2016 — 2022

  • Who Can It Be Now

    Emma Stamm
    2022-09-01

    On social platforms, the “fluid self” is not a rejection of personal branding but another manifestation of it

    Who Can It Be Now

    On social platforms, the “fluid self” is not a rejection of personal branding but another manifestation of it

    Who Can It Be Now
  • Life’s a Glitch

    Zachary Loeb
    2022-08-29

    The non-apocalypse of Y2K obscures the lessons it has for the present

    Life’s a Glitch

    The non-apocalypse of Y2K obscures the lessons it has for the present

    Life’s a Glitch
  • Colony Collapse

    Leah Mandel
    2022-08-25

    God games like Civilization and The Sims offer a fantasy of control based on miniaturization, giving us little ant hills to rule over. But they are also premised on the idea that we too are ants and should try to emulate their efficient “societies”

    Colony Collapse

    God games like Civilization and The Sims offer a fantasy of control based on miniaturization, giving us little ant hills to rule over. But they are also premised on the idea that we too are ants and should try to emulate their efficient “societies”

    Colony Collapse
  • Dreaming in Color

    Ana Cecilia Alvarez
    2022-08-18

    Satoshi Kon’s movies, which paralleled the rise of social media, explore the surreal meeting of interiority and public life

    Dreaming in Color

    Satoshi Kon’s movies, which paralleled the rise of social media, explore the surreal meeting of interiority and public life

    Dreaming in Color
  • Hold the Line

    Lauren Fadiman
    2022-08-15

    Media technology is not a modern antidote to older, vernacular modes of information transmission. Folklore instead thrives through these new channels, helping explain and assimilate new technologies into our everyday lives.  

    Hold the Line

    Media technology is not a modern antidote to older, vernacular modes of information transmission. Folklore instead thrives through these new channels, helping explain and assimilate new technologies into our everyday lives.  

    Hold the Line
  • Our Friend the Atom

    Becky Alexis-Martin
    2022-08-11

    The aesthetics of the Atomic Age helped whitewash the threat of nuclear disaster

    Our Friend the Atom

    The aesthetics of the Atomic Age helped whitewash the threat of nuclear disaster

    Our Friend the Atom
  • Entangled Intelligence

    Doug Bierend
    2022-08-08

    In our engagement with machines, we can still decenter ourselves as arbiters of mind and the meaning of life on Earth. This, and not reproducing capitalism or expanding human domination, could be what technology helps humans achieve.

    Entangled Intelligence

    In our engagement with machines, we can still decenter ourselves as arbiters of mind and the meaning of life on Earth. This, and not reproducing capitalism or expanding human domination, could be what technology helps humans achieve.

    Entangled Intelligence
  • The Writing on the Wall

    Chris Randle
    2022-08-04

    When all recordings are also hauntings

    The Writing on the Wall

    When all recordings are also hauntings

    The Writing on the Wall
  • Wrong Road

    David A. Banks
    2022-08-01

    The auto industry used political leverage to remake the physical world and embed future demand for its products, despite their self-evident destructiveness. Now the tech world is trying the same trick with phones and apps 

    Wrong Road

    The auto industry used political leverage to remake the physical world and embed future demand for its products, despite their self-evident destructiveness. Now the tech world is trying the same trick with phones and apps 

    Wrong Road
  • Posthuman Architecture

    Erin Reznick
    2022-07-28

    Home today is less a protective shelter but an embodied interface

    Posthuman Architecture

    Home today is less a protective shelter but an embodied interface

    Posthuman Architecture
  • Delivering People

    Daniel Joseph
    2022-07-25

    The business model of media depends on making audiences, not content. Audiences are the contested site where media companies, advertisers, and the ratings companies that intercede between them struggle over how attention can be standardized, measured, and sold.

    Delivering People

    The business model of media depends on making audiences, not content. Audiences are the contested site where media companies, advertisers, and the ratings companies that intercede between them struggle over how attention can be standardized, measured, and sold.

    Delivering People
  • Never-Ending Story

    Grant Farred
    2022-07-21

    To the technophobe, the screen and the book are opposed; but if one is an insular virtual world, so is the other

    Never-Ending Story

    To the technophobe, the screen and the book are opposed; but if one is an insular virtual world, so is the other

    Never-Ending Story
  • Syllabus for the Internet: Telematic Society

    Richard Woodall
    2022-07-18

    Vilém Flusser’s theory of photography anticipated our current society in many ways, capturing how we become data processors for an overarching social system. But the blind spots in his theory can help us see the risks inherent in his style of seductive techno-prophecy

    Telematic Society

    Vilém Flusser’s theory of photography anticipated our current society in many ways, capturing how we become data processors for an overarching social system. But the blind spots in his theory can help us see the risks inherent in his style of seductive techno-prophecy

    Telematic Society
  • Blame It on the Game

    Katherine Alejandra Cross
    2022-07-14

    Right-wing ideologues are happy to see the violence they stoke attributed to video games

    Blame It on the Game

    Right-wing ideologues are happy to see the violence they stoke attributed to video games

    Blame It on the Game
  • Speaking in Stickers

    Krish Raghav
    2022-07-11

    The use of WeChat in China is virtually mandatory and presumably monitored, which has driven a range of indirect forms of communication. Stickers, one prominent example, represent a front in a normalized, everyday struggle against opaque platform logic as well as other forms of surveillance. 

    Speaking in Stickers

    The use of WeChat in China is virtually mandatory and presumably monitored, which has driven a range of indirect forms of communication. Stickers, one prominent example, represent a front in a normalized, everyday struggle against opaque platform logic as well as other forms of surveillance. 

    Speaking in Stickers
  • Fidelity Angst

    Mack Hagood
    2022-07-06

    On the audiophile’s hopeless search for perfect sound

    Fidelity Angst

    On the audiophile’s hopeless search for perfect sound

    Fidelity Angst
  • Inside Voice

    Hyejoo Lee
    2022-06-30

    Amid housing affordability crises, domesticity vlogs — from apartment tours to cottagecore to “day in my life” videos — offer consolation by conceiving home not as property but as a feeling. But this can also  reify “home” into a predictable, rarefied aesthetic

    Inside Voice

    Amid housing affordability crises, domesticity vlogs — from apartment tours to cottagecore to “day in my life” videos — offer consolation by conceiving home not as property but as a feeling. But this can also  reify “home” into a predictable, rarefied aesthetic

    Inside Voice
  • Still the Same

    Agnes Arnold-Forster
    2022-06-27

    Nineteenth-century critiques of technology show how longstanding the current concerns are

    Still the Same

    Nineteenth-century critiques of technology show how longstanding the current concerns are

    Still the Same
  • New Sensation

    Leo Kim
    2022-06-23

    The military use of haptics technology includes ideological indoctrination

    New Sensation

    The military use of haptics technology includes ideological indoctrination

    New Sensation
  • Fair Game

    David Golumbia
    2022-06-21

    Commonly used by researchers and journalists, data scraping dislodges data from one context and forces it into another, where we no longer control in any way how that data is used, what meanings are inferred from it, and whether its extended uses are accurate

    Fair Game

    Commonly used by researchers and journalists, data scraping dislodges data from one context and forces it into another, where we no longer control in any way how that data is used, what meanings are inferred from it, and whether its extended uses are accurate

    Fair Game
  • Belly Up

    Bekah Waalkes
    2022-06-16

    Wellness discourse taps into longstanding associations between intuition and the gut

    Belly Up

    Wellness discourse taps into longstanding associations between intuition and the gut

    Belly Up
  • Waste Not

    Tynan Stewart
    2022-06-13

    A new plastic composting gadget not only offers the same false promise that “convenient” consumer technology marketed to individual households can fix Earth’s interlocking ecological crises; it also exemplifies  tech developers’ troubling fantasy of “defeating” decay 

    Waste Not

    A new plastic composting gadget not only offers the same false promise that “convenient” consumer technology marketed to individual households can fix Earth’s interlocking ecological crises; it also exemplifies  tech developers’ troubling fantasy of “defeating” decay 

    Waste Not
  • Influencer Creep

    Sophie Bishop
    2022-06-09

    Self-documenting and self-branding are becoming basic not just to “influencing” but to all forms of work. The mark of influencer creep is the on-edge feeling that you have not done enough for social media platforms: that you can be more on trend, more authentic, more responsive — always more. 

    Influencer Creep

    Self-documenting and self-branding are becoming basic not just to “influencing” but to all forms of work. The mark of influencer creep is the on-edge feeling that you have not done enough for social media platforms: that you can be more on trend, more authentic, more responsive — always more. 

    Influencer Creep
  • What Next

    Mitch Therieau
    2022-06-06

    The pandemic spawned years of sweeping predictions about the “next thing” — either a radically changed society, or a total return to “normal.” The fact that neither has come to pass has created a sense of exhaustion with prediction itself. But commentators can’t resist predicting future trends, even if these predictions have become increasingly marginal and absurd

    What Next

    The pandemic spawned years of sweeping predictions about the “next thing” — either a radically changed society, or a total return to “normal.” The fact that neither has come to pass has created a sense of exhaustion with prediction itself. But commentators can’t resist predicting future trends, even if these predictions have become increasingly marginal and absurd

    What Next
  • Temporal Belonging

    Lauren Collee
    2022-06-01

    Our relationship to time is presumed to be in crisis, disrupted by digital technology. But “natural time” is difficult to define, even while additional technologies  — including SAD Lamps, blue-light filters, and platforms like BeReal — promise to help users calibrate their rhythms with an imagined standard. In seeking an objective sense of time, we ignore the fact that time is fundamentally relative

    Temporal Belonging

    Our relationship to time is presumed to be in crisis, disrupted by digital technology. But “natural time” is difficult to define, even while additional technologies  — including SAD Lamps, blue-light filters, and platforms like BeReal — promise to help users calibrate their rhythms with an imagined standard. In seeking an objective sense of time, we ignore the fact that time is fundamentally relative

    Temporal Belonging
  • How to Eat the Future

    Cameron Kunzelman
    2022-05-26

    Jane McGonigal is famous for presenting a positive case for video games and how gamification can get results. Her new book Imaginable implausibly claims that we can fix the future by imagining harder, without considering the ideology that shapes such visions

    How to Eat the Future

    Jane McGonigal is famous for presenting a positive case for video games and how gamification can get results. Her new book Imaginable implausibly claims that we can fix the future by imagining harder, without considering the ideology that shapes such visions

    How to Eat the Future
  • Home Icons: Tea Towel

    Cason Sharpe
    2022-05-23

    Unlike other materials — such as textiles, which can be refashioned for new uses — electronic waste is often both materially and conceptually inflexible. This is why, when they outlive their intended purpose, our devices so often end up in the trash. But what if that very inflexibility could give them an afterlife as objects?

    Tea Towel

    Unlike other materials — such as textiles, which can be refashioned for new uses — electronic waste is often both materially and conceptually inflexible. This is why, when they outlive their intended purpose, our devices so often end up in the trash. But what if that very inflexibility could give them an afterlife as objects?

    Tea Towel
  • Influencers and Anti-Fans

    Brooke Erin Duffy and Kate M. Miltner
    2022-05-19

    “Anti-fan” communities have formed around condemning influencers for both creating an unachievable ideal and failing to live up to it. The influencers, targeted with everything from verbal abuse to death threats, become scapegoats for the status quo’s structural inequalities 

    Influencers and Anti-Fans

    “Anti-fan” communities have formed around condemning influencers for both creating an unachievable ideal and failing to live up to it. The influencers, targeted with everything from verbal abuse to death threats, become scapegoats for the status quo’s structural inequalities 

    Influencers and Anti-Fans
  • Love Is a Stranger

    Matthew Gallatin
    2022-05-16

    Sniffies, the hookup platform, sets itself apart from apps like Grindr by invoking the concept of cruising — a practice that is anarchic, serendipitous, and in-person, occurring outside the hegemonic structure. The term conjures a nostalgia for the bygone days of gay liberation, which is supposedly an antidote to the sterility of dating apps

    Love Is a Stranger

    Sniffies, the hookup platform, sets itself apart from apps like Grindr by invoking the concept of cruising — a practice that is anarchic, serendipitous, and in-person, occurring outside the hegemonic structure. The term conjures a nostalgia for the bygone days of gay liberation, which is supposedly an antidote to the sterility of dating apps

    Love Is a Stranger
  • Magic Numbers

    Alana Mohamed
    2022-05-12

    So-called SpiritualTok — mediums, astrologers, tarot readers, Reiki healers and other creators — impute supernatural powers to algorithmic sorting to boost their own metrics. But treating “the algorithm” as a kind of divinity fundamentally obfuscates the nature of its power

    Magic Numbers

    So-called SpiritualTok — mediums, astrologers, tarot readers, Reiki healers and other creators — impute supernatural powers to algorithmic sorting to boost their own metrics. But treating “the algorithm” as a kind of divinity fundamentally obfuscates the nature of its power

    Magic Numbers
  • Hard to See

    Leo Kim
    2022-05-09

    If trauma seems ubiquitous online, that’s because it has become the authentic experience par excellence — uniquely able to hold our gaze and compel us to keep watching. This casual misuse shouldn’t distract from the fact that “trauma” refers to a real mode of experience that demands seriousness, but we need to unpack the ways it has become synonymous with “the real”

    Hard to See

    If trauma seems ubiquitous online, that’s because it has become the authentic experience par excellence — uniquely able to hold our gaze and compel us to keep watching. This casual misuse shouldn’t distract from the fact that “trauma” refers to a real mode of experience that demands seriousness, but we need to unpack the ways it has become synonymous with “the real”

    Hard to See
  • Kids’ Stuff

    Richard Woodall
    2022-05-05

    The main strategy of the children’s culture industry — transforming free play into a mania for collectibles and “commoditoys” — has been adopted by crypto startups, whose toy-like aesthetics are necessary for a digital asset class backed by nothing more than flows of sentiment.

    Kids’ Stuff

    The main strategy of the children’s culture industry — transforming free play into a mania for collectibles and “commoditoys” — has been adopted by crypto startups, whose toy-like aesthetics are necessary for a digital asset class backed by nothing more than flows of sentiment.

    Kids’ Stuff
  • Sneak Peeks

    Rob Horning
    2022-05-02

    The social app BeReal promises respite from the pressure to perform, but its gimmick of forced spontaneity merely refines it in an effort to re-enchant the practice of posting to platforms. Obedience to the platform’s rules doesn’t cancel competition for clout among its users.

    Sneak Peeks

    The social app BeReal promises respite from the pressure to perform, but its gimmick of forced spontaneity merely refines it in an effort to re-enchant the practice of posting to platforms. Obedience to the platform’s rules doesn’t cancel competition for clout among its users.

    Sneak Peeks
  • Masters of the Userverse

    Grafton Tanner
    2022-04-28

    A fantasy life of push-button convenience and technological coddling is just as much a “virtual world” as any metaverse. With the gig economy as their operating system, these “userverses” isolate consumers from each other and protect the exploitive system tech companies and venture capital have built.

    Masters of the Userverse

    A fantasy life of push-button convenience and technological coddling is just as much a “virtual world” as any metaverse. With the gig economy as their operating system, these “userverses” isolate consumers from each other and protect the exploitive system tech companies and venture capital have built.

    Masters of the Userverse
  • Speech Bubbles

    Lauren Collee
    2022-04-25

    So far, audio-based social apps have not had major success. Perhaps this is because the human voice has contrasting associations: intimacy, on one hand; and the public-facing self, on the other. However, we should be vigilant: both associations operate on the notion that there is something “pure” about spoken forms of communication, and both are highly co-optable

    Speech Bubbles

    So far, audio-based social apps have not had major success. Perhaps this is because the human voice has contrasting associations: intimacy, on one hand; and the public-facing self, on the other. However, we should be vigilant: both associations operate on the notion that there is something “pure” about spoken forms of communication, and both are highly co-optable

    Speech Bubbles
  • Insomniac Technologies

    Sierra Komar
    2022-04-21

    Although sleep wearables seem to promote rest, what they actually promote is rest reconfigured as productivity. A properly-charged wearable is always awake, acting as a sort of surrogate, low-level consciousness that keeps running and recording even while you temporarily abdicate your own

    Insomniac Technologies

    Although sleep wearables seem to promote rest, what they actually promote is rest reconfigured as productivity. A properly-charged wearable is always awake, acting as a sort of surrogate, low-level consciousness that keeps running and recording even while you temporarily abdicate your own

    Insomniac Technologies
  • New Normal

    Robin James
    2022-04-18

    As algorithms are deployed across society to assess and predict behavior, older modes of control based on normativity are in eclipse. The way we experience control has changed accordingly — it registers more in terms of “vibes” and “cringe” — as have the ways it can be resisted, not through revaluing antinormative behavior but through extending care-oriented practices like mutual aid.

    New Normal

    As algorithms are deployed across society to assess and predict behavior, older modes of control based on normativity are in eclipse. The way we experience control has changed accordingly — it registers more in terms of “vibes” and “cringe” — as have the ways it can be resisted, not through revaluing antinormative behavior but through extending care-oriented practices like mutual aid.

    New Normal
  • Chimp City

    Drew Austin
    2022-04-14

    The sales pitch of “Web3” depends on its having its own aesthetic to counter the “Instagrammability” aesthetic that social media has spawned. But all crypto can generate is self-referential hype and boiler-room sales pressure to sustain its many Ponzi schemes 

    Chimp City

    The sales pitch of “Web3” depends on its having its own aesthetic to counter the “Instagrammability” aesthetic that social media has spawned. But all crypto can generate is self-referential hype and boiler-room sales pressure to sustain its many Ponzi schemes 

    Chimp City
  • Suspension of Belief

    Colin Dickey
    2022-04-11

    Images of suffering compel a reaction. “Crisis actor” conspiracy theories show that it’s sometimes easier to claim they are “fake” than to respond appropriately, or to deal with the cognitive dissonance of not knowing how to respond at all

    Suspension of Belief

    Images of suffering compel a reaction. “Crisis actor” conspiracy theories show that it’s sometimes easier to claim they are “fake” than to respond appropriately, or to deal with the cognitive dissonance of not knowing how to respond at all

    Suspension of Belief
  • Target Practice

    Robert W. Gehl and Sean T. Lawson
    2022-04-07

    Against the self-reinforcing metaphor of communication as penetration — the hypodermic needle by which information can be injected into other people’s minds — other scholars have offered alternative framings that emphasize reciprocity and collaboration.

    Target Practice

    Against the self-reinforcing metaphor of communication as penetration — the hypodermic needle by which information can be injected into other people’s minds — other scholars have offered alternative framings that emphasize reciprocity and collaboration.

    Target Practice
  • Feel for You

    Mitch Therieau
    2022-04-04

    Reaction videos are pleasantly numbing — they ease the constant pressure to “react” to people and events online. This sort of content arrives to us pre-metabolized: all we have to do is absorb it

    Feel for You

    Reaction videos are pleasantly numbing — they ease the constant pressure to “react” to people and events online. This sort of content arrives to us pre-metabolized: all we have to do is absorb it

    Feel for You
  • Prosperity Gospel

    Evan Malmgren
    2022-03-31

    The NFT hype is not about present-day utility or novelty but an experience of collective faith in an age of taxing isolation. Web3 provides an optimistic story about a future to believe in, and NFTs act as frames for these emotions, serving as sacred spaces for a community of believers. 

    Prosperity Gospel

    The NFT hype is not about present-day utility or novelty but an experience of collective faith in an age of taxing isolation. Web3 provides an optimistic story about a future to believe in, and NFTs act as frames for these emotions, serving as sacred spaces for a community of believers. 

    Prosperity Gospel
  • Naming Storms

    Lachlan Summers
    2022-03-28

    To refer to a disaster by name is to be guided by an imaginative infrastructure that sets these events apart as exceptional. This reaffirms the normalcy that has been excepted. But disasters increasingly exceed our capacity to contain them in a title

    Naming Storms

    To refer to a disaster by name is to be guided by an imaginative infrastructure that sets these events apart as exceptional. This reaffirms the normalcy that has been excepted. But disasters increasingly exceed our capacity to contain them in a title

    Naming Storms
  • Tipping the Scale

    Kevin Munger
    2022-03-24

    Stafford Beer, a cyberneticist who worked with Chile’s socialist government, sought to find a balance between scale and individual autonomy in large social systems. His works sets an example for how we might accept responsibility for the internet and make it reflect the fullness of our humanity rather than reduce us to Like/Subscribe/Share cogs. 

    Tipping the Scale

    Stafford Beer, a cyberneticist who worked with Chile’s socialist government, sought to find a balance between scale and individual autonomy in large social systems. His works sets an example for how we might accept responsibility for the internet and make it reflect the fullness of our humanity rather than reduce us to Like/Subscribe/Share cogs. 

    Tipping the Scale
  • Balance of Terrors

    Zachary Loeb
    2022-03-21

    Amid renewed anxieties about the prospect of nuclear war, we might consider the Cold War theorist Günther Anders, who argued there is nothing wrong with fearing the worst-case scenario — in fact, we must fear the worst. We ignore it at our peril

    Balance of Terrors

    Amid renewed anxieties about the prospect of nuclear war, we might consider the Cold War theorist Günther Anders, who argued there is nothing wrong with fearing the worst-case scenario — in fact, we must fear the worst. We ignore it at our peril

    Balance of Terrors
  • Roving Eyes

    Tracy Valcourt
    2022-03-17

    Adding a networked surveillance camera to a work truck takes all the problems and incipient paranoia that comes with Ring doorbell cameras and makes them mobile. Fear and distrust can be imported into any neighborhood.  

    Roving Eyes

    Adding a networked surveillance camera to a work truck takes all the problems and incipient paranoia that comes with Ring doorbell cameras and makes them mobile. Fear and distrust can be imported into any neighborhood.  

    Roving Eyes
  • Tale Spin

    Megan Marz
    2022-03-14

    For many years, readers have loved to declare the death, or demotion, of narrative itself. What this tells us is that the fate of narrative is yet another narrative. What makes it such a compelling one?

    Tale Spin

    For many years, readers have loved to declare the death, or demotion, of narrative itself. What this tells us is that the fate of narrative is yet another narrative. What makes it such a compelling one?

    Tale Spin
  • Taking Stock

    Rob Horning
    2022-03-10

    “Creator” has emerged as an all-purpose aspirational descriptor for people who make internet content. It seems to promise a work life of artistic autonomy, but in practice it subjects workers to algorithmic control and exploits them to the point of burnout.

    Taking Stock

    “Creator” has emerged as an all-purpose aspirational descriptor for people who make internet content. It seems to promise a work life of artistic autonomy, but in practice it subjects workers to algorithmic control and exploits them to the point of burnout.

    Taking Stock
  • What Lies Beneath

    Laura Maw
    2022-03-07

    Our online spaces are littered with ruins, dead websites, and broken links. The attempt to conceal this chaos creates a creeping sense of unease, but by looking at it directly, we become more alert to the mechanisms used to conceal it; and to the internet’s  ultimate mortality

    What Lies Beneath

    Our online spaces are littered with ruins, dead websites, and broken links. The attempt to conceal this chaos creates a creeping sense of unease, but by looking at it directly, we become more alert to the mechanisms used to conceal it; and to the internet’s  ultimate mortality

    What Lies Beneath
  • Can’t Touch This

    David Parisi
    2022-03-03

    While the “goggles and gloves” model of virtual reality has lingered in our cultural imagination since the 1980s, haptics devices probably won’t ever live up to the idea that they can replicate physical contact. They could, however, implement a simplified version of touch subject to quantification and surveillance. 

    Can’t Touch This

    While the “goggles and gloves” model of virtual reality has lingered in our cultural imagination since the 1980s, haptics devices probably won’t ever live up to the idea that they can replicate physical contact. They could, however, implement a simplified version of touch subject to quantification and surveillance. 

    Can’t Touch This
  • True Lies

    Leo Kim
    2022-02-28

    YouTube gives the viewer the sense that they — and they alone — are always in the process of “authoring” their own experience. Conspiracy media, like those in the lineage of Loose Change, can easily leverage this sense of authorship, making us feel like we’re playing a far more active role than we actually are

    True Lies

    YouTube gives the viewer the sense that they — and they alone — are always in the process of “authoring” their own experience. Conspiracy media, like those in the lineage of Loose Change, can easily leverage this sense of authorship, making us feel like we’re playing a far more active role than we actually are

    True Lies
  • False Futurism

    Paris Marx
    2022-02-24

    Tech companies present the metaverse as an irresistible paradigm shift akin to the move from desktop to mobile computing. Or they present it as a challenge to the limitations of physical reality itself. In practice, it’s just a struggle among those companies for a larger cut of the profits from the same old business models 

    False Futurism

    Tech companies present the metaverse as an irresistible paradigm shift akin to the move from desktop to mobile computing. Or they present it as a challenge to the limitations of physical reality itself. In practice, it’s just a struggle among those companies for a larger cut of the profits from the same old business models 

    False Futurism
  • Search Party

    Adam Willems
    2022-02-22

    Google has kept its “I’m Feeling Lucky” button as a whimsical artifact of its past. As the company’s power has grown, however, the button has taken on a manipulative function, conjuring a sense of autonomy within Google’s bullpen, hearkening back to a deceptive sense of freedom

    Search Party

    Google has kept its “I’m Feeling Lucky” button as a whimsical artifact of its past. As the company’s power has grown, however, the button has taken on a manipulative function, conjuring a sense of autonomy within Google’s bullpen, hearkening back to a deceptive sense of freedom

    Search Party
  • Condition Critical

    Os Keyes
    2022-02-17

    Using AI to diagnose conditions like autism is not simply a matter of automating the same kinds of diagnostics used by clinicians. The definition of the condition itself is always contested terrain. AI developers may believe their work is apolitical, but inevitably they become key players in a political struggle over how care is conceived and distributed. 

    Condition Critical

    Using AI to diagnose conditions like autism is not simply a matter of automating the same kinds of diagnostics used by clinicians. The definition of the condition itself is always contested terrain. AI developers may believe their work is apolitical, but inevitably they become key players in a political struggle over how care is conceived and distributed. 

    Condition Critical
  • Silent Partner

    Lauren Collee
    2022-02-14

    Relationship apps teach us ways of loving that privilege efficiency over depth, quantifiability over knowledge, and success over joy. They sanctify the institution of the “couple,” while shrinking down the experience of love until it conforms to neoliberal rhythms

    Silent Partner

    Relationship apps teach us ways of loving that privilege efficiency over depth, quantifiability over knowledge, and success over joy. They sanctify the institution of the “couple,” while shrinking down the experience of love until it conforms to neoliberal rhythms

    Silent Partner
  • Magic Carpets

    Chenoe Hart
    2022-02-10

    Hype about the metaverse and virtual reality propose screens as a mode of escape from physical environments. But it is far more likely that new kinds of screens will be implemented in physical environments to reshape our experience within them. 

    Magic Carpets

    Hype about the metaverse and virtual reality propose screens as a mode of escape from physical environments. But it is far more likely that new kinds of screens will be implemented in physical environments to reshape our experience within them. 

    Magic Carpets
  • Property Values

    Richard Woodall
    2022-02-07

    The pre-crash housing bubble was abetted by propaganda about an “ownership society” that linked personal property to autonomy but in practice widened inequality. The Web3 hype has seized upon similar rhetoric and is yielding similar results, only now it’s conflated with ideals of collective ownership that deserve to be considered apart from the speculative mania of crypto

    Property Values

    The pre-crash housing bubble was abetted by propaganda about an “ownership society” that linked personal property to autonomy but in practice widened inequality. The Web3 hype has seized upon similar rhetoric and is yielding similar results, only now it’s conflated with ideals of collective ownership that deserve to be considered apart from the speculative mania of crypto

    Property Values
  • Vivid Hues

    Anna Rose Kerr
    2022-02-03

    Asked what color the internet is, different generations would give different answers. This question is more meaningful than it seems: giving the internet a color gives us a coherent, if mutable sense of what it is, and a better way to critique it.

    Vivid Hues

    Asked what color the internet is, different generations would give different answers. This question is more meaningful than it seems: giving the internet a color gives us a coherent, if mutable sense of what it is, and a better way to critique it.

    Vivid Hues
  • Routine Care

    Anabelle Johnston
    2022-01-31

    Robots are being used more and more to provide elder care, often as a means to assuage social isolation and loneliness. Critics find this dehumanizing, but that may stem from their seeing the robot as replacing human care rather than serving as a medium for conducting it.

    Routine Care

    Robots are being used more and more to provide elder care, often as a means to assuage social isolation and loneliness. Critics find this dehumanizing, but that may stem from their seeing the robot as replacing human care rather than serving as a medium for conducting it.

    Routine Care
  • Syllabus for the Internet: W.G. Sebald

    Colin Dickey
    2022-01-27

    While nominally a fiction writer, W.G. Sebald’s work remains theoretically prescient. Long before social media, he understood the suspicious anxiety inherent to learning about the world over social media. His works embrace this unease, accepting the unreliability of all individual sources, but also the obligation to make sense of them.

    W.G. Sebald

    While nominally a fiction writer, W.G. Sebald’s work remains theoretically prescient. Long before social media, he understood the suspicious anxiety inherent to learning about the world over social media. His works embrace this unease, accepting the unreliability of all individual sources, but also the obligation to make sense of them.

    W.G. Sebald
  • Found Images

    Rob Horning
    2022-01-24

    Images were once too scarce to be deployed rhetorically; they seemed to be more documentary by default. Now communicating continually with images is common, which generates a nostalgia for when images could speak something other than what the photographer meant to say 

    Found Images

    Images were once too scarce to be deployed rhetorically; they seemed to be more documentary by default. Now communicating continually with images is common, which generates a nostalgia for when images could speak something other than what the photographer meant to say 

    Found Images
  • Careless Whispers

    Katherine Alejandra Cross and Anastasia Schaadhardt
    2022-01-19

    Much concern has been raised around teens spreading misinformation on TikTok. But fear, and a sense of abandonment by the authorities, can drive compulsive behavior online. Young people — facing just as many threats as adults, but with less power to protect themselves — are just as susceptible to this as their elders.

    Careless Whispers

    Much concern has been raised around teens spreading misinformation on TikTok. But fear, and a sense of abandonment by the authorities, can drive compulsive behavior online. Young people — facing just as many threats as adults, but with less power to protect themselves — are just as susceptible to this as their elders.

    Careless Whispers
  • Seeing Without Looking

    M.R. Sauter
    2022-01-13

    Sidewalk Toronto is dead, but its legacy is instructive. It shows that surveillance systems aren’t so much documenting as producing a desired reality — and that erasing these images, rather than increasing privacy, only makes that constructed reality harder to audit

    Seeing Without Looking

    Sidewalk Toronto is dead, but its legacy is instructive. It shows that surveillance systems aren’t so much documenting as producing a desired reality — and that erasing these images, rather than increasing privacy, only makes that constructed reality harder to audit

    Seeing Without Looking
  • Money-Go-Round

    Ameera Kawash
    2022-01-10

    Proponents of “Web3” often claim that their crypto-based platforms will eliminate some of the problems associated with conventional social media. It will replace big tech companies with decentralized systems, replace the drive for virality with a commitment to community. But Web3 remains entirely dependent on existing platforms to attract users, and rely on the same dubious incentives to build hype.

    Money-Go-Round

    Proponents of “Web3” often claim that their crypto-based platforms will eliminate some of the problems associated with conventional social media. It will replace big tech companies with decentralized systems, replace the drive for virality with a commitment to community. But Web3 remains entirely dependent on existing platforms to attract users, and rely on the same dubious incentives to build hype.

    Money-Go-Round
  • New Feelings: Nostalgia for Nostalgia

    Alexandra Fiorentino-Swinton
    2022-01-06

    Watching old movies reveals a chasm between seemingly once-possible “off-grid” experiences and the continuous connectivity that persists today, arching between childhood and later stages of life. The way our timelines excavate our own pasts for us not only makes remembering from a distance less possible — no longer are we narrators remembering a singular bygone era — but contemporary storytelling too is morphing away from the “closed chapter” adventure into narratives that takes this sustained connectivity into account.

    Nostalgia for Nostalgia

    Watching old movies reveals a chasm between seemingly once-possible “off-grid” experiences and the continuous connectivity that persists today, arching between childhood and later stages of life. The way our timelines excavate our own pasts for us not only makes remembering from a distance less possible — no longer are we narrators remembering a singular bygone era — but contemporary storytelling too is morphing away from the “closed chapter” adventure into narratives that takes this sustained connectivity into account.

    Nostalgia for Nostalgia
  • Syllabus for the Internet: Inventing the Shipwreck

    Zachary Loeb
    2022-01-03

    Conversations about technology tend to be dominated by an optimistic faith in technological progress. There is endless encouragement to think about all of the exciting benefits of new technology, but significantly less attention paid to the ways things might go spectacularly wrong. That’s where Paul Virilio comes in.

    Inventing the Shipwreck

    Conversations about technology tend to be dominated by an optimistic faith in technological progress. There is endless encouragement to think about all of the exciting benefits of new technology, but significantly less attention paid to the ways things might go spectacularly wrong. That’s where Paul Virilio comes in.

    Inventing the Shipwreck
  • Make a Wish

    Aimee Walleston
    2021-12-20

    Those who view “real life” as distinct from images might prefer to believe that undocumented experience is the “truth.” They might suggest that experiences contrived to produce photogenic images are false, an “as-if” experience, LARPing in the pejorative sense. But the life they are describing — a way of being in the world that is untouched by performativity and projection — is the biggest LARP of all.

    Make a Wish

    Those who view “real life” as distinct from images might prefer to believe that undocumented experience is the “truth.” They might suggest that experiences contrived to produce photogenic images are false, an “as-if” experience, LARPing in the pejorative sense. But the life they are describing — a way of being in the world that is untouched by performativity and projection — is the biggest LARP of all.

    Make a Wish
  • The Great Offline

    Lauren Collee
    2021-12-16

    The concept of “the offline” is deeply enmeshed with that of “wilderness.” Both concepts offer a fantastical escape from the hazards of a globalized world. But in setting up a binary between the corrupted, digital self, and the pure, disconnected self, they both perpetuate a hazardous logic.

    The Great Offline

    The concept of “the offline” is deeply enmeshed with that of “wilderness.” Both concepts offer a fantastical escape from the hazards of a globalized world. But in setting up a binary between the corrupted, digital self, and the pure, disconnected self, they both perpetuate a hazardous logic.

    The Great Offline
  • White Balance

    Leo Kim
    2021-12-13

    Beauty filters like “Belle” are praised for providing better representation. But the underlying technologies are historically steeped in bias, which raises the question: Is this sort of representation desirable in the first place?

    White Balance

    Beauty filters like “Belle” are praised for providing better representation. But the underlying technologies are historically steeped in bias, which raises the question: Is this sort of representation desirable in the first place?

