenger app or news websites with their news feed. Snap’s plans for Spectacles are more experimental and weird, but just as far-reaching in their ultimate goal. A pair of camera-glasses aimed at teens isn’t itself meant to meant to become the next iPhone—partly because in the short term the glasses can’t have the same broad appeal as a smartphone that does hundreds of things, and partly because, even at $130, they’re a bit cheap and plasticky. In the Wall Street Journal piece that broke the news about Spectacles, Spiegel referred to the glasses as “a toy.”

It would be a mistake, however, to think toy means unserious. “[T]he future of technology,” mobile analyst Benedict Evans is fond of saying, “has always looked like a pretty toy to people comfortable with the past.” Snapchat’s greatest strength is that its same toy-like nature encourages playfulness and a lack of careful curation. Snapchat videos are often rough and unorchestrated, an effect of the fact that they self-delete after 24 hours. That focus on nowness is also at the heart of Spectacles. As Spiegel argues of a test of Spectacles on a trip to Big Sur, “It’s one thing to see images of an experience you had, but it’s another thing to have an experience of the experience. It was the closest I’d ever come to feeling like I was there again.”

There’s an alluring immediacy to this. It’s not hard to imagine using Spectacles to send short clips of a party to a sick friend who had to stay home, or picturesque views from a vacation to friends who are stuck at work. These kinds of moments are what digital does best: to produce a kind of proxy or cyborg self that you can beam into other lives. Snapchat the app is already good at that, and Spectacles first-person view promises only to heighten it.

The aim seems less to turn Snap into a new hardware behemoth than to instill, in both American and global culture, the Snap mentality of that constant social connective tissue. A pair of Spectacles and a smartphone, Spiegel argues, let you “share your experience of the world while also seeing everyone else’s experience of the world, everywhere, all the time.”

Just as the book and television changed how we think and relate to the world, so too does the vision of the persistent connectivity of social photography. Each major shift in media since the invention of writing has produced an internalization of that mode. Just writing gave mankind an urge to both document history and diarize our thoughts; a camera on one’s brow beckons a kind of persistent documentary eye, making one forever ready to find something “Snappable.” The sheer satisfaction that comes from a visual record of moments also can induce a compulsion to get that same neurochemical hit of attention and affirmation again. It’s not an inherently negative thing—the eye of others is always with us, psychologically, even when we’re offline—but there is perhaps an intensification of that feeling that comes with the further technologization of that phenomenon.

Of course, economic concerns drive the invention of new tech products: Snap wants to profit from Spectacles. Spiegel’s circuitous language of “an experience of an experience” is not just about enjoying a fun moment again, but how one experiences that memory—in what form, in whose app, under what conditions. That is: the aesthetics and interface of the app itself are part and parcel of the remembering, and as we already know from Snapchat, its capacity to hold attention makes it an ideal place for advertisers looking for eyeballs in a fragmented world. This being the twenty-first century, a new cultural form—the Twitter feed, the cloud photo album, or the Facebook status update—is also a venue for ads, a place to both connect with others and connect with brands.

Spectacles thus herald future in which the image not only becomes the default mode of social communication, but that who controls that image—from production to experience, from which camera to which app are used to send and view it—has a significant impact on both messaging and society at large. Though the social aspects of Spectacles are compelling, there is also a more worrying side: the constant self-surveillance, and in what form all those images will be put to use.

Consider: On Monday night, just a couple of days after the announcement of Spectacles, the first of the American presidential debates took place. Snapchat often creates geofilters for specific places or events that reflect something about them, and for the debate it released one by the Trump campaign. It was the first nationwide political filter, and it allowed users to take a selfie with the caption “Debate Day: Donald J. Trump vs. Crooked Hillary.” It’s not that Snapchat was unique in being a platform used to disseminate Trump’s rhetoric; all media does it, and no-one was forced to use the filter to send snaps to their friends. Rather, it was that Snapchat’s desire to use filters as a revenue stream was just one more way for Trump to spread his own brash brand of politicking. Snapchat’s users were thus transformed into more than simply people chatting. When someone else controls the way we communicate, sending one kind of message can often lead to sending quite another."
navneetalang  snap  snapchat  snapspectacles  communication  socialmedia  photography  video  internet  psychology  toys  play  googleglass  evanspiegel  technology  imagery  perspective  pov 
october 2016 by robertogreco
The Trouble with Pleasure — HACK GROW LOVE — Medium
"It has been just over three years since I moved back home. It was, I have come to realize recently, a colossal mistake — an evasion, a cowering, an attempt to put a stop on the forward march of time.

