The editors of Real Life are always looking for thoughtful and distinctive work about living with technology. Please email if you have a piece of writing or art in mind for this magazine. Below are some topics we have been thinking about recently.


Content genres and sub-communities have emerged that revel in images’ textural aspect, their ability to seemingly touch the beholder, affect them physically (as with ASMR). How is screen-based media coming to be routinely felt by the body? How does digital media escape the frame, becomes breathable?


Something that is on-the-nose is offensive for what it seems to stand for: quick thinking, easy answers, a rejection of complexity — a sloppy translation from the imaginary to the real, and, worse, one that wants to be noticed. There is often a reflexive aversion to the obvious, an insistence on the sophisticated over the true. Especially watching the news, sometimes it seems the world is slipping into being a little too on-the nose.


Do people still use this phrase? Why do “mainstream” or “alternative” increasingly seem to need scare quotes. How have popularity and attention changed? How does selling out fit with the pressing demand to grow one’s “human capital”?


It’s not so much that the internet has invented new ways to feel but that its expressive modes and options catalyze experiences that rarely had names or interfaces before. These new modes and options have also formed new pathologies, new desires, new moods, new states and identifications.


Forced fun, programmed and programmable pleasure, and mirthless fake laughter feel like they are proliferating. How is joy used for control, coercion, and conformity? How do pleasure and play generate division, intensify loyalty, and focus contempt for outsiders?


What differentiates distraction and engagement, or focus from complacency and stasis? Why do we fear boredom? Is boredom really a respite from distraction or is distractibility really a form of boredom? How could distraction be considered a form of attention or form of freedom, or a kind of flexibility?


Evil may form communities and serve as a cure for loneliness. What makes a person or technology evil? How does technology reframe evil’s allure and the nature of “necessary evils”? How does technology recharacterize violence? What grounds the attraction of famous villains, of choosing evil as a political identity? What are the sources of “black pill” nihilism?


Recordkeeping mediums have altered conceptions of the past and our sense of the future. What are the effects, consequences, and possibilities of outsourcing memory to databases and archives? How are automatic archiving and automated serendipity affecting the shape of memory, and the nature of institutional memory? How have historical fictions and retellings been altered? How has the nature of “evergreen” stories changed?


The performance of care work is being commercialized, rationalized, automated, devalued, atomized, and redistributed. How has this shifted ideas about trust, and how it is produced and sustained? How is the line between surveillance (watching over) and care work (watching out for) shifting?