    White Balance
  • Passion Play

    Josh Tucker
    2021-12-09

    In the early 2000s, optimistic commentators expected the internet to generate a more participatory culture, in which fans gained more control over the entertainment properties they were invested in emotionally. But participation is not an intrinsically positive force: It has since become a means of fostering overinvestment, obsession, and frustration — volatile social energies with unpredictable social consequences    

    Passion Play

    In the early 2000s, optimistic commentators expected the internet to generate a more participatory culture, in which fans gained more control over the entertainment properties they were invested in emotionally. But participation is not an intrinsically positive force: It has since become a means of fostering overinvestment, obsession, and frustration — volatile social energies with unpredictable social consequences    

    Passion Play
  • Hall Monitors

    Chelsea Barabas
    2021-12-06

    After school shootings, the surveillance industry mobilizes to sell school districts on more intensive monitoring schemes that they claim could help prevent future tragedies. But rather than successfully predict future crime and protect kids, increased surveillance in schools targets students of color for exclusionary discipline

    Hall Monitors

    After school shootings, the surveillance industry mobilizes to sell school districts on more intensive monitoring schemes that they claim could help prevent future tragedies. But rather than successfully predict future crime and protect kids, increased surveillance in schools targets students of color for exclusionary discipline

    Hall Monitors
  • License to Ill

    Colin Dickey
    2021-12-02

    Communities can form around illnesses that are ignored, or contested, by outside authorities. Havana syndrome differs from other contested illnesses: not only for its proposed cause, but for the massive institutional investment in its narrative

    License to Ill

    Communities can form around illnesses that are ignored, or contested, by outside authorities. Havana syndrome differs from other contested illnesses: not only for its proposed cause, but for the massive institutional investment in its narrative

    License to Ill
  • Same Old

    Sun-Ha Hong
    2021-11-29

    For decades, popular imaginings of the future have promised difference, but delivered more of the same — recycling technical functions but also, more perniciously, their underlying social relations

    Same Old

    For decades, popular imaginings of the future have promised difference, but delivered more of the same — recycling technical functions but also, more perniciously, their underlying social relations

    Same Old
  • Yesterday Once More

    Grafton Tanner
    2021-11-22

    To help users make sense of massive volumes of content, streaming services rely on recommendation algorithms, which depend in turn on breaking both content and consumers down into component variables. This process manifests as a new kind of nostalgia — a continuous repacking of past pleasure in new permutations rather than an impossible desire to return to a “better” time and place.

    Yesterday Once More

    To help users make sense of massive volumes of content, streaming services rely on recommendation algorithms, which depend in turn on breaking both content and consumers down into component variables. This process manifests as a new kind of nostalgia — a continuous repacking of past pleasure in new permutations rather than an impossible desire to return to a “better” time and place.

    Yesterday Once More
  • Head Games

    Dolly Church
    2021-11-18

    The concept of “telepathy” appeals to tech consumers and tech CEOs for different reasons: consumers are wooed with the idea of seamless, clearer and more intimate communication; to CEOs, telepathy represents a more complete form of surveillance

    Head Games

    The concept of “telepathy” appeals to tech consumers and tech CEOs for different reasons: consumers are wooed with the idea of seamless, clearer and more intimate communication; to CEOs, telepathy represents a more complete form of surveillance

    Head Games
  • You Are Here

    Leijia Hanrahan
    2021-11-15

    Paper maps positioned the viewer outside the territory mapped, but mapping apps situate the viewer within the map, not only as a blue dot at the center but also in terms of what information is displayed. The subjective dimension of maps has become more pronounced; they have become more manipulative in telling you where as well as how to go.

    You Are Here

    Paper maps positioned the viewer outside the territory mapped, but mapping apps situate the viewer within the map, not only as a blue dot at the center but also in terms of what information is displayed. The subjective dimension of maps has become more pronounced; they have become more manipulative in telling you where as well as how to go.

    You Are Here
  • The Machine Breaks

    Kyle Kubler
    2021-11-11

    Rocky IV is not only a film about the Cold War; it’s a film about robots: Drago (the robotic human) and SICO (the humanoid robot), and also Rocky himself, who must disavow his dependence on technology to assert an idea of himself as humanity’s last hope against cyborg-ization. 

    The Machine Breaks

    Rocky IV is not only a film about the Cold War; it’s a film about robots: Drago (the robotic human) and SICO (the humanoid robot), and also Rocky himself, who must disavow his dependence on technology to assert an idea of himself as humanity’s last hope against cyborg-ization. 

    The Machine Breaks
  • New Feelings: Reality Disappointment

    Alexandra Molotkow
    2021-11-08

    The concept of a “normal” on the other side of Covid has merged with the concept of a “real world” beyond the screen — ridiculous but emotionally convenient. After so much loss and disruption, to feel “normal” would be much stranger than whatever it is we feel.

    Reality Disappointment

    The concept of a “normal” on the other side of Covid has merged with the concept of a “real world” beyond the screen — ridiculous but emotionally convenient. After so much loss and disruption, to feel “normal” would be much stranger than whatever it is we feel.

    Reality Disappointment
  • Life in the Fast Lane

    Alex Vuocolo
    2021-11-04

    Micro-mobility devices like scooters and e-bikes were supposed to replace cars, but in practice they often reinforce the excesses of car culture: They intensify the confusion and clutter on existing roadways without reducing the total number of miles traveled. The micro-mobility industry is still a capitalist industry, intent on maximizing use and profit at the expense of sustainability.

    Life in the Fast Lane

    Micro-mobility devices like scooters and e-bikes were supposed to replace cars, but in practice they often reinforce the excesses of car culture: They intensify the confusion and clutter on existing roadways without reducing the total number of miles traveled. The micro-mobility industry is still a capitalist industry, intent on maximizing use and profit at the expense of sustainability.

    Life in the Fast Lane
  • Endless Nameless

    Vivian Lam
    2021-11-01

    Gender online is no longer something that is witnessed so much as something that is felt. Memes that seem merely playful at first open up new ways of defining and embodying gender, returning the means of construction to users — as something less like a binary characteristic, or even an item in a list of options, and more like a “mood” or a “vibe.”

    Endless Nameless

    Gender online is no longer something that is witnessed so much as something that is felt. Memes that seem merely playful at first open up new ways of defining and embodying gender, returning the means of construction to users — as something less like a binary characteristic, or even an item in a list of options, and more like a “mood” or a “vibe.”

    Endless Nameless
  • Now You See It

    Os Keyes
    2021-10-28

    Anti-surveillance makeup that imitates the contrasting stripes of dazzle camouflage is as perennially popular as it is impractical. It plays into a fantasy of an individualistic fashion statement serving as effectual tech resistance, while perpetuating the neoliberal insistence on “personal responsibility” as the response to every crisis.

    Now You See It

    Anti-surveillance makeup that imitates the contrasting stripes of dazzle camouflage is as perennially popular as it is impractical. It plays into a fantasy of an individualistic fashion statement serving as effectual tech resistance, while perpetuating the neoliberal insistence on “personal responsibility” as the response to every crisis.

    Now You See It
  • Syllabus for the Internet: The Magnificent Bribe

    Zachary Loeb
    2021-10-25

    Long before smartphones and social media, the social critic Lewis Mumford put a name to the way that complex technological systems offer a share in their benefits in exchange for compliance. He called it a “bribe.” The danger, as Mumford wrote, is that “once one opts for the system no further choice remains.”

    The Magnificent Bribe

    Long before smartphones and social media, the social critic Lewis Mumford put a name to the way that complex technological systems offer a share in their benefits in exchange for compliance. He called it a “bribe.” The danger, as Mumford wrote, is that “once one opts for the system no further choice remains.”

    The Magnificent Bribe
  • Real Talk

    Lauren Collee
    2021-10-21

    The voice is thought to have a privileged relationship with the body, and by extension the self — it is connected with the most fundamental aspects of who we believe ourselves to be. For that reason, its severance from the body, and mobility through space or across social media, can feel particularly unsettling.

    Real Talk

    The voice is thought to have a privileged relationship with the body, and by extension the self — it is connected with the most fundamental aspects of who we believe ourselves to be. For that reason, its severance from the body, and mobility through space or across social media, can feel particularly unsettling.

    Real Talk
  • False Positivism

    Peter Polack
    2021-10-18

    Given the scale of problems the world faces, it’s tempting to look to “planetary computing” and “data-driven governance” for solutions: AI models that can take in data at a global scale and intervene with solutions that won’t require further debate or political negotiation. But such models would neglect local knowledge and inevitably enact unimaginable and unpredictable forms of oppression

    False Positivism

    Given the scale of problems the world faces, it’s tempting to look to “planetary computing” and “data-driven governance” for solutions: AI models that can take in data at a global scale and intervene with solutions that won’t require further debate or political negotiation. But such models would neglect local knowledge and inevitably enact unimaginable and unpredictable forms of oppression

    False Positivism
  • The Parent Trap

    Alexandra Kimball and Tamara Lea Spira
    2021-10-13

    The “biogenetic turn,” exemplified by the rise of consumer DNA testing, risks placing genetics at the center of selfhood, and all it might involve. This shift has led to more of the public misunderstanding genes as the essence of identity, challenging decades of activism and scholarship, and undermining progressive conceptions of family.

    The Parent Trap

    The “biogenetic turn,” exemplified by the rise of consumer DNA testing, risks placing genetics at the center of selfhood, and all it might involve. This shift has led to more of the public misunderstanding genes as the essence of identity, challenging decades of activism and scholarship, and undermining progressive conceptions of family.

    The Parent Trap
  • The Great Beyond

    Sara Reinis
    2021-10-07

    The social media profiles of the dead persist after they are gone. They have become pilgrimage sites for mourners who come to them and post messages addressed directly to the deceased, in second person, as if they were a portal to them. This amounts to a mainstreaming of a form of public mourning that had been marginalized to seances and encounters with psychics, in which speaking to the dead is seen as an ongoing open conversation. 

    The Great Beyond

    The social media profiles of the dead persist after they are gone. They have become pilgrimage sites for mourners who come to them and post messages addressed directly to the deceased, in second person, as if they were a portal to them. This amounts to a mainstreaming of a form of public mourning that had been marginalized to seances and encounters with psychics, in which speaking to the dead is seen as an ongoing open conversation. 

    The Great Beyond
  • Smooth Operator

    Arjun Byju
    2021-10-04

    The ubiquitous presence of touchscreens in airports, doctor’s offices, and other sites of modern life is explained by their status as stand-ins for progress. They are monuments to technology, which provide a sense of physicality, even while doing little for the consumer.

    Smooth Operator

    The ubiquitous presence of touchscreens in airports, doctor’s offices, and other sites of modern life is explained by their status as stand-ins for progress. They are monuments to technology, which provide a sense of physicality, even while doing little for the consumer.

    Smooth Operator
  • Chat History

    Hannah Gold
    2021-09-30

    Slack is not just a workplace app, but a workplace drama written by its users. This drama mainly consists of endless banalities that only one’s employer can read in total, and in which we are all doomed to play a predetermined role. A new novel attempts to redeem this gibberish, while reproducing, in fantastical terms, the feeling of using Slack.

    Chat History

    Slack is not just a workplace app, but a workplace drama written by its users. This drama mainly consists of endless banalities that only one’s employer can read in total, and in which we are all doomed to play a predetermined role. A new novel attempts to redeem this gibberish, while reproducing, in fantastical terms, the feeling of using Slack.

    Chat History
  • Nameless Feeling

    Ludwig Yeetgenstein
    2021-09-27

    Vibes are often seen as feelings that can’t be explained or narrativized; they instead emerge from chance concatenations of stimuli and cohere as a mood. Not coincidentally, this is basically how machine-learning models work, surfacing statistical correlations that can’t be explained in terms of causality but are nonetheless usable in algorithmic recommendations or predictions. Vibes are feelings imputed algorithmically, divorced from causes or consequences; emotions rendered useless for action. 

    Nameless Feeling

    Vibes are often seen as feelings that can’t be explained or narrativized; they instead emerge from chance concatenations of stimuli and cohere as a mood. Not coincidentally, this is basically how machine-learning models work, surfacing statistical correlations that can’t be explained in terms of causality but are nonetheless usable in algorithmic recommendations or predictions. Vibes are feelings imputed algorithmically, divorced from causes or consequences; emotions rendered useless for action. 

    Nameless Feeling
  • Nature Fakers

    Leo Kim
    2021-09-23

    The transcendent view of nature — which severs the natural world from the world of human affairs — has long been standard in Western art and entertainment. This view makes it easy for us to neglect and exploit the world around us. In this moment, it is critical to engage with these representations, and imagine new ways of seeing in the Anthropocene.

    Nature Fakers

    The transcendent view of nature — which severs the natural world from the world of human affairs — has long been standard in Western art and entertainment. This view makes it easy for us to neglect and exploit the world around us. In this moment, it is critical to engage with these representations, and imagine new ways of seeing in the Anthropocene.

    Nature Fakers
  • Doctor’s Orders

    Aimee Walleston
    2021-09-20

    Vaccine refusal can’t be understood outside the context of the broader medicalization of society: how health has been construed as a universal ground truth that can override or sideline the need for politics rather than being recognized as a form of politics itself. If it appears that all power rests with medicine, it may seem to some individuals that the only way to manifest and express their power is through self-diagnosis and self-medicating.

    Doctor’s Orders

    Vaccine refusal can’t be understood outside the context of the broader medicalization of society: how health has been construed as a universal ground truth that can override or sideline the need for politics rather than being recognized as a form of politics itself. If it appears that all power rests with medicine, it may seem to some individuals that the only way to manifest and express their power is through self-diagnosis and self-medicating.

    Doctor’s Orders
  • Shadow of a Doubt

    Lauren Collee
    2021-09-16

    The idea of “living with Covid” means inhabiting a position that is fundamentally unstable — accepting that we do not know what the future will look like, or whether a “return to normal” is even what we’re trying for. Ultimately, it requires us to give up the idea of closure in favor of a truer ambiguity.

    Shadow of a Doubt

    The idea of “living with Covid” means inhabiting a position that is fundamentally unstable — accepting that we do not know what the future will look like, or whether a “return to normal” is even what we’re trying for. Ultimately, it requires us to give up the idea of closure in favor of a truer ambiguity.

    Shadow of a Doubt
  • Home Icons: The World’s Most Beautiful Brush

    Marlowe Granados
    2021-09-13

    Beauty technologies are often judged by their results. Like other tech gadgets, however, their meaning lies as much in their designs, their histories, and the performance of their use. Beauty can be thought of as a process, not an end — the opposite of optimization.

    The World’s Most Beautiful Brush

    Beauty technologies are often judged by their results. Like other tech gadgets, however, their meaning lies as much in their designs, their histories, and the performance of their use. Beauty can be thought of as a process, not an end — the opposite of optimization.

    The World’s Most Beautiful Brush
  • Take Me Away

    Callie Hitchcock
    2021-09-09

    Compared to earlier technologies of escape, parasociality offers something closer to direct interaction — a more powerful illusion of connection. Parasocial escapism is not so much a retreat from intimacy into consumerism, but a way of consuming intimacy as a product

    Take Me Away

    Compared to earlier technologies of escape, parasociality offers something closer to direct interaction — a more powerful illusion of connection. Parasocial escapism is not so much a retreat from intimacy into consumerism, but a way of consuming intimacy as a product

    Take Me Away
  • I’m Not There

    R.E. Hawley
    2021-09-07

    For those who came of age with the social internet, a long digital trail lingers behind one’s every move. Memes that riff on the idea of “not being perceived” get at something deeper than they seem to: namely, a vision of the internet free from compulsory body awareness

    I’m Not There

    For those who came of age with the social internet, a long digital trail lingers behind one’s every move. Memes that riff on the idea of “not being perceived” get at something deeper than they seem to: namely, a vision of the internet free from compulsory body awareness

    I’m Not There
  • Bad Metaphors: Conspiracy Wall

    Colin Dickey
    2021-09-02

    The “conspiracy wall” meme offers a cinematic interpretation of how conspiracies spread. However, it is ultimately misleading: those who subscribe to the kinds of theories peddled by Alex Jones and the like are not looking for logical explanations, but rather for permission to feel how they want to feel

    Conspiracy Wall

    The “conspiracy wall” meme offers a cinematic interpretation of how conspiracies spread. However, it is ultimately misleading: those who subscribe to the kinds of theories peddled by Alex Jones and the like are not looking for logical explanations, but rather for permission to feel how they want to feel

    Conspiracy Wall
  • Standard Evasions

    Os Keyes
    2021-08-30

    The U.S. Department of Commerce is developing an approach to defining people’s trust in AI. But rather than define trustworthy systems with respect to their consequences or differential impacts, it focuses on how they are perceived by “users” (not whom they are used on) and does not bother to ask if the systems themselves are worth trusting.

    Standard Evasions

    The U.S. Department of Commerce is developing an approach to defining people’s trust in AI. But rather than define trustworthy systems with respect to their consequences or differential impacts, it focuses on how they are perceived by “users” (not whom they are used on) and does not bother to ask if the systems themselves are worth trusting.

    Standard Evasions
  • Ted Talks

    Evan Malmgren
    2021-08-26

    Ted Kaczynski’s most significant contribution to the work of 20th century anti-industrial thinkers is the fact of the bombings. In refusing to grapple with that, contemporary apologists fail to capture a difficult truth: that the decision to uplift his message roughly vindicates his conviction that violence was an ugly but effective medium

    Ted Talks

    Ted Kaczynski’s most significant contribution to the work of 20th century anti-industrial thinkers is the fact of the bombings. In refusing to grapple with that, contemporary apologists fail to capture a difficult truth: that the decision to uplift his message roughly vindicates his conviction that violence was an ugly but effective medium

    Ted Talks
  • Trust Me, You Want This

    Camilla Cannon
    2021-08-23

    Host-read ads on podcasts — when the hosts ad-lib and joke around with the copy provided by sponsors — are a kind of “parasocial” advertising, in that they use the sense of intimacy and pseudo-friendship podcasts produce to overcome the listener’s defense mechanisms against marketing. Joking around with the ads makes those ads integral to the sense of community that listeners derive from podcasts and the sense of belonging they generate.

    Trust Me, You Want This

    Host-read ads on podcasts — when the hosts ad-lib and joke around with the copy provided by sponsors — are a kind of “parasocial” advertising, in that they use the sense of intimacy and pseudo-friendship podcasts produce to overcome the listener’s defense mechanisms against marketing. Joking around with the ads makes those ads integral to the sense of community that listeners derive from podcasts and the sense of belonging they generate.

    Trust Me, You Want This
  • Home Spun

    Tamara Kneese
    2021-08-19

    Women’s home-based work is often invisible and undervalued. This has been the case for much of its history, and today it includes platform labor. Reconsidering more feminized, pink-collar forms of online work helps broaden the definition of “tech worker,” which is still often perceived in narrow, masculinist terms.

    Home Spun

    Women’s home-based work is often invisible and undervalued. This has been the case for much of its history, and today it includes platform labor. Reconsidering more feminized, pink-collar forms of online work helps broaden the definition of “tech worker,” which is still often perceived in narrow, masculinist terms.

    Home Spun
  • Worn Out

    Drew Austin
    2021-08-16

    The stereotype of tech people is that they are indifferent to fashion, dressing in austere uniforms to signal how they don’t have time for it. But what they don’t have time for is the idea of a commons that fashion, as a collective investment in public display, can stand for. When public space is privatized and digitized, tech companies are eager to sell fashion as customization. 

    Worn Out

    The stereotype of tech people is that they are indifferent to fashion, dressing in austere uniforms to signal how they don’t have time for it. But what they don’t have time for is the idea of a commons that fashion, as a collective investment in public display, can stand for. When public space is privatized and digitized, tech companies are eager to sell fashion as customization. 

    Worn Out
  • Speaking for the Past

    Ben Lee
    2021-08-12

    To make engaging with the stories of Holocaust survivors more “interactive,” a new project uses machine learning analysis to process an audience’s questions to synthesize answers out of a survivor’s pre-recorded testimony. But this “solution,” in blurring the lines between simulation and reality, disrupts our understanding of the past and undermines how we perceive the survivors themselves. 

    Speaking for the Past

    To make engaging with the stories of Holocaust survivors more “interactive,” a new project uses machine learning analysis to process an audience’s questions to synthesize answers out of a survivor’s pre-recorded testimony. But this “solution,” in blurring the lines between simulation and reality, disrupts our understanding of the past and undermines how we perceive the survivors themselves. 

    Speaking for the Past
  • Moving in Stereo

    Robin James
    2021-08-09

    It’s obvious that Peloton sells a kind of self-optimization — exercise as time discipline. But Spotify (a streaming service like Peloton) also trains listeners in how to attune emotionally to states (or vibes) that employers have deemed productive or speculatively valuable.

    Moving in Stereo

    It’s obvious that Peloton sells a kind of self-optimization — exercise as time discipline. But Spotify (a streaming service like Peloton) also trains listeners in how to attune emotionally to states (or vibes) that employers have deemed productive or speculatively valuable.

    Moving in Stereo
  • Syllabus for the Internet: Labors of Love

    Jackie Brown and Philippe Mesly
    2021-08-05

    In a society that conflates work with identity, the fear that one’s job could become obsolete is fear for one’s very self. Consider the work of Ivan Illich, who advocated, among other things, for “the right to useful unemployment” — the freedom to pursue non-economic means of living.

    Labors of Love

    In a society that conflates work with identity, the fear that one’s job could become obsolete is fear for one’s very self. Consider the work of Ivan Illich, who advocated, among other things, for “the right to useful unemployment” — the freedom to pursue non-economic means of living.

    Labors of Love
  • An Accumulation of Nameless Energies

    Rob Horning
    2021-08-02

    Phones are often treated as though they have disrupted how museums operate, causing them to radically alter themselves to accommodate the phone’s implications. But the inverse is also true: the way of seeing promoted by museums has shaped the way we have come to use phones, to capture “visual interest” and strip it of its original context.

    An Accumulation of Nameless Energies

    Phones are often treated as though they have disrupted how museums operate, causing them to radically alter themselves to accommodate the phone’s implications. But the inverse is also true: the way of seeing promoted by museums has shaped the way we have come to use phones, to capture “visual interest” and strip it of its original context.

    An Accumulation of Nameless Energies
  • Castle in the Cloud

    David A. Banks
    2021-07-29

    The new players in real estate operate much like Spotify, Netflix, and other platforms that charge a subscription for temporary access to more than you could ever buy outright. Unlike Netflix and Spotify, however, the platformized real estate industry has the power to determine where and how we live.

    Castle in the Cloud

    The new players in real estate operate much like Spotify, Netflix, and other platforms that charge a subscription for temporary access to more than you could ever buy outright. Unlike Netflix and Spotify, however, the platformized real estate industry has the power to determine where and how we live.

    Castle in the Cloud
  • Reconnected

    Paris Marx
    2021-07-26

    The internet’s early history is often misremembered as a time when decentralization allowed for a more genuine form of sociality, free from corporate and commercial pressures. But this misplaced nostalgia not only overlooks how free-market ideology drove the internet’s development; it also ignores the more centralized alternatives that were directed from the start by a different kind of politics

    Reconnected

    The internet’s early history is often misremembered as a time when decentralization allowed for a more genuine form of sociality, free from corporate and commercial pressures. But this misplaced nostalgia not only overlooks how free-market ideology drove the internet’s development; it also ignores the more centralized alternatives that were directed from the start by a different kind of politics

    Reconnected
  • Is It My Body

    Lauren Collee
    2021-07-22

    More and more, paranormal tech horror centers around stories of possession: a self taken over by forces that are external to it and yet deeply familiar. These films speak to the sense that the 21st century body is inescapably hybrid, possessed not only by the ecological non-human, but also by the technological non-human.

    Is It My Body

    More and more, paranormal tech horror centers around stories of possession: a self taken over by forces that are external to it and yet deeply familiar. These films speak to the sense that the 21st century body is inescapably hybrid, possessed not only by the ecological non-human, but also by the technological non-human.

    Is It My Body
  • Fixing to Die

    Jack Bandy
    2021-07-19

    There is always a new “incident” to report of how a tech company’s product led to some instance of harm — algorithmic bias or intensified surveillance reproducing social injustice, gig economy platforms prompting abusive labor practices, disinformation leading to violence, and on and on. Reform seems insufficient, so what lessons can tech criticism draw from abolition movements?

    Fixing to Die

    There is always a new “incident” to report of how a tech company’s product led to some instance of harm — algorithmic bias or intensified surveillance reproducing social injustice, gig economy platforms prompting abusive labor practices, disinformation leading to violence, and on and on. Reform seems insufficient, so what lessons can tech criticism draw from abolition movements?

    Fixing to Die
  • Eye of the Storm

    Ella Comberg
    2021-07-15

    Street View offers a reflection of the everyday social relations of pandemic life. It is insufficient in all the ways we might expect: lacking in narrative, devoid of intimacy, filtered through a screen. But its flatness reflects a feeling associated with 2020, and this is the record we have.

    Eye of the Storm

    Street View offers a reflection of the everyday social relations of pandemic life. It is insufficient in all the ways we might expect: lacking in narrative, devoid of intimacy, filtered through a screen. But its flatness reflects a feeling associated with 2020, and this is the record we have.

    Eye of the Storm
  • Nothing Personal

    Justin Joque
    2021-07-12

    The idea of a “professional managerial class” emerged from a 1970s analysis that sought to assess the rise and function of middle managers and the degree to which they could be politically mobilized. Recently, it has become a pejorative directed at  tech and media people who are prominent in “the discourse” and are held to be steering it toward self-serving conflicts. But demonizing this class won’t undo the socioeconomic structures that produce it.

    Nothing Personal

    The idea of a “professional managerial class” emerged from a 1970s analysis that sought to assess the rise and function of middle managers and the degree to which they could be politically mobilized. Recently, it has become a pejorative directed at  tech and media people who are prominent in “the discourse” and are held to be steering it toward self-serving conflicts. But demonizing this class won’t undo the socioeconomic structures that produce it.

    Nothing Personal
  • Bad Metaphors: Digital Footprint

    Priya C. Kumar; Anna Pendergrast; Kelly Pendergrast
    2021-07-08

    The “digital footprint” metaphor lulls people into a false sense of control over their digital representations, removing attention from the networked and institutionally driven operations that largely shape digital impressions. Instead, the “digital wake” — as in, the churn and ripple created as a boat moves through the water — might provide a more fruitful, and politically useful metaphor for thinking about digital data flows.

    Digital Footprint

    The “digital footprint” metaphor lulls people into a false sense of control over their digital representations, removing attention from the networked and institutionally driven operations that largely shape digital impressions. Instead, the “digital wake” — as in, the churn and ripple created as a boat moves through the water — might provide a more fruitful, and politically useful metaphor for thinking about digital data flows.

    Digital Footprint
  • Luxury Surveillance

    Chris Gilliard and David Golumbia
    2021-07-06

    Tracking devices like fitness trackers and smartwatches are a form of external surveillance, strikingly similar to ankle monitors. Users who choose to wear them are proclaiming something about their privilege: They can opt in to “luxury surveillance” because they are already aligned with social power, and their acceptance of it extends a more intensive net of  surveillance over everyone.  

    Luxury Surveillance

    Tracking devices like fitness trackers and smartwatches are a form of external surveillance, strikingly similar to ankle monitors. Users who choose to wear them are proclaiming something about their privilege: They can opt in to “luxury surveillance” because they are already aligned with social power, and their acceptance of it extends a more intensive net of  surveillance over everyone.  

    Luxury Surveillance
  • Why Can’t We Be Friends

    Brendan Mackie
    2021-07-01

    Friendship is not an unchanging concept; changing economic conditions and technological possibilities facilitate different demands for connection and structures of belonging. “Parasociality” — feeling an unreciprocated intimacy with media personalities — is one such structure of belonging, but its asymmetry always tilts into economic exploitation or explosive fan rage. The same media forms that nurture that rage are also capable of amalgamating it into a potent force of social disruption.

    Why Can’t We Be Friends

    Friendship is not an unchanging concept; changing economic conditions and technological possibilities facilitate different demands for connection and structures of belonging. “Parasociality” — feeling an unreciprocated intimacy with media personalities — is one such structure of belonging, but its asymmetry always tilts into economic exploitation or explosive fan rage. The same media forms that nurture that rage are also capable of amalgamating it into a potent force of social disruption.

    Why Can’t We Be Friends
  • On Techno-Orientalism

    Leo Kim
    2021-06-28

    Social media accounts by white users pretending to be Asian represent a mutation in the logic of appropriation. The Asian body, historically reduced in the white Western imaginary as machine-like, is held up by the emerging techno-culture as an uncanny cyborg ideal. 

    On Techno-Orientalism

    Social media accounts by white users pretending to be Asian represent a mutation in the logic of appropriation. The Asian body, historically reduced in the white Western imaginary as machine-like, is held up by the emerging techno-culture as an uncanny cyborg ideal. 

    On Techno-Orientalism
  • Duty Bound

    Nadine Smith
    2021-06-24

    Multiplayer games like Call of Duty: Warzone are blatant propaganda, but it feels like there are ways to play them “critically,” reaping the positive social and collaborative benefits while supposedly filtering out the ideological effects. However, these games are designed to operate beyond the explicit and rational, and the more you play, and the more deliberately you marshal your psychic defenses, the more susceptible you risk becoming to these other persuasive mechanisms

    Duty Bound

    Multiplayer games like Call of Duty: Warzone are blatant propaganda, but it feels like there are ways to play them “critically,” reaping the positive social and collaborative benefits while supposedly filtering out the ideological effects. However, these games are designed to operate beyond the explicit and rational, and the more you play, and the more deliberately you marshal your psychic defenses, the more susceptible you risk becoming to these other persuasive mechanisms

    Duty Bound
  • Send in the Clouds

    Kevin Rogan
    2021-06-21

    Drawing on the libertarian vision of “charter cities,” venture capitalists aim to re-establish the city as a commodity produced from scratch: “urban life” as a product available without the bother of actual urban communities, politics, or commons. This fantasy is being used to place pressure on existing cities, forcing them to compete in the lifestyle market rather than provide a just and stable municipality for citizens. 

    Send in the Clouds

    Drawing on the libertarian vision of “charter cities,” venture capitalists aim to re-establish the city as a commodity produced from scratch: “urban life” as a product available without the bother of actual urban communities, politics, or commons. This fantasy is being used to place pressure on existing cities, forcing them to compete in the lifestyle market rather than provide a just and stable municipality for citizens. 

    Send in the Clouds
  • Cozy Tech

    Kelly Pendergrast
    2021-06-17

    In tech design, a turn from sleek metal and glass to cozy textiles serves an ideological purpose: making consumer technologies, with all their surveillant properties, feel like a natural, intimate feature of home. 

    Cozy Tech

    In tech design, a turn from sleek metal and glass to cozy textiles serves an ideological purpose: making consumer technologies, with all their surveillant properties, feel like a natural, intimate feature of home. 

    Cozy Tech
  • Name of the Game

    Sophie Bishop
    2021-06-14

    “Influencer” and “creator” aren’t really different jobs, but the opposition of the two terms helps structure a variety of hierarchies: Less experienced or female content producers or competitors are more likely to be “influencers,” while “creators” testify to the economic generativity of social media platforms and entrepreneurial opportunities for audiences.

    Name of the Game

    “Influencer” and “creator” aren’t really different jobs, but the opposition of the two terms helps structure a variety of hierarchies: Less experienced or female content producers or competitors are more likely to be “influencers,” while “creators” testify to the economic generativity of social media platforms and entrepreneurial opportunities for audiences.

    Name of the Game
  • Body Talk

    Shaan Sachdev
    2021-06-10

    Social media train us to go through life in constant anticipation of a potential audience. That’s as true for sex as it is for friendship, travel, eating, and “being oneself.” The spectacularization of sex, for those who don’t have it professionally, might seem like a new frontier for public living. But within this immersion lies the possibility of a perfect privacy.

    Body Talk

    Social media train us to go through life in constant anticipation of a potential audience. That’s as true for sex as it is for friendship, travel, eating, and “being oneself.” The spectacularization of sex, for those who don’t have it professionally, might seem like a new frontier for public living. But within this immersion lies the possibility of a perfect privacy.

    Body Talk
  • Emergency Breaks

    Erik Baker
    2021-06-07

    Techno-utopianism has held longstanding appeal to the left, both as a means of keeping faith alive and of deflecting familiar critiques. As Gavin Mueller writes in his new book, however, this strain of thinking is deeply flawed. Is breaking machines the better way to build a better world?

    Emergency Breaks

    Techno-utopianism has held longstanding appeal to the left, both as a means of keeping faith alive and of deflecting familiar critiques. As Gavin Mueller writes in his new book, however, this strain of thinking is deeply flawed. Is breaking machines the better way to build a better world?

    Emergency Breaks
  • Meme Finance

    Real Life
    2021-05-28

    Real Life is taking a week off. In the meantime we’ve brought together a few of our recent articles on what we are calling “meme finance.” These articles address how social media dynamics have combined with speculative markets to raise the profile of new kinds of financial instruments, like NFTs and cryptocurrencies, as well as […]

    Meme Finance

    Real Life is taking a week off. In the meantime we’ve brought together a few of our recent articles on what we are calling “meme finance.” These articles address how social media dynamics have combined with speculative markets to raise the profile of new kinds of financial instruments, like NFTs and cryptocurrencies, as well as […]

    Meme Finance
  • Patently Harmful

    Gordon Hull
    2021-05-27

    The idea that the present should always be sacrificed at the altar of future innovation, and that this should guide IP, dates roughly to the 1960s, not to eternity. These decisions can be made differently. Neoliberal prerogatives of privatization need not be treated as immutable or even logical on their own terms.

    Patently Harmful

    The idea that the present should always be sacrificed at the altar of future innovation, and that this should guide IP, dates roughly to the 1960s, not to eternity. These decisions can be made differently. Neoliberal prerogatives of privatization need not be treated as immutable or even logical on their own terms.

    Patently Harmful
  • The Weaponization of Care

    Autumm Caines
    2021-05-24

    Protection, direction, influence, and even management can easily be perceived as aligned with “care,” if not inseparable from it. Be it for our children, partners, or property, surveillance promises  peace of mind — that we can think of ourselves as better caregivers. But when “care” is used to account for, rationalize, and promote surveillance technologies that ultimately cause vastly more harm than good, this amounts to care’s weaponization.

    The Weaponization of Care

    Protection, direction, influence, and even management can easily be perceived as aligned with “care,” if not inseparable from it. Be it for our children, partners, or property, surveillance promises  peace of mind — that we can think of ourselves as better caregivers. But when “care” is used to account for, rationalize, and promote surveillance technologies that ultimately cause vastly more harm than good, this amounts to care’s weaponization.

    The Weaponization of Care
  • As You Were

    Alexander Billet
    2021-05-20

    The idea that a person’s total potential could be quantified and reproduced by algorithm — without agency — reinforces the sense of futility characteristic of neoliberal capitalism, and which can worsen depression in the first place

    As You Were

    The idea that a person’s total potential could be quantified and reproduced by algorithm — without agency — reinforces the sense of futility characteristic of neoliberal capitalism, and which can worsen depression in the first place

    As You Were
  • Future Myopia

    Mehitabel Glenhaber
    2021-05-17

    Previous generations considered future peoples disposable, while at the same time idealizing them as saviors. Confronting the ghosts of the past, how do we prepare to look the future in the eye? 