Yet, for the surfeit of things I have to regret, it is something small and emblematic about this most recent of my many errors that sticks out in my mind. Over the last few years, I have often, in a sudden rush of optimism, told myself that on either this or the next morning I will, instead of my usual cup of tea, start the day with the perfect cup of coffee: freshly brewed, with freshly ground beans, perhaps with a slice or two of a freshly-bought, buttered baguette. And each time I have come up to this possibility, I have turned away from this most utterly mundane of things, instead making my normal cup of tea. As the opportunity presents itself, there is a voice that whispers at the back of my mind: no, it’s too indulgent; you don’t deserve it yet.

I am, just to be clear, talking about having a fucking cup of coffee.

What makes some people feel entitled to pleasure — and others so prone to self-denial? Why is that some people don’t give a second thought to that most ordinary, human of impulses — right now, I am going to do what I want to do — while others march on to their deaths, heads cowed and hearts empty?

As I’ve been rolling over that question for the past couple of months, here is what I have realized. Most of my adult life has been the product of a series of “no’s.” I have, over and over again, said no: to love, to sex, to work, to friends, to money, to challenge, to fear, to risk, to reward.

Perhaps it isn’t surprising, then, that for me, pleasure has always been intimately tied to guilt. It is as if in my mind pleasure has a price, and the only way to earn enough currency to acquire it is through work, effort, and self-abnegation. No work, no suffering, or no achievement, and pleasure seems undeserved, unwarranted, even unfair. What, I often feel, in those dark, dense knots of my subconscious, have I done to merit this reward?

In the abstract, pleasure is about saying yes. It is an expression of an affirmative yearning, not the filling in of a lack, but a kind of positivity with no corollary in an inverse negation. Pleasure is Deleuzian: a force of outwardness and wanting that erupts from itself.

Or at least, that’s what I think in theory. In reality, pleasure to me is in fact part of a delicate balance of binary relations set upon a crisscrossed network of orthogonal axes: of work and play; of effort and reward; of indulgence and denial; of guilt and entitlement. Pleasure is not a thing for itself, but the opposite pole of a series of responsibilities. It is a not only a thing to be earned, but a thing to be indulged in if and only when enough labour has been expended, and enjoyment sufficiently deferred.

When one has spent a lifetime saying no, year after year spent in fear, pleasure begins to seem like a thing for other people, for those who’ve earned it, and those who thus deserve it. A couple of summers ago, as we were making plans for a Friday night, a friend said to me, defiantly, “I’ve worked hard all week and now I want to enjoy myself.” It was a sense of entitlement to pleasure borne of effort — the energy of work now transmogrified into justification for enjoyment. It was utterly foreign to me.

One could say a number of things at this point, though in particular, it seems worth commenting on how certain types of guilt and neuroses are fed by the structures and strictures of capitalism — that wage labour under a general rubric of the Protestant work ethic produce reward and pleasure as transactional. There is, of course, also the post-Marxist turn to this critique: that when pleasure — and, of course, the consumption of representations of others’ and one’s own pleasure through social media — becomes the core of the consumer economy, things will inevitably get more messy. It is less a question of “come and play, come and play, forget about the movement” than consumption becoming the movement itself.

But for all the possible structural theorizing, what seems more important is to challenge the notion of pleasure and negation as an oppositional pairing. To say that enjoyment is fair for those who have put in the effort is to miss part of the equation: that pleasure is not simply a reward for denial, but is itself a productive irruption made of an outward movement — that it is energy made from energy, a byproduct of an omnivorous and insatiable tumbling forward. It is, to put it more plainly, an answer in the affirmative to the call “will you?” It is a yes to the demand “say yes.”

