The Presence of the Original

The underlying aim of NFTs is to empty content of whatever it contains that makes it circulate and reduce instead to a moment of property, an assertion of the self who owns it over its potential social significance. That is, NFTs make the social significance of any digital artifact the simple fact that it can be owned and valued. Cash is king.

Posing With the Flag

Getting people to adhere to difficult and inconvenient protocols for longer and longer periods of time will involve more and not less ideology. That makes it a decidedly bad time for paranoid readings, which in the end invite apathy instead of vigilance. It seems trivial to expose acts of concern as mere performances, as if they weren’t always at least that.

I Believe This Is My Festival

No one is more modern, more of “the real world” it presumes, than someone whose authenticity has been challenged; whereas those labeled authentic are consigned to stereotypes, to being objects required to signify whatever experience they are consumed to represent. Being “real” in modernity means being a tourist; Instagram is a means for allowing every life moment to be packaged as a touristic occasion.

Potemkin AI

AI has become a label startups use to make their service seem innovative and disruptive, whether it uses machine learning or not. The inflated claims of what AI can achieve has fed an investment bubble and helped normalize the ways “smart” systems use intrusive surveillance.

Breaking News

After election night, we failed to put the feelings of shock and confusion to good use. The degree of disconnect between political reality and how journalists and pundits describe it was exposed, yet little has changed. We didn’t imagine different ways of doing things. The same mainstream outlets and often the same misleading commentators still have the job of describing the political world. It’s not enough to assume that, in the business of political journalism, competency simply doesn’t matter. It’s more plausible to assume that political news coverage didn’t fail at informing voters to perform their civic duty, but that it succeeded at something else.

True Crime

If we treat the news like sports, like a hobby, a dramatic “season” is more fun, even when some of that fun feels like pain. The disappointment of the losses makes the glory of the wins that much better. When I think of “fun” news days like Indictment Day, which couldn’t have occurred without the horror of Election Day, it’s almost like there’s another me, a spectator to the drama.

Emotional Overdrive

Captured in that phrase “I like to know what’s going on in the world” is actually a statement about the position of oneself in relation to that world: that to know what is happening is to better be able to situate oneself, to understand how one fits into the larger ebb and flow of this first draft of history.


New technologies have reshaped not only what sorts of stories seem narratable but what sorts of fantasies and fears feel appropriately cinematic. Social media have had a further effect, forcing films to accommodate the rise of microcelebrity, ubiquitous connectivity, routinized surveillance at the level of form and content. But this also points to how the influence is not unidirectional. As digital media increasingly “pivots to video,” the grammar of film feeds back into how we represent ourselves and how we communicate.

Beyond Machine Sight

On those nights when I have stayed up too late, binge-watching shows on Netflix or scrolling through Twitter, I have the disturbing sensation that the rest of my body has ceased to exist, and I am nothing but a giant eyeball, absorbing signals from my screen. Something similar happens in the way digital technology is often discussed. Its more obvious engagement with sight distracts us from what is going on both beneath the screen and beyond our retinas.

Picture Book

Why have montages become so prevalent in kids’ movies? Viewing them as an adult raises questions for me: Are these scenes preparing my kids to speed their way through an ever-accelerating society? Is it teaching them pre-emptive nostalgia? But from the point of view of my children, these sequences are perfectly normal. Their lives are already a montage.