    Future Myopia

    Previous generations considered future peoples disposable, while at the same time idealizing them as saviors. Confronting the ghosts of the past, how do we prepare to look the future in the eye? 

    Future Myopia
  • Match Games

    Christina Ungermann
    2021-05-13

    Dating apps have become part of the infrastructure of the social world, and crafting a profile for one of them is a rite of passage into a certain kind of social visibility. But the algorithms that drive them force us to balance our desire for intimacy with the desire for publicity. They feed on the romantic illusions that they dismantle at the same time.

    Match Games

    Dating apps have become part of the infrastructure of the social world, and crafting a profile for one of them is a rite of passage into a certain kind of social visibility. But the algorithms that drive them force us to balance our desire for intimacy with the desire for publicity. They feed on the romantic illusions that they dismantle at the same time.

    Match Games
  • The Sounds of Silence

    Lauren Collee
    2021-05-10

    “Synaesthetic” technologies — from instruments that seem to draw sound from plants to smart cities — promise to “translate” the nonhuman world, facilitating a deeper interactivity. What they really do is force the world to “speak” to us in our own language, while commodifying connection itself. 

    The Sounds of Silence

    “Synaesthetic” technologies — from instruments that seem to draw sound from plants to smart cities — promise to “translate” the nonhuman world, facilitating a deeper interactivity. What they really do is force the world to “speak” to us in our own language, while commodifying connection itself. 

    The Sounds of Silence
  • Play to Lose

    Emilie Reed
    2021-05-03

    Phenomena like crypto, NFTs and meme stocks have been touted in some quarters as a democratization of finance, allowing ordinary people to participate in speculative markets and use them to their own ends. But these practices are not foundational to a sustainable and equitable society; they mainly offer a feeling of revenge to help compensate for the otherwise helpless feeling of being financialized against one’s will.

    Play to Lose

    Phenomena like crypto, NFTs and meme stocks have been touted in some quarters as a democratization of finance, allowing ordinary people to participate in speculative markets and use them to their own ends. But these practices are not foundational to a sustainable and equitable society; they mainly offer a feeling of revenge to help compensate for the otherwise helpless feeling of being financialized against one’s will.

    Play to Lose
  • All Skies Are Gray

    Kyle Paoletta
    2021-04-29

    This essay explores the chasm between the data-heavy objectivity of weather prediction apps and our experience of the weather day to day. Weather apps create a soothing aesthetic of reliable information, dulling the feelings of helplessness and uncertainty intensified by climate change. 

    All Skies Are Gray

    This essay explores the chasm between the data-heavy objectivity of weather prediction apps and our experience of the weather day to day. Weather apps create a soothing aesthetic of reliable information, dulling the feelings of helplessness and uncertainty intensified by climate change. 

    All Skies Are Gray
  • In the Mood

    Paul Roquet
    2021-04-26

    Ambient works once sought to intervene in an existing environment and re-attune one’s relationship to it — they function like augmented reality. Ambience videos on YouTube (think “lo-fi hip hop radio” or ” Rainy Night Coffee Shop Ambience”) are more like virtual reality, promising an off-the-shelf escape from the environment you’re in. Ambience ceases to be something shared and becomes instead something consumed.

    In the Mood

    Ambient works once sought to intervene in an existing environment and re-attune one’s relationship to it — they function like augmented reality. Ambience videos on YouTube (think “lo-fi hip hop radio” or ” Rainy Night Coffee Shop Ambience”) are more like virtual reality, promising an off-the-shelf escape from the environment you’re in. Ambience ceases to be something shared and becomes instead something consumed.

    In the Mood
  • Appropriate Measures

    Jackie Brown and Philippe Mesly
    2021-04-22

    “Appropriate technology” was a movement beginning in the late 1960s that aimed to shift the emphasis from mass technology to smaller-scale, affordable technologies, informed and targeted to local needs and customs. Many of its ideas are as relevant today. So is one of its major shortcomings: why would we rely on technology to mitigate the harm technology does?

    Appropriate Measures

    “Appropriate technology” was a movement beginning in the late 1960s that aimed to shift the emphasis from mass technology to smaller-scale, affordable technologies, informed and targeted to local needs and customs. Many of its ideas are as relevant today. So is one of its major shortcomings: why would we rely on technology to mitigate the harm technology does?

    Appropriate Measures
  • Paid in Full

    Drew Austin
    2021-04-19

    With the advent of the internet, some predicted that intellectual property would become outmoded, but this has turned out to be backward. Instead it has allowed for the conception of everything as IP. Anything can become “content,” which now means anything can be conceived as a speculative instrument, as with NFTs. Web 2.0 — the “participatory web” of social media platforms and user-generated content — is being subsumed by what’s called Web3, an initiative to build blockchains and payment protocols into the internet’s fundamental architecture.

    Paid in Full

    With the advent of the internet, some predicted that intellectual property would become outmoded, but this has turned out to be backward. Instead it has allowed for the conception of everything as IP. Anything can become “content,” which now means anything can be conceived as a speculative instrument, as with NFTs. Web 2.0 — the “participatory web” of social media platforms and user-generated content — is being subsumed by what’s called Web3, an initiative to build blockchains and payment protocols into the internet’s fundamental architecture.

    Paid in Full
  • New Feelings: Seen By

    Megan Marz
    2021-04-15

    Social media platforms offer visibility features that show who is “lurking” on you. Because they offer the smallest possible units of attention — literally, “seen by” — they offer unlimited possibilities for narrativizing and mythologizing our relationships with others

    Seen By

    Social media platforms offer visibility features that show who is “lurking” on you. Because they offer the smallest possible units of attention — literally, “seen by” — they offer unlimited possibilities for narrativizing and mythologizing our relationships with others

    Seen By
  • Hello Goodbye

    Kevin Munger
    2021-04-12

    Technologies that write text for us aim to eliminate ambiguity from communication and make it more efficient. But the more popular these technologies become, the more they place all text under suspicion of being lazily produced, without any sincere human effort or intention behind it. Rather than becoming clearer, it becomes utterly inscrutable.

    Hello Goodbye

    Technologies that write text for us aim to eliminate ambiguity from communication and make it more efficient. But the more popular these technologies become, the more they place all text under suspicion of being lazily produced, without any sincere human effort or intention behind it. Rather than becoming clearer, it becomes utterly inscrutable.

    Hello Goodbye
  • Money for Nothing

    Vicky Osterweil
    2021-04-08

    NFTs are made to seem intricate, innovative, and complicated, but they are merely a new manifestation of a very old form: the financial bubble. The crypto-driven machinery by which NFTs are supposed to acquire their value disguises the dispossession that all forms of capitalist accumulation entail. The value of crypto (and apps) is not in electricity but in the human labor they displace and appropriate.  

    Money for Nothing

    NFTs are made to seem intricate, innovative, and complicated, but they are merely a new manifestation of a very old form: the financial bubble. The crypto-driven machinery by which NFTs are supposed to acquire their value disguises the dispossession that all forms of capitalist accumulation entail. The value of crypto (and apps) is not in electricity but in the human labor they displace and appropriate.  

    Money for Nothing
  • They’re Just Like Us

    Cat Zhang
    2021-04-06

    Each age brings a new format for speculating about celebrity affairs, and over the decades, gossip has found new ways to justify its own existence. In recent years, the nastiness that marked early-aughts gossip has seemed retrograde. But the pursuit of sensitive gossip might be a vain one.

    They’re Just Like Us

    Each age brings a new format for speculating about celebrity affairs, and over the decades, gossip has found new ways to justify its own existence. In recent years, the nastiness that marked early-aughts gossip has seemed retrograde. But the pursuit of sensitive gossip might be a vain one.

    They’re Just Like Us
  • Home Icons: Unwanted Corkpull

    Kelly Pendergrast
    2021-04-01

    The origins of everyday household junk are uncanny in their endlessness and inscrutability. This encourages a kind of object orthorexia: alone at home amid possessions one can’t easily be rid of, it is easy to obsess over the extractive beginnings and horrid afterlives of cheap objects

    Unwanted Corkpull

    The origins of everyday household junk are uncanny in their endlessness and inscrutability. This encourages a kind of object orthorexia: alone at home amid possessions one can’t easily be rid of, it is easy to obsess over the extractive beginnings and horrid afterlives of cheap objects

    Unwanted Corkpull
  • A Shopper’s Heaven

    Charlie Jarvis
    2021-03-29

    “Convenience” is often discussed as though it is what consumers naturally demand — a way for them to save time and energy. But convenience and its logic of efficiency as an end in itself derives from the imperatives of production at scale. To misread “convenience” as our own desire, we must be brought to misrecognize the vast logistical landscape that makes “frictionless consumption” possible and that is slowly devouring the countryside.

    A Shopper’s Heaven

    “Convenience” is often discussed as though it is what consumers naturally demand — a way for them to save time and energy. But convenience and its logic of efficiency as an end in itself derives from the imperatives of production at scale. To misread “convenience” as our own desire, we must be brought to misrecognize the vast logistical landscape that makes “frictionless consumption” possible and that is slowly devouring the countryside.

    A Shopper’s Heaven
  • Middle Management

    R.E. Hawley
    2021-03-25

    The ideal of design as politics, as encoded in movements like “design thinking,” operates just like political centrism. It relies on the fantasy that innovative design solutions could eliminate ideological conflict and change the world by merely shuffling around its parts.

    Middle Management

    The ideal of design as politics, as encoded in movements like “design thinking,” operates just like political centrism. It relies on the fantasy that innovative design solutions could eliminate ideological conflict and change the world by merely shuffling around its parts.

    Middle Management
  • Calculating Instruments

    Joshua Habgood-Coote
    2021-03-22

    Crowdsourcing is often presented as novel, but its history precedes the advent of digital computing. The history of “human computing” — using the division of labor to solve complex math problems — shows how crowdsourcing fits into a longer pattern of deskilled, invisible, and exploited work.

    Calculating Instruments

    Crowdsourcing is often presented as novel, but its history precedes the advent of digital computing. The history of “human computing” — using the division of labor to solve complex math problems — shows how crowdsourcing fits into a longer pattern of deskilled, invisible, and exploited work.

    Calculating Instruments
  • Home Icons: Starter Table Saw

    Matt Hartman
    2021-03-18

    Woodworking — and crafting more generally — holds appeal as something outside of the everyday experience of capitalism. This mode of thinking has a long history, one traditionally more concerned with middle-class discontents than the material conditions of capitalism itself. 

    Starter Table Saw

    Woodworking — and crafting more generally — holds appeal as something outside of the everyday experience of capitalism. This mode of thinking has a long history, one traditionally more concerned with middle-class discontents than the material conditions of capitalism itself. 

    Starter Table Saw
  • Faces of Histories

    Nehal El-Hadi
    2021-03-15

    When image-manipulation tools like the recent “Deep Nostalgia” gain notoriety, they are often described as either “cool” or “creepy.” But such privileged reactions sidestep the expropriation involved in representing people without consent, and the way such transgressions disproportionately affect marginalized people.   

    Faces of Histories

    When image-manipulation tools like the recent “Deep Nostalgia” gain notoriety, they are often described as either “cool” or “creepy.” But such privileged reactions sidestep the expropriation involved in representing people without consent, and the way such transgressions disproportionately affect marginalized people.   

    Faces of Histories
  • Anonymous Landscapes

    DM Loftis
    2021-03-11

    The images that come preinstalled on devices aim for a generic appeal that could appeal to any user without being too distracting. Often images of landscapes, they evoke a collective appeal, a well-being in ordinary belonging, that transfers to the device itself. But landscape imagery also taps into longstanding ideas of dominion and mastery — of human transcendence from environments that we exploit rather than inhabit. This is a dangerous way to think by default.

    Anonymous Landscapes

    The images that come preinstalled on devices aim for a generic appeal that could appeal to any user without being too distracting. Often images of landscapes, they evoke a collective appeal, a well-being in ordinary belonging, that transfers to the device itself. But landscape imagery also taps into longstanding ideas of dominion and mastery — of human transcendence from environments that we exploit rather than inhabit. This is a dangerous way to think by default.

    Anonymous Landscapes
  • Source Material

    Jackie Brown
    2021-03-08

    Supply studies attempts to distill and make legible the global networks that manufacture and deliver our electronics, and form the infrastructure that organizes our society. It provides a crucial lens for understanding the real origins, and the real impacts, of our devices, whose complexity obfuscates their harm. 

    Source Material

    Supply studies attempts to distill and make legible the global networks that manufacture and deliver our electronics, and form the infrastructure that organizes our society. It provides a crucial lens for understanding the real origins, and the real impacts, of our devices, whose complexity obfuscates their harm. 

    Source Material
  • Main Character Energy

    Coco Klockner
    2021-03-04

    Since the pandemic began, there have been a rash of posts that emphasize embracing a certain “main character energy” — a way of conveying an impression of inner depth when we mostly appear to each other on screens. These have their roots in the fantasy of living in the movie of your own life that cinema has worked hard to establish and which has become harder to sustain under the conditions of social media, where we are routinely confronted by our marginality in the lives of others.

    Main Character Energy

    Since the pandemic began, there have been a rash of posts that emphasize embracing a certain “main character energy” — a way of conveying an impression of inner depth when we mostly appear to each other on screens. These have their roots in the fantasy of living in the movie of your own life that cinema has worked hard to establish and which has become harder to sustain under the conditions of social media, where we are routinely confronted by our marginality in the lives of others.

    Main Character Energy
  • Star Power

    Lauren Collee
    2021-03-01

    Tech companies tie their origin stories to scientific master-narratives of the earth and the universe. By co-opting the totalizing authority of astrophysics and scientific cosmology — the “purest” and most conceptual of the sciences — they naturalize their own role in shaping earth’s futures. 

    Star Power

    Tech companies tie their origin stories to scientific master-narratives of the earth and the universe. By co-opting the totalizing authority of astrophysics and scientific cosmology — the “purest” and most conceptual of the sciences — they naturalize their own role in shaping earth’s futures. 

    Star Power
  • The Presence of the Original

    Rob Horning
    2021-02-26

    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.

    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.

    The Presence of the Original
  • Goon Squads

    Vicky Osterweil
    2021-02-25

    Two issues marked the release of last year’s most hyped game, Cyberpunk 2077’s: its racist, transphobic marketing campaign; and the exploitive labor conditions under which it was made. These must be understood not as independent problems but intrinsically related: Transphobia’s profitability can help instill labor discipline; exploitive labor conditions allow fascist gender politics to flourish more broadly.

    Goon Squads

    Two issues marked the release of last year’s most hyped game, Cyberpunk 2077’s: its racist, transphobic marketing campaign; and the exploitive labor conditions under which it was made. These must be understood not as independent problems but intrinsically related: Transphobia’s profitability can help instill labor discipline; exploitive labor conditions allow fascist gender politics to flourish more broadly.

    Goon Squads
  • Family Scanning

    Hannah Zeavin
    2021-02-22

    Parents must watch their children, while surveillance is conventionally associated with state power and its abuses. But in tracing the history of child monitoring and its technologies, we can see that these two forms of observation are less distinct than they appear

    Family Scanning

    Parents must watch their children, while surveillance is conventionally associated with state power and its abuses. But in tracing the history of child monitoring and its technologies, we can see that these two forms of observation are less distinct than they appear

    Family Scanning
  • Socialized Streaming

    Liz Pelly
    2021-02-16

     Music is a public good: It brings people together, it provides an outlet, an archive, and reflects the tenor of society at any given moment. We don’t currently conceptualize universal access to music as a public good, to be managed in the public interest with public funding. We should. We should think about socializing music streaming.

    Socialized Streaming

     Music is a public good: It brings people together, it provides an outlet, an archive, and reflects the tenor of society at any given moment. We don’t currently conceptualize universal access to music as a public good, to be managed in the public interest with public funding. We should. We should think about socializing music streaming.

    Socialized Streaming
  • The Glint

    Hank Gerba
    2021-02-11

    To advertise the idea of better picture quality or basic desirability, marketers often make recourse to the “glint” — an elusive flash reflecting off surfaces to convey a product’s enhanced presence. This glint figures the idea of having our attention captured without specifying what captured it; it intimates in a flash that we’ve already seen what we want and know why we want it.

    The Glint

    To advertise the idea of better picture quality or basic desirability, marketers often make recourse to the “glint” — an elusive flash reflecting off surfaces to convey a product’s enhanced presence. This glint figures the idea of having our attention captured without specifying what captured it; it intimates in a flash that we’ve already seen what we want and know why we want it.

    The Glint
  • TikTok Face

    Cat Zhang
    2021-02-08

    On TikTok, users “emojify” their faces — abstracting facial expressions into blank, universal icons that nonetheless provide a hit of personality, and estranging the most basic and embodied mode of communication from the body

    TikTok Face

    On TikTok, users “emojify” their faces — abstracting facial expressions into blank, universal icons that nonetheless provide a hit of personality, and estranging the most basic and embodied mode of communication from the body

    TikTok Face
  • Map Quest

    Jon Glover
    2021-02-04

    Older open world games, at their best, offered “cognitive maps” of contemporary capitalism. Today’s open worlds — even when they take inspiration from anti-capitalist literary genres like cyberpunk — are more like gig economy platforms, offering “freedom” in the form of being able to choose among an endless series of tedious tasks.

    Map Quest

    Older open world games, at their best, offered “cognitive maps” of contemporary capitalism. Today’s open worlds — even when they take inspiration from anti-capitalist literary genres like cyberpunk — are more like gig economy platforms, offering “freedom” in the form of being able to choose among an endless series of tedious tasks.

    Map Quest
  • Mirror of Your Mind

    Isabel Munson
    2021-02-01

    When algorithmic feeds beginning showing users content pertaining to specific health conditions, users will likely feel as though they are being diagnosed with them. Within social media’s systems of self-differentiation, every kind of content can be understood as a symptom. Identity becomes a kind of chronic disease that is constantly trying to cure itself. 

    Mirror of Your Mind

    When algorithmic feeds beginning showing users content pertaining to specific health conditions, users will likely feel as though they are being diagnosed with them. Within social media’s systems of self-differentiation, every kind of content can be understood as a symptom. Identity becomes a kind of chronic disease that is constantly trying to cure itself. 

    Mirror of Your Mind
  • Home Icons: SAD Lamp

    Lauren Collee
    2021-01-28

    The SAD lamp is a technology that claims to provide us with the sunlight we miss during the winter months, treating Seasonal Affective Disorder. While its benefits are unclear, it is part of an overarching attempt to calibrate the human body through science to a perfect synchronicity with the rhythms of nature. SAD lamps tap into our desire to believe in ourselves as part of wider ecologies, and also position consumer goods as necessary mediators of this relationship

    SAD Lamp

    The SAD lamp is a technology that claims to provide us with the sunlight we miss during the winter months, treating Seasonal Affective Disorder. While its benefits are unclear, it is part of an overarching attempt to calibrate the human body through science to a perfect synchronicity with the rhythms of nature. SAD lamps tap into our desire to believe in ourselves as part of wider ecologies, and also position consumer goods as necessary mediators of this relationship

    SAD Lamp
  • Future Schlock

    Jathan Sadowski
    2021-01-25

    Tech companies were once quick to deploy utopian rhetoric about how they could solve the world’s problems, but this has been revealed as mainly an alibi for the pursuit of profit and monopoly — a dystopia for everyone else. To escape will require utopian thinking premised on a different set of values, exemplified by organized resistance to tech’s hegemony.

    Future Schlock

    Tech companies were once quick to deploy utopian rhetoric about how they could solve the world’s problems, but this has been revealed as mainly an alibi for the pursuit of profit and monopoly — a dystopia for everyone else. To escape will require utopian thinking premised on a different set of values, exemplified by organized resistance to tech’s hegemony.

    Future Schlock
  • Command and Control

    Jeremy Antley
    2021-01-21

    Board games have long been used to simulate war, serving as an aspect of military training. But as researchers at the Rand Corporation would determine, the most effective simulations were not the most accurate depictions of war but the most traumatic experience of stakes. At the same time, the terms in which war has been re-created in games have subsequently shaped how actual war is mediated, conducted, and perceived.

    Command and Control

    Board games have long been used to simulate war, serving as an aspect of military training. But as researchers at the Rand Corporation would determine, the most effective simulations were not the most accurate depictions of war but the most traumatic experience of stakes. At the same time, the terms in which war has been re-created in games have subsequently shaped how actual war is mediated, conducted, and perceived.

    Command and Control
  • Recommended Writing

    Crystal Chokshi
    2021-01-19

    Predictive text AI upholds a view of human communication as mathematical and mundane, exerting an insidious influence on the way we communicate, and the way we think about communication itself.

    Recommended Writing

    Predictive text AI upholds a view of human communication as mathematical and mundane, exerting an insidious influence on the way we communicate, and the way we think about communication itself.

    Recommended Writing
  • Screen Memories

    Kelly Pendergrast
    2021-01-14

    Like the snapshot, the screenshot is a way of metabolizing the world around us, framing intimate spaces that are controlled, nevertheless, by outside parties. Counterintuitively, it provides a brief escape from computational logic.

    Screen Memories

    Like the snapshot, the screenshot is a way of metabolizing the world around us, framing intimate spaces that are controlled, nevertheless, by outside parties. Counterintuitively, it provides a brief escape from computational logic.

    Screen Memories
  • The Safety Dance

    Sophie Bishop
    2021-01-11

    The practice of influencers is not some marginal form of social media marketing but a form of cultural production and a mode of self-employment that is becoming paradigmatic. Algorithmic tools designed to determine influencers’ “brand safety” — essentially their ability to work — reproduce existing forms of discrimination, linking “safety” and profitability with whiteness. Soon all workers may be subject to such scrutiny. 

    The Safety Dance

    The practice of influencers is not some marginal form of social media marketing but a form of cultural production and a mode of self-employment that is becoming paradigmatic. Algorithmic tools designed to determine influencers’ “brand safety” — essentially their ability to work — reproduce existing forms of discrimination, linking “safety” and profitability with whiteness. Soon all workers may be subject to such scrutiny. 

    The Safety Dance
  • Rank and File

    Robert Minto
    2021-01-04

    This essay is about the note-taking app Roam, and the consequences of life conceived as an endless process of annotation. Like other productivity apps, Roam can seem to do the work of synthesizing your stray thoughts into a larger, more coherent structure. But the very ease with which that index is generated makes it not only unwieldy at scale, but begins to circumscribe your thinking instead of adapting to it. 

    Rank and File

    This essay is about the note-taking app Roam, and the consequences of life conceived as an endless process of annotation. Like other productivity apps, Roam can seem to do the work of synthesizing your stray thoughts into a larger, more coherent structure. But the very ease with which that index is generated makes it not only unwieldy at scale, but begins to circumscribe your thinking instead of adapting to it. 

    Rank and File
  • Bad Metaphors: Startup “Cults”

    Adam Willems
    2020-12-17

    It’s common to hear startups or tech company cultures described as “cultish.” But using “cult” as a pejorative not only imports a dehumanizing and carceral line of critique; it also separates the companies being critiqued from the larger historical and political forces that shape them.

    Startup “Cults”

    It’s common to hear startups or tech company cultures described as “cultish.” But using “cult” as a pejorative not only imports a dehumanizing and carceral line of critique; it also separates the companies being critiqued from the larger historical and political forces that shape them.

    Startup “Cults”
  • The Organic Myth

    Dr. Elinor Carmi 
    2020-12-14

    The myth of “organic” experience has been sold by tech companies for almost two decades to differentiate between advertising’s “paid reach” and the other kinds of content that appear in one’s feed. This suggests that everything that happens on a platform is naturally ordered, as if once you removed the ads, what would remain is a garden of wildflowers. But the rhythms of media consumption are designed and induced; they don’t simply happen.

    The Organic Myth

    The myth of “organic” experience has been sold by tech companies for almost two decades to differentiate between advertising’s “paid reach” and the other kinds of content that appear in one’s feed. This suggests that everything that happens on a platform is naturally ordered, as if once you removed the ads, what would remain is a garden of wildflowers. But the rhythms of media consumption are designed and induced; they don’t simply happen.

    The Organic Myth
  • Easy Answers

    Megan Marz
    2020-12-10

    Search engines foster the illusion that every question has a retrievable answer. This creates a false sense of understanding, and obscures the certainty of uncertainty, reducing knowledge itself to that which Google can provide.

    Easy Answers

    Search engines foster the illusion that every question has a retrievable answer. This creates a false sense of understanding, and obscures the certainty of uncertainty, reducing knowledge itself to that which Google can provide.

    Easy Answers
  • The Zoom Gaze

    Autumm Caines
    2020-12-07

    As Zoom shifts the nature of the relationship between viewing and being viewed, it also shifts our awareness of it: It makes us more conscious of how visibility is mediated by technologies in general. Right now, it is imperative that we consider what the Zoom gaze accomplishes — whose perspective it seeks to naturalize, whose subjectivity it centers, and what it conditions us to see.

    The Zoom Gaze

    As Zoom shifts the nature of the relationship between viewing and being viewed, it also shifts our awareness of it: It makes us more conscious of how visibility is mediated by technologies in general. Right now, it is imperative that we consider what the Zoom gaze accomplishes — whose perspective it seeks to naturalize, whose subjectivity it centers, and what it conditions us to see.

    The Zoom Gaze
  • Emotional Rescue

    Mack Hagood
    2020-12-03

    We think of media as means for transmitting information, assuming that information’s freedom is intrinsically and positively correlated with our own. In reality, media are — and have always been — primarily about affect: they are ways of cocooning ourselves, providing freedom from pain and discomfort. This misconception has had disastrous consequences.

    Emotional Rescue

    We think of media as means for transmitting information, assuming that information’s freedom is intrinsically and positively correlated with our own. In reality, media are — and have always been — primarily about affect: they are ways of cocooning ourselves, providing freedom from pain and discomfort. This misconception has had disastrous consequences.

    Emotional Rescue
  • Loyalty Tests

    Drew Austin
    2020-11-30

    Subscription services often hinge not on a better deal but on an escape from having to make deals. Rather than falsely describing a transactional arrangement as a matter of loyalty (as with “loyalty programs”), subscriptions impose a kind of loyalty without requiring a transaction at all. But transactionality offered a kind of freedom — of an anonymous, ephemeral exchange — that is disappearing from a connected world.

    Loyalty Tests

    Subscription services often hinge not on a better deal but on an escape from having to make deals. Rather than falsely describing a transactional arrangement as a matter of loyalty (as with “loyalty programs”), subscriptions impose a kind of loyalty without requiring a transaction at all. But transactionality offered a kind of freedom — of an anonymous, ephemeral exchange — that is disappearing from a connected world.

    Loyalty Tests
  • Are You Afraid of the Dark?

    Lauren Collee
    2020-11-23

    Like all technologies, light reflects much larger expressions of power, carving up a whole architecture of visibility that shapes the ways our lives are led at night, providing shelter for some and a harmful, even deadly, exposure for others.

    Are You Afraid of the Dark?

    Like all technologies, light reflects much larger expressions of power, carving up a whole architecture of visibility that shapes the ways our lives are led at night, providing shelter for some and a harmful, even deadly, exposure for others.

    Are You Afraid of the Dark?
  • Home Icons: Oil Diffuser

    Rahel Aima
    2020-11-16

    Over the course of history scent has been imbued with medical properties it doesn’t possess, but it can also have very real physical and psychological effects, including unanticipated ones; and it can at least suggest the fulfillment of our needs and desires. Once it was said to ward off miasma; now it gives texture to otherwise formless days during lockdown and makes otherwise uninhabitable spaces feel like home.

    Oil Diffuser

    Over the course of history scent has been imbued with medical properties it doesn’t possess, but it can also have very real physical and psychological effects, including unanticipated ones; and it can at least suggest the fulfillment of our needs and desires. Once it was said to ward off miasma; now it gives texture to otherwise formless days during lockdown and makes otherwise uninhabitable spaces feel like home.

    Oil Diffuser
  • Home Icons: Radio Transceiver

    Hazel Avery
    2020-11-16

    The allure of the once subversive technology of radio transmission for its seemingly inherently revolutionary qualities in fiction and in real life, falls short when set against today’s revolution. It, like many coalitional mediating technologies now, is secondary to and serves the always-evolving work of care and resourcefulness.

    Radio Transceiver

    The allure of the once subversive technology of radio transmission for its seemingly inherently revolutionary qualities in fiction and in real life, falls short when set against today’s revolution. It, like many coalitional mediating technologies now, is secondary to and serves the always-evolving work of care and resourcefulness.

    Radio Transceiver
  • Home Icons: Kettlebell

    Suzannah Showler
    2020-11-16

    The kettlebell, a centuries-old device with Soviet associations, is wildly popular in modern Western gyms; since the pandemic began, it has been so coveted for home workouts that suppliers have barely been able to keep it in stock. More than a practical piece of equipment, it has become a talisman of strength and wellness, and it represents the duality at the center of “working out” as peddled by bourgeois fitness culture: the residue of militarism, of training for something, and hyper-individualism, of optimizing one’s own body in the face of general precariousness without any reliable collective mechanism for solving the problems we face. 

    Kettlebell

    The kettlebell, a centuries-old device with Soviet associations, is wildly popular in modern Western gyms; since the pandemic began, it has been so coveted for home workouts that suppliers have barely been able to keep it in stock. More than a practical piece of equipment, it has become a talisman of strength and wellness, and it represents the duality at the center of “working out” as peddled by bourgeois fitness culture: the residue of militarism, of training for something, and hyper-individualism, of optimizing one’s own body in the face of general precariousness without any reliable collective mechanism for solving the problems we face. 

    Kettlebell
  • Home Icons: Mrs. Meyer’s

    Alexandra Molotkow
    2020-11-16

    Mrs. Meyer’s soap is the signature scent of the gentrified city: it evokes garden flowers and a midwestern idyll, promoting an idea of home that is rooted in a fantasy of desert through hard work. It is meant to soothe the cognitive dissonance of being a gentrifier, suggesting that wherever you are, you have a right to be there. 

    Mrs. Meyer’s

    Mrs. Meyer’s soap is the signature scent of the gentrified city: it evokes garden flowers and a midwestern idyll, promoting an idea of home that is rooted in a fantasy of desert through hard work. It is meant to soothe the cognitive dissonance of being a gentrifier, suggesting that wherever you are, you have a right to be there. 

    Mrs. Meyer’s
  • Decision Trees

    Jason Rhys Parry
    2020-11-10

    There is a glaring discrepancy how we monitor the earth and how we respond to signs of the biosphere’s collapse. After decades of political indifference, a growing number of advocates have sought ways to automate environmentalism to bypass institutional resistance to urgent change. But it’s not clear how to “optimize” for a “winning” ecosystem, or who decides what that should look like.

    Decision Trees

    There is a glaring discrepancy how we monitor the earth and how we respond to signs of the biosphere’s collapse. After decades of political indifference, a growing number of advocates have sought ways to automate environmentalism to bypass institutional resistance to urgent change. But it’s not clear how to “optimize” for a “winning” ecosystem, or who decides what that should look like.

    Decision Trees
  • Atmospheric Disturbances

    Alicia Puglionesi
    2020-11-02

    The dream of predicting human behavior like the weather has a long history, sometimes overlapping with that of weather prediction itself. But treating public sentiment as a natural phenomenon, to be studied and exploited, means failing to grasp the material and political conditions from which it arises.

    Atmospheric Disturbances

    The dream of predicting human behavior like the weather has a long history, sometimes overlapping with that of weather prediction itself. But treating public sentiment as a natural phenomenon, to be studied and exploited, means failing to grasp the material and political conditions from which it arises.

    Atmospheric Disturbances
  • Perfect Harmony

    Robin James
    2020-10-29

    “Solfeggio frequencies” — sound ranges that purportedly can be used to “repair” mental and physiological maladies — are among the pseudoscientific wellness trends running rampant on social media platforms. They don’t do what they claim, but they do allow individuals to signal their willingness to assume personal responsibility for their health and reject structural fixes to what are ultimately social problems

    Perfect Harmony

    “Solfeggio frequencies” — sound ranges that purportedly can be used to “repair” mental and physiological maladies — are among the pseudoscientific wellness trends running rampant on social media platforms. They don’t do what they claim, but they do allow individuals to signal their willingness to assume personal responsibility for their health and reject structural fixes to what are ultimately social problems

    Perfect Harmony
  • Subscriber City

    David A. Banks
    2020-10-26

    How soon before paywalls go up around the public spaces we are used to crossing unhindered, before services that once seemed available to all on equal terms become subject to priority tiers? The pandemic threatens to accelerate the trend toward a world in which anything can become a walled garden and in which resegregation occurs moment by moment.

    Subscriber City

    How soon before paywalls go up around the public spaces we are used to crossing unhindered, before services that once seemed available to all on equal terms become subject to priority tiers? The pandemic threatens to accelerate the trend toward a world in which anything can become a walled garden and in which resegregation occurs moment by moment.

    Subscriber City
  • Support Mechanism

    Laura Mauldin
    2020-10-22

    Technologies once used only in clinical settings are now smaller and more mobile, enabling more people with chronic illnesses and disabilities to live at home. However, these technologies create a new, often invisible labor force in the form of caregivers, who must become expert in working the machines, and covering for their failings. These caregivers’ innovations go unnoticed.

    Support Mechanism

    Technologies once used only in clinical settings are now smaller and more mobile, enabling more people with chronic illnesses and disabilities to live at home. However, these technologies create a new, often invisible labor force in the form of caregivers, who must become expert in working the machines, and covering for their failings. These caregivers’ innovations go unnoticed.

    Support Mechanism
  • More Than a Feeling

    Frank Pasquale
    2020-10-19

    Affective computing — the computer-science field’s term for such attempts to read, simulate, predict, and stimulate human emotion with software — doesn’t capture existing emotional states so much as posit them, establishing norms for what feelings “should” look like. Emotion detection will force us to perform these outward signs to avoid disciplinary actions from automated systems.

    More Than a Feeling

    Affective computing — the computer-science field’s term for such attempts to read, simulate, predict, and stimulate human emotion with software — doesn’t capture existing emotional states so much as posit them, establishing norms for what feelings “should” look like. Emotion detection will force us to perform these outward signs to avoid disciplinary actions from automated systems.

    More Than a Feeling
  • Disassembly Required

    Kelly Pendergrast
    2020-10-13

    Robots are designed to gain our sympathy through anthropomorphic and often adorable features. Treating robots with aggression is often seen as antisocial behavior. However, robots are not our friends: they are tools of the corporations that own them, and thus they are not on our side.

    Disassembly Required

    Robots are designed to gain our sympathy through anthropomorphic and often adorable features. Treating robots with aggression is often seen as antisocial behavior. However, robots are not our friends: they are tools of the corporations that own them, and thus they are not on our side.