The trouble with pleasure is that it is not a reward at all, but an outcome of itself — pleasure as performative instantiation of pleasure. It is, to now arrive at the ultimately self-help vocabulary I have been deliberately avoiding, a thing to be done, not a thing to be experienced. The question then is this: from where does the courage to say yes arise, when bravery, too, can only ever emerge from the act of bravery itself?"
navneetalang  2015  pleasure  rewards  self-denial  bravery  risk  self-abnegation  work  suffering  negation  capitalism  workethic  consumption  socialmedia  denial  gillesdeleuze  deleuze 
march 2016 by robertogreco
How do you start to live your life at (nearly) 40? — Medium
"It was the accretion of a thousand small choices made out of fear that led me here, not some cataclysmic mistake. That’s the thing about avoiding life: each tiny evasion builds upon the last, gradually calcifying into a kind of defensive crust so that, from the outside, you appear to have the same patina of wear and tear as everyone else, but underneath, you are hollow, brittle, incomplete. What I am primarily left with now is regret, which comes in waves of self-reproach, each missed opportunity or refusal playing out in my memory in excruciating detail.

Still, I haven’t yet abandoned hope. Undoing a lifetime of evasion will be no easy task, but I’m not resigning myself to this misery and nothing more. (Therapy is helping.) It is a strange thing, though, to start thinking about what you actually want from life at an age when, inevitably, it dawns on you it has an end, too. Though I lived for far too long in an extended adolescence, with it came the persistently hopeful idea that it wasn’t too late to change. Now, the time I have left to become the kind of person I want to be is, in a way that feels strangely sudden, running out."

*

My dissertation was on something I called The Holographic Self. In it, the eponymous hologram is an expression of a desire to exceed the limitations of subject position, and I located that yearning in the logics of digitality. As a piece of writing, it is plodding and too earnest by half, but as is the case with much academic work, it is also surreptitiously autobiographical. There I was, spending years in front of a laptop, letting my life slip by, while writing about how we project the desire for our idealized selves into the digital.

So in this particular, rather long-winded narrative, this is where I think I’m supposed to tell you that I’ve made peace with my wasted life, and I’m ready to become that new person — to actualize my holographic longing. But I can’t. There is, unfortunately, always a naively optimistic dimension to writing about How One Is Going To Make One’s Life Better™. It often ends up being a performance of the way you want things to go, and in reality, they never quite work out in so neat a manner. (I still haven’t had that coffee.) [https://medium.com/hack-grow-love/the-trouble-with-pleasure-867f729a9d29#.gm7ekw2kh ]

One thing I am clear on, though? I don’t regret finishing that godforsaken PhD. I still don’t know about starting it, mind you; you’ll have to check with me on my deathbed. But I stuck to it, and at the end I had a glass of something sparkling and I felt like I deserved it. I felt great, in fact. I think that’s an equation I’m actually pretty happy about: write 400 pages over five years and at the end, you get a single flute of Crémant d’Alsace, and for once, a feeling like you actually fucking did something.

I don’t quite know how to start living at 40. I mean, obviously I have some rough ideas, and not all of them succumb to the aggressively “normal” version of life I’ve laid out thus far; I don’t really care that much about brunch. I do know, however, that the next step is not as simple as merely accepting that I have lived the life I have lived. That isn’t enough. My regrets are still too large, yet too numerous for me to simply lay them to rest.

But when you’ve spent a lifetime hiding from everything, beginning and then finishing something hard — and then enjoying the rewards — is at the very least, a step in the right direction. And the PhD took the form of one of the few things that gives me comfort and (fine, I’ll say it) that I’m good at: taking ideas, and shaping them into sentences and paragraphs that, sometimes, other people find interesting to read.

At the very least, one can take that life, those aimless, spent years, and put an aesthetic frame around both them and the ideas and perspective they have produced — and hopefully, occasionally say something pretty or profound. It’s not much. And in truth, it may not be enough. I guess I just like the self-reflexivity of it all: write out how you’re trying to make things better, and you end up making things better by writing it out. So, with few other options, I will put one word in front of the other, and see what happens.
And here at the end, after choosing for so long to barely live at all, isn’t that, if nothing else, a start?"
navneetalang  2016  writing  regret  life  living  accretion  hope  avoidance  evasion 
march 2016 by robertogreco
The Terror of the Archive | Hazlitt
"The digitally inflected individual is often not quite an individual, not quite alone. Our past selves seem to be suspended around us like ghostly, shimmering holograms, versions of who we were lingering like memories made manifest in digital, diaphanous bodies. For me, many of those past selves are people I would like to put behind me—that same person who idly signed up for Ashley Madison is someone who hurt others by being careless and self-involved. Now, over a decade on, I’m left wondering to what extent that avatar of my past still stands for or defines me—of the statute of limitations on past wrongs. Though we’ve always been an accumulation of our past acts, now that digital can splay out our many, often contradictory selves in such an obvious fashion, judging who we are has become more fraught and complicated than ever. How, I wonder, do we ethically evaluate ourselves when the conflation of past and present has made things so murky?