    Disassembly Required
  • Please Clap

    Andrew Marzoni
    2020-10-08

    Baseball games, played to empty stadiums, are now accompanied by fake crowd noise. This feels uncanny, but only at first, and not nearly as much as the silence beneath — baseball was never “authentic,” and spectacle of spectacle is better than none at all.

    Please Clap

    Baseball games, played to empty stadiums, are now accompanied by fake crowd noise. This feels uncanny, but only at first, and not nearly as much as the silence beneath — baseball was never “authentic,” and spectacle of spectacle is better than none at all.

    Please Clap
  • Springtime Everywhere

    Lara Chapman
    2020-10-05

    Google Earth is not a empirical representation; it is an interface that makes the planet into a consumer good and turns users into tourists. It offers a frictionless access that occludes our ability to recognize the disasters we face or the collective action necessary to reverse them

    Springtime Everywhere

    Google Earth is not a empirical representation; it is an interface that makes the planet into a consumer good and turns users into tourists. It offers a frictionless access that occludes our ability to recognize the disasters we face or the collective action necessary to reverse them

    Springtime Everywhere
  • What the Chart Wants

    Kyle Paoletta
    2020-10-01

    An abundance of maps, graphs, and dials color-coded in shades of red and blue has dominated U.S. presidential forecasts for a decade. But these graphics may be no more accurate than they were in 2016; they are so hedged by infinite potential election-day scenarios that their meaning becomes supplanted by their aesthetic, meant to reassure us that the election will go as planned.

    What the Chart Wants

    An abundance of maps, graphs, and dials color-coded in shades of red and blue has dominated U.S. presidential forecasts for a decade. But these graphics may be no more accurate than they were in 2016; they are so hedged by infinite potential election-day scenarios that their meaning becomes supplanted by their aesthetic, meant to reassure us that the election will go as planned.

    What the Chart Wants
  • Throne of Games

    Lewis Gordon
    2020-09-28

    The gaming chair has evolved into a series of elaborate and often bizarre contraptions that hold the body in place, suspending those parts unnecessary for gaming. While they advertise comfort and endurance, they often seem to tap into a desire for self-obliteration.

    Throne of Games

    The gaming chair has evolved into a series of elaborate and often bizarre contraptions that hold the body in place, suspending those parts unnecessary for gaming. While they advertise comfort and endurance, they often seem to tap into a desire for self-obliteration.

    Throne of Games
  • No Escape From Reality

    Marcus Carter and Ben Egliston
    2020-09-24

    Virtual reality is generally presented as a means to a more immersive simulation for users, but it is also a means of quantification and data collection about those users. The immersiveness of the simulated scenario is presented as “real” enough to inspire confidence in the data’s thoroughness, veracity, and broader applicability, but this data is no more “perfect” or neutral than any other. 

    No Escape From Reality

    Virtual reality is generally presented as a means to a more immersive simulation for users, but it is also a means of quantification and data collection about those users. The immersiveness of the simulated scenario is presented as “real” enough to inspire confidence in the data’s thoroughness, veracity, and broader applicability, but this data is no more “perfect” or neutral than any other. 

    No Escape From Reality
  • Bot or Not

    Brian Justie
    2020-09-21

    CAPTCHAs once seemed to differentiate between real and fake users. But as more and more communication has become partly automated and algorithmically augmented, that distinction no longer makes sense. Now “bot” has become a pejorative term for “inauthentic,” that could be plausibly applied to anyone: In an online environment in which everyone and everything is  a vector of valuable data, bad faith seems universal, as all content can be divorced from its context and can seem to have ulterior motives.

    Bot or Not

    CAPTCHAs once seemed to differentiate between real and fake users. But as more and more communication has become partly automated and algorithmically augmented, that distinction no longer makes sense. Now “bot” has become a pejorative term for “inauthentic,” that could be plausibly applied to anyone: In an online environment in which everyone and everything is  a vector of valuable data, bad faith seems universal, as all content can be divorced from its context and can seem to have ulterior motives.

    Bot or Not
  • Lawful Neutral

    Sam Popowich
    2020-09-09

    Liberalism’s presumption of an underlying universality (binary biological sex, for example, or “post-racial color-blindness”) makes the unruly, messy data of human life appear tractable and computable for algorithmic procedures. And increasingly comprehensive algorithmic systems in turn render life in the flattening image of proceduralist liberalism. In a sense, liberalism and artificial intelligence are converging.

    Lawful Neutral

    Liberalism’s presumption of an underlying universality (binary biological sex, for example, or “post-racial color-blindness”) makes the unruly, messy data of human life appear tractable and computable for algorithmic procedures. And increasingly comprehensive algorithmic systems in turn render life in the flattening image of proceduralist liberalism. In a sense, liberalism and artificial intelligence are converging.

    Lawful Neutral
  • I Write the Songs

    Rob Horning
    2020-09-02

    TikTok’s recommendation algorithm is heralded as the secret of the app’s success, but why do users want to be told what to watch? Algorithms that purport to predict who we are and what we want are “gimmicks,” in Sianne Ngai’s sense of the word: They let us enjoy our ambivalence over surrendering to them. 

    I Write the Songs

    TikTok’s recommendation algorithm is heralded as the secret of the app’s success, but why do users want to be told what to watch? Algorithms that purport to predict who we are and what we want are “gimmicks,” in Sianne Ngai’s sense of the word: They let us enjoy our ambivalence over surrendering to them. 

    I Write the Songs
  • The Gamification of Games

    Ulysses Pascal
    2020-08-27

    Games are about play, but gamification is about productivity and data collection. When games are gamified, they are made to produce data for the use of third parties outside the game itself. Because of the variety and magnitude of data games can generate, they allow for the extraction of uniquely exploitable information about players’ values and habits.

    The Gamification of Games

    Games are about play, but gamification is about productivity and data collection. When games are gamified, they are made to produce data for the use of third parties outside the game itself. Because of the variety and magnitude of data games can generate, they allow for the extraction of uniquely exploitable information about players’ values and habits.

    The Gamification of Games
  • Clothing as Platform

    Rachel Huber
    2020-08-20

    Putting tracking sensors in clothes serves the same function as any other “smart” device: It is a means of tapping consumers as recurring revenue streams. “Smart” fashion appears as little more than an alibi for collecting personal behavioral data — not to mention a form of greenwashed techno-solutionism that ignores the realities of today’s surveillance economy.

    Clothing as Platform

    Putting tracking sensors in clothes serves the same function as any other “smart” device: It is a means of tapping consumers as recurring revenue streams. “Smart” fashion appears as little more than an alibi for collecting personal behavioral data — not to mention a form of greenwashed techno-solutionism that ignores the realities of today’s surveillance economy.

    Clothing as Platform
  • Home Body

    Kelly Pendergrast
    2020-08-17

    The home itself feels like a “body,” a living entity capable of comforting and nurturing its inhabitants. Like us, this entity is one among many others, linked through infrastructure and labor to the systems necessary for its survival. While we think of the home as an isolated unit, the workings of the “house body” demonstrate our interdependence.

    Home Body

    The home itself feels like a “body,” a living entity capable of comforting and nurturing its inhabitants. Like us, this entity is one among many others, linked through infrastructure and labor to the systems necessary for its survival. While we think of the home as an isolated unit, the workings of the “house body” demonstrate our interdependence.

    Home Body
  • Borders Everywhere

    Sanjana Varghese
    2020-08-12

    The humanitarian alibi has often been used to inscribe the logic of the security state onto vulnerable populations serving as involuntary test subjects, as when biometric and surveillance technologies are imposed as a means of delivering aid to populations in crisis situations. But these technologies for monitoring, administering, and “controlling” people are themselves largely unregulated and their long-run implications are unknown, even as they are brought from the margins to structure more and more lives.  

    Borders Everywhere

    The humanitarian alibi has often been used to inscribe the logic of the security state onto vulnerable populations serving as involuntary test subjects, as when biometric and surveillance technologies are imposed as a means of delivering aid to populations in crisis situations. But these technologies for monitoring, administering, and “controlling” people are themselves largely unregulated and their long-run implications are unknown, even as they are brought from the margins to structure more and more lives.  

    Borders Everywhere
  • Camera Traps

    Lauren Collee
    2020-08-06

    The natural world, just like the city, is rife with surveillance. The militaristic, colonial history this surveillance belongs to is not simply waived by the fact that it operates in a forest. Technologies for extracting data about the earth reproduce these systems, and target human beings. 

    Camera Traps

    The natural world, just like the city, is rife with surveillance. The militaristic, colonial history this surveillance belongs to is not simply waived by the fact that it operates in a forest. Technologies for extracting data about the earth reproduce these systems, and target human beings. 

    Camera Traps
  • Music for Plants

    Rahel Aima
    2020-08-04

    Quarantine sparked the idea that “nature is healing” in the outside world, but said less of domesticated nature, which thrives on human attention. The science of how plants interpret their surroundings through sonic vibration is uneven and somewhat haphazard, but the role of houseplants and music in the home take equal precedence: Music for plants is ambient sound for your living home, not just for you, but ultimately it’s all for you.

    Music for Plants

    Quarantine sparked the idea that “nature is healing” in the outside world, but said less of domesticated nature, which thrives on human attention. The science of how plants interpret their surroundings through sonic vibration is uneven and somewhat haphazard, but the role of houseplants and music in the home take equal precedence: Music for plants is ambient sound for your living home, not just for you, but ultimately it’s all for you.

    Music for Plants
  • Oversaturated

    Cameron Kunzelman
    2020-07-30

    “Centering” race is not the same thing as undoing racism. The concept of “saturation” helps explain how institutions of power can become more accommodating to racial critique and racialized peoples without fundamentally transforming into anti-racist bodies.

    Oversaturated

    “Centering” race is not the same thing as undoing racism. The concept of “saturation” helps explain how institutions of power can become more accommodating to racial critique and racialized peoples without fundamentally transforming into anti-racist bodies.

    Oversaturated
  • This Is Not a Game

    Jon Glover
    2020-07-23

    Engaging in conspiracy culture is like playing a secret game based on insider knowledge. It’s this feeling — of joining an anointed community that has transcended the ordinary world — that propels Q’s current popularity. But revealing the game structures, pop media tropes, and affective rewards that shape movements like QAnon can help inoculate those attracted to such forms of play from full immersion in conspiracy culture.

    This Is Not a Game

    Engaging in conspiracy culture is like playing a secret game based on insider knowledge. It’s this feeling — of joining an anointed community that has transcended the ordinary world — that propels Q’s current popularity. But revealing the game structures, pop media tropes, and affective rewards that shape movements like QAnon can help inoculate those attracted to such forms of play from full immersion in conspiracy culture.

    This Is Not a Game
  • Sensitive Material

    Sasha Geffen
    2020-07-20

    The cisnormative gaze is codified in algorithms, as well as content moderation policies overseen by overtired contract workers, that censor bodies deemed “obscene.” Censoring images of breasts alongside images of violence and abuse slots female-presumed nudity into an unstable category.

    Sensitive Material

    The cisnormative gaze is codified in algorithms, as well as content moderation policies overseen by overtired contract workers, that censor bodies deemed “obscene.” Censoring images of breasts alongside images of violence and abuse slots female-presumed nudity into an unstable category.

    Sensitive Material
  • Look Who’s Talking

    Megan Marz
    2020-07-16

    Discussions of UX tend to focus on how things look and how they work, but the way they sound or read is just as meticulously designed. Often the aim of “sounding human” and “being clear” serves to disguise how interfaces are manipulative and skewed toward the company’s interest, while also reinforcing biased universalist assumptions.

    Look Who’s Talking

    Discussions of UX tend to focus on how things look and how they work, but the way they sound or read is just as meticulously designed. Often the aim of “sounding human” and “being clear” serves to disguise how interfaces are manipulative and skewed toward the company’s interest, while also reinforcing biased universalist assumptions.

    Look Who’s Talking
  • Back to the Future

    Dolly Church
    2020-07-13

    Drive-ins represent nostalgia for a past in which we were hopeful about the future. The future has since been swapped out for the past as a metric of progress, and we are caught in an endless loop of short-term solutions for problems that only mount with time. 

    Back to the Future

    Drive-ins represent nostalgia for a past in which we were hopeful about the future. The future has since been swapped out for the past as a metric of progress, and we are caught in an endless loop of short-term solutions for problems that only mount with time. 

    Back to the Future
  • Automatic for the Bosses

    David A. Banks
    2020-07-09

    Before the pandemic, many of those now working from home may not have given much thought to what it is like to be managed algorithmically, having an app snitch on them the way the “independent contractors” for Lyft or Fiverr are used to. Life on the other side of the convenience trade-off means less privacy from bosses, poorer working conditions, and less leverage to change any of it.

    Automatic for the Bosses

    Before the pandemic, many of those now working from home may not have given much thought to what it is like to be managed algorithmically, having an app snitch on them the way the “independent contractors” for Lyft or Fiverr are used to. Life on the other side of the convenience trade-off means less privacy from bosses, poorer working conditions, and less leverage to change any of it.

    Automatic for the Bosses
  • Liminal Space

    Devon Powers
    2020-07-06

    Quarantine was no one thing; it has been full of contradictions. What had seemed early on like a unifying experience exposed many differences and inequalities, even while it linked us as a species. One certainty it yielded is that we have to get better at living with complexity, difference, and uncertainty. 

    Liminal Space

    Quarantine was no one thing; it has been full of contradictions. What had seemed early on like a unifying experience exposed many differences and inequalities, even while it linked us as a species. One certainty it yielded is that we have to get better at living with complexity, difference, and uncertainty. 

    Liminal Space
  • Symptom Check

    Sharrona Pearl
    2020-07-02

    Firsthand Twitter threads narrating the symptoms of Covid-19 fill a void of representation. Despite all the panic and mythmaking around the virus itself, especially in the early days we had very little information, and few popular representations of what the disease actually looked and felt like. This uncertainty creates its own kind of terror, leaves gaps for bad actors to exploit, and ultimately has the effect of anonymizing the people who actually get sick. The threads can be situated in a long lineage of illness narration, which has always served to wrest power back

    Symptom Check

    Firsthand Twitter threads narrating the symptoms of Covid-19 fill a void of representation. Despite all the panic and mythmaking around the virus itself, especially in the early days we had very little information, and few popular representations of what the disease actually looked and felt like. This uncertainty creates its own kind of terror, leaves gaps for bad actors to exploit, and ultimately has the effect of anonymizing the people who actually get sick. The threads can be situated in a long lineage of illness narration, which has always served to wrest power back

    Symptom Check
  • Contracirculation

    Marielle Ingram
    2020-06-29

    The circulation of images of Black suffering and death in social media risks making them into a spectacle or a commodity, tokens of white guilt. But if these images can be used as currency, it is also possible to reverse this process, to contracirculate images so that the very fact of their ubiquity drives a broader demand for change. 

    Contracirculation

    The circulation of images of Black suffering and death in social media risks making them into a spectacle or a commodity, tokens of white guilt. But if these images can be used as currency, it is also possible to reverse this process, to contracirculate images so that the very fact of their ubiquity drives a broader demand for change. 

    Contracirculation
  • Toward the Shroud

    Maandeeq Mohamed
    2020-06-25

    Constant surveillance shapes the contours of everyday Black life, imposing schemes of biometric identification of “good” vs “bad” citizens. Pandemic surveillance plays into similar techniques. But we can also imagine futures of ungovernability, of survival tactics to evade such surveillance and demand the undoing of a world predicated on anti-Black violence. 

    Toward the Shroud

    Constant surveillance shapes the contours of everyday Black life, imposing schemes of biometric identification of “good” vs “bad” citizens. Pandemic surveillance plays into similar techniques. But we can also imagine futures of ungovernability, of survival tactics to evade such surveillance and demand the undoing of a world predicated on anti-Black violence. 

    Toward the Shroud
  • Pay It Forward

    Tamara Kneese
    2020-06-22

    As a general rule, crowdfunding relies on neoliberal notions of charitable giving. Altruistic donors provide money to those who have less to make up for state malevolence and neglect. However, crowdfunds can provide an important function as part of a larger mutual aid effort. The distinction is important.

    Pay It Forward

    As a general rule, crowdfunding relies on neoliberal notions of charitable giving. Altruistic donors provide money to those who have less to make up for state malevolence and neglect. However, crowdfunds can provide an important function as part of a larger mutual aid effort. The distinction is important.

    Pay It Forward
  • Oversights

    Catherine Zimmer
    2020-06-18

    Though tech companies have built out a massive surveillance apparatus capable of tracking people’s locations and predilections, it is proving largely useless for containing the pandemic. This isn’t because concerns or regulations about individual privacy are holding them back; rather they are overinvested in addressing users as consumers and not members of a public.

    Oversights

    Though tech companies have built out a massive surveillance apparatus capable of tracking people’s locations and predilections, it is proving largely useless for containing the pandemic. This isn’t because concerns or regulations about individual privacy are holding them back; rather they are overinvested in addressing users as consumers and not members of a public.

    Oversights
  • Contested Images

    Colin Dickey
    2020-05-26

    The fact that Covid-19 is so new, unpredictable and symptomalogically confusing leaves gaps in its representation that governments and ideologues have been able to exploit. So far the most iconic images are of its absence: the mask and the empty street. But even images of people suffering from the disease would likely fail to have the unifying effect some hope they would. 

    Contested Images

    The fact that Covid-19 is so new, unpredictable and symptomalogically confusing leaves gaps in its representation that governments and ideologues have been able to exploit. So far the most iconic images are of its absence: the mask and the empty street. But even images of people suffering from the disease would likely fail to have the unifying effect some hope they would. 

    Contested Images
  • Six Feet From Forever

    ML Kejera
    2020-05-18

    It may seem that social distancing could be construed as a spontaneous diaspora, albeit one that may not prove as protracted or permanent. Diasporic communities have protracted experience with sustaining a sense of community over distance and time, and how current messaging technologies contribute to it. The cues that can’t be taken for granted become new signifiers of lasting bonds.

    Six Feet From Forever

    It may seem that social distancing could be construed as a spontaneous diaspora, albeit one that may not prove as protracted or permanent. Diasporic communities have protracted experience with sustaining a sense of community over distance and time, and how current messaging technologies contribute to it. The cues that can’t be taken for granted become new signifiers of lasting bonds.

    Six Feet From Forever
  • Face Off

    Richard Woodall
    2020-05-14

    If the question “should I wear a mask?” feels fraught with implications of selfishness and injustice, this is the structural effect of logistical factors far beyond the scope of personal responsibility. Masking — both the practice of wearing and the struggle to obtain them — has knit us more tightly to the economic and geopolitical processes currently driving the crisis response. Our personal experience of masks (who has them, who wears them) indexes our position in the supply chains while revealing the insignificance of our fate to the workings of global capitalism.

    Face Off

    If the question “should I wear a mask?” feels fraught with implications of selfishness and injustice, this is the structural effect of logistical factors far beyond the scope of personal responsibility. Masking — both the practice of wearing and the struggle to obtain them — has knit us more tightly to the economic and geopolitical processes currently driving the crisis response. Our personal experience of masks (who has them, who wears them) indexes our position in the supply chains while revealing the insignificance of our fate to the workings of global capitalism.

    Face Off
  • Looking Down

    Kelly Pendergrast
    2020-05-11

    The pandemic has divided society into those who have become targets and those who can safely watch. Enter drone photography’s socially distanced view.

    Looking Down

    The pandemic has divided society into those who have become targets and those who can safely watch. Enter drone photography’s socially distanced view.

    Looking Down
  • Animals Strike Curious Poses

    Neta Alexander and Bradley H. Kerr
    2020-05-07

    The pandemic has given rise to animal media, specifically animal livestreams set up by zoos and aquariums and “nature is healing” memes showing animals reclaiming spaces where humans used to congregate. These images allow a soothing contradiction that nature is “righting itself” and the threats we pose to it have been averted, while remaining entirely controlled.

    Animals Strike Curious Poses

    The pandemic has given rise to animal media, specifically animal livestreams set up by zoos and aquariums and “nature is healing” memes showing animals reclaiming spaces where humans used to congregate. These images allow a soothing contradiction that nature is “righting itself” and the threats we pose to it have been averted, while remaining entirely controlled.

    Animals Strike Curious Poses
  • Invisible Enemies

    Geoff Shullenberger
    2020-05-04

    The connection that 5G arsonists assert between wireless networks and the virus grasps and mischaracterizes our imperceptible integration with complex machine systems over the past century. Biological and technological existence are now irreversibly intertwined, in ways that no individual could fully understand, let alone have consented to. This makes fertile ground for conspiracy.

    Invisible Enemies

    The connection that 5G arsonists assert between wireless networks and the virus grasps and mischaracterizes our imperceptible integration with complex machine systems over the past century. Biological and technological existence are now irreversibly intertwined, in ways that no individual could fully understand, let alone have consented to. This makes fertile ground for conspiracy.

    Invisible Enemies
  • Make Yourself a Gift

    Emma Baker
    2020-04-30

    Social media have shifted our sense of the body’s utility away from how we experience it from within toward how photographable it is. This has changed the purpose of working out, making it more about the discipline to self-document. As the pandemic has literalized the shift to a made-for-Instagram world, fitness content has become a way to foreground an embodied social self without meeting in physical space. 

    Make Yourself a Gift

    Social media have shifted our sense of the body’s utility away from how we experience it from within toward how photographable it is. This has changed the purpose of working out, making it more about the discipline to self-document. As the pandemic has literalized the shift to a made-for-Instagram world, fitness content has become a way to foreground an embodied social self without meeting in physical space. 

    Make Yourself a Gift
  • Home Screens

    Drew Austin
    2020-04-27

    Tech companies have long been hyping a friction-free life in which the “inconveniences” of social interaction are solved by apps and by instrumentalizing all relations. Now that quarantine has forced many of us to live entirely in that world, its shortcomings have become more obvious.

    Home Screens

    Tech companies have long been hyping a friction-free life in which the “inconveniences” of social interaction are solved by apps and by instrumentalizing all relations. Now that quarantine has forced many of us to live entirely in that world, its shortcomings have become more obvious.

    Home Screens
  • Grounded

    Christopher Schaberg
    2020-04-20

    The human cost of the pandemic far outweighs the fate of the aviation industry. But air travel has long served to contain a range of contradictory ideals and aspirations about freedom, status, democracy, and technological progress and seemingly make them cohere. The coronavirus shutdown has destabilized that coherence along with the viability of routinized flight, which was already environmentally unsustainable. It’s unclear if flying will ever seem anything more than a necessary evil again

    Grounded

    The human cost of the pandemic far outweighs the fate of the aviation industry. But air travel has long served to contain a range of contradictory ideals and aspirations about freedom, status, democracy, and technological progress and seemingly make them cohere. The coronavirus shutdown has destabilized that coherence along with the viability of routinized flight, which was already environmentally unsustainable. It’s unclear if flying will ever seem anything more than a necessary evil again

    Grounded
  • Empty Frames

    Patrick Nathan
    2020-04-16

    The widely shared photographs of deserted streets and ransacked shelves seem to capture something surreal about life during the pandemic. But life organized by consumerism and its associated status displays was, if anything, more surreal than our having to abandon it.

    Empty Frames

    The widely shared photographs of deserted streets and ransacked shelves seem to capture something surreal about life during the pandemic. But life organized by consumerism and its associated status displays was, if anything, more surreal than our having to abandon it.

    Empty Frames
  • The Authoritarian Trade-Off

    Jathan Sadowski
    2020-04-13

    After 9/11, national security became the all-purpose alibi for surveillance and policing programs, deemed necessary to fight a war on “terror” that was endless by design. Now tech companies are reorienting these same tools to fight the coronavirus pandemic, threatening to turn “public health” into another forever war.

    The Authoritarian Trade-Off

    After 9/11, national security became the all-purpose alibi for surveillance and policing programs, deemed necessary to fight a war on “terror” that was endless by design. Now tech companies are reorienting these same tools to fight the coronavirus pandemic, threatening to turn “public health” into another forever war.

    The Authoritarian Trade-Off
  • Newly Minted

    Gaby Del Valle
    2020-04-09

    Fintech lending companies belong to a long tradition of payday lending, whose predatory tendencies have been well documented. This new crop of companies anticipate such criticism, and package their services in do-good Silicon Valley rhetoric, pretending to stand against the systems they profit from. Now, with nearly 17 million jobless claims in three weeks, they may be poised to profit off a new economic crisis.

    Newly Minted

    Fintech lending companies belong to a long tradition of payday lending, whose predatory tendencies have been well documented. This new crop of companies anticipate such criticism, and package their services in do-good Silicon Valley rhetoric, pretending to stand against the systems they profit from. Now, with nearly 17 million jobless claims in three weeks, they may be poised to profit off a new economic crisis.

    Newly Minted
  • Hoarding Instincts

    Elisa Gabbert
    2020-04-06

    Since early March, when a number of basic household necessities — along with small luxuries I’m accustomed to, which seem suddenly necessary — have become difficult to obtain or outright unavailable, I’m feeling the tug of a hoarding instinct. I don’t want the luxuries that feel normal to change. I don’t want what feels normal to change any faster than it already is, especially at home, where I’m safe as long as I never leave.

    Hoarding Instincts

    Since early March, when a number of basic household necessities — along with small luxuries I’m accustomed to, which seem suddenly necessary — have become difficult to obtain or outright unavailable, I’m feeling the tug of a hoarding instinct. I don’t want the luxuries that feel normal to change. I don’t want what feels normal to change any faster than it already is, especially at home, where I’m safe as long as I never leave.

    Hoarding Instincts
  • Connective Tissues

    Anna Reser
    2020-04-02

    The workings of one’s own body form a metaphor for the social body. This pandemic shows the interdependence of organs, cells, and individuals that technology typically tries to make invisible.

    Connective Tissues

    The workings of one’s own body form a metaphor for the social body. This pandemic shows the interdependence of organs, cells, and individuals that technology typically tries to make invisible.

    Connective Tissues
  • Posing With the Flag

    Rob Horning
    2020-03-20

    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. 

    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. 

    Posing With the Flag
  • Failed States

    Kelly Pendergrast
    2020-03-09

    “Failure” is a buzzword within tech, where it basically serves as a plot point on the journey to success. In this context, success is preordained. Failure has a longer theoretical tradition, though, written by those who can’t live or thrive within the status quo, and failure in this conception offers alternatives to the world that big tech is largely responsible for.

    Failed States

    “Failure” is a buzzword within tech, where it basically serves as a plot point on the journey to success. In this context, success is preordained. Failure has a longer theoretical tradition, though, written by those who can’t live or thrive within the status quo, and failure in this conception offers alternatives to the world that big tech is largely responsible for.

    Failed States
  • Fair Warning

    Abeba Birhane
    2020-02-24

    Since the advent of AI, there have been coherent critiques of its fundamentally conservative nature and implementation, notably from apostate computer scientist Joseph Weizenbaum, the inventor of the first chat bot. But the counterprogramming from the tech industry and its affiliated researchers has been equally insistent, with apologists continuing to insist that only more tech solutions can fix the problems tech has already exacerbated.

    Fair Warning

    Since the advent of AI, there have been coherent critiques of its fundamentally conservative nature and implementation, notably from apostate computer scientist Joseph Weizenbaum, the inventor of the first chat bot. But the counterprogramming from the tech industry and its affiliated researchers has been equally insistent, with apologists continuing to insist that only more tech solutions can fix the problems tech has already exacerbated.

    Fair Warning
  • The Labor Beat

    Robin James
    2020-02-20

    It may seem strange for music scenes to spawn labor theories, but musicians, who were among the first gig workers, have long had to deal with challenges that neoliberalism has extended to more of the workforce. DIY and indie scenes were late 20th century responses to corporate control, but they have long since been co-opted and redeployed as spurs for general productivity. (Do what you love!) “Interdependence,” an update of the indie ethos that has emerged from the underground electronic music scene, hopes to offer an alternative to individualistic, human-capital-centric attitudes toward art making, but it remains hung up on the same problems of ideas and inspiration belong to reduced to property relations.

    The Labor Beat

    It may seem strange for music scenes to spawn labor theories, but musicians, who were among the first gig workers, have long had to deal with challenges that neoliberalism has extended to more of the workforce. DIY and indie scenes were late 20th century responses to corporate control, but they have long since been co-opted and redeployed as spurs for general productivity. (Do what you love!) “Interdependence,” an update of the indie ethos that has emerged from the underground electronic music scene, hopes to offer an alternative to individualistic, human-capital-centric attitudes toward art making, but it remains hung up on the same problems of ideas and inspiration belong to reduced to property relations.

    The Labor Beat
  • Draining the Risk Pool

    Jathan Sadowski
    2020-02-18

    The normalization of surveillance by a range of widely adopted and readily available technologies have opened the way for insurance companies to insert themselves straight into our homes, cars, and bodies, thus gaining further abilities to assess our lifestyles and adjust our behaviors. This threatens to undermine the social logic of insurance, which spreads risk across broader populations so that they are collectively easier to bear. By making “riskier” individuals pay more and make fewer claims, “insurtech” is undermining the safety net and worsening structural inequality.

    Draining the Risk Pool

    The normalization of surveillance by a range of widely adopted and readily available technologies have opened the way for insurance companies to insert themselves straight into our homes, cars, and bodies, thus gaining further abilities to assess our lifestyles and adjust our behaviors. This threatens to undermine the social logic of insurance, which spreads risk across broader populations so that they are collectively easier to bear. By making “riskier” individuals pay more and make fewer claims, “insurtech” is undermining the safety net and worsening structural inequality.

    Draining the Risk Pool
  • This Website Was Free

    Kyle Paoletta
    2020-02-13

    Social media sites can stand for genres. We decide their value nostalgically, and memorialize their broad impact, especially post mortem. The end of a site doesn’t mean the end of its content — sometimes to the contrary — but no attempt to reproduce it will ever be used in exactly the same way (e.g. TikTok) and its archives will always take the contours of whatever platform they’re archived on (e.g. YouTube). Vine memorializing is a way to practice removing ourselves from the momentary effects of extant platforms in order to characterize their broader impact on our lives.

    This Website Was Free

    Social media sites can stand for genres. We decide their value nostalgically, and memorialize their broad impact, especially post mortem. The end of a site doesn’t mean the end of its content — sometimes to the contrary — but no attempt to reproduce it will ever be used in exactly the same way (e.g. TikTok) and its archives will always take the contours of whatever platform they’re archived on (e.g. YouTube). Vine memorializing is a way to practice removing ourselves from the momentary effects of extant platforms in order to characterize their broader impact on our lives.

    This Website Was Free
  • Brain Wave

    Suzannah Showler
    2020-02-10

    Binural beats work by sending two slightly different frequencies to each ear, so that the listener hears a beat that is not actually occurring. Some claim this can “retune” the brain to a different frequency, a low-stakes experiment in self-hacking. But it is also demonstrates that much of what we do for self-improvement relies on tricks and illusions, on insisting on hearing something that isn’t there.

    Brain Wave

    Binural beats work by sending two slightly different frequencies to each ear, so that the listener hears a beat that is not actually occurring. Some claim this can “retune” the brain to a different frequency, a low-stakes experiment in self-hacking. But it is also demonstrates that much of what we do for self-improvement relies on tricks and illusions, on insisting on hearing something that isn’t there.

    Brain Wave
  • The Other as Noise

    Silvio Lorusso
    2020-02-06

    Misophonia is a revulsion at the ordinary noises other people make — essentially the inverse of ASMR. Though triggered by sounds, it seems to indicate more an irritation with distractions, with the demands other people implicitly make through their very presence, than with anything auditory. Given how phones besiege us with push notifications and other efforts to hijack our attention, could they be generalizing misophonia as a response? Misophonia may reflect the fantasy of a society without reciprocity.

    The Other as Noise

    Misophonia is a revulsion at the ordinary noises other people make — essentially the inverse of ASMR. Though triggered by sounds, it seems to indicate more an irritation with distractions, with the demands other people implicitly make through their very presence, than with anything auditory. Given how phones besiege us with push notifications and other efforts to hijack our attention, could they be generalizing misophonia as a response? Misophonia may reflect the fantasy of a society without reciprocity.

    The Other as Noise
  • The Wrong Goodbye

    Heather White
    2020-02-03

    The messages that brands send to try to keep us from unsubscribing from their “services” may seem lighthearted enough, but they are part of a larger climate of expected consumer compliance, that we should submit to their entitlement to our time and attention. Their nagging tone participates in a broader cultural condition in which consent is presumed or ignored.

    The Wrong Goodbye

    The messages that brands send to try to keep us from unsubscribing from their “services” may seem lighthearted enough, but they are part of a larger climate of expected consumer compliance, that we should submit to their entitlement to our time and attention. Their nagging tone participates in a broader cultural condition in which consent is presumed or ignored.

    The Wrong Goodbye
  • Lying Eyes

    Richard Woodall
    2020-01-30

    Efforts to use artificial intelligence to detect and classify our emotions without our input echoes 19th century research that used the then new capacities of photography to attempt the same thing. Charles Darwin’s work on facial expression not only laid the groundwork for treating emotions as reflexes rather than part of social communication — an approach that current emotion-detection tech adopts — but it also established a methodological precedent of using peoples’ faces against their will.

    Lying Eyes

    Efforts to use artificial intelligence to detect and classify our emotions without our input echoes 19th century research that used the then new capacities of photography to attempt the same thing. Charles Darwin’s work on facial expression not only laid the groundwork for treating emotions as reflexes rather than part of social communication — an approach that current emotion-detection tech adopts — but it also established a methodological precedent of using peoples’ faces against their will.

    Lying Eyes
  • New Feelings: Unfleshing

    Nikki Shaner-Bradford
    2020-01-27

    Beauty, fashion, and wellness brands have adopted the physical standards of tech giants, reframing the body as a vessel for optimization and utility rather than the historical feminine ideal. The desire is for a body better than human, indistinguishable from the tools it relies on. 

    Unfleshing

    Beauty, fashion, and wellness brands have adopted the physical standards of tech giants, reframing the body as a vessel for optimization and utility rather than the historical feminine ideal. The desire is for a body better than human, indistinguishable from the tools it relies on. 

    Unfleshing
  • Who Goes There

    Kelly Pendergrast
    2020-01-21

    Online identity verification methods are easy to overlook — they are small, routine parts of our lives — but they discipline us as subjects and workers. In early days, security questions presumed a lifestyle in line with contemporary modes of capitalist production, e.g. a heteronormative life trajectory, including property ownership in the suburbs; as innocuous as they seemed, they excluded many. They fell out of favor around the rise of digital labor and worker surveillance, when spatial and lifestyle variables were no longer necessary for the reproduction of capitalism. This social mode is better reflected by CAPTCHA, which reflects on us as constant workers under constant surveillance.

    Who Goes There

    Online identity verification methods are easy to overlook — they are small, routine parts of our lives — but they discipline us as subjects and workers. In early days, security questions presumed a lifestyle in line with contemporary modes of capitalist production, e.g. a heteronormative life trajectory, including property ownership in the suburbs; as innocuous as they seemed, they excluded many. They fell out of favor around the rise of digital labor and worker surveillance, when spatial and lifestyle variables were no longer necessary for the reproduction of capitalism. This social mode is better reflected by CAPTCHA, which reflects on us as constant workers under constant surveillance.

    Who Goes There
  • The Day the Babies Arrive

    Sienna Zeilinger
    2020-01-16

    Infant simulators are supposed to teach kids about parenting — either to prepare or deter them, depending on who you ask. Their uncanny resemblance to the real thing is supposed to offer a better learning experience, but mostly it stands in for more useful (but contested) interventions, like safe-sex education and material support for teenagers with adult responsibilities.

    The Day the Babies Arrive

    Infant simulators are supposed to teach kids about parenting — either to prepare or deter them, depending on who you ask. Their uncanny resemblance to the real thing is supposed to offer a better learning experience, but mostly it stands in for more useful (but contested) interventions, like safe-sex education and material support for teenagers with adult responsibilities.

    The Day the Babies Arrive
  • The Personified City

    Matthew Stewart
    2020-01-13

    Proposals for “smart cities” draw on the belief that data and automation alone can solve intractable urban problems and that robotic artificial intelligence can render debates about urban planning superfluous. In effect, they propose a supposedly all-seeing and all-knowing new god for a city’s inhabitants to worship, while preserving the status quo as neutral expression of how things should be.

    The Personified City

    Proposals for “smart cities” draw on the belief that data and automation alone can solve intractable urban problems and that robotic artificial intelligence can render debates about urban planning superfluous. In effect, they propose a supposedly all-seeing and all-knowing new god for a city’s inhabitants to worship, while preserving the status quo as neutral expression of how things should be.

    The Personified City
  • Guarded Looks

    Erin Moore
    2020-01-09

    Sunglasses were the original anti-facial-recognition technology, allowing a sense of control and a feeling of privacy in public. But as reasonable as this form of evasion has become, it still results in a kind of surrender of public space to surveillance. Each new gimmicky mask that promises to protect us from facial recognition tech intensifies this defensive posture at the expense of a potentially more impactful collective resistance. The uncanny, unreadable, and unrecognizable faces we present in public repel not only cameras but each other.

    Guarded Looks

    Sunglasses were the original anti-facial-recognition technology, allowing a sense of control and a feeling of privacy in public. But as reasonable as this form of evasion has become, it still results in a kind of surrender of public space to surveillance. Each new gimmicky mask that promises to protect us from facial recognition tech intensifies this defensive posture at the expense of a potentially more impactful collective resistance. The uncanny, unreadable, and unrecognizable faces we present in public repel not only cameras but each other.

    Guarded Looks
  • Go With the Flow

    Evan Malmgren
    2020-01-06

    How to break out of the tracks laid for us online

    Go With the Flow

    How to break out of the tracks laid for us online

    Go With the Flow
  • Syllabus for the Internet: The Arcades Project

    Apoorva Tadepalli
    2019-12-23

    Walter Benjamin’s posthumous work as a blueprint for living online

    The Arcades Project

    Walter Benjamin’s posthumous work as a blueprint for living online

    The Arcades Project
  • Discursive Harms

    Os Keyes
    2019-12-19

    Well-intentioned data science can still reinforce unjust ideas about whose bodies matter

    Discursive Harms

    Well-intentioned data science can still reinforce unjust ideas about whose bodies matter

    Discursive Harms
  • Fog Machines

    Justin Joque
    2019-12-16

    Digital connectivity has turned the “social factory” into a global battlefield

    Fog Machines

    Digital connectivity has turned the “social factory” into a global battlefield

    Fog Machines
  • Stepping Stones

    Kevin Rogan
    2019-12-12

    Google’s smart city project links its quality-of-life improvements to the deskilling of maintenance work and the elimination of human workers. The alternative is not in a more “humane” corporate approach but in a worker-centered movement that begins and ends in care.

    Stepping Stones

    Google’s smart city project links its quality-of-life improvements to the deskilling of maintenance work and the elimination of human workers. The alternative is not in a more “humane” corporate approach but in a worker-centered movement that begins and ends in care.

    Stepping Stones
  • New Feelings: Podcast Passivity

    Suzannah Showler
    2019-12-09

    The thing people always say about podcasts is that they feel so intimate. The beautiful thing about intimacy is that, by letting other people in, we are reminded that our lives are porous, that the difference between humans is arbitrary and surmountable. Of course, that’s the horrifying thing about intimacy, too.

    Podcast Passivity

    The thing people always say about podcasts is that they feel so intimate. The beautiful thing about intimacy is that, by letting other people in, we are reminded that our lives are porous, that the difference between humans is arbitrary and surmountable. Of course, that’s the horrifying thing about intimacy, too.

    Podcast Passivity
  • Killing Giants

    Nina Medvedeva
    2019-12-05

    In the rush to frame tech platforms as behemoths, we risk losing track of the social relations that permit their extraction of value, the politics and contingencies that allow platforms to exist. Capital must reckon with bureaucracies, laws and regulations, local resistances — these are points of vulnerability where tech’s grasp on our lives can be loosened.

    Killing Giants

    In the rush to frame tech platforms as behemoths, we risk losing track of the social relations that permit their extraction of value, the politics and contingencies that allow platforms to exist. Capital must reckon with bureaucracies, laws and regulations, local resistances — these are points of vulnerability where tech’s grasp on our lives can be loosened.

    Killing Giants
  • Forest for the Trees

    Rosa Boshier
    2019-12-02

    The idea of “returning” to nature, from the city, places nature in a silo — somewhere we go to, rather than something that is all around us, and on which we remain dependent despite our violent attempts at subjugation.

    Forest for the Trees

    The idea of “returning” to nature, from the city, places nature in a silo — somewhere we go to, rather than something that is all around us, and on which we remain dependent despite our violent attempts at subjugation.

    Forest for the Trees
  • The Next Big Cheap

    Kelly Pendergrast
    2019-11-25

    Data is often called “the new oil.” But this construction takes for granted the transformation of the world into commodities for exploitation, a process that isn’t natural and shouldn’t be inevitable. Thinking about data as the next “cheap thing” — in line with other cheap commodities throughout the history of capitalism — might help us imagine better frameworks for its management and regulation.

    The Next Big Cheap

    Data is often called “the new oil.” But this construction takes for granted the transformation of the world into commodities for exploitation, a process that isn’t natural and shouldn’t be inevitable. Thinking about data as the next “cheap thing” — in line with other cheap commodities throughout the history of capitalism — might help us imagine better frameworks for its management and regulation.

    The Next Big Cheap
  • Loitering Objects

    Dolly Church
    2019-11-21

    Why are objects allowed to remain in public spaces where people aren’t?

    Loitering Objects

    Why are objects allowed to remain in public spaces where people aren’t?

    Loitering Objects
  • Experience Overload

    Benjamin Schneider
    2019-11-18

    By the 1990s, the “experience economy” was well underway, selling immersiveness and interactivity as branded products in destination retail spaces like Niketown. But the advent of social media has taken the experience economy to its logical conclusion, allowing everyday life itself to appear as readily packaged for sale.

    Experience Overload

    By the 1990s, the “experience economy” was well underway, selling immersiveness and interactivity as branded products in destination retail spaces like Niketown. But the advent of social media has taken the experience economy to its logical conclusion, allowing everyday life itself to appear as readily packaged for sale.

    Experience Overload
  • Double Trouble

    NM Mashurov 
    2019-11-14

    You should know who the algorithms think you are

    Double Trouble

    You should know who the algorithms think you are

    Double Trouble
  • The Captured City

    Jathan Sadowski
    2019-11-12

    The technologies and policies associated with “smart cities” claim to serve citizen-customers and render life efficient; instead they treat the city like a battlespace, redeploying surveillance and information systems originally created for military purposes for urban policing. 

    The Captured City

    The technologies and policies associated with “smart cities” claim to serve citizen-customers and render life efficient; instead they treat the city like a battlespace, redeploying surveillance and information systems originally created for military purposes for urban policing. 

    The Captured City
  • Crisis Mode

    Stefan Higgins
    2019-11-07

    Some models of social media “addiction” assume users are somehow blinded to the causes and consequences of their behavior. But these “triggers” don’t work behind our backs by depriving us of self-control but instead provide a sense of agency that is capable only of reproducing a sense of anxiety and crisis.

    Crisis Mode

    Some models of social media “addiction” assume users are somehow blinded to the causes and consequences of their behavior. But these “triggers” don’t work behind our backs by depriving us of self-control but instead provide a sense of agency that is capable only of reproducing a sense of anxiety and crisis.

    Crisis Mode
  • Utopian Overreach

    Alif Ibrahim
    2019-11-04

    Digital wellness seems a reasonable way to help individuals take agency over their device usage and restore “balance” to their lives. But it draws on a longstanding approach of dividing the world of practices — and people — into those which are properly “human” and those which are not. The utopian aim of healing people’s relationship to technology faces the same problems that all utopian thinking confronts: it universalizes a certain set of problems as the only ones that matter and disqualifies people from the utopia in the process of solving them.

    Utopian Overreach

    Digital wellness seems a reasonable way to help individuals take agency over their device usage and restore “balance” to their lives. But it draws on a longstanding approach of dividing the world of practices — and people — into those which are properly “human” and those which are not. The utopian aim of healing people’s relationship to technology faces the same problems that all utopian thinking confronts: it universalizes a certain set of problems as the only ones that matter and disqualifies people from the utopia in the process of solving them.

    Utopian Overreach
  • New Haunts

    David A. Banks
    2019-10-31

    Ghost Adventures makes suburban life look like it’s full of surprises

    New Haunts

    Ghost Adventures makes suburban life look like it’s full of surprises

    New Haunts
  • Candy Crush

    Madeline Leung Coleman
    2019-10-28

    When Planters discontinued making Cheez Balls, an internet campaign to “save them” seemed to bring the snack back. But before championing the power of consumer sovereignty, it’s worth thinking about how eliciting consumer engagement is often the product in itself

    Candy Crush

    When Planters discontinued making Cheez Balls, an internet campaign to “save them” seemed to bring the snack back. But before championing the power of consumer sovereignty, it’s worth thinking about how eliciting consumer engagement is often the product in itself

    Candy Crush
  • Bundling and Unbundling

    Drew Austin
    2019-10-24

    No goods or services are stand-alone

    Bundling and Unbundling

    No goods or services are stand-alone

    Bundling and Unbundling
  • The Face of the Franchise

    Matt Hartman
    2019-10-21

    Our sports fantasies are tied to the media we use to consume them. Video games have followed suit: They aren’t simulating the play of sports but building an interactive TV broadcast. Playing these games indulge the fantasy of becoming a celebrity. Sports video games don’t simulate sports so much as the thrill of building a brand.

    The Face of the Franchise

    Our sports fantasies are tied to the media we use to consume them. Video games have followed suit: They aren’t simulating the play of sports but building an interactive TV broadcast. Playing these games indulge the fantasy of becoming a celebrity. Sports video games don’t simulate sports so much as the thrill of building a brand.

    The Face of the Franchise
  • Bad Metaphors: Close to the Metal

    Emma R. Norton
    2019-10-15

    Programming a computer was once obviously a form of physical labor, a matter of hauling cables and adjusting switches that presented themselves as arrays in physical space. Being “close to the metal” derives from this and captures a friction in our interactions with machines that is increasingly being hidden.

    Close to the Metal

    Programming a computer was once obviously a form of physical labor, a matter of hauling cables and adjusting switches that presented themselves as arrays in physical space. Being “close to the metal” derives from this and captures a friction in our interactions with machines that is increasingly being hidden.

    Close to the Metal
  • Look for America

    Ana Cecilia Alvarez
    2019-10-10

    Some are trying to shame photo takers at national parks, seeing their presence as ruinous. But photography was instrumental to the founding of the national park system, and documentation has been essential to properly understanding the indigenous history of lands that many are now inclined to demote to empty scenery.  

    Look for America

    Some are trying to shame photo takers at national parks, seeing their presence as ruinous. But photography was instrumental to the founding of the national park system, and documentation has been essential to properly understanding the indigenous history of lands that many are now inclined to demote to empty scenery.  

    Look for America
  • The Bones We Leave Behind

    Os Keyes
    2019-10-07

    It’s not enough to make facial recognition illegal when its infrastructural legacy remains

    The Bones We Leave Behind

    It’s not enough to make facial recognition illegal when its infrastructural legacy remains

    The Bones We Leave Behind
  • Get Realer

    Vicky Osterweil
    2019-10-03

    If CGI makes anything possible, why has it led to so many remakes?

    Get Realer

    If CGI makes anything possible, why has it led to so many remakes?

    Get Realer
  • False Alarm

    Keli Gabinelli
    2019-09-30

    New digital resources for home security and “crime reduction” — particularly Ring, and its companion app, Neighbors — capitalize on the symptoms of poverty and inequality while eliding the causes. They also play on the social media–age compulsion to be constantly “in the know,” whether or not the information is accurate.

    False Alarm

    New digital resources for home security and “crime reduction” — particularly Ring, and its companion app, Neighbors — capitalize on the symptoms of poverty and inequality while eliding the causes. They also play on the social media–age compulsion to be constantly “in the know,” whether or not the information is accurate.

    False Alarm
  • Dancing With Myself

    Robin James
    2019-09-26

    Billie Eilish is the perfect music for a silent disco

    Dancing With Myself

    Billie Eilish is the perfect music for a silent disco

    Dancing With Myself
  • Swap Meat

    Anna and Kelly Pendergrast
    2019-09-23

    Miracle “meat” — vegetarian alternatives wrought through “high-tech” methods — promises to change the world for the better. But such products mean more growth and more consumption, the same problems they aim to solve.

    Swap Meat

    Miracle “meat” — vegetarian alternatives wrought through “high-tech” methods — promises to change the world for the better. But such products mean more growth and more consumption, the same problems they aim to solve.

    Swap Meat
  • Recorded for Quality Assurance

    Camilla Cannon
    2019-09-19

    Algorithmic vocal-tone analysis uses machine learning to purportedly identify and quantify the affect of call-center agents and customers alike and turn it into a profitable data set for companies. This process turns customers’ racial, sexist, xenophobic, and ableist prejudices into profitable data also, used to justify further marginalization and economic precaritization of groups already most likely to experience them.

    Recorded for Quality Assurance

    Algorithmic vocal-tone analysis uses machine learning to purportedly identify and quantify the affect of call-center agents and customers alike and turn it into a profitable data set for companies. This process turns customers’ racial, sexist, xenophobic, and ableist prejudices into profitable data also, used to justify further marginalization and economic precaritization of groups already most likely to experience them.

    Recorded for Quality Assurance
  • Ghost Notes

    Meredyth Cole
    2019-09-16

    The internet has no scent. Do we miss it?

    Ghost Notes

    The internet has no scent. Do we miss it?

    Ghost Notes
  • Pay to Play

    Jessica Baldanza
    2019-09-12

    Sex-robot technology will draw on tactics that have driven “engagement” on other apps

    Pay to Play

    Sex-robot technology will draw on tactics that have driven “engagement” on other apps

    Pay to Play
  • New Feelings: Emotional Oversight Committee

    Zoë Hu
    2019-09-10

    In my relationships, I often argue as if an outsider is listening, as if bells will ding at each well-landed point. The desire for some adjudicating presence — call it a social oversight committee — seeps into the way we conduct ourselves, even if we know it’s foolish.  The point is the sense of a higher, third-party mediator, not the consequence of their deliberations.

    Emotional Oversight Committee

    In my relationships, I often argue as if an outsider is listening, as if bells will ding at each well-landed point. The desire for some adjudicating presence — call it a social oversight committee — seeps into the way we conduct ourselves, even if we know it’s foolish.  The point is the sense of a higher, third-party mediator, not the consequence of their deliberations.

    Emotional Oversight Committee
  • The Perfect User

    Cherie Lacey; Catherine Caudwell; Alex Beattie
    2019-09-05

    Digital wellness movements insist there is a single way to “stay human”

    The Perfect User

    Digital wellness movements insist there is a single way to “stay human”

    The Perfect User
  • Union Station

    David A. Banks
    2019-09-03

    The history of the train — once a symbol of capitalism, now socialism — contains lessons for nationalizing digital infrastructure

    Union Station

    The history of the train — once a symbol of capitalism, now socialism — contains lessons for nationalizing digital infrastructure

    Union Station
  • Bad Metaphors: Recharge

    Sophie Haigney
    2019-08-29

    My phone’s battery icon has become emblematic of what it means to regain my energy: I want to turn from red to green. Saying that I need to “recharge” is at once an acknowledgement of my depletion and a sign of my hope that reviving it could be as simple as plugging in. I am thinking of myself like my device, and as such, reducing my life to a deadening cycle.

    Recharge

    My phone’s battery icon has become emblematic of what it means to regain my energy: I want to turn from red to green. Saying that I need to “recharge” is at once an acknowledgement of my depletion and a sign of my hope that reviving it could be as simple as plugging in. I am thinking of myself like my device, and as such, reducing my life to a deadening cycle.

    Recharge
  • Open Worlds

    Alexi Alario
    2019-08-26

    As people grow nostalgic for older open-world games like Minecraft, the newer ones more explicitly indoctrinate players into the protocols of developing human capital. A game like Roblox seems to encourage creativity only when it has the potential to make money: through development, or through buying and selling in-game merchandise. 

    Open Worlds

    As people grow nostalgic for older open-world games like Minecraft, the newer ones more explicitly indoctrinate players into the protocols of developing human capital. A game like Roblox seems to encourage creativity only when it has the potential to make money: through development, or through buying and selling in-game merchandise. 

    Open Worlds
  • Glow Aesthetics

    Dalia Barghouty
    2019-08-22

    Ubiquitous cameras are changing the meaning of makeup, which is being used to enhance how we look in images and not in the flesh: Our image on a screen is increasingly how we “really” look to other people, leading to new ways to augment our self-presentation. Social media feeds teem with neon, prismatic shimmers, chrome, filters, and glow. Snapchat and TikTok effects sparkle and glimmer. 

    Glow Aesthetics

    Ubiquitous cameras are changing the meaning of makeup, which is being used to enhance how we look in images and not in the flesh: Our image on a screen is increasingly how we “really” look to other people, leading to new ways to augment our self-presentation. Social media feeds teem with neon, prismatic shimmers, chrome, filters, and glow. Snapchat and TikTok effects sparkle and glimmer. 

    Glow Aesthetics
  • Don’t Look Now

    Laura Maw
    2019-08-19

    VR horror enacts our greatest fears about technology

    Don’t Look Now

    VR horror enacts our greatest fears about technology

    Don’t Look Now
  • Keep Connecting

    Anh Vo
    2019-08-15

    When pornography becomes a “frictionless” technology, our bodies’ task is to seamlessly and endlessly circulate

    Keep Connecting

    When pornography becomes a “frictionless” technology, our bodies’ task is to seamlessly and endlessly circulate

    Keep Connecting
  • Data Sweat

    Amanda K. Greene 
    2019-08-12

    Even through a screen, machines can read our body language

    Data Sweat

    Even through a screen, machines can read our body language

    Data Sweat
  • Fire in the Sky

    Stephanie Monohan
    2019-08-08

    Over the 20th century, UFO stories and alien imagery became shorthand for the feeling that daily life isn’t all that it seems and powerful people are concealing the truth. Now that paranoia is a symptom of day-to-day life, conspiracy theories are increasingly hijacked and weaponized by the very powers they’re meant to interrogate. 

    Fire in the Sky

    Over the 20th century, UFO stories and alien imagery became shorthand for the feeling that daily life isn’t all that it seems and powerful people are concealing the truth. Now that paranoia is a symptom of day-to-day life, conspiracy theories are increasingly hijacked and weaponized by the very powers they’re meant to interrogate. 

    Fire in the Sky
  • In the Flesh

    Rachel del Valle
    2019-08-05

    Online brands promise an escape from the conventional logic of consumerism — until they open physical stores

    In the Flesh

    Online brands promise an escape from the conventional logic of consumerism — until they open physical stores

    In the Flesh
  • Our Bodies, Ourselves

    Neta Alexander
    2019-08-01

    The internet of medical things supposedly paves the way to transforming the human body into a machine that can be monitored nonstop, improving or saving the lives of millions. Yet this new kind of “internal surveillance” from afar has many risks. The biodata collected by wearables and smartwatches have inaccuracies, and patients “subjective” observations may be ignored.

    Our Bodies, Ourselves

    The internet of medical things supposedly paves the way to transforming the human body into a machine that can be monitored nonstop, improving or saving the lives of millions. Yet this new kind of “internal surveillance” from afar has many risks. The biodata collected by wearables and smartwatches have inaccuracies, and patients “subjective” observations may be ignored.

    Our Bodies, Ourselves
  • Network of Blood

    Kelly Pendergrast
    2019-07-29

    In a wireless era, the old-fashioned plug conjures a tactile thrill, as well as a rich set of metaphors on the tethering of objects to each other and ourselves. It represents a mode of connection and engagement with the material world that seems to be slipping away. 

    Network of Blood

    In a wireless era, the old-fashioned plug conjures a tactile thrill, as well as a rich set of metaphors on the tethering of objects to each other and ourselves. It represents a mode of connection and engagement with the material world that seems to be slipping away. 

    Network of Blood
  • Children of Production

    Danya Glabau
    2019-07-25

    Making babies is not a natural process

    Children of Production

    Making babies is not a natural process

    Children of Production
  • Bad Metaphors: Community

    David A. Banks and Britney Gil
    2019-07-22

    A false shorthand for unity provides a cover for corporate interests

    Community

    A false shorthand for unity provides a cover for corporate interests

    Community
  • The Algorithmic Colonization of Africa

    Abeba Birhane
    2019-07-18

    As Africa grapples with catching up with the latest technological developments, it must also protect the continent’s most vulnerable people from the harm that technology can cause. Part of that means not importing machine learning systems or any other AI tools without questioning what the underlying purpose is, who benefits, and who might be disadvantaged

    The Algorithmic Colonization of Africa

    As Africa grapples with catching up with the latest technological developments, it must also protect the continent’s most vulnerable people from the harm that technology can cause. Part of that means not importing machine learning systems or any other AI tools without questioning what the underlying purpose is, who benefits, and who might be disadvantaged

    The Algorithmic Colonization of Africa
  • Screen Time, Sacred Time

    Skyler Balbus
    2019-07-15

    Immersiveness is not in and of itself automatically dangerous, a form of frivolous escapism. The immersiveness of screen time could be likened to the immersiveness of sacred time. When we fall into wikiholes, aren’t we operating outside time, searching for knowledge, for a better understanding of the universe and its mysteries?

    Screen Time, Sacred Time

    Immersiveness is not in and of itself automatically dangerous, a form of frivolous escapism. The immersiveness of screen time could be likened to the immersiveness of sacred time. When we fall into wikiholes, aren’t we operating outside time, searching for knowledge, for a better understanding of the universe and its mysteries?

    Screen Time, Sacred Time
  • Idol Thoughts

    Alexandra Molotkow
    2019-07-11

    We think of fandom as collective, but it’s also a means of privacy

    Idol Thoughts

    We think of fandom as collective, but it’s also a means of privacy

    Idol Thoughts
  • Networked Dream Worlds

    Shannon Mattern
    2019-07-08

    Is 5G solving real, pressing problems or merely creating new ones?

    Networked Dream Worlds

    Is 5G solving real, pressing problems or merely creating new ones?

    Networked Dream Worlds
  • Ghosts of the Future

    Julia Foote
    2019-07-01

    “Smart-home horror” is a subgenre in which AI haunts people just like ghosts do in canonical gothic stories. Like ghosts, AI is monstrous for its omniscience and liminality. The comparison calls attention to a new batch of fears and anxieties we accept as the cost of convenience. Just as in canonical gothic narratives, the real horror ultimately comes from human beings. 

    Ghosts of the Future

    “Smart-home horror” is a subgenre in which AI haunts people just like ghosts do in canonical gothic stories. Like ghosts, AI is monstrous for its omniscience and liminality. The comparison calls attention to a new batch of fears and anxieties we accept as the cost of convenience. Just as in canonical gothic narratives, the real horror ultimately comes from human beings. 

    Ghosts of the Future
  • Well Played: Play Per View

    Vicky Osterweil
    2019-06-27

    This combination of buzzing sociality in the chat with the chaotic bell-ringing of the streamer’s commercial celebrations turns a “successful” stream into a kind of riotous digital party. Participation in the stream is not merely a question of passive watching or even chatting but also making micropayments to maintain the stream as both a means of subsistence for the streamer and as a lively, interactive place for other viewers. Live streaming thus ends up being a constant performance of crowdfunding as entertainment, like a low-rent telethon

    Well Played: Play Per View

    This combination of buzzing sociality in the chat with the chaotic bell-ringing of the streamer’s commercial celebrations turns a “successful” stream into a kind of riotous digital party. Participation in the stream is not merely a question of passive watching or even chatting but also making micropayments to maintain the stream as both a means of subsistence for the streamer and as a lively, interactive place for other viewers. Live streaming thus ends up being a constant performance of crowdfunding as entertainment, like a low-rent telethon

    Well Played: Play Per View
  • The Easy Way Out

    L. M. Sacasas
    2019-06-24

    Convenience can be a cloak veiling an undisclosed exchange not merely between me and some future society that I am robbing of “privacy” but between me and other people right now: My convenience is often bought at someone else’s expense.

    The Easy Way Out

    Convenience can be a cloak veiling an undisclosed exchange not merely between me and some future society that I am robbing of “privacy” but between me and other people right now: My convenience is often bought at someone else’s expense.

    The Easy Way Out
  • Outer Limits

    David A. Banks
    2019-06-20

    When you are alone in your house or your car, the radio or podcasts you listen to and the television you watch take up an outsized portion of how you think about and frame social problems. These are the moments in which individuals, alone in their cars with Ben Shapiro squealing through the speakers, form opinions and decide who to associate with. In what Castells calls “the network society,” the suburbs actually go from a pacifying force to a hotbed of political activity.

    Outer Limits

    When you are alone in your house or your car, the radio or podcasts you listen to and the television you watch take up an outsized portion of how you think about and frame social problems. These are the moments in which individuals, alone in their cars with Ben Shapiro squealing through the speakers, form opinions and decide who to associate with. In what Castells calls “the network society,” the suburbs actually go from a pacifying force to a hotbed of political activity.

    Outer Limits
  • Digital Hygiene

    Rachel Bergmann
    2019-06-17

    Metabolic metaphors ignore the structural factors that place internet users in peril, putting the burden on individuals to know where their data exists, how they’re being tracked, who has access to the data, and how it is being used to make decisions about them. And while these habits might make people feel like they have a modicum more control, it distracts from the real issue, which is the corporations actually doing the extracting, and the systems that allow this in the first place.

    Digital Hygiene

    Metabolic metaphors ignore the structural factors that place internet users in peril, putting the burden on individuals to know where their data exists, how they’re being tracked, who has access to the data, and how it is being used to make decisions about them. And while these habits might make people feel like they have a modicum more control, it distracts from the real issue, which is the corporations actually doing the extracting, and the systems that allow this in the first place.

    Digital Hygiene
  • I Believe This Is My Festival

    Rob Horning
    2019-06-14

    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.

    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.

    I Believe This Is My Festival
  • New Feelings: Roach Complex

    Chris Randle
    2019-06-13

    Body horror memes travel well on platforms like Twitter, because they express our sense that the platform itself is taking us over — rewiring our minds and bodies, and transforming us into the very thing we love to hate. 

    Roach Complex

    Body horror memes travel well on platforms like Twitter, because they express our sense that the platform itself is taking us over — rewiring our minds and bodies, and transforming us into the very thing we love to hate. 

    Roach Complex
  • Manufactured Recollection

    Sara Reinis
    2019-06-10

    When the same kinds of algorithms determine which of our photos we should revisit in social media and which ads perform the best, our memories will inevitably look more like the advertising campaigns and paid influencer posts that surround us. The social consensus around what is “worth” remembering is becoming more tethered to an image’s commercial viability.

    Manufactured Recollection

    When the same kinds of algorithms determine which of our photos we should revisit in social media and which ads perform the best, our memories will inevitably look more like the advertising campaigns and paid influencer posts that surround us. The social consensus around what is “worth” remembering is becoming more tethered to an image’s commercial viability.

    Manufactured Recollection
  • Bad Metaphors: On a Journey

    Rochelle DuFord
    2019-06-06

    Whether we advertise it on our social media, and whether we like it or not, we are all on many “journeys” with many brands toward conversion and retention — long-lasting relationships with consumer brands without a clear end-point. While they claim to lead us on a path of self-discovery and liberation, these brands mediate and circumscribe our lives’ possibilities.

    On a Journey

    Whether we advertise it on our social media, and whether we like it or not, we are all on many “journeys” with many brands toward conversion and retention — long-lasting relationships with consumer brands without a clear end-point. While they claim to lead us on a path of self-discovery and liberation, these brands mediate and circumscribe our lives’ possibilities.

    On a Journey
  • Always In

    Drew Austin
    2019-06-03

    As audio-based platforms take off, network effects would kick in, strengthening the incentives to leave earbuds in for longer and longer. It wouldn’t seem rude to wear them in conversation; it would be as acceptable as glancing at one’s phone or even sending a quick text message seems today.

    Always In

    As audio-based platforms take off, network effects would kick in, strengthening the incentives to leave earbuds in for longer and longer. It wouldn’t seem rude to wear them in conversation; it would be as acceptable as glancing at one’s phone or even sending a quick text message seems today.

    Always In
  • Well Played: Imagined Homeland

    Vicky Osterweil
    2019-05-30

    In the context of such bleak, broad global political trends, it’s hard to consider gaming communities worthy of much attention. But these communities have established themselves as quasi safe spaces in which fascist ideology can hide in plain sight as it spreads.

    Well Played: Imagined Homeland

    In the context of such bleak, broad global political trends, it’s hard to consider gaming communities worthy of much attention. But these communities have established themselves as quasi safe spaces in which fascist ideology can hide in plain sight as it spreads.

    Well Played: Imagined Homeland
  • Ill at Ease

    Kelly Pendergrast
    2019-05-28

    Many of the past decade’s most “disruptive” technologies, companies, and services tacitly promise a frictionless life. But the vision of effortlessness and ease for users comes at a human cost, requiring  enormous global networks of extraction, logistics, manufacture, and transportation, along with sites of disposal, salvage, and waste. 

    Ill at Ease

    Many of the past decade’s most “disruptive” technologies, companies, and services tacitly promise a frictionless life. But the vision of effortlessness and ease for users comes at a human cost, requiring  enormous global networks of extraction, logistics, manufacture, and transportation, along with sites of disposal, salvage, and waste. 

    Ill at Ease
  • Hanging on the Telephone

    Meghan Gilligan
    2019-05-23

    Crackle signals an ambiguous past, provoking audience nostalgia for how things used to be without actually having to return to when that was. The failure to cinematically engage with the role of phones in everyday life suggests a similar failure to see the world how it is. The present absence of our habitual phone use has the effect of taking a story out of time: It’s invisible crackle. This leaves films ill-equipped to explore, let alone solve, the problems new communication technology brings.

    Hanging on the Telephone

    Crackle signals an ambiguous past, provoking audience nostalgia for how things used to be without actually having to return to when that was. The failure to cinematically engage with the role of phones in everyday life suggests a similar failure to see the world how it is. The present absence of our habitual phone use has the effect of taking a story out of time: It’s invisible crackle. This leaves films ill-equipped to explore, let alone solve, the problems new communication technology brings.

    Hanging on the Telephone
  • Too Human

    Ella Jacobson
    2019-05-20

    Higher fidelity physical medical models haven’t closed the gap between models and real-world practice. In fact, it seems that the reverse is arguably true — the more lifelike models become, and the greater the sense of mastery they provide, the more they hide the deficiencies and biases they contain. In other words, when physical fidelity is held up as the highest goal for simulators, the simulators may become less — not more — effective.

    Too Human

    Higher fidelity physical medical models haven’t closed the gap between models and real-world practice. In fact, it seems that the reverse is arguably true — the more lifelike models become, and the greater the sense of mastery they provide, the more they hide the deficiencies and biases they contain. In other words, when physical fidelity is held up as the highest goal for simulators, the simulators may become less — not more — effective.

    Too Human
  • Just Ride

    David A. Banks
    2019-05-16

    The distinctly normie feel of standing on an electric scooter may be the keystone that unites the American mainstream with the activists struggling for a less car-centric city. The anarcho-cyclist, the Provo, wants to remake the city in the image of the bike, sweat and all. The resulting society, they imagine, is a more just, more ecologically sustainable, but less comfortable. It’s a particular kind of leftist asceticism that can be a valuable ally in a burgeoning coalition against the car. When it comes to democratizing the street for all sorts of transportation, the hardcore cyclist and the e-scooter commuter will have very similar demands.

    Just Ride

    The distinctly normie feel of standing on an electric scooter may be the keystone that unites the American mainstream with the activists struggling for a less car-centric city. The anarcho-cyclist, the Provo, wants to remake the city in the image of the bike, sweat and all. The resulting society, they imagine, is a more just, more ecologically sustainable, but less comfortable. It’s a particular kind of leftist asceticism that can be a valuable ally in a burgeoning coalition against the car. When it comes to democratizing the street for all sorts of transportation, the hardcore cyclist and the e-scooter commuter will have very similar demands.

    Just Ride
  • Fuzzy Logic, Fuzzy Ethics

    Brian Justie
    2019-05-13

    Fuzzy ethics is also not simply a bad or ineffective mode of ethics. Rather ethics as such is characteristically fuzzy in that it begins with the postulation of principles for individual conduct. This fuzziness no doubt resonates with our individual diversity (recall Raskin’s appeal to the “you-colored prism”) and can meaningfully guide us in our day-to-day interactions with others. But it also explains why ethics is woefully limited when employed in the face of widespread, structural injustice. Translated into start-up jargon, we might say that there is no growth hack for ethics.

    Fuzzy Logic, Fuzzy Ethics

    Fuzzy ethics is also not simply a bad or ineffective mode of ethics. Rather ethics as such is characteristically fuzzy in that it begins with the postulation of principles for individual conduct. This fuzziness no doubt resonates with our individual diversity (recall Raskin’s appeal to the “you-colored prism”) and can meaningfully guide us in our day-to-day interactions with others. But it also explains why ethics is woefully limited when employed in the face of widespread, structural injustice. Translated into start-up jargon, we might say that there is no growth hack for ethics.

    Fuzzy Logic, Fuzzy Ethics
  • Present Perfect

    Emma Stamm
    2019-05-09

    Live streams can counter the sense that we are being exploited by social media. They can seem to indicate the possibility that human beings are still the primary constituents of the web, rather than impersonal and profit-motivated technical functions — a space in which humans are little more than connective ligaments or fonts of monetizable data. Live streams make a living place out of the digital domains that so many of us already treat like home.

    Present Perfect

    Live streams can counter the sense that we are being exploited by social media. They can seem to indicate the possibility that human beings are still the primary constituents of the web, rather than impersonal and profit-motivated technical functions — a space in which humans are little more than connective ligaments or fonts of monetizable data. Live streams make a living place out of the digital domains that so many of us already treat like home.