*

Sometimes, I aimlessly trawl through old and present email accounts, and it turns out I am often inadvertently mining for awfulness. In one instance—in a Hotmail account I named after my love for The Simpsons—I find myself angrily and thoughtlessly shoving off a woman’s renewed affection because I am, I tell her, “sick of this.” I reassure myself that I am not that person anymore—that I now have the awareness and the humility to not react that way. Most days, looking at how I’ve grown since then, I almost believe this is true.

Yet, to be human is to constantly make mistakes and, as a result, we often hurt others, if not through our acts then certainly our inaction. There is for each of us, if we are honest, a steady stream of things we could have done differently or better: could have stopped to offer a hand; could have asked why that person on the subway was crying; could have been kinder, better, could have taken that leap. But, we say, we are only who we are.

We joke about the horror of having our Google searches publicized, or our Twitter DMs revealed, but in truth, we know the mere existence of such a digital database makes it likely that something will emerge from the murky space in which digital functions as a canvas for our fantasies or guilt.

That is how we justify ourselves. Our sense of who we are is subject to a kind of recency bias, and a confirmation bias, too—a selection of memories from the recent past that conform to the fantasy of the self as we wish it to be. Yet the slow accretion of selective acts that forms our self-image is also largely an illusion—a convenient curation of happenings that flatters our ego, our desire to believe we are slowly getting better. As it turns out, grace and forgiveness aren’t the purview of some supernatural being, but temporality—the simple erasure of thought and feeling that comes from the forward passage of time."



"The line between evasiveness and forgiveness, cowardice and grace, is thin, often difficult to locate, but absolutely vital. It seems, though, that our ethical structures may slowly be slipping out of step with our subjectivities. If we have abandoned the clean but totalitarian simplicity of Kant’s categorical imperative, instead embracing that postmodern cliché of a fluid morality, we still cling to the idea that the self being morally judged is a singular ethical entity, either good or bad. It’s common on social media, for example, for someone to be dismissed permanently for one transgression—some comedian or actor who is good at race but bad at gender (or vice versa) to be moved from the accepted pile to the trash heap. If our concept of morality is fluid, our idea of moral judgment is not similarly so.

That notion of self assumes morality is accretive and cumulative: that we can get better over time, but nevertheless remain a sum of the things we’ve done. Obviously, for the Bill Cosbys or Jian Ghomeshis or Jared Fogles of the world, this is fine. In those cases, it is the repetition of heinous, predatory behaviour over time that makes forgiveness almost impossible—the fact that there is no distance between past and present is precisely the point. For most of us, though, that simple idea of identity assumes that selves are singular, totalized things, coherent entities with neat boundaries and linear histories that arrived here in the present as complete. Even if that ever were true, what digitality helps lay bare is that who we are is actually a multiplicity, a conglomeration of acts, often contradictory, that slips backward and forward and sideways through time incessantly."



"Is the difficulty of digitality for our ethics, then, not the multiplicity of the person judged, but our Janus-faced relation to the icebergs of our psyches—the fact that our various avatars are actually interfaces for our subconscious, exploratory mechanisms for what we cannot admit to others or ourselves?

Freud said that we endlessly repeat past hurts, forever re-enacting the same patterns in a futile attempt to patch the un-healable wound. This, more than anything, is the terror of the personal, digital archive: not that it reveals some awful act from the past, some old self that no longer stands for us, but that it reminds us that who we are is in fact a repetition, a cycle, a circular relation of multiple selves to multiple injuries. It’s the self as a bundle of trauma, forever acting out the same tropes in the hopes that we might one day change.