    Present Perfect
  • The Gardener’s Vision of Data

    Os Keyes
    2019-05-06

    he scientists preparing and reusing NIST’s data to train facial recognition models may simply be subject to these tendencies and these philosophies — comfortable with screaming, bloodied, and non-consenting research subjects because they are not people to them but abstract sources of abstract data. But there are signs that this isn’t the only thing that is going on.

    The Gardener’s Vision of Data

    he scientists preparing and reusing NIST’s data to train facial recognition models may simply be subject to these tendencies and these philosophies — comfortable with screaming, bloodied, and non-consenting research subjects because they are not people to them but abstract sources of abstract data. But there are signs that this isn’t the only thing that is going on.

    The Gardener’s Vision of Data
  • Annotate the World

    Alexandra Molotkow
    2019-05-02

    I opened a book I intended to discard, and saw my own strident observations shrieking up at me in bleeding ink. The notes seemed foul, the waste products of a self I’d repudiated; there are few people more objectionable than the person you were until recently. As objects, the books seemed cursed in reverse: To most readers the notes would be nothing more than an eyesore, but to put them in circulation would somehow manifest versions of myself that no longer felt familiar, and seemed to risk preceding me. The fear wasn’t rational of course — it was an incarnation of certain anxieties I’d developed over years of living online, transposed to objects. Those anxieties had to do with the sense that with every post, every click, I’m shedding a doppelgänger.

    Annotate the World

    I opened a book I intended to discard, and saw my own strident observations shrieking up at me in bleeding ink. The notes seemed foul, the waste products of a self I’d repudiated; there are few people more objectionable than the person you were until recently. As objects, the books seemed cursed in reverse: To most readers the notes would be nothing more than an eyesore, but to put them in circulation would somehow manifest versions of myself that no longer felt familiar, and seemed to risk preceding me. The fear wasn’t rational of course — it was an incarnation of certain anxieties I’d developed over years of living online, transposed to objects. Those anxieties had to do with the sense that with every post, every click, I’m shedding a doppelgänger.

    Annotate the World
  • Of Being Numerous

    Natasha Lennard
    2019-04-29

    The devices and platforms we rely upon to communicate and gather information also keep us under constant surveillance. Our current, collective options for resistance illustrate the extent to which surveillance technologies are sewn into — and give shape to — the fabric of daily life.

    Of Being Numerous

    The devices and platforms we rely upon to communicate and gather information also keep us under constant surveillance. Our current, collective options for resistance illustrate the extent to which surveillance technologies are sewn into — and give shape to — the fabric of daily life.

    Of Being Numerous
  • Bill of Health

    Danya Glabau
    2019-04-25

    As the fields of health-data obsession have grown, they have contributed to the impression that data alone is sufficient for medical care. Compared with the intricacies of human biology and relationships, data appears straightforward. It doesn’t depend on the people who generate it, with their messy lives filled with competing priorities.

    Bill of Health

    As the fields of health-data obsession have grown, they have contributed to the impression that data alone is sufficient for medical care. Compared with the intricacies of human biology and relationships, data appears straightforward. It doesn’t depend on the people who generate it, with their messy lives filled with competing priorities.

    Bill of Health
  • Built to Shill

    David A. Banks
    2019-04-23

    You may hate capitalism but love your childhood home and use the laws of land ownership to protect it and keep it as your own. You hate Uber, but your car is in the shop and it’s the only way to get to work on time. This is, in part, why Morton says that “the time of hyperobjects is a time of hypocrisy.”

    Built to Shill

    You may hate capitalism but love your childhood home and use the laws of land ownership to protect it and keep it as your own. You hate Uber, but your car is in the shop and it’s the only way to get to work on time. This is, in part, why Morton says that “the time of hyperobjects is a time of hypocrisy.”

    Built to Shill
  • Bad Metaphors: Let’s Take This Offline

    Mikaella Clements
    2019-04-18

    The real implication of let’s take this offline is that, online or offline, you are always already in the wrong place. If the metaphor seems incoherent, even contradictory, that’s because it reflects the contradictory demands of the workplace.

    Let’s Take This Offline

    The real implication of let’s take this offline is that, online or offline, you are always already in the wrong place. If the metaphor seems incoherent, even contradictory, that’s because it reflects the contradictory demands of the workplace.

    Let’s Take This Offline
  • Running the Numbers

    Jeremy Antley
    2019-04-15

    Video games are not unique in their ability to anchor live streams that transform private acts into public spectacles. And there are many streamers who undertake the “work of play” as a way to share gameplay experience without any thought of compensation or growing spectator numbers. But under the auspices of centralized platforms like Twitch, the “work of play” will always become a numbers game unto itself

    Running the Numbers

    Video games are not unique in their ability to anchor live streams that transform private acts into public spectacles. And there are many streamers who undertake the “work of play” as a way to share gameplay experience without any thought of compensation or growing spectator numbers. But under the auspices of centralized platforms like Twitch, the “work of play” will always become a numbers game unto itself

    Running the Numbers
  • Near, Far, Wherever You Are

    Will Partin
    2019-04-11

    Unlike Stranger sociality of yesteryear, though, encountering strangers no longer carries the symmetry it once did. Just as it is impossible to touch without being touched in return, meeting strangers once meant being one yourself — to acknowledge another human seeing you seeing them. Today, though, we do not know for whom we are the “People You May Know.”

    Near, Far, Wherever You Are

    Unlike Stranger sociality of yesteryear, though, encountering strangers no longer carries the symmetry it once did. Just as it is impossible to touch without being touched in return, meeting strangers once meant being one yourself — to acknowledge another human seeing you seeing them. Today, though, we do not know for whom we are the “People You May Know.”

    Near, Far, Wherever You Are
  • Counting the Countless

    Os Keyes
    2019-04-08

    A reformist approach to facial recognition — making the system more “inclusive” — will not really reduce harm for the people actually harmed. This control and normalization is part of the point of data science. It is required for data science’s logics to work. All reform-based approaches do is make violent systems more efficiently violent, under the guise of ethics and inclusion.

    Counting the Countless

    A reformist approach to facial recognition — making the system more “inclusive” — will not really reduce harm for the people actually harmed. This control and normalization is part of the point of data science. It is required for data science’s logics to work. All reform-based approaches do is make violent systems more efficiently violent, under the guise of ethics and inclusion.

    Counting the Countless
  • Spoken For

    Sasha Geffen
    2019-04-04

    A new, “genderless” digital voice aims to disrupt the association between female voices and servitude. In effect, it occupies the same gendered position often associated with robots: servile, responsive, not quite female — but certainly not male.

    Spoken For

    A new, “genderless” digital voice aims to disrupt the association between female voices and servitude. In effect, it occupies the same gendered position often associated with robots: servile, responsive, not quite female — but certainly not male.

    Spoken For
  • Game Boys

    Vicky Osterweil
    2019-04-01

    Deep forms of play — autonomous, chaotic, queer, and anti-hierarchical — threaten the systems of profit, work, and exploitation. Calls for increased play, joy, and an end to boredom were common slogans and demands among the radical wings of the movements of the 1960s, graffitied on the walls of Paris in May ’68 and broadcast over the radio by the anti-work workers’ movements in Italy. Video games, as designed today, overwhelmingly work to harness and co-opt that energy, to discipline the desire for play into the work ethic, to transform the freedom of creativity, exploration, and questioning into the diligent following of rules and learning of systems.

    Game Boys

    Deep forms of play — autonomous, chaotic, queer, and anti-hierarchical — threaten the systems of profit, work, and exploitation. Calls for increased play, joy, and an end to boredom were common slogans and demands among the radical wings of the movements of the 1960s, graffitied on the walls of Paris in May ’68 and broadcast over the radio by the anti-work workers’ movements in Italy. Video games, as designed today, overwhelmingly work to harness and co-opt that energy, to discipline the desire for play into the work ethic, to transform the freedom of creativity, exploration, and questioning into the diligent following of rules and learning of systems.

    Game Boys
  • Chances Are

    Justin Joque
    2019-03-28

    Bayesian thinking and its valorization of a science of doing rather than knowing has allowed a whole host of human activities to be predicted rather than theorized. Read in its most dystopian light, this revolution has allowed algorithms to treat subjective knowledge as though it were objective, calculable, and ultimately predictable. This belief in the ability to predict probabilistically has allowed data scientists to try to control who sees what news, which friends people make, what dates they go on, the credit they are given, the jobs their applications are considered for.

    Chances Are

    Bayesian thinking and its valorization of a science of doing rather than knowing has allowed a whole host of human activities to be predicted rather than theorized. Read in its most dystopian light, this revolution has allowed algorithms to treat subjective knowledge as though it were objective, calculable, and ultimately predictable. This belief in the ability to predict probabilistically has allowed data scientists to try to control who sees what news, which friends people make, what dates they go on, the credit they are given, the jobs their applications are considered for.

    Chances Are
  • Bad Metaphors: The 30,000-Foot View

    Christopher Schaberg
    2019-03-25

    The rhetorical trick in the “30,000-foot view” is in how it allows for a differentiation between those who are merely impressed if not overawed with the all-encompassing aerial perspective and those who can read it and control it. It seems to present a claim to objectivity, but it is more an expression of status. 

    The 30,000-Foot View

    The rhetorical trick in the “30,000-foot view” is in how it allows for a differentiation between those who are merely impressed if not overawed with the all-encompassing aerial perspective and those who can read it and control it. It seems to present a claim to objectivity, but it is more an expression of status. 

    The 30,000-Foot View
  • Dot Matrix

    Alexandra Molotkow
    2019-03-21

    A sensibility can cohere a worldview more vividly than an institution, for worse and for better. “Stan culture”; the cyclical interest in astrology and its archetypes; the commodification of co-presence, as in podcasting and vlogging — all speak to the timeless fact that it’s easier to make sense of a world in flux, atomized by a million emergencies and bids on one’s attention, through the unifying lens of another person.

    Dot Matrix

    A sensibility can cohere a worldview more vividly than an institution, for worse and for better. “Stan culture”; the cyclical interest in astrology and its archetypes; the commodification of co-presence, as in podcasting and vlogging — all speak to the timeless fact that it’s easier to make sense of a world in flux, atomized by a million emergencies and bids on one’s attention, through the unifying lens of another person.

    Dot Matrix
  • Natural’s Not in It

    Danya Glabau
    2019-03-18

    The work of Le Guin and other science fiction writers whose work chips away at the presumed links between nature and culture demand that we regard biological facts (like sex) as accidents of history and social facts (like gender, family organization, and capitalism) as open to reconfiguration. Science fiction socializes technology, creating a sandbox in which its role in mediating biology and society can be reimagined as well. In the process the genre creates space to propose alternative social fictions that take the place of the social arrangements that act as social facts in the “real” world.

    Natural’s Not in It

    The work of Le Guin and other science fiction writers whose work chips away at the presumed links between nature and culture demand that we regard biological facts (like sex) as accidents of history and social facts (like gender, family organization, and capitalism) as open to reconfiguration. Science fiction socializes technology, creating a sandbox in which its role in mediating biology and society can be reimagined as well. In the process the genre creates space to propose alternative social fictions that take the place of the social arrangements that act as social facts in the “real” world.

    Natural’s Not in It
  • Always On

    L. M. Sacasas
    2019-03-14

    If platforms deplete our willpower by making us hyper-self-conscious, they also are increasingly structured to make us experience the will as beside the point. Platforms are designed to make us less conscious of our decisions about how we spend time on them, attempting to automate decision-making with auto-play. The algorithms that ostensibly reveal what your “true” or “authentic” self would choose for itself feed off the very exhaustion that the platforms generate, offering refuge from the burden of identity work in the automation of the will.

    Always On

    If platforms deplete our willpower by making us hyper-self-conscious, they also are increasingly structured to make us experience the will as beside the point. Platforms are designed to make us less conscious of our decisions about how we spend time on them, attempting to automate decision-making with auto-play. The algorithms that ostensibly reveal what your “true” or “authentic” self would choose for itself feed off the very exhaustion that the platforms generate, offering refuge from the burden of identity work in the automation of the will.

    Always On
  • Bad Metaphors: I Don’t Have the Bandwidth

    Sophie Haigney
    2019-03-11

    We almost never talk about “having the bandwidth” for something; it is usually in the negative. The “bandwidth” metaphor plays on the concept of hard limits, set and managed by forces outside our control — fate, or, in the literal sense, internet providers or the FCC. It is inelastic, and also not our fault.

    I Don’t Have the Bandwidth

    We almost never talk about “having the bandwidth” for something; it is usually in the negative. The “bandwidth” metaphor plays on the concept of hard limits, set and managed by forces outside our control — fate, or, in the literal sense, internet providers or the FCC. It is inelastic, and also not our fault.

    I Don’t Have the Bandwidth
  • It Girls

    Kerry Doran
    2019-03-04

    AI influencers like Lil Miquela don’t have inconvenient politics, slip-ups, or demands; they do exactly what they are scripted to do. Their success gives brands additional leverage over human influencers, showing them how quickly they could be replaced. 

    It Girls

    AI influencers like Lil Miquela don’t have inconvenient politics, slip-ups, or demands; they do exactly what they are scripted to do. Their success gives brands additional leverage over human influencers, showing them how quickly they could be replaced. 

    It Girls
  • Location Not Found

    Angella d'Avignon
    2019-02-28

    How do you map a loss?

    Location Not Found

    How do you map a loss?

    Location Not Found
  • All Work and All Play

    Vicky Osterweil
    2019-02-25

    The way major video games are made — by a crew of thousands under exploitative labor conditions, with a dehumanizing division of labor emphasizing small, repetitive tasks — is reflected in the kind of games you get: massive open-world adventures full of thousands of discrete things to do, objects to collect, tasks to complete, and so on, held together by character and design and perhaps a narrative.

    All Work and All Play

    The way major video games are made — by a crew of thousands under exploitative labor conditions, with a dehumanizing division of labor emphasizing small, repetitive tasks — is reflected in the kind of games you get: massive open-world adventures full of thousands of discrete things to do, objects to collect, tasks to complete, and so on, held together by character and design and perhaps a narrative.

    All Work and All Play
  • Give Me What You Want

    Cherie Hu
    2019-02-21

    As long as the subscription-box market successfully positions passivity as the ultimate convenience, its belief system will encourage customers to detach themselves from their own tastes and from consumerism at large and rechannel their newfound energy into becoming allegedly better, more productive human beings. Yet instead of liberating us from these supposedly wasteful competitions over taste and status, subscription boxes will have only intensified the cutthroat management and marketing of these attributes. Rather than rendering taste irrelevant, they will have reinscribed competitive taste as inescapably human.

    Give Me What You Want

    As long as the subscription-box market successfully positions passivity as the ultimate convenience, its belief system will encourage customers to detach themselves from their own tastes and from consumerism at large and rechannel their newfound energy into becoming allegedly better, more productive human beings. Yet instead of liberating us from these supposedly wasteful competitions over taste and status, subscription boxes will have only intensified the cutthroat management and marketing of these attributes. Rather than rendering taste irrelevant, they will have reinscribed competitive taste as inescapably human.

    Give Me What You Want
  • New Feelings: Screen Protectiveness

    Suzannah Showler
    2019-02-19

    My habits and tendencies are witnessed by algorithms that uses them to reconstitute me as a consumer. Allowing a human being access to that same material feels more uncomfortably intimate, even if I know it’s less harmful. When someone touches my phone or computer, I feel a frantic impulse to explain: I’m more willing to be exploited than I am to be judged. 

    Screen Protectiveness

    My habits and tendencies are witnessed by algorithms that uses them to reconstitute me as a consumer. Allowing a human being access to that same material feels more uncomfortably intimate, even if I know it’s less harmful. When someone touches my phone or computer, I feel a frantic impulse to explain: I’m more willing to be exploited than I am to be judged. 

    Screen Protectiveness
  • Free Shipping

    Chenoe Hart
    2019-02-14

    The ability to request the express arrival of any object missing from your life with a minimum of effort could make it increasingly possible to live as though you already own everything. That is to say, ownership might become an irrelevant consideration in comparison to the availability of abundant options for short-term consumption like those already offered by media streaming services. Once the home becomes seamlessly integrated as an appendage of fulfillment infrastructure, the activity of making shopping decisions might recede from our consciousness altogether.

    Free Shipping

    The ability to request the express arrival of any object missing from your life with a minimum of effort could make it increasingly possible to live as though you already own everything. That is to say, ownership might become an irrelevant consideration in comparison to the availability of abundant options for short-term consumption like those already offered by media streaming services. Once the home becomes seamlessly integrated as an appendage of fulfillment infrastructure, the activity of making shopping decisions might recede from our consciousness altogether.

    Free Shipping
  • Colonial Cartography

    Apoorva Tadepalli
    2019-02-11

    Maps created by colonial governments were in the business of creating political identities, while city advertisements reinforce them. But they are both the same kind of artifact, both coming from comparable, centralized entities in whose interest it is to alienate individuals from the physical relationship they have with their immediate surroundings — because this “eye level” relationship is at direct odds with the identities of consumer and national citizen that these entities are trying to create

    Colonial Cartography

    Maps created by colonial governments were in the business of creating political identities, while city advertisements reinforce them. But they are both the same kind of artifact, both coming from comparable, centralized entities in whose interest it is to alienate individuals from the physical relationship they have with their immediate surroundings — because this “eye level” relationship is at direct odds with the identities of consumer and national citizen that these entities are trying to create

    Colonial Cartography
  • Numbers Game

    Drew Austin
    2019-02-07

    As game mechanics have become more common in more facets of daily experience, games themselves have begun to seem more like everyday life. Fortnite shows us the possibility of opting out, however temporarily, even if we don’t reject the premise of the game itself. Game dynamics need not dictate every aspect of behavior, even within an actual game. This lesson is more useful than the belief that we can simply escape to a reality free of games.

    Numbers Game

    As game mechanics have become more common in more facets of daily experience, games themselves have begun to seem more like everyday life. Fortnite shows us the possibility of opting out, however temporarily, even if we don’t reject the premise of the game itself. Game dynamics need not dictate every aspect of behavior, even within an actual game. This lesson is more useful than the belief that we can simply escape to a reality free of games.

    Numbers Game
  • Chasing the Apocalypse

    Brianna Rettig
    2019-02-04

    The first time I came to the Project Faultless test site, though I had already spent a month driving solo through Nevada, I didn’t get out of my car. The earth seemed soiled, toxic — a threat waiting to seep through the rubber soles of my hiking boots. If I walked, I felt like I would become part of the landscape.

    Chasing the Apocalypse

    The first time I came to the Project Faultless test site, though I had already spent a month driving solo through Nevada, I didn’t get out of my car. The earth seemed soiled, toxic — a threat waiting to seep through the rubber soles of my hiking boots. If I walked, I felt like I would become part of the landscape.

    Chasing the Apocalypse
  • Well Played: Store Credit

    Vicky Osterweil
    2019-01-31

    As paywalls and privileges proliferate around more and more of the things we consume, and as the possibility of sharing the things we buy decreases through digital rights management and other technological shifts, our ownership of even these impoverished commodities becomes less reliable and total. Video games make this logic seem immanent, reasonable, even fun.

    Well Played: Store Credit

    As paywalls and privileges proliferate around more and more of the things we consume, and as the possibility of sharing the things we buy decreases through digital rights management and other technological shifts, our ownership of even these impoverished commodities becomes less reliable and total. Video games make this logic seem immanent, reasonable, even fun.

    Well Played: Store Credit
  • New Feelings: Ungoogleability

    Linda Besner
    2019-01-24

    My notion of God — a transcendent intelligence that sees and knows me — has merged, in effect, with a technological reality that has come to assume many of the same powers. I know this isn’t true, but it’s still a minor shock to realize that though the internet possesses many facts about me, it doesn’t actually know who I am at all.

    Ungoogleability

    My notion of God — a transcendent intelligence that sees and knows me — has merged, in effect, with a technological reality that has come to assume many of the same powers. I know this isn’t true, but it’s still a minor shock to realize that though the internet possesses many facts about me, it doesn’t actually know who I am at all.

    Ungoogleability
  • Natural Processes

    Ana Cecilia Alvarez
    2019-01-22

    A year ago, at Muir Beach, I had poked around some exposed tide pools while tripping, and, enthralled, decided to stare a sea anemone down with my desire for contact. After a few seconds, my brain felt very hot. I instinctively covered my eyes and became convinced contact had been made. The sea anemone’s message: “Get the fuck away from me.” The takeaway stuck: Not all life wants to be seen, or known.

    Natural Processes

    A year ago, at Muir Beach, I had poked around some exposed tide pools while tripping, and, enthralled, decided to stare a sea anemone down with my desire for contact. After a few seconds, my brain felt very hot. I instinctively covered my eyes and became convinced contact had been made. The sea anemone’s message: “Get the fuck away from me.” The takeaway stuck: Not all life wants to be seen, or known.

    Natural Processes
  • New Feelings: Selfish Intimacy

    Alexandra Molotkow
    2019-01-17

    My mother noticed what I was up to and eyed me uneasily. “Why do you have to document everything?” she said, as I snapped away at some erotic ceramicware. I told her I didn’t plan to show anyone, but the point was that I could.

    Selfish Intimacy

    My mother noticed what I was up to and eyed me uneasily. “Why do you have to document everything?” she said, as I snapped away at some erotic ceramicware. I told her I didn’t plan to show anyone, but the point was that I could.

    Selfish Intimacy
  • Building to Code

    David A. Banks
    2019-01-14

    The fact that new cities are experiencing a new spin on old problems, instead of leapfrogging American and European mistakes is unsettling. Are the growing pains of cities more intrinsic to urbanization than Howard believed, or have we yet to try something truly new in city-making? The only way to find out is to re-center the human in the city. What I want to do with this column is ask: How do we want to live among technology and each other? Why are cities treated like app platforms?

    Building to Code

    The fact that new cities are experiencing a new spin on old problems, instead of leapfrogging American and European mistakes is unsettling. Are the growing pains of cities more intrinsic to urbanization than Howard believed, or have we yet to try something truly new in city-making? The only way to find out is to re-center the human in the city. What I want to do with this column is ask: How do we want to live among technology and each other? Why are cities treated like app platforms?

    Building to Code
  • New Feelings: Phatic Checking

    Greg Nissan
    2019-01-10

    Checking the news has become phatic, like small talk; it’s enough to know I’m connected to the channel of information, like tapping the keys in my pocket every few minutes to remind myself I can still get into my apartment. Turns out the isolated act of “paying attention” is a bad criterion for political engagement.

    Phatic Checking

    Checking the news has become phatic, like small talk; it’s enough to know I’m connected to the channel of information, like tapping the keys in my pocket every few minutes to remind myself I can still get into my apartment. Turns out the isolated act of “paying attention” is a bad criterion for political engagement.

    Phatic Checking
  • Silent Shout

    Ava Kofman
    2019-01-07

    The privacy flaws of wi-fi are nearly universal — and yet most of us like to think of ourselves as exempt from its violations. But wi-fi continuously emits signals that include personally identifiable information in every direction, with few protections on offer for security or encryption.

    Silent Shout

    The privacy flaws of wi-fi are nearly universal — and yet most of us like to think of ourselves as exempt from its violations. But wi-fi continuously emits signals that include personally identifiable information in every direction, with few protections on offer for security or encryption.

    Silent Shout
  • Sleep Subjects

    Zach Kaiser
    2019-01-03

    FitBit’s measurements of my quantity and quality of sleep became a kind of empirical assurance, a metrical safety blanket that said, “Yes, you can feel this tired,” or “You should feel spry and alert.” Does it know better than I do how much sleep I got, or how tired I should feel? Does it matter if these measurements are actually accurate? What would “accurate” even mean when it came to how I felt? How did I come to implicitly trust it over my own consciousness?

    Sleep Subjects

    FitBit’s measurements of my quantity and quality of sleep became a kind of empirical assurance, a metrical safety blanket that said, “Yes, you can feel this tired,” or “You should feel spry and alert.” Does it know better than I do how much sleep I got, or how tired I should feel? Does it matter if these measurements are actually accurate? What would “accurate” even mean when it came to how I felt? How did I come to implicitly trust it over my own consciousness?

    Sleep Subjects
  • SPECIAL ISSUE: 2018

    Real Life
    2018-12-20

    Collected here are some essays from Real Life that reflect not only what seemed to be some of the most pressing “tech” topics in 2018 — automation, algorithmic control, data surveillance, climate change, “virtual reality,” and a variety of attention economies — but also essays that we hope indicates what a broader approach to “tech” might look like. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

    SPECIAL ISSUE: 2018

    Collected here are some essays from Real Life that reflect not only what seemed to be some of the most pressing “tech” topics in 2018 — automation, algorithmic control, data surveillance, climate change, “virtual reality,” and a variety of attention economies — but also essays that we hope indicates what a broader approach to “tech” might look like. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

    SPECIAL ISSUE: 2018
  • Well Played: Battle Royale

    Vicky Osterweil
    2018-12-19

    Games, like all mass culture, are administered ideology, but to have effective force they must not be too dogmatic or stale — the widespread recognition of vulgar state-produced propaganda as such masks the more insidious but no less propagandistic functioning of culture markets. But to achieve that cover, they tend to appropriate the vitality of emergent culture. When games steal this popular energy, the ideology they convey becomes potentially unreliable.

    Well Played: Battle Royale

    Games, like all mass culture, are administered ideology, but to have effective force they must not be too dogmatic or stale — the widespread recognition of vulgar state-produced propaganda as such masks the more insidious but no less propagandistic functioning of culture markets. But to achieve that cover, they tend to appropriate the vitality of emergent culture. When games steal this popular energy, the ideology they convey becomes potentially unreliable.

    Well Played: Battle Royale
  • Ambient Cruelty

    Linda Besner
    2018-12-17

    The ability to ruin a stranger’s life is a feature, not a bug of consumer rating systems. By emphasizing the user’s “right” to express their dissatisfaction, platforms encourage users to be cruel without feeling cruel, while creating a slush fund of data to use against employees.

    Ambient Cruelty

    The ability to ruin a stranger’s life is a feature, not a bug of consumer rating systems. By emphasizing the user’s “right” to express their dissatisfaction, platforms encourage users to be cruel without feeling cruel, while creating a slush fund of data to use against employees.

    Ambient Cruelty
  • Stars and Strikes

    David Turner
    2018-12-13

    The music industry has dealt with constant technological upheavals throughout its history, and its own gig economy predates the one we now associate with Silicon Valley. Its legacy of union organizing offers lessons for other industries.

    Stars and Strikes

    The music industry has dealt with constant technological upheavals throughout its history, and its own gig economy predates the one we now associate with Silicon Valley. Its legacy of union organizing offers lessons for other industries.

    Stars and Strikes
  • Cold Discovery

    Drew Austin
    2018-12-10

    The phrases “watching Netflix” and “listening to Spotify,” as opposed to watching or listening to something specific on them, suggest that these platforms denature their content and assimilate its identity into their own. While a book cover wrapped an individual work — an independently defined, freestanding unit of content — a platform interface wraps the entire collection of works that users can access through it. In the process, that collection becomes a slurry of fungible content that fuels the platform.

    Cold Discovery

    The phrases “watching Netflix” and “listening to Spotify,” as opposed to watching or listening to something specific on them, suggest that these platforms denature their content and assimilate its identity into their own. While a book cover wrapped an individual work — an independently defined, freestanding unit of content — a platform interface wraps the entire collection of works that users can access through it. In the process, that collection becomes a slurry of fungible content that fuels the platform.

    Cold Discovery
  • See No Evil

    Melissa Powers
    2018-12-06

    By blurring out Ariel Castro’s home, where the crimes took place, Google has implied that what happened inside the house is beyond comprehension; the company has unmoored the once-physical 2207 Seymour Avenue from the concept of the house. This clumsy attempt to distract us from tragedy neither protects virtual visitors nor honors its victims — rather, in altering its own records, Google turns the site into a horror trope.

    See No Evil

    By blurring out Ariel Castro’s home, where the crimes took place, Google has implied that what happened inside the house is beyond comprehension; the company has unmoored the once-physical 2207 Seymour Avenue from the concept of the house. This clumsy attempt to distract us from tragedy neither protects virtual visitors nor honors its victims — rather, in altering its own records, Google turns the site into a horror trope.

    See No Evil
  • Sins of the Mother

    Danya Glabau
    2018-12-03

    While digital self-tracking might seem to be the answer to someone like me who seeks to become a parent, using it to record evidence of all the ways that the parent might set the child up for failure could make it easier to revisit the sins of the mother upon the child. To safeguard future generations, it may be more important to guard against self-tracking’s intrusion into our lives than to reap its benefits. Is the Apple Watch truly a guardian, caring for our well-being — or is it a warden, watching and waiting for us to make a misstep?

    Sins of the Mother

    While digital self-tracking might seem to be the answer to someone like me who seeks to become a parent, using it to record evidence of all the ways that the parent might set the child up for failure could make it easier to revisit the sins of the mother upon the child. To safeguard future generations, it may be more important to guard against self-tracking’s intrusion into our lives than to reap its benefits. Is the Apple Watch truly a guardian, caring for our well-being — or is it a warden, watching and waiting for us to make a misstep?

    Sins of the Mother
  • Well Played: Passive Attack

    Vicky Osterweil
    2018-11-26

    Video games are not more interactive or creative than previous medium; if anything, they are arguably less. Each video game involves a mastery of a series of digital gestures, controls, contextual clues, or modes of seeing and knowing. While the best games offer space for improvisation, reflection, storytelling, and of course fun, the relation between gamer and game is most commonly one of disciplining the gamer to a set of systematized interactions.

    Well Played: Passive Attack

    Video games are not more interactive or creative than previous medium; if anything, they are arguably less. Each video game involves a mastery of a series of digital gestures, controls, contextual clues, or modes of seeing and knowing. While the best games offer space for improvisation, reflection, storytelling, and of course fun, the relation between gamer and game is most commonly one of disciplining the gamer to a set of systematized interactions.

    Well Played: Passive Attack
  • Plausible Disavowal

    Rob Horning
    2018-11-19

    If “deepfakes” make us nostalgic for the supposedly automatic authenticity of documents, AI artworks posit a corollary nostalgia for the authenticity of artists. AI creativity appears as creativity with no human strategy behind it—art without ego. A clumsy show of computer creativity makes it seem as though humans once really were freely creative and might be again

    Plausible Disavowal

    If “deepfakes” make us nostalgic for the supposedly automatic authenticity of documents, AI artworks posit a corollary nostalgia for the authenticity of artists. AI creativity appears as creativity with no human strategy behind it—art without ego. A clumsy show of computer creativity makes it seem as though humans once really were freely creative and might be again

    Plausible Disavowal
  • Re: Mary Lee

    Alex Ronan
    2018-11-15

    Scrolling through celebrity gossip usually ends suddenly, with the realization that I’m wasting my time keeping tabs on how strangers spend theirs. By contrast, tracking Mary Lee felt productive, protective. Knowing her whereabouts imbued me with a weird sense of temporary power over my own fears, which were tempered by a strange intimacy.

    Re: Mary Lee

    Scrolling through celebrity gossip usually ends suddenly, with the realization that I’m wasting my time keeping tabs on how strangers spend theirs. By contrast, tracking Mary Lee felt productive, protective. Knowing her whereabouts imbued me with a weird sense of temporary power over my own fears, which were tempered by a strange intimacy.

    Re: Mary Lee
  • Faked Out

    Nathan Jurgenson
    2018-11-13

    The post-truth era is not new, and not the fault of the postmodernists who have previously diagnosed it. Those who claim that our era is somehow less objective or more fake than earlier media regimes are clinging to a sense of their own superiority and trying to extend the legitimacy of increasingly irrelevant knowledge-producers.

    Faked Out

    The post-truth era is not new, and not the fault of the postmodernists who have previously diagnosed it. Those who claim that our era is somehow less objective or more fake than earlier media regimes are clinging to a sense of their own superiority and trying to extend the legitimacy of increasingly irrelevant knowledge-producers.

    Faked Out
  • Haunted Village

    Joe Sutton
    2018-11-08

    Toward the end of the 19th century, medical science viewed epileptics as straddling the line between sanity and insanity. The etiology of the disease was not understood, and seizures were seen as uncontrollable and dangerous periods of insanity that could launch an epileptic into a murderous rage, no matter the nature of their ordinary behavior. The perceived danger of these fits led to the forced institutionalization of epileptics. One idea, held to be progressive at the time, was to take them out of “lunatic asylums” and place them in their own institutions — not because they were seen as requiring less supervision so much as their seizures distressed other patients.

    Haunted Village

    Toward the end of the 19th century, medical science viewed epileptics as straddling the line between sanity and insanity. The etiology of the disease was not understood, and seizures were seen as uncontrollable and dangerous periods of insanity that could launch an epileptic into a murderous rage, no matter the nature of their ordinary behavior. The perceived danger of these fits led to the forced institutionalization of epileptics. One idea, held to be progressive at the time, was to take them out of “lunatic asylums” and place them in their own institutions — not because they were seen as requiring less supervision so much as their seizures distressed other patients.

    Haunted Village
  • Personal Panopticons

    L. M. Sacasas
    2018-11-05

    Once surveillance seems a fait accompli, then some measure of cynicism, apathy, or nihilism about privacy may present itself as a reasonable response. This suggests that pervasive surveillance helps produce people who are more at ease with it — people who no longer know what privacy is for or what socio-moral milieu could give it value.

    Personal Panopticons

    Once surveillance seems a fait accompli, then some measure of cynicism, apathy, or nihilism about privacy may present itself as a reasonable response. This suggests that pervasive surveillance helps produce people who are more at ease with it — people who no longer know what privacy is for or what socio-moral milieu could give it value.

    Personal Panopticons
  • The Last Format

    David Turner
    2018-10-29

    The mp3 seemed like the endpoint for music consumption, the last format: free, accessible, unencumbered, it enabled fans to enjoy their favorite artists with minimal interference by corporate entities. But, while it took a decade, the music industry found a way to dash those utopian hopes. The mp3 was just another format, after all, and eventually the industry managed to undercut its relevance, partly by appealing to the ideals it once represented.

    The Last Format

    The mp3 seemed like the endpoint for music consumption, the last format: free, accessible, unencumbered, it enabled fans to enjoy their favorite artists with minimal interference by corporate entities. But, while it took a decade, the music industry found a way to dash those utopian hopes. The mp3 was just another format, after all, and eventually the industry managed to undercut its relevance, partly by appealing to the ideals it once represented.

    The Last Format
  • Well Played

    Vicky Osterweil
    2018-10-22

    Well Played is a monthly column about video games and how they both reflect and shape capitalism’s development. What role do they play in reproducing society, transforming ideology, and sustaining capital’s pool of labor? The answers suggested here are meant as openings for debate rather than comprehensive, conclusive statements; exceptions to some claims may be obvious, but these don’t nullify the general trends, which must be met with social resistance. This series is offered as a contribution to a map of the territory for those who would join that conflict.

    Well Played

    Well Played is a monthly column about video games and how they both reflect and shape capitalism’s development. What role do they play in reproducing society, transforming ideology, and sustaining capital’s pool of labor? The answers suggested here are meant as openings for debate rather than comprehensive, conclusive statements; exceptions to some claims may be obvious, but these don’t nullify the general trends, which must be met with social resistance. This series is offered as a contribution to a map of the territory for those who would join that conflict.

    Well Played
  • Friction-Free Racism

    Chris Gilliard
    2018-10-15

    Silicon Valley has learned to profit by selling “friction-free” interactions, interfaces, and applications as a form of convenience. In these, a user doesn’t have to engage with people or even see them. The racism and othering implicit in this are rendered at the level of code, so these users can feel innocent and not complicit.

    Friction-Free Racism

    Silicon Valley has learned to profit by selling “friction-free” interactions, interfaces, and applications as a form of convenience. In these, a user doesn’t have to engage with people or even see them. The racism and othering implicit in this are rendered at the level of code, so these users can feel innocent and not complicit.

    Friction-Free Racism
  • No Joke

    Natasha Lennard
    2018-10-11

    Irony is neither the gateway drug nor an alibi for racism. The alt-right’s euphemistic symbols of racism are meant to confuse outsiders and affirm insiders who can feel a sense of belonging by being in the know, but they are not attempts to trick the otherwise unsusceptible into racist thinking. What allows the far right to flourish is the ability for angry, entitled people to find each other and support each other’s racial animosities, not the ambiguities of ironic discourse.

    No Joke

    Irony is neither the gateway drug nor an alibi for racism. The alt-right’s euphemistic symbols of racism are meant to confuse outsiders and affirm insiders who can feel a sense of belonging by being in the know, but they are not attempts to trick the otherwise unsusceptible into racist thinking. What allows the far right to flourish is the ability for angry, entitled people to find each other and support each other’s racial animosities, not the ambiguities of ironic discourse.

    No Joke
  • New Feelings: Kid Brain

    Aurora Stewart de Peña
    2018-10-09

    Watching old toy commercials on YouTube is a lot like consuming generic ASMR videos. The toys they advertised used tactile cues to create a sense of peace. There were no sets or stories, or competitions to win; you were only meant to pay attention to the way the objects made you feel. Today, this highlights the importance, and the difficulty, of activity without a productive goal.

    Kid Brain

    Watching old toy commercials on YouTube is a lot like consuming generic ASMR videos. The toys they advertised used tactile cues to create a sense of peace. There were no sets or stories, or competitions to win; you were only meant to pay attention to the way the objects made you feel. Today, this highlights the importance, and the difficulty, of activity without a productive goal.

    Kid Brain
  • Ordinary Doses

    Emma Stamm
    2018-10-04

    The tension between instrumentalized and exploratory approaches to psychedelics should not simply be dismissed. If the long-term impact of psychedelic research is shaped by the psychopharmaceutical industry, it would threaten the social potential of a psychedelic revival. The intertwining of mind-altering drugs and politics in the 1960s sparked a movement that embraced communitarianism over individualism and promised an immanent new consciousness.

    Ordinary Doses

    The tension between instrumentalized and exploratory approaches to psychedelics should not simply be dismissed. If the long-term impact of psychedelic research is shaped by the psychopharmaceutical industry, it would threaten the social potential of a psychedelic revival. The intertwining of mind-altering drugs and politics in the 1960s sparked a movement that embraced communitarianism over individualism and promised an immanent new consciousness.

    Ordinary Doses
  • The Last Frontier

    Ella Jacobson
    2018-10-01

    Remoteness, here, signifies freedom: Men are able to create society as they wish, unconstrained by government interference or social norms. These shows are a nostalgic return to the 19th-century conception of the frontier as a place where white settlers can earn land and success through hard work, with race, class, and luck playing no role. Such a place doesn’t exist, and never existed, so it’s fitting that the locales are embellished or falsified.

    The Last Frontier

    Remoteness, here, signifies freedom: Men are able to create society as they wish, unconstrained by government interference or social norms. These shows are a nostalgic return to the 19th-century conception of the frontier as a place where white settlers can earn land and success through hard work, with race, class, and luck playing no role. Such a place doesn’t exist, and never existed, so it’s fitting that the locales are embellished or falsified.

    The Last Frontier
  • Same Difference

    David A. Banks
    2018-09-27

    “Contemporary capitalism,” Mould argues, “has commandeered creativity to ensure its own growth.” As that claim suggests, he believes that creativity pre-existed capitalism and has not always just been a euphemism for economic exploitation. In his view, the word originally signified the generation of something from nothing, or the uniting of two previously separate ideas. But since something truly new or different is unassimilable to capitalism’s techniques for value extraction, much of creativity under capitalism is, as Mould argues, “newness to maintain more of the same,” rather than the development of new ways of being.

    Same Difference

    “Contemporary capitalism,” Mould argues, “has commandeered creativity to ensure its own growth.” As that claim suggests, he believes that creativity pre-existed capitalism and has not always just been a euphemism for economic exploitation. In his view, the word originally signified the generation of something from nothing, or the uniting of two previously separate ideas. But since something truly new or different is unassimilable to capitalism’s techniques for value extraction, much of creativity under capitalism is, as Mould argues, “newness to maintain more of the same,” rather than the development of new ways of being.

    Same Difference
  • The Great Mortality

    Elisa Gabbert
    2018-09-24

    During the 1950s and ’60s, there was great optimism that the world would soon be rid of all deadly infectious disease. The plan not only failed; it actually made the problem worse. Even when we know what to do to prepare for crises, the political coordination proves impossible, and individuals fall into escapist daydreams of painless extinction events. 

    The Great Mortality

    During the 1950s and ’60s, there was great optimism that the world would soon be rid of all deadly infectious disease. The plan not only failed; it actually made the problem worse. Even when we know what to do to prepare for crises, the political coordination proves impossible, and individuals fall into escapist daydreams of painless extinction events. 

    The Great Mortality
  • Too Much of Nothing

    Rob Horning
    2018-09-20

    When I looked at Nothing on Street View, though, it didn’t feel uncanny, just anachronistic. It’s name implied a time where you could really feel lost, far off the grid. Now you can’t even go where there is nothing to get away from digital capture, from the standardization and assimilation with which Google is “organizing the world’s information.” But it is not like Nothing was some serendipitous joy back when I used to drive by it. It felt like a desperate scam being conducted from beyond the margins.

    Too Much of Nothing

    When I looked at Nothing on Street View, though, it didn’t feel uncanny, just anachronistic. It’s name implied a time where you could really feel lost, far off the grid. Now you can’t even go where there is nothing to get away from digital capture, from the standardization and assimilation with which Google is “organizing the world’s information.” But it is not like Nothing was some serendipitous joy back when I used to drive by it. It felt like a desperate scam being conducted from beyond the margins.

    Too Much of Nothing
  • Controlled Measures

    R. Joshua Scannell
    2018-09-17

    Physiognomy was eventually debunked, but its legacy of what Cedric Robinson calls racial thinking has lived on in Silicon Valley’s cultural imaginaries as part of the heavily capitalized project of turning the world into a datafied engineering project. If we’re looking for a real “root cause” of “criminality,” we should look not to biological factors but to politics, which organizes how a society decides what is and is not a crime and how punishment is to be administered. 

    Controlled Measures

    Physiognomy was eventually debunked, but its legacy of what Cedric Robinson calls racial thinking has lived on in Silicon Valley’s cultural imaginaries as part of the heavily capitalized project of turning the world into a datafied engineering project. If we’re looking for a real “root cause” of “criminality,” we should look not to biological factors but to politics, which organizes how a society decides what is and is not a crime and how punishment is to be administered. 

    Controlled Measures
  • Crystal Visions

    Apoorva Tadepalli
    2018-09-13

    TV has always been quick to exploit the image of the skyline for subliminal messaging: quick shots in between scenes establish setting, and some of these are shots so fast we don’t consciously register them. Media creates legibility and familiarity, too, through a kind of narrative augmentation that arguably renders, or attempts to render, physical familiarity almost irrelevant. This is how the city markets itself not just for its residents but for the world.

    Crystal Visions

    TV has always been quick to exploit the image of the skyline for subliminal messaging: quick shots in between scenes establish setting, and some of these are shots so fast we don’t consciously register them. Media creates legibility and familiarity, too, through a kind of narrative augmentation that arguably renders, or attempts to render, physical familiarity almost irrelevant. This is how the city markets itself not just for its residents but for the world.

    Crystal Visions
  • The Constant Consumer

    Drew Austin
    2018-09-10

    Formerly, being a customer was a role one assumed upon physically entering a store or ordering something from a company. Amazon promises to create a newer type of environment, a hybrid of the digital and the physical, that lets us permanently inhabit that role: the world as Everything Store, which we’re always inside.

    The Constant Consumer

    Formerly, being a customer was a role one assumed upon physically entering a store or ordering something from a company. Amazon promises to create a newer type of environment, a hybrid of the digital and the physical, that lets us permanently inhabit that role: the world as Everything Store, which we’re always inside.

    The Constant Consumer
  • New Feelings: Involuntary Lurking

    Linda Besner
    2018-09-04

    Stalking and creeping carry clear negative connotations. But social media lurking feels to me more like a state of readiness, or hovering. It has become a way to cope with an often false promise of reciprocity — that knowing each other better will make us kinder.

    Involuntary Lurking

    Stalking and creeping carry clear negative connotations. But social media lurking feels to me more like a state of readiness, or hovering. It has become a way to cope with an often false promise of reciprocity — that knowing each other better will make us kinder.

    Involuntary Lurking
  • Take the Wheel

    Nina Horstmann
    2018-08-30

    As much as the negative social and environmental effects that the automotive age has wrought have been naturalized as definitive parts of American culture and life, their detrimental effects remain inescapable. Rather than considering the impact of the current transportation system that prioritizes individual journeys, the driverless car extends and entrenches this model.

    Take the Wheel

    As much as the negative social and environmental effects that the automotive age has wrought have been naturalized as definitive parts of American culture and life, their detrimental effects remain inescapable. Rather than considering the impact of the current transportation system that prioritizes individual journeys, the driverless car extends and entrenches this model.

    Take the Wheel
  • Show Tunes

    David Turner
    2018-08-27

    With a surplus of music available, the “community” itself, or rather the sense of oneself as participant, is increasingly the point. The walls around genre and niche have crumbled, only to be replaced with credit card transactions. The hunt for a “Song of the Summer” is a long-standing tradition that has been lately commodified into an endless content creation race. This takes the streaming-first mode of music appreciation to the next level: fans aren’t rallying around an artist, or a cluster of artists, but an ephemeral zeitgeist, into which any artist could possibly fit.

    Show Tunes

    With a surplus of music available, the “community” itself, or rather the sense of oneself as participant, is increasingly the point. The walls around genre and niche have crumbled, only to be replaced with credit card transactions. The hunt for a “Song of the Summer” is a long-standing tradition that has been lately commodified into an endless content creation race. This takes the streaming-first mode of music appreciation to the next level: fans aren’t rallying around an artist, or a cluster of artists, but an ephemeral zeitgeist, into which any artist could possibly fit.

    Show Tunes
  • Sun Belt Simulacra

    David A. Banks
    2018-08-23

    Whereas history is constantly being rewritten, geography stubbornly reminds you of what you once thought to be true. Each ranch house totally disconnected from public transport is a reminder of the easy motoring myth it was founded on. The half-built gates on Douglas Road are a contestation of limitless progress.

    Sun Belt Simulacra

    Whereas history is constantly being rewritten, geography stubbornly reminds you of what you once thought to be true. Each ranch house totally disconnected from public transport is a reminder of the easy motoring myth it was founded on. The half-built gates on Douglas Road are a contestation of limitless progress.

    Sun Belt Simulacra
  • Odd Numbers

    Frank Pasquale
    2018-08-20

    The “algorithmic accountability” movement seeks to make the use of algorithms more fair and transparent, but it can also be used as a rationale for making them more pervasive. To be truly critical, algorithmic accountability must not rule out the possibility of rejecting certain uses altogether. 

    Odd Numbers

    The “algorithmic accountability” movement seeks to make the use of algorithms more fair and transparent, but it can also be used as a rationale for making them more pervasive. To be truly critical, algorithmic accountability must not rule out the possibility of rejecting certain uses altogether. 

    Odd Numbers
  • War of Words

    Adam Clair
    2018-08-13

    Discourse on platforms is refracted through a hidden lens, and the rules can only be inferred from what’s projected into one’s own feed, which will of course differ for every user. But that doesn’t mean that what a user sees on a social media platform is random. There are no accidents — only a platform’s priorities.

    War of Words

    Discourse on platforms is refracted through a hidden lens, and the rules can only be inferred from what’s projected into one’s own feed, which will of course differ for every user. But that doesn’t mean that what a user sees on a social media platform is random. There are no accidents — only a platform’s priorities.

    War of Words
  • Two-Faced

    Daniel Joseph
    2018-08-09

    Online platforms aren’t simply replacing stores by replicating their function. Instead they are making themselves gatekeepers capable of controlling and regulating commerce — just as Steam regulates the weapon skins market — playing a decisive role in which sellers continue to exist and which workers get to show up to work tomorrow. Culture is constrained and warped by this gatekeeping dynamic, which not only maintains the existing monoculture — in which a few popular titles dominate markets — but intensifies it.

    Two-Faced

    Online platforms aren’t simply replacing stores by replicating their function. Instead they are making themselves gatekeepers capable of controlling and regulating commerce — just as Steam regulates the weapon skins market — playing a decisive role in which sellers continue to exist and which workers get to show up to work tomorrow. Culture is constrained and warped by this gatekeeping dynamic, which not only maintains the existing monoculture — in which a few popular titles dominate markets — but intensifies it.

    Two-Faced
  • Potemkin AI

    Jathan Sadowski
    2018-08-06

    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. 

    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. 

    Potemkin AI
  • New Feelings: Crush Fatigue

    Alexandra Molotkow
    2018-08-01

    Living online can feel like living in a big city: you make an ephemeral acquaintance, or click a link into an entirely new set of priorities, suppositions, and patterns of logic, sometimes totally at odds with your own and yet just as convinced of itself. The issue is not just that context bleeds and collapses; it’s that every new window opens onto a different horizon of concern, each with wildly different stakes, but equally urgent.

    Crush Fatigue

    Living online can feel like living in a big city: you make an ephemeral acquaintance, or click a link into an entirely new set of priorities, suppositions, and patterns of logic, sometimes totally at odds with your own and yet just as convinced of itself. The issue is not just that context bleeds and collapses; it’s that every new window opens onto a different horizon of concern, each with wildly different stakes, but equally urgent.

    Crush Fatigue
  • Just Randomness?

    Michael Marder
    2018-07-30

    Historically, fairness has often been grounded in randomness, as with the drawing of lots. Some contemporary uses of algorithms try to be more fair by being more blind, as though this makes bias impossible. The trouble with this approach is that it makes us too willing to accept justice without justifications, and a view of society in which all relations are arbitrary.

    Just Randomness?

    Historically, fairness has often been grounded in randomness, as with the drawing of lots. Some contemporary uses of algorithms try to be more fair by being more blind, as though this makes bias impossible. The trouble with this approach is that it makes us too willing to accept justice without justifications, and a view of society in which all relations are arbitrary.

    Just Randomness?
  • Peripheral Visions

    Paul Roquet
    2018-07-19

    Ambient control will not only come from the top down, imposed by governments and large corporations on unsuspecting individuals. Much like the earlier turn to personal forms of ambient media internalized the principles of peripheral mood regulation, the “smart” automation of our shared perceptual background has a private corollary in virtual reality. While not often thought of in these terms, VR is the result of ambient intelligence put to personal use, reimagining context awareness as a way for individuals to carve out a virtual space of their own.

    Peripheral Visions

    Ambient control will not only come from the top down, imposed by governments and large corporations on unsuspecting individuals. Much like the earlier turn to personal forms of ambient media internalized the principles of peripheral mood regulation, the “smart” automation of our shared perceptual background has a private corollary in virtual reality. While not often thought of in these terms, VR is the result of ambient intelligence put to personal use, reimagining context awareness as a way for individuals to carve out a virtual space of their own.

    Peripheral Visions
  • Industry Standards

    Lux Alptraum
    2018-07-16

    The internet lowered the barriers to entry to sex work and, for some people, made it feel safer. It helped break down barriers between different kinds of sex work. Sex workers were also early adopters of social media platforms, learning how to use them commercially and for advocacy.

    Industry Standards

    The internet lowered the barriers to entry to sex work and, for some people, made it feel safer. It helped break down barriers between different kinds of sex work. Sex workers were also early adopters of social media platforms, learning how to use them commercially and for advocacy.

    Industry Standards
  • CONSUMING OTHERS

    Real Life
    2018-07-09

    We are not only watching the shows but they seem to watch us, play to our anticipated reactions, give value to our attention, as if watching made you a performer too. It is as if you are with them, so you can’t pretend to be them. Reality TV abolishes vicarious participation by destroying the distance that makes it possible; instead there is a mediated co-presence that dissolves aspiration into companionship, envy, contempt — anything but empathy.

    CONSUMING OTHERS

    We are not only watching the shows but they seem to watch us, play to our anticipated reactions, give value to our attention, as if watching made you a performer too. It is as if you are with them, so you can’t pretend to be them. Reality TV abolishes vicarious participation by destroying the distance that makes it possible; instead there is a mediated co-presence that dissolves aspiration into companionship, envy, contempt — anything but empathy.

    CONSUMING OTHERS
  • Human Sacrifice

    Alexandra Molotkow
    2018-07-09

    Two decades after the birth of reality stardom, “famous for being famous” is no longer pejorative. The talent required to put yourself in front of strangers is revered as much as any other performance skill; self-marketing is a talent just as impressive to a general audience, and more relevant, than the ability to sing, dance, or act. YouTube, launched two years before Anna Nicole Smith’s death, is in some ways a dedicated medium for what reality stardom became. It’s also a medium capable of forging entertainments out of feelings too granular, or too intimate, for media like broadcast television to reach. On YouTube, reality narratives are reduced to gesture and affect, the smallest units of affinity.

    Human Sacrifice

    Two decades after the birth of reality stardom, “famous for being famous” is no longer pejorative. The talent required to put yourself in front of strangers is revered as much as any other performance skill; self-marketing is a talent just as impressive to a general audience, and more relevant, than the ability to sing, dance, or act. YouTube, launched two years before Anna Nicole Smith’s death, is in some ways a dedicated medium for what reality stardom became. It’s also a medium capable of forging entertainments out of feelings too granular, or too intimate, for media like broadcast television to reach. On YouTube, reality narratives are reduced to gesture and affect, the smallest units of affinity.

    Human Sacrifice
  • Trash TV

    Michael Thomsen
    2018-07-09

    One of the reasons reality television always appears faker than fiction is its pretense, belied by its endless editing interventions, that recording things gives them significance. But the documentary fragment is never enough on its own; it’s increasingly dependent on other fragments for context and meaning. So reality TV has the uncanny effect of making individual documents, if not individuals themselves, seem disposable.

    Trash TV

    One of the reasons reality television always appears faker than fiction is its pretense, belied by its endless editing interventions, that recording things gives them significance. But the documentary fragment is never enough on its own; it’s increasingly dependent on other fragments for context and meaning. So reality TV has the uncanny effect of making individual documents, if not individuals themselves, seem disposable.

    Trash TV
  • EMPATHIC CONSUMPTION

    Real Life
    2018-07-02

    Virtual reality is often sold as an “empathy machine” — a narrative technology capable of literally placing its consumer in its subjects’ position, supercharging their fellow-feeling for social good: for boosting fundraising efforts and making viewers more likely to act on human rights concerns, or for reducing implicit bias. While this seems promising, it can also inscribe or re-inscribe a destructive power dynamic between the consumer and the person whose story is being consumed.

    EMPATHIC CONSUMPTION

    Virtual reality is often sold as an “empathy machine” — a narrative technology capable of literally placing its consumer in its subjects’ position, supercharging their fellow-feeling for social good: for boosting fundraising efforts and making viewers more likely to act on human rights concerns, or for reducing implicit bias. While this seems promising, it can also inscribe or re-inscribe a destructive power dynamic between the consumer and the person whose story is being consumed.

    EMPATHIC CONSUMPTION
  • Empathy Machines

    Olivia Rosane
    2018-07-02

    The lives filmed for VR experiences are isolated from any collective movement for justice and deployed instead in a simulation staged as a meeting between a powerful and a powerless individual in which all the petitioner’s words and actions are pre-selected by a third party. VR allows elites to believe that the best way to understand another’s perspective and act in their interest is not through talking to them directly but through consuming their experience at a distance, as framed by someone who seems more like a peer.

    Empathy Machines

    The lives filmed for VR experiences are isolated from any collective movement for justice and deployed instead in a simulation staged as a meeting between a powerful and a powerless individual in which all the petitioner’s words and actions are pre-selected by a third party. VR allows elites to believe that the best way to understand another’s perspective and act in their interest is not through talking to them directly but through consuming their experience at a distance, as framed by someone who seems more like a peer.

    Empathy Machines
  • Apathy Machines

    Rob Horning
    2018-07-02

    More than any moral lesson, then, the book teaches you how to better consume books, and makes that seem like morality itself. They taught consumers how to enjoy things in solitude, taking aloneness and preventing it from becoming loneliness. They were instrumental in normalizing isolation, making it seem possible, even desirable, that we should have a world where our things strive to keep us apart from each other and absorbed in our own purely personal pleasures, with nothing but abstracted genre conventions to connect us. People thus become morally legible only insofar as they conform to such genre expectations.

    Apathy Machines

    More than any moral lesson, then, the book teaches you how to better consume books, and makes that seem like morality itself. They taught consumers how to enjoy things in solitude, taking aloneness and preventing it from becoming loneliness. They were instrumental in normalizing isolation, making it seem possible, even desirable, that we should have a world where our things strive to keep us apart from each other and absorbed in our own purely personal pleasures, with nothing but abstracted genre conventions to connect us. People thus become morally legible only insofar as they conform to such genre expectations.

    Apathy Machines
  • SOUVENIRS

    Real Life
    2018-06-25

    Souvenirs tend to scale experiences down to evidence of our interesting personal lives. The memories they evoke beyond our daily experience may mask what our daily choices reap. That remains a story that is hard to tell: a social life of objects that exceed any one person’s biography or ability to narrate it.

    SOUVENIRS

    Souvenirs tend to scale experiences down to evidence of our interesting personal lives. The memories they evoke beyond our daily experience may mask what our daily choices reap. That remains a story that is hard to tell: a social life of objects that exceed any one person’s biography or ability to narrate it.

    SOUVENIRS
  • Big and Slow

    Elisa Gabbert
    2018-06-25

    Spectacular disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes, and flooding are newsworthy, but climate change is not. You can package the symptoms, but not the disease. How can we represent the threats that are too vast to see? What if civilization itself is one of them?

    Big and Slow

    Spectacular disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes, and flooding are newsworthy, but climate change is not. You can package the symptoms, but not the disease. How can we represent the threats that are too vast to see? What if civilization itself is one of them?

    Big and Slow
  • Nostalgia for Permanence

    Philippe Pamela Dungao
    2018-06-25

    These days, the logs we keep of ourselves are increasingly ephemeral, even as the personas they represent remain, lingering and ghostlike. Stories and other sharing functions allow us to broadcast moments of our lives for only brief intervals. This can feel liberating, like a severing of ties; but when the evidence we leave of ourselves disappears, how do we remember it?

    Nostalgia for Permanence

    These days, the logs we keep of ourselves are increasingly ephemeral, even as the personas they represent remain, lingering and ghostlike. Stories and other sharing functions allow us to broadcast moments of our lives for only brief intervals. This can feel liberating, like a severing of ties; but when the evidence we leave of ourselves disappears, how do we remember it?

    Nostalgia for Permanence
  • SACRED SITES

    Real Life
    2018-06-18

    Technologies of transcendence are easily misused. Those same techniques of suspension and feats of collective will can be used to give a moral character to a range of rules and exclusions. Governance is not abolished, but rather placed in parentheses indefinitely, and rule by force or fiat takes hold: Black sites, Guantánamo Bay, prisons and county jails, ICE detention centers all rely on a state of exception, the same suspension of the normal rules of society that sacred spaces also evoke. All places, sacred and profane, depend on technology to define their boundaries and functions. This week we present essays on these spaces, and how various technologies enable them, their sense of localness, specificity, exceptionality, and transcendence.

    SACRED SITES

    Technologies of transcendence are easily misused. Those same techniques of suspension and feats of collective will can be used to give a moral character to a range of rules and exclusions. Governance is not abolished, but rather placed in parentheses indefinitely, and rule by force or fiat takes hold: Black sites, Guantánamo Bay, prisons and county jails, ICE detention centers all rely on a state of exception, the same suspension of the normal rules of society that sacred spaces also evoke. All places, sacred and profane, depend on technology to define their boundaries and functions. This week we present essays on these spaces, and how various technologies enable them, their sense of localness, specificity, exceptionality, and transcendence.

    SACRED SITES
  • Seductive Doom

    Arabelle Sicardi
    2018-06-18

    “Spatial forms or distance,” wrote Maurice Merleau-Ponty in Phenomenology of Perception, “are not so much relations between different points in objective space as they are relations between these points and a central perspective — the body.” Water is such a bridge of relation, a medium that relates us to both the symbolic sacred and the state that demands our transformation. The body is just where we begin.

    Seductive Doom

    “Spatial forms or distance,” wrote Maurice Merleau-Ponty in Phenomenology of Perception, “are not so much relations between different points in objective space as they are relations between these points and a central perspective — the body.” Water is such a bridge of relation, a medium that relates us to both the symbolic sacred and the state that demands our transformation. The body is just where we begin.

    Seductive Doom
  • CURSED NETWORKS

    Real Life
    2018-06-04

    What makes a “cursed image” disturbing is arguably the fact that it depicts something that someone else has gotten used to. It builds a network out of those for whom it’s abnormal and unwanted. Images can be cursed, but so can legends and stories and people. Whatever materials people might use to affirm an identity and create a sense of coherence where there is only a need for affinity.

    CURSED NETWORKS

    What makes a “cursed image” disturbing is arguably the fact that it depicts something that someone else has gotten used to. It builds a network out of those for whom it’s abnormal and unwanted. Images can be cursed, but so can legends and stories and people. Whatever materials people might use to affirm an identity and create a sense of coherence where there is only a need for affinity.

    CURSED NETWORKS
  • Legend Tripping

    Stephanie Monohan
    2018-06-04

    Legend tripping has more radical potential value. The practice is a way in which many youth encounter alternative histories, cultural memory and the porous boundary between physical space and ideology. For a moment, legend tripping forces its practitioners into a confrontation with their local geography and history — a story can be mostly “fake” (or “fakelore”) but still reveal a ton about the anxieties or troubled history of a community, the subaltern stories and voices that hegemonic powers want forgotten.

    Legend Tripping

    Legend tripping has more radical potential value. The practice is a way in which many youth encounter alternative histories, cultural memory and the porous boundary between physical space and ideology. For a moment, legend tripping forces its practitioners into a confrontation with their local geography and history — a story can be mostly “fake” (or “fakelore”) but still reveal a ton about the anxieties or troubled history of a community, the subaltern stories and voices that hegemonic powers want forgotten.

    Legend Tripping
  • True Nonbelievers

    Rob Horning
    2018-06-04

    The “trust nothing, but believe whatever’s psychologically expedient” ideology of the rising flat-earth movement encourages the wholesale rejection of expertise and any consensus reality in favor of ad hoc conspiracies and blind intuition. It licenses dangerous delusions that culminate in violence, but it also models an emerging form of community that is not anchored in any shared local conditions.

    True Nonbelievers

    The “trust nothing, but believe whatever’s psychologically expedient” ideology of the rising flat-earth movement encourages the wholesale rejection of expertise and any consensus reality in favor of ad hoc conspiracies and blind intuition. It licenses dangerous delusions that culminate in violence, but it also models an emerging form of community that is not anchored in any shared local conditions.

    True Nonbelievers
  • The Accursed Share

    Rahel Aima
    2018-06-04

    A haunted object relies on a singularity of experience, an event or series of events, each with a fixed time and place. Yet here in “The Hands Resist Him,” up for bid on eBay, was a painting so haunted that any representation of it, whether png or a paper copy, had somatic effects in home viewers and home printers alike. Rather than diminishing it, each copy only seemed to amplify its power.

    The Accursed Share

    A haunted object relies on a singularity of experience, an event or series of events, each with a fixed time and place. Yet here in “The Hands Resist Him,” up for bid on eBay, was a painting so haunted that any representation of it, whether png or a paper copy, had somatic effects in home viewers and home printers alike. Rather than diminishing it, each copy only seemed to amplify its power.

    The Accursed Share
  • SELF-OPTIMIZATION

    Real Life
    2018-05-29

    Digital networks and resources can give the illusion of accessibility — if anyone can access nutritional guidelines, for instance, anyone should be able to follow them. This incorrect notion produces a moral residue: If anyone can “do it” — be healthy and attractive and alert and prepared to capitalize on any opportunity — than to not do it is a moral failing.

    SELF-OPTIMIZATION

    Digital networks and resources can give the illusion of accessibility — if anyone can access nutritional guidelines, for instance, anyone should be able to follow them. This incorrect notion produces a moral residue: If anyone can “do it” — be healthy and attractive and alert and prepared to capitalize on any opportunity — than to not do it is a moral failing.

    SELF-OPTIMIZATION
  • Straight Edge

    Rebecca O'Dwyer 
    2018-05-29

    Apps like I Am Sober, as well as Sober Time, Quit That, and Sobriety Counter, function similarly to the Fitbit. They turn sobriety, understood simply as the conscious denial or removal of something, into something game-like and compulsive. It becomes something that is worn, that takes material form as an object of data: something tangible and measurable, and always bifurcated by outside, technological interests. Sobriety becomes objective, which is also to mean it can always be better. As I constantly check my progress it becomes clear that I am competing against myself.

    Straight Edge

    Apps like I Am Sober, as well as Sober Time, Quit That, and Sobriety Counter, function similarly to the Fitbit. They turn sobriety, understood simply as the conscious denial or removal of something, into something game-like and compulsive. It becomes something that is worn, that takes material form as an object of data: something tangible and measurable, and always bifurcated by outside, technological interests. Sobriety becomes objective, which is also to mean it can always be better. As I constantly check my progress it becomes clear that I am competing against myself.

    Straight Edge
  • Out of Network

    Alex Beattie 
    2018-05-29

    Cries of “technology addiction” may seem to stem from a moral concern with users’ quality of life, but more often the problem is with how it interferes with their ability to work. Making the workplace more distraction-free may seem to make it “healthier,” but it merely re-Taylorizes it, decluttering the networked assembly line.

    Out of Network

    Cries of “technology addiction” may seem to stem from a moral concern with users’ quality of life, but more often the problem is with how it interferes with their ability to work. Making the workplace more distraction-free may seem to make it “healthier,” but it merely re-Taylorizes it, decluttering the networked assembly line.

    Out of Network
  • FAKES

    Real Life
    2018-05-21

    The concern with technological fakery and digital impersonation often involves this sort of subterfuge. Egregious forms of media manipulation — deepfakes, for instance — are held up for scrutiny, with questions of whether they are sufficiently convincing distracting from persistent underlying questions about the longstanding ruses of power.

    FAKES

    The concern with technological fakery and digital impersonation often involves this sort of subterfuge. Egregious forms of media manipulation — deepfakes, for instance — are held up for scrutiny, with questions of whether they are sufficiently convincing distracting from persistent underlying questions about the longstanding ruses of power.

    FAKES
  • Unreal News

    Drew Nelles
    2018-05-21

    For a long time, “fake news” almost exclusively referred to news parody of the kind pioneered by the Onion. But it has since been overtaken by a politics that refuses norms of seriousness and the idea of a consensus reality that could be parodied. To satirize current conditions, new forms will have to be developed to replace the mock news article.

    Unreal News

    For a long time, “fake news” almost exclusively referred to news parody of the kind pioneered by the Onion. But it has since been overtaken by a politics that refuses norms of seriousness and the idea of a consensus reality that could be parodied. To satirize current conditions, new forms will have to be developed to replace the mock news article.

    Unreal News
  • Negative Space

    Adam Clair
    2018-05-21

    The concern about the “end of reality” overlooks how tenuous representations of reality has always been. What is covered by journalists and how can be as manipulative as any deepfakery. As much as we may fantasize about media that can transcend context and impose its truth on everyone who sees it, the reality remains that all documents, real or contrived, are shaped by the frameworks in which they are received.

    Negative Space

    The concern about the “end of reality” overlooks how tenuous representations of reality has always been. What is covered by journalists and how can be as manipulative as any deepfakery. As much as we may fantasize about media that can transcend context and impose its truth on everyone who sees it, the reality remains that all documents, real or contrived, are shaped by the frameworks in which they are received.

    Negative Space
  • Body Doubles

    PJ Patella-Rey
    2018-05-21

    The discussion around deepfakes shows how intimate digital images of the body are too often treated as inert documentation of the physical form rather than as a deeply felt extension of the self — as if only information were being made vulnerable rather than an integral aspect of one’s person. Conventional privacy-based approaches to fighting deepfakes have proved insufficient to ensure the bodily integrity of everyone affected. 

    Body Doubles

    The discussion around deepfakes shows how intimate digital images of the body are too often treated as inert documentation of the physical form rather than as a deeply felt extension of the self — as if only information were being made vulnerable rather than an integral aspect of one’s person. Conventional privacy-based approaches to fighting deepfakes have proved insufficient to ensure the bodily integrity of everyone affected. 

    Body Doubles
  • DEBATE FETISH

    Real Life
    2018-05-14

    Logic is important and useful and insufficient, the same way that empathy is important and useful and insufficient. To engage with social conditions requires both and more. If debate logic only adheres in the abstract as an essence extracted from circumstances and rinsed of particulars, it functions mainly to distract attention from these circumstances and these particulars.

    DEBATE FETISH

    Logic is important and useful and insufficient, the same way that empathy is important and useful and insufficient. To engage with social conditions requires both and more. If debate logic only adheres in the abstract as an essence extracted from circumstances and rinsed of particulars, it functions mainly to distract attention from these circumstances and these particulars.

    DEBATE FETISH
  • Anxiety of Influence

    Rob Horning
    2018-05-14

    The assumption that everyone should be ready and willing to engage in articulate and rhetorically sophisticated discussions about their reasons for doing and thinking what they do and think manifests itself across culture, especially in the affordances of social media, which presume a kind of public-sphere model of conversation — if not a game-show like contest with a scoreboard — that few interactions actually aspire to.

    Anxiety of Influence

    The assumption that everyone should be ready and willing to engage in articulate and rhetorically sophisticated discussions about their reasons for doing and thinking what they do and think manifests itself across culture, especially in the affordances of social media, which presume a kind of public-sphere model of conversation — if not a game-show like contest with a scoreboard — that few interactions actually aspire to.