What I would like to tell you is that I am a better man now than when, years ago, I tried my best to hide from the world and myself. In many ways that is true. Yet, all those years ago, what dragged me out of my depressive spiral was meeting someone—a beautiful, kind, warm person with whom, a decade later, I would repeat similar mistakes. I was callous again: took her for granted, pushed her away when I wanted to, and couldn’t take responsibility for either my or her emotions. Now, when a piece of the past pushes its way through the ether to remind me of who I was or am, I can try to push it down—but in a quiet moment, I might be struck by the terror that some darker, more cowardly part of me is still too close for comfort, still there inside me. The hologram of my past self, its face a distorted, shadowy reflection of me with large, dark eyes, is my mirror, my muse. And any judgment of my character depends not on whether I, in some simple sense, am still that person, but whether I—whether we, multiple and overlapped—can reckon with, can meet and return the gaze of the ghosts of our past."
navneetalang  archives  internet  memory  grace  forgiveness  circulation  change  past  present  mistakes  ashleymadison  twitter  email  privacy  facebook  socialmedia  dropbox  google  secrets  instagram  self  ethics  morality  judgement  identity 
september 2015 by robertogreco
What's the Point of Handwriting? | Hazlitt Magazine
"Maybe handwriting is neither a lost art nor an anachronism; perhaps new technology will show there is some useful alchemy left in the way language, the body, and our sense of identity intertwine."



"Maybe the limitations of the body carry some hidden benefit: that in marking out ideas at a pace slower than typing, there is some link between neural and muscle memory."



"Unlike digital’s precision, writing is blurry individuality under a general system. But in addition to this, we all have our own personalized understanding of arrows, squiggles, double-underlines and so on—little personal codes we develop over time to “talk to ourselves.” To write by hand is to always foreground an inevitable uniqueness, visually marking out an identity in opposition to, say, this font you’re reading right now.'



"If one can draw over and annotate a web page and then send it to a friend, the web at least feels less hegemonic, recalling the kind of interactivity and freedom of expression once found in the now-broken dream of blog comment sections."



"For all that, though, what pens do offer is both practical and symbolic resistance to the pre-programmed nature of the modern web—its tendency to ask you to express yourself, however creatively and generatively, within the literal and figurative constraints of a small, pre-defined box. There is a charming potential in the pen for activity that works against the grain of those things: to mark out in one’s own hand the absurdities of some top ten list, or underlining some particularly poignant paragraph in a way that a highlight or newly popular screenshotting tool doesn’t quite capture. Perhaps it’s the visual nature of the transgression—the mark of a hand slashed across a page—that produces emblematically the desire for self-expression: not the witty tweet or status update, nor just the handwritten annotation, but the doubled, layered version of both, the very overlap put to one’s own, subjective ends. And then there is more simple pleasure: that you are, in both an actual and metaphorical sense, drawing outside the lines. If one can draw over and annotate a web page and then send it to a friend, for example, the web at least feels less hegemonic, recalling the kind of interactivity and freedom of expression once found in the now-broken dream of blog comment sections."



"Identity online is fraught. You could make the argument that our collected personas—the affected shots of Instagram; the too-earnest Facebook status updates; the sarcastic, bitter tweets—are all an attempt to form some approximation of who we believe ourselves to be: we perform ourselves to become more authentic versions of ourselves. I know I at least do something like this, and have made winding, verbose arguments that documenting ourselves into being is how we use social media to become more human.

Yet I have also, in the writings of those such as Rob Horning, found reason to be deeply skeptical of the economic and ideological motives behind that push. Now that the web is a place of data collection, of surveillance, and of that strange urge to perform one’s personal brand in the right way, such naive notions of performance are no longer tenable. And yet … we still do it: inscribing shards of the self upon screens, despite the fact that, in a variety of ways, we must see and build our identities through the prisms that are handed to us, shaping ourselves to the nature of the newly corporatized web."



"Have you ever seen hand-drawn ink on a page, magnified? It is jagged and rough, full of an impossible number of imperfections. Zoom in far enough and even the most sophisticated digital algorithms would find it difficult to track the cartography of just one letter. There are simply too many undulations, too many indecipherable points to make sense of it. And perhaps this is what appeals with digital ink, too, as symbol, as metaphor—as just a fool’s hope: that in that discomfiting glide of a nib atop glass, there is still the human yearning to say, “I know who I am—here, let me show you.”"
navneetalang  handwriting  writing  2015  technology  slow  bodies  body  typing  memory  musclememory  digital  precision  annotation  uniqueness  individuality  microsoft  tablets  identity  robhorning 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Must We Forfeit Our Ghee? | Hazlitt
"But where did this pattern—of a Western norm hoovering up bits of “ethnic culture” and, often, spitting them back out in the form of expensive “artisanal” products, from bindis to Chinese medicine to the accouterments of Rastafarianism—come from? The answer, I think, goes beyond some oblivious if well-meaning white people. Not to be the sort of person who liberally uses terms like “late capitalism,” but… late capitalism really has done a rather good job of making the world seem somewhat homogenous. I’ve sat just north of New Delhi discussing Friends while eating McDonald’s in front of a Domino’s Pizza. I’ve had Starbucks in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle, and even seen a Tim Hortons cup lying on an Irish country road. You can find the world you want almost anywhere.

In such a sea of uniformity, however, it’s hard to mark oneself out through individual tastes. You can eschew The Big Bang Theory in favour of The Fall on Netflix, or choose arthouse cinema over Michael Bay, but thanks to the web and the accelerated pace at which the niche becomes mainstream, finding one’s uniqueness in conspicuously consuming the unknown cool thing has become infinitely harder.

Where we end up is the fetish for authenticity. As Johannah King-Slutzky wrote in a brilliant essay on “normcore food,” what modern consumer culture craves more than any other thing is purity—the untouched or unknown thing that, brought to light, evokes a history that is more natural or authentic. Craving and consuming the authentic in such a fashion lets us define ourselves in relation to a set of ethics and aesthetics instead of brands. Mason jars, beards, local, organic—all ways of conspicuously consuming without coming across as just another “mindless consumer.”

King-Slutzky argues that the truly cutting-edge spurn that endless cycle of novelty for normcore food—the stuff that is neither artisanal nor kitschy, but that resists either of those trendy classifications by simply being blank. It’s staying one step ahead of the trendiness game through inconspicuous consumption. But for the rest of the purity-seeking middle class, what could better perform cultural capital than artisanal ghee? Despite the fact that ghee is used by millions of people in North America, it’s “ethnic” enough to seem different, yet, at least in its newsworthy form, also local and organic. It stands at the centre of a web of alluring ideas: reclaiming a lost past while making the consumer eminently modern and cosmopolitan—a person of the contemporary world who has found the knowledge of history.

The ethnic—the collective traditions and practices of the world’s majority—thus works as an undiscovered country, full of resources to be mined. Rather than sugar or coffee or oil, however, the ore of the ethnic is raw material for performance and self-definition: refine this rough, crude tradition, bottle it in pretty jars, and display both it and yourself as ideals of contemporary cosmopolitanism. But each act of cultural appropriation, in which some facet of a non-Western culture is columbused, accepted into the mainstream, and commodified, reasserts the white and Western as norm—the end of a timeline toward which the whole world is moving.

That pattern of dismissive, oblivious misunderstanding can turn into a low roar—a kind of tinnitus for what it means to be an ethnic minority in a Western cosmopolis. Yet, at the same time, it’s also true that such acceptance of what is private to me into the general public can also be strangely reassuring. Westerners might have gotten the name wrong, but that I and someone who isn’t Indian can bond over some—ahem—elaichi chai as if it were a normal part of both of our lives somehow ends up being sort of nice.

Where, then, is the line that divides the simple pleasure of cultural fusion from cultural appropriation? One answer is that it becomes appropriation when one group’s sense of “normal” inexplicably and unfairly dominates over another. Consider: over the past twenty or thirty years, yoga, once a fringe hippie practice in the West, has become an ordinary part of middle-class Western life. In nearly every city in the world, you can hear yogis intone the word namaste with a profound seriousness. Repeated in yoga studios the world over, the etymology of the word combines the ideas of bowing in the face of the other, and recognizing the divine in the spiritual creature across from you. It’s a nice thought."



"Words can change in meaning. But sometimes it can be hard to distinguish between those parts of culture that have changed gradually over time, and those which have been violently yanked away, taken over, and put to a maddening, centuries-long end."
2015  navneetalang  capitalism  latecapitalism  appropriation  culture  language  food  columbusing  johannahking-slutzky  authenticity  normcore  consumerism  artisanal 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Ello | scrawledinwax
"1) Digital social structure is a bit like a first date: the initial tone sets up what comes next.

2) For now, Imma ignore Waxy's post from earlier today. Instead, I'm curious about what it means to produce a space with the same socio-structural parameters as Twitter: asynchronous socializing, reverse chronology - and maybe most importantly, an open social list--follow anyone and follow as many people as you want.

3) That structure means that, at least for me, my initial instinct was just to follow people whose names I recognized, or I know say cool things (or both). That means that very quickly, my feed filled up with things that, as with Twitter, are smart and interesting and possibly too much.

4) Stepping back, I realized what I want from a social network currently is constraint and safety.

5) I want the former because I think stricture is now a more important parameter than choice when, returning to the same Deleuzian point I always return to, the infinite multiple comes first, the individual subtraction second. I think "no" is the operative word, not "yes".

6) I want the latter for different reasons. Maybe I chose the wrong word. As a straight male, I've never experienced harassment online, and for some reason, I've never been subject to very much explicit racial abuse (though plenty of assumptions that I know less than others). But when I say safety, what I mean is that I want to be able to talk about ideas without: a) the risk of a semi-private statement spilling out in the into the public; b) that I can talk with people who are, in a general, roundabout way, like-minded. It's not so much that I want an echo chamber as to have one or two spaces where the comfort of familiarity and an interpersonal history lends itself to what is, for very clear and understandable reasons, missing from the structure of Twitter: an assumption that you meant well, and that you are willing to engage and learn when you fuck up. Twitter is a network in which, for reasons I can't quite figure out yet/articulate, foregrounds positionality - i.e highlights and amplifies the relationship between a subject position and an utterance. That linkage has more more wiggle room amongst friends; for me to talk publicly about feminism is unnecessary, but privately amongst (mixed) friends, can be enlightening and healthy. And I suppose that that's party what I want from a digital social structure: some sense of limit so one can make mistakes and learn, without the significant affective and psychological consequences that come from doing it on a place Twitter."
twitter  ello  socialmedia  navneetalang  socialnetworks  discourse  constraint  conversation  trust  safety  networks  socializing  social  2014  goodwill 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Calculating the Weight of the Object / Snarkmarket
"I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the relationship between objects and activities. It’s something obviously affected by digitally-enabled multi-functionality. The digital object doesn’t so much have “a function” as a series of functions under an umbrella of one or two metafunctions – to wit, “this device is what I use to keep up to date” or “my tablet is what I use to read everything from the news to novels.” The association between object and function that was often one-to-one has become multiplied, perhaps receding into infinity (what, really, is the limit of what you can do with your iPhone?)

But more than that, though I know it sounds like mere tautology, the function of physical devices is related to their physicality. How they operate and what they do in 3D space is dependent on the manner in which they occupy that space. Maybe it’s my digitally-addled brain that needs reminding of that, but it somehow feels like a point worth repeating. And the Curta, in a world in which even the scientific calculator feels arcane, just seems so fascinatingly, resoundingly, undeniably physical. And perhaps it’s because of that physicality, but something about it thus seems so purposeful.

It is easy to get caught up in romanticizing the object we can touch, just as we here on Snarkmarket can occasionally get a bit too attached to pixels you can interact with and manipulate. But I’ve been wondering lately if, beyond the chatter about the attention economy or a supposed “inherent” nature to print or screens, there isn’t something pleasurable in the object that performs but one function. Physical or digital, it doesn’t matter. All I mean to ask is if there isn’t something to be enjoyed in a conscious minimalism of function rather than form – that one might find relief in the simplicity of a one-to-one relationship between an activity and a thing."

[Video referenced within: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDn_DDsBWws ]
snarkmarket  2014  objects  physicality  weight  navneetalang  williamgibson  patternrecognition  curta  calculators  digital  physical  digitalobjects  metafunctions  functions  space  purpose  pixels  dimensionality  3d 
january 2014 by robertogreco
Windows Phone Doomsaying is Making Me Surprisingly Sad | Hazlitt | Random House of Canada
"In part, my affinity for it is a matter of aesthetics. Windows Phone eschews the rows of icons and multiple pages of iPhones and Androids for one main screen composed of squares and rectangles of different sizes, with a list of all your other apps in a single list off to the right. Rather than pictures or treatments meant to resemble physical objects, Microsoft’s approach follows the principles of flat design—since aped by Apple—in which clear shapes, fonts and bright colours work together to produce a purely digital look. The overall effect is vastly cleaner and more organized, particularly for attention-addled brains like my own—even an iPad feels visually cacophonic in comparison.

As any iPhone owner will tell you, it’s easy to become attached to objects because of how they look. Becoming attached to software, however, is a bit more strange. And with Windows Phone, the affection you begin to feel isn’t so much toward aesthetics or one particular function but, rather, processes—of movements on a screen, or patterns of motion inscribed into muscle memory. It is the flow of the thing that compels, the way the interface asks for a back and forth between quick, short swipes and taps that leaves one feeling that a smartphone operating system isn’t only a tool, but more akin to an interactive language.

Software is an intermediary between people and the world. As such, screens aren’t a sphere unto themselves as much as a sort of lens onto reality, and the confluence of aesthetics and interaction—even on my clunky old Nokia—shapes that perception in subtle, important ways. It structures a relationship to information.

“But!” the analysts say, “Microsoft-Nokia’s products are doomed!” I’m not convinced that’s entirely true. Assuming it is, though, and Windows Phone heads the way of Palm, WordPerfect, or, probably soon, BlackBerry, what then? If software isn’t just a tool but a window onto life, and picking one is almost like choosing a language or a style, what are we supposed to do when our chosen way of mediating a connection to the world of information disappears?

I don’t have an answer to that—beyond “learn programming,” I guess. But as it stands now, the aesthetic and processual cleanliness of Microsoft’s recent approach helps me to deal with information overload and media glut. Market forces and consumer desire mean that, save learning how to create my own, I might be forced to use a system less suited to my needs. It’s as if I’m presented with this malleable, highly adaptable mechanism for constructing my relation to media, news and the world… and it could, at almost any moment, be taken from me by rigid, entrenched forces far beyond my control."
windowsphone  windowsphonemetro  nokia  2013  software  interface  aesthetics  navneetalang 
october 2013 by robertogreco
Tranquil Windows « Scrawled in Wax
"Rather than flitting back and forth between ten different things, even I, hyperactive and attention-deficient, tend to focus for just a little bit longer. Rather than just the frame of the screen, it’s the aesthetics that also hold my attention because it feels like that’s what they’re designed to do.

This isn’t really that different from a tablet. But it’s been interesting the past couple of years to notice this radical different between desktop and mobile–that strange feeling of freedom when you return to a PC that you can do nine things at once, a feeling that, for me anyway, is a bit like putting an alcoholic in front of an open bar. When I can open twenty tabs at once, my brain seems to cry “Moar information!”"

"It is thus intriguing to think about ‘deliberately deficient design’.… I believe the Law of the Father is still a very useful way to think about how we relate to Cupertino’s stuff."
infooverload  tranquility  focus  attention  design  microsoft  2012  navneetalang  windows8  from delicious
november 2012 by robertogreco
Twitter / @Timothy Burke: "Interdisciplinarity" see ...
[A thread on Twitter about interdisciplinarity…]

"Interdisciplinarity" seems so formal, like a treaty organization. I like the version that's about smuggling stuff across borders. [http://twitter.com/swarthmoreburke/status/63037778606292992 ]

@swarthmoreburke @publichistorian "Idea Smuggler". Love it. [http://twitter.com/navalang/status/63039078488211456 ]

@swarthmoreburke @navalang @publichistorian Cross-disciplinary. Anti-disciplinary. Black-market scholarship. [http://twitter.com/tcarmody/status/63041041145663488 ]

@tcarmody @swarthmoreburke @navalang @publichistorian Bricolage. [http://twitter.com/ayjay/status/63042045635334144 ]

[Additional, unassembled thoughts: discipline tunneling, cross-pollination, kludge, bilge, edupunk, thought trafficking, pirates, buccaneer scholar, clandestine, etc.]
interdisciplinary  interdisciplinarity  crossdisciplinary  ideasmuggling  crosspollination  bricolage  antidisciplinary  black-marketscholarship  pirates  piracy  cv  academia  academics  timcarmody  alanjacobs  navneetalang  suzannefischer  from delicious
april 2011 by robertogreco

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