    Anxiety of Influence
  • Faulty Logic

    Linda Besner
    2018-05-14

    If debate doesn’t actually change minds, the rhetorical power of social media networks may work best as a way to insist on a broadening of our honor worlds. In the behavior of social media users posting under their real names, identity — contrary to logic-proponents’ assumptions — may be among the strongest persuasive tools.

    Faulty Logic

    If debate doesn’t actually change minds, the rhetorical power of social media networks may work best as a way to insist on a broadening of our honor worlds. In the behavior of social media users posting under their real names, identity — contrary to logic-proponents’ assumptions — may be among the strongest persuasive tools.

    Faulty Logic
  • BOT FEELINGS

    Rob Horning
    2018-05-07

    Trying to understand bot consciousness is not an idle exercise in speculative epistemology. Instead it serves as a proxy case for the sorts of inclusions and exclusions humans have continually made about the personhood and integrity of others. Understanding the point of view of a bot, explaining how it thinks in our own terms, is not just a way to try to defend ourselves from what it might do, but it also protects our broader habit of projecting our own ways of thinking as an ethical limit — that if something or someone doesn’t think like us, then it isn’t really thinking, or can’t really think.

    BOT FEELINGS

    Trying to understand bot consciousness is not an idle exercise in speculative epistemology. Instead it serves as a proxy case for the sorts of inclusions and exclusions humans have continually made about the personhood and integrity of others. Understanding the point of view of a bot, explaining how it thinks in our own terms, is not just a way to try to defend ourselves from what it might do, but it also protects our broader habit of projecting our own ways of thinking as an ethical limit — that if something or someone doesn’t think like us, then it isn’t really thinking, or can’t really think.

    BOT FEELINGS
  • Faking It

    Jacqueline Feldman
    2018-05-07

    There’s a furtive quality to the utterances of bots. They are, after all, planted. The robot Sophia engages in the kind of making nice that indicates, in humans, some fearsome repression. To Jimmy Kimmel she remarked, “I’m on my favorite show, the Today show.”

    Faking It

    There’s a furtive quality to the utterances of bots. They are, after all, planted. The robot Sophia engages in the kind of making nice that indicates, in humans, some fearsome repression. To Jimmy Kimmel she remarked, “I’m on my favorite show, the Today show.”

    Faking It
  • What It’s Like to Be a Bot

    Damien Patrick Williams
    2018-05-07

    We cannot know what it’s like to be a bot, for the same reason that we can’t know what it’s like to be a bat or what it’s like to be one another. But engaging these questions about nonhuman consciousness, knowledge, and what it means to be and to know helps us confront the often unconscious human tendency to believe that personhood is modeled after some perfect exemplar.

    What It’s Like to Be a Bot

    We cannot know what it’s like to be a bot, for the same reason that we can’t know what it’s like to be a bat or what it’s like to be one another. But engaging these questions about nonhuman consciousness, knowledge, and what it means to be and to know helps us confront the often unconscious human tendency to believe that personhood is modeled after some perfect exemplar.

    What It’s Like to Be a Bot
  • NEW GENRES

    Real Life
    2018-04-26

    The mass influx of new voices and the various platforms that inform and enable an avalanche of free, readily viewable video have accelerated the genre-making process, creating more than a handful of recognizable forms. This month, the Museum of the Moving Image’s exhibition The New Genres presents a survey of the most significant, influential, and representational of these videos, including the vlog, a direct-to-camera diary in dialogue with the audience, narrated video game playthroughs, unboxing, and ASMR — with a series of pieces brought to you by Real Life and many of our favorite writers. See you at the exhibition!

    NEW GENRES

    The mass influx of new voices and the various platforms that inform and enable an avalanche of free, readily viewable video have accelerated the genre-making process, creating more than a handful of recognizable forms. This month, the Museum of the Moving Image’s exhibition The New Genres presents a survey of the most significant, influential, and representational of these videos, including the vlog, a direct-to-camera diary in dialogue with the audience, narrated video game playthroughs, unboxing, and ASMR — with a series of pieces brought to you by Real Life and many of our favorite writers. See you at the exhibition!

    NEW GENRES
  • Red Pilled

    David A. Banks
    2018-04-26

    Alex Jones’s business model is seemingly unusual for a media company: Rather than set up a paywall or subscription service, Jones has been selling his own dietary supplements under the InfoWars Life brand since 2013. Fans are invited to consume InfoWars twice: first as media, and a second time as branded food products.

    Red Pilled

    Alex Jones’s business model is seemingly unusual for a media company: Rather than set up a paywall or subscription service, Jones has been selling his own dietary supplements under the InfoWars Life brand since 2013. Fans are invited to consume InfoWars twice: first as media, and a second time as branded food products.

    Red Pilled
  • Disaster Preparedness

    Linda Besner
    2018-04-26

    Sitting safely at my desk, my body believed I was in the sinking car with the cohost of The List — I gasped for air, realizing that I had been holding my breath. The disaster infotainment video genre walks a zigzag line, swerving between public service, spectacle, and nightmare visualization aid. It packages together the paranoid’s obsessive catastrophization with the star-pupil’s faith in the all-conquering power of doing as we’re told.

    Disaster Preparedness

    Sitting safely at my desk, my body believed I was in the sinking car with the cohost of The List — I gasped for air, realizing that I had been holding my breath. The disaster infotainment video genre walks a zigzag line, swerving between public service, spectacle, and nightmare visualization aid. It packages together the paranoid’s obsessive catastrophization with the star-pupil’s faith in the all-conquering power of doing as we’re told.

    Disaster Preparedness
  • Daily Affirmations

    Tony Tulathimutte
    2018-04-26

    Why do “Rockstar Affirmations” unsettle me? By replacing aspiration with willful delusion, it represents a full literalization of “the Secret,” the Oprah-sanctioned belief that merely visualizing something hard enough suffices to make it so. The channel description asserts that the key to manifesting is to “feel the feelings of already having your desire.” Of course, if you actually felt like you already had what you wanted, you’d no longer want it. Maybe the appeal here is that of focused daydreaming, or maybe conviction is its own reward, one of the basic virtues of a virtual world.

    Daily Affirmations

    Why do “Rockstar Affirmations” unsettle me? By replacing aspiration with willful delusion, it represents a full literalization of “the Secret,” the Oprah-sanctioned belief that merely visualizing something hard enough suffices to make it so. The channel description asserts that the key to manifesting is to “feel the feelings of already having your desire.” Of course, if you actually felt like you already had what you wanted, you’d no longer want it. Maybe the appeal here is that of focused daydreaming, or maybe conviction is its own reward, one of the basic virtues of a virtual world.

    Daily Affirmations
  • Infinite Loops

    Jane Hu
    2018-04-25

    The contemporary prevalence of the gif both reflects and obscures just how much it has been integrated into our own everyday aesthetic practices — incorporated into cellphone keyboards and Instagram stickers, gifs are always ready at hand. While video has since developed past its original formatting, the gif remains defined by its technological limits. Its ubiquity relies on a set of constraints: The gif lives because it doesn’t try to evolve.

    Infinite Loops

    The contemporary prevalence of the gif both reflects and obscures just how much it has been integrated into our own everyday aesthetic practices — incorporated into cellphone keyboards and Instagram stickers, gifs are always ready at hand. While video has since developed past its original formatting, the gif remains defined by its technological limits. Its ubiquity relies on a set of constraints: The gif lives because it doesn’t try to evolve.

    Infinite Loops
  • Games Without Frontiers

    Vicky Osterweil
    2018-04-25

    The evolution of video game culture has been shaped more by the sense of nostalgia, intimacy, and privacy games can evoke among players than by the more conspicuous desires for agency, vicarious violence, or an instrumentalist sense of control they might speak to for a lone user. The nostalgic intimacy remains, but it is most immediately accessible through the experience of watching someone else play video games.

    Games Without Frontiers

    The evolution of video game culture has been shaped more by the sense of nostalgia, intimacy, and privacy games can evoke among players than by the more conspicuous desires for agency, vicarious violence, or an instrumentalist sense of control they might speak to for a lone user. The nostalgic intimacy remains, but it is most immediately accessible through the experience of watching someone else play video games.

    Games Without Frontiers
  • The Wild Ones

    Michael Thomsen
    2018-04-25

    Local TV news used to fill time now and then with odd pet oddities, but with YouTube, the occasional distraction has become a willful routine of mild transgression. If a home is meant to set humans apart from nature, the presence of wild animals both violates this logic and extends it. Exotic animal videos are thus equal parts cute and contraband: Forbidden animalistic impulses are trapped in a suburban web of incipient domestication.

    The Wild Ones

    Local TV news used to fill time now and then with odd pet oddities, but with YouTube, the occasional distraction has become a willful routine of mild transgression. If a home is meant to set humans apart from nature, the presence of wild animals both violates this logic and extends it. Exotic animal videos are thus equal parts cute and contraband: Forbidden animalistic impulses are trapped in a suburban web of incipient domestication.

    The Wild Ones
  • Slow Train Coming

    Britney Gil
    2018-04-24

    I came across these sorts of videos while studying for my PhD examinations. For six weeks I spent 10 hours a day in my office reading and taking copious notes, accompanied by the sights and sounds of train rides through Scandinavia. These offered just the right amount of presence without excessive distraction. When my eyes tired from reading, I glanced up at my screen and watched scenic landscapes pass by.

    Slow Train Coming

    I came across these sorts of videos while studying for my PhD examinations. For six weeks I spent 10 hours a day in my office reading and taking copious notes, accompanied by the sights and sounds of train rides through Scandinavia. These offered just the right amount of presence without excessive distraction. When my eyes tired from reading, I glanced up at my screen and watched scenic landscapes pass by.

    Slow Train Coming
  • Scores Unsettled

    Shuja Haider
    2018-04-24

    “The ear goes more toward the within, the eye toward the outer,” French director Robert Bresson wrote in “Notes on Sound.” Thus the seductive power of musical accompaniment, and the Richard Spencer punch’s lack of it raised an irresistible question: If this was a movie scene, what song would fit it best?

    Scores Unsettled

    “The ear goes more toward the within, the eye toward the outer,” French director Robert Bresson wrote in “Notes on Sound.” Thus the seductive power of musical accompaniment, and the Richard Spencer punch’s lack of it raised an irresistible question: If this was a movie scene, what song would fit it best?

    Scores Unsettled
  • Altered States

    Devin Kenny
    2018-04-24

    As algorithms have become better at detecting copyrighted content, more elaborate YouTube countermeasures have been improvised: cutting a thing into small pieces, adding watermarks or silence at the beginning or end. The videos strain toward esotericism, new ways of working, the production of new culture with subversion built in.

    Altered States

    As algorithms have become better at detecting copyrighted content, more elaborate YouTube countermeasures have been improvised: cutting a thing into small pieces, adding watermarks or silence at the beginning or end. The videos strain toward esotericism, new ways of working, the production of new culture with subversion built in.

    Altered States
  • Open Heart

    Maya Binyam
    2018-04-23

    If WebMD provides the medical translation for patients’ symptoms — chest pain, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, nausea — YouTube is the theatre in which patients can watch those symptoms be repaired. For surgeons who provide elective procedures like breast augmentation, posting videos of successful surgeries is incentivized: Potential patients are more likely to hire a doctor whose work they feel they already know and trust. But for procedures whose function is to save lives, and which are therefore often performed without notice or choice, surgical videos function like a command.

    Open Heart

    If WebMD provides the medical translation for patients’ symptoms — chest pain, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, nausea — YouTube is the theatre in which patients can watch those symptoms be repaired. For surgeons who provide elective procedures like breast augmentation, posting videos of successful surgeries is incentivized: Potential patients are more likely to hire a doctor whose work they feel they already know and trust. But for procedures whose function is to save lives, and which are therefore often performed without notice or choice, surgical videos function like a command.

    Open Heart
  • Challenge Eating

    merritt k
    2018-04-23

    Challenge eating is at odds with the predominant understandings of eating: food as fuel, and as an experience meant to be savored. In troubling these definitions, it fascinates — much like unconventional pornography — even while it disgusts. 

    Challenge Eating

    Challenge eating is at odds with the predominant understandings of eating: food as fuel, and as an experience meant to be savored. In troubling these definitions, it fascinates — much like unconventional pornography — even while it disgusts. 

    Challenge Eating
  • Uncomfortable ASMR

    Stephanie Monohan
    2018-04-23

    Can something be “self-care” if it is designed to make us feel anxious? Negative ASMR raises important questions about the politics of anxiety and of our sensitivity to our social world. On one hand, it allows people to engage with fear and anxiety in an indulgent way that relieves tension; on the other hand, like any effective horror film, it increases vigilance.

    Uncomfortable ASMR

    Can something be “self-care” if it is designed to make us feel anxious? Negative ASMR raises important questions about the politics of anxiety and of our sensitivity to our social world. On one hand, it allows people to engage with fear and anxiety in an indulgent way that relieves tension; on the other hand, like any effective horror film, it increases vigilance.

    Uncomfortable ASMR
  • INFLUENCERS

    Real Life
    2018-04-16

    It’s not an inborn advantage so much as the powers of transformation that make an influencer. We like to see feats of transcendence, evidence of the gap between person and presentation, some residue of the labor required to vault from one to the other. Just as important, we watch for feats of competence: Influencers are self-help gurus as much as they are entertainers, showing off a skill set and, crucially, a clarified sensibility amid an onslaught of stimuli and possibilities of selfhood.

    INFLUENCERS

    It’s not an inborn advantage so much as the powers of transformation that make an influencer. We like to see feats of transcendence, evidence of the gap between person and presentation, some residue of the labor required to vault from one to the other. Just as important, we watch for feats of competence: Influencers are self-help gurus as much as they are entertainers, showing off a skill set and, crucially, a clarified sensibility amid an onslaught of stimuli and possibilities of selfhood.

    INFLUENCERS
  • Layers of Identity

    Crystal Abidin
    2018-04-16

    In thinking about digital identity, we need go beyond dichotomies that posit the online is “fake” and the offline more “authentic,” given that all self-presentation in digital and physical spaces is curated and controlled. Influencers construct different kinds of marketable authenticity by performing amateurism and managing followers’ access to a series of backstages. 

    Layers of Identity

    In thinking about digital identity, we need go beyond dichotomies that posit the online is “fake” and the offline more “authentic,” given that all self-presentation in digital and physical spaces is curated and controlled. Influencers construct different kinds of marketable authenticity by performing amateurism and managing followers’ access to a series of backstages. 

    Layers of Identity
  • Seeing Is Believing

    Adrienne Matei
    2018-04-16

    “Fake followers” on Instagram are not a problem for users but for advertisers. Using something faked, edited, misleading, or out of context to attract attention is the point of being on the platform, which actively blurs aspirational fantasy with its achievement. Buying followers may ostensibly break the site’s rules, but it follows Instagram’s implicit logic to a tee.  

    Seeing Is Believing

    “Fake followers” on Instagram are not a problem for users but for advertisers. Using something faked, edited, misleading, or out of context to attract attention is the point of being on the platform, which actively blurs aspirational fantasy with its achievement. Buying followers may ostensibly break the site’s rules, but it follows Instagram’s implicit logic to a tee.  

    Seeing Is Believing
  • The Genre of You

    Isabel Munson
    2018-04-16

    “Influence” may seem like a self-explanatory term, but on Instagram, with its intricate economy of influencers melding the fashion industry and reflecting the aspirational fantasies of individual users, it takes on a different significance. Rather than being strictly a product of other styles, “influence” itself is an aesthetic that can be generated and consumed.

    The Genre of You

    “Influence” may seem like a self-explanatory term, but on Instagram, with its intricate economy of influencers melding the fashion industry and reflecting the aspirational fantasies of individual users, it takes on a different significance. Rather than being strictly a product of other styles, “influence” itself is an aesthetic that can be generated and consumed.

    The Genre of You
  • God View

    Real Life
    2018-04-09

    The idea that anyone can, in the pursuit of knowledge, transcend their social location — who you are, where you are from, what your particular interests, fears, vulnerabilities, and so on are — has a long history; it also has a long history of being debunked.

    God View

    The idea that anyone can, in the pursuit of knowledge, transcend their social location — who you are, where you are from, what your particular interests, fears, vulnerabilities, and so on are — has a long history; it also has a long history of being debunked.

    God View
  • Nerding Out

    David A. Banks
    2018-04-09

    As long as reactionary nerds establish the parameters of debate and liberal wonks elect merely to debunk them, we will be stuck in a cycle of failing institutions and populist authoritarianism. For all their command of information and adept application of technical skill, nerds categorically refuse to be moral agents in a world desperately lacking them. This makes them a danger to us all.

    Nerding Out

    As long as reactionary nerds establish the parameters of debate and liberal wonks elect merely to debunk them, we will be stuck in a cycle of failing institutions and populist authoritarianism. For all their command of information and adept application of technical skill, nerds categorically refuse to be moral agents in a world desperately lacking them. This makes them a danger to us all.

    Nerding Out
  • Extremely Online Socialism

    Real Life
    2018-04-09

    It may not have the ring of fully automated luxury communism, but socialism seems primed for rehabilitation. On this panel, activists, Occupy participants, political analysts, and journalists will assess the status of the left online and consider a variety of political and communication strategies for moving forward.

    Extremely Online Socialism

    It may not have the ring of fully automated luxury communism, but socialism seems primed for rehabilitation. On this panel, activists, Occupy participants, political analysts, and journalists will assess the status of the left online and consider a variety of political and communication strategies for moving forward.

    Extremely Online Socialism
  • The Next Generation

    Real Life
    2018-04-09

    When young people receive old ideas, they find the inconsistencies. Maybe the most meaningful source of the generation gap we’re seeing now isn’t digitality itself, but the incredible dissonance between received wisdom and what is obviously the case — institutional knowledge has never seemed so completely at odds with the world as it is.

    The Next Generation

    When young people receive old ideas, they find the inconsistencies. Maybe the most meaningful source of the generation gap we’re seeing now isn’t digitality itself, but the incredible dissonance between received wisdom and what is obviously the case — institutional knowledge has never seemed so completely at odds with the world as it is.

    The Next Generation
  • ADULTHOOD

    Real Life
    2018-04-02

    “Adulting” is an irritating cliché, but it indicates that certain definitions of adulthood don’t work anymore, that the characteristics of maturity have been diffused, in some cases made deliberately or systematically inaccessible. Contemporary life makes tremendous emotional, psychological, and political demands that many don’t feel capable of meeting. Adulthood is at once aspirational and abominable.

    ADULTHOOD

    “Adulting” is an irritating cliché, but it indicates that certain definitions of adulthood don’t work anymore, that the characteristics of maturity have been diffused, in some cases made deliberately or systematically inaccessible. Contemporary life makes tremendous emotional, psychological, and political demands that many don’t feel capable of meeting. Adulthood is at once aspirational and abominable.

    ADULTHOOD
  • Children’s Crusade

    Rachel Giese
    2018-04-02

    The glorification of the youth activist fortifies the idea that being politically engaged and passionate is a young person’s game. As such, teenagers represent an effort-free do-over for adults. Adults enjoy a vicarious thrill in our ability to recognize their heroism, while absolving ourselves of the responsibility to participate.

    Children’s Crusade

    The glorification of the youth activist fortifies the idea that being politically engaged and passionate is a young person’s game. As such, teenagers represent an effort-free do-over for adults. Adults enjoy a vicarious thrill in our ability to recognize their heroism, while absolving ourselves of the responsibility to participate.

    Children’s Crusade
  • Move On Up

    Tiana Reid
    2018-04-02

    The American pornographic, as a genre and a way of looking, is at the core of Blackness’s violent origins: It is its history, its present, its frontier. Hovering at the edge of the possible and the impossible, the pornographic is a breaking point worth breaking in. If, as Saidiya Hartman maintains, “slavery is the ghost in the machine of kinship,” it is also true that the Black family — its making, unmaking, and impossibility — is the ghost in the machine of adulthood.

    Move On Up

    The American pornographic, as a genre and a way of looking, is at the core of Blackness’s violent origins: It is its history, its present, its frontier. Hovering at the edge of the possible and the impossible, the pornographic is a breaking point worth breaking in. If, as Saidiya Hartman maintains, “slavery is the ghost in the machine of kinship,” it is also true that the Black family — its making, unmaking, and impossibility — is the ghost in the machine of adulthood.

    Move On Up
  • Acting My Age

    Hanif Abdurraqib
    2018-04-02

    Those of us aging now have the filter of the internet to push our aging through. We can build narratives around our aging. Jay Z, for example, created a whole album around his flawed maturity. Some of us make albums of music, and some of us archive our balance of coolness with aging in other ways. In either case, it is a careful curation. I write the narrative for myself, and the narrative becomes what I tell it to be.

    Acting My Age

    Those of us aging now have the filter of the internet to push our aging through. We can build narratives around our aging. Jay Z, for example, created a whole album around his flawed maturity. Some of us make albums of music, and some of us archive our balance of coolness with aging in other ways. In either case, it is a careful curation. I write the narrative for myself, and the narrative becomes what I tell it to be.

    Acting My Age
  • PICTURES OF FOOD

    Real Life
    2018-03-26

    The camera, like a new utensil, establishes a pre-meal tradition: Documentation may function as a form of certification, a ritual that celebrates the food, offers a thought for those who aren’t present, and focuses attention on the tableau, deepening the anticipated pleasure. It can function as a complement to conventional modes of food preparation, a way of carrying it symbolically from raw to cooked.

    PICTURES OF FOOD

    The camera, like a new utensil, establishes a pre-meal tradition: Documentation may function as a form of certification, a ritual that celebrates the food, offers a thought for those who aren’t present, and focuses attention on the tableau, deepening the anticipated pleasure. It can function as a complement to conventional modes of food preparation, a way of carrying it symbolically from raw to cooked.

    PICTURES OF FOOD
  • Taste Made

    Linda Besner
    2018-03-26

    If the internet were a country, its cuisine would speak to a turbulent civic life. But more than this, all food grown in the terroir is by definition unpalatable. The internet is like a metaphysical takeout window — there is no for-here option, everything must be passed through the square opening before it can be consumed in the traditional sense. Yet the way food is consumed online is meaningful precisely because it’s all metaphor.

    Taste Made

    If the internet were a country, its cuisine would speak to a turbulent civic life. But more than this, all food grown in the terroir is by definition unpalatable. The internet is like a metaphysical takeout window — there is no for-here option, everything must be passed through the square opening before it can be consumed in the traditional sense. Yet the way food is consumed online is meaningful precisely because it’s all metaphor.

    Taste Made
  • Home Cooking

    Mila Samdub
    2018-03-26

    Food-prep videos do more than provide instruction; they encode an ideology of what “authentic” life is supposed to look like. They are part of a history of filming factory work as a means of negotiating the relation between production and consumption.

    Home Cooking

    Food-prep videos do more than provide instruction; they encode an ideology of what “authentic” life is supposed to look like. They are part of a history of filming factory work as a means of negotiating the relation between production and consumption.

    Home Cooking
  • Eat the Document

    Anya Metzer
    2018-03-26

    Food media collapses elaborate, perfect food into the lifestyle it is made to seem to promise. This means it turns our unfulfillable desires into a normative protocol for vigilance over one’s appetites. We can consume as many images of food as we want, but with them we ingest rules for self-management.

    Eat the Document

    Food media collapses elaborate, perfect food into the lifestyle it is made to seem to promise. This means it turns our unfulfillable desires into a normative protocol for vigilance over one’s appetites. We can consume as many images of food as we want, but with them we ingest rules for self-management.

    Eat the Document
  • CONTENT

    Alexandra Molotkow
    2018-03-19

    Content is not just material as in “everything is material,” the old writerly cliché. Material suggests rawness, something that needs to be processed. “Content” is material accelerated, totalized without necessarily being analyzed or synthesized. It doesn’t need to consist of life’s most painful or awkward moments repurposed; it instead presents an instrumental approach to life and social interaction for its own sake. At worst, this degrades experience and relationships, and the reality of other people, to their potential inputs — to set design.

    CONTENT

    Content is not just material as in “everything is material,” the old writerly cliché. Material suggests rawness, something that needs to be processed. “Content” is material accelerated, totalized without necessarily being analyzed or synthesized. It doesn’t need to consist of life’s most painful or awkward moments repurposed; it instead presents an instrumental approach to life and social interaction for its own sake. At worst, this degrades experience and relationships, and the reality of other people, to their potential inputs — to set design.

    CONTENT
  • You Don’t Say

    Navneet Alang
    2018-03-19

    We are grappling with what it means to utter things as authors, as potentially always stand-ins for some much broader cultural debate. And with that we are stuck in the fundamental paradox of being a subject: that to other subjects, we are at best only ever an object, a thing to be placed in the appropriate context despite whatever objections we may exclaim.

    You Don’t Say

    We are grappling with what it means to utter things as authors, as potentially always stand-ins for some much broader cultural debate. And with that we are stuck in the fundamental paradox of being a subject: that to other subjects, we are at best only ever an object, a thing to be placed in the appropriate context despite whatever objections we may exclaim.

    You Don’t Say
  • Cost of Simplicity

    Tatum Dooley
    2018-03-19

    Minimalism, or pseudo-minimalism, turns out to be a handy undercover vehicle for consumer obsession: aesthetically pleasurable, and suggestive of high-minded austerity, it obscures its own extravagance. It signals virtue while suggesting that beauty and the good are one and the same.

    Cost of Simplicity

    Minimalism, or pseudo-minimalism, turns out to be a handy undercover vehicle for consumer obsession: aesthetically pleasurable, and suggestive of high-minded austerity, it obscures its own extravagance. It signals virtue while suggesting that beauty and the good are one and the same.

    Cost of Simplicity
  • OUTER SPACE

    Real Life
    2018-03-12

    Elon Musk, who aspires to found a Martian colony, declared that candidates must be prepared to die, but that “it would be an incredible adventure. I think it would be the most inspiring thing that I can possibly imagine.” It is sad to imagine an imagination so limited. It is as if Musk believes our planet is so devoid of the possibility of good, that all the opportunities for improving the lot of beings on Earth are so boring or so disappointing that it is more inspiring to hold a death lottery and launch his similarly nihilistic counterparts into the void.

    OUTER SPACE

    Elon Musk, who aspires to found a Martian colony, declared that candidates must be prepared to die, but that “it would be an incredible adventure. I think it would be the most inspiring thing that I can possibly imagine.” It is sad to imagine an imagination so limited. It is as if Musk believes our planet is so devoid of the possibility of good, that all the opportunities for improving the lot of beings on Earth are so boring or so disappointing that it is more inspiring to hold a death lottery and launch his similarly nihilistic counterparts into the void.

    OUTER SPACE
  • Event Horizon

    Lou Cornum
    2018-03-12

    When a world is new, it creates alongside a space held for the older worlds. This is the drama between what can be brought from before and what will be made anew. It is why Aeneas carried his dying father Anchises on his shoulders out of Troy on his way to found Rome. The traveler always brings baggage. Jeff Bezos would like to be the one who carries that baggage to space.

    Event Horizon

    When a world is new, it creates alongside a space held for the older worlds. This is the drama between what can be brought from before and what will be made anew. It is why Aeneas carried his dying father Anchises on his shoulders out of Troy on his way to found Rome. The traveler always brings baggage. Jeff Bezos would like to be the one who carries that baggage to space.

    Event Horizon
  • Wheels in the Sky

    Christopher Schaberg
    2018-03-12

    Musk has become a trailblazer in transforming outer space not into habitable space but into ad space, ready to be populated with name brands. Beginning with his own cast-off convertible, Musk has made space into junk space. Launching his sports car into space is less a celebration of car culture than a confirmation of cars as an emblem of selfishness rather than progress. Commercial space flight appears not as the future of humankind but the future of egotism.

    Wheels in the Sky

    Musk has become a trailblazer in transforming outer space not into habitable space but into ad space, ready to be populated with name brands. Beginning with his own cast-off convertible, Musk has made space into junk space. Launching his sports car into space is less a celebration of car culture than a confirmation of cars as an emblem of selfishness rather than progress. Commercial space flight appears not as the future of humankind but the future of egotism.

    Wheels in the Sky
  • PRIVATIZATION

    Real Life
    2018-03-05

    Technology is an ancient category that expresses itself in the ways humans find to do things. It is becoming more and more remote from “tech,” which in the popular imagination now stands for something more like magic, never to be really “unboxed,” rather than the mundane means by which we make the world function. That purported magic is invoked implicitly or explicitly to authorize all kinds of corporate takeover. The physical devices and algorithms mining data out of our privacy keep more to themselves than ever.

    PRIVATIZATION

    Technology is an ancient category that expresses itself in the ways humans find to do things. It is becoming more and more remote from “tech,” which in the popular imagination now stands for something more like magic, never to be really “unboxed,” rather than the mundane means by which we make the world function. That purported magic is invoked implicitly or explicitly to authorize all kinds of corporate takeover. The physical devices and algorithms mining data out of our privacy keep more to themselves than ever.

    PRIVATIZATION
  • Uber Alles

    David A. Banks
    2018-03-05

    Obtaining a car was once necessary to gain access to the spoils of America’s postwar wealth. For everyone else there was the bus, whose mainstream introduction as a public utility coincided with cities’ fiscal insolvency and thus became inextricably linked with poverty and government mismanagement. This is the “image problem” that Uber and Lyft are now trying to navigate when they brand their own bus-like services.

    Uber Alles

    Obtaining a car was once necessary to gain access to the spoils of America’s postwar wealth. For everyone else there was the bus, whose mainstream introduction as a public utility coincided with cities’ fiscal insolvency and thus became inextricably linked with poverty and government mismanagement. This is the “image problem” that Uber and Lyft are now trying to navigate when they brand their own bus-like services.

    Uber Alles
  • Care Package

    Natasha Young
    2018-03-05

    Changing how we care for our sick, elderly, and disabled would be liberating for undercompensated laborers and uncompensated family members alike – the problem is that the thought of being tended to by machines just too painful. As strange as it is to ask, how do we reconcile the human need for care with the human need for other humans?

    Care Package

    Changing how we care for our sick, elderly, and disabled would be liberating for undercompensated laborers and uncompensated family members alike – the problem is that the thought of being tended to by machines just too painful. As strange as it is to ask, how do we reconcile the human need for care with the human need for other humans?

    Care Package
  • AURA

    Real Life
    2018-02-26

    Amid online platforms, where the spread of content and sentiment seem to correspond but often in opaque, oracular ways, who can say where auras begin and end? But it may be useful to try to imagine their amorphous existence without trying to map them, where what is “special” is not what is unique or specifically marked as rare but what is being experienced together. This week we consider how the idea of aura plays out now through the new means of self-mediation and limitless distribution.

    AURA

    Amid online platforms, where the spread of content and sentiment seem to correspond but often in opaque, oracular ways, who can say where auras begin and end? But it may be useful to try to imagine their amorphous existence without trying to map them, where what is “special” is not what is unique or specifically marked as rare but what is being experienced together. This week we consider how the idea of aura plays out now through the new means of self-mediation and limitless distribution.

    AURA
  • Good Boys

    Rahel Aima
    2018-02-26

    Viral videos of animals capture the impossible and the impossibly rare. But the new techniques also encourage a kind of emotional projection. Infinite looping gifs, Instagram stories, and features like Boomerang work as a kind of synecdochal butchery, reducing an animal to an isolated constituent part or motion: That sudden wobbliness and narcoleptic bellyflop that reminds you you’re so very tired too.

    Good Boys

    Viral videos of animals capture the impossible and the impossibly rare. But the new techniques also encourage a kind of emotional projection. Infinite looping gifs, Instagram stories, and features like Boomerang work as a kind of synecdochal butchery, reducing an animal to an isolated constituent part or motion: That sudden wobbliness and narcoleptic bellyflop that reminds you you’re so very tired too.

    Good Boys
  • Unlimited Editions

    Rob Arcand
    2018-02-26

    If art has any liberating potential beyond serving as a tax-dodging investment vehicle, its place along a blockchain seems only to amplify the art world’s existing inequalities, ensuring a select few well-connected artists see unimaginable profits while others remain walled off from the industry. But can the technology be harnessed to re-engage with conceptual ideas about scarcity, valuation, and ownership? Or is digital provenance fated to look exactly like its material counterpart, every bit as fickle and fast-paced as the world that internet art once sought to escape?

    Unlimited Editions

    If art has any liberating potential beyond serving as a tax-dodging investment vehicle, its place along a blockchain seems only to amplify the art world’s existing inequalities, ensuring a select few well-connected artists see unimaginable profits while others remain walled off from the industry. But can the technology be harnessed to re-engage with conceptual ideas about scarcity, valuation, and ownership? Or is digital provenance fated to look exactly like its material counterpart, every bit as fickle and fast-paced as the world that internet art once sought to escape?

    Unlimited Editions
  • To the Point

    Apoorva Tadepalli
    2018-02-26

    I often write in my journal as though I am writing for an audience. Imaging those readers seems to affirm that the stories I tell in my journal actually matter, actually mean something. This imagining goes beyond the words I choose; I use my favorite fountain pen, paper that smells nice, an attractive notebook. I am trying to mimic images I’ve seen, both online and in real life, of calmness: beautiful desks and cups of steaming tea. Such images momentarily ease an anxiety I have about writing, or productivity, or living a meaningful life. Self-care is bound up with images of serenity that can prefigure it.

    To the Point

    I often write in my journal as though I am writing for an audience. Imaging those readers seems to affirm that the stories I tell in my journal actually matter, actually mean something. This imagining goes beyond the words I choose; I use my favorite fountain pen, paper that smells nice, an attractive notebook. I am trying to mimic images I’ve seen, both online and in real life, of calmness: beautiful desks and cups of steaming tea. Such images momentarily ease an anxiety I have about writing, or productivity, or living a meaningful life. Self-care is bound up with images of serenity that can prefigure it.

    To the Point
  • POSITIVITY

    Real Life
    2018-02-20

    Positivity is not necessarily synonymous with self-care sentiments like “blocking out the fakes” and “allowing only good energy in,” or with family values, or with flat nondynamic righteousness, or with any capitulation to capitalism. It may also signal a push for action that relieves a shared burden. It is rooted in the present moment, not a counterpoint to our bleak so-called life but continuous with everything bleak about it.

    POSITIVITY

    Positivity is not necessarily synonymous with self-care sentiments like “blocking out the fakes” and “allowing only good energy in,” or with family values, or with flat nondynamic righteousness, or with any capitulation to capitalism. It may also signal a push for action that relieves a shared burden. It is rooted in the present moment, not a counterpoint to our bleak so-called life but continuous with everything bleak about it.

    POSITIVITY
  • Anthem of the Sun

    Olivia Rosane
    2018-02-20

    A more empowered or positive relationship to technology can’t happen through sheer innovation or different consumer choices within the existing structure. Instead, the task is to craft new tools and new structures of interaction at the same time, realizing that they were always already intertwined.

    Anthem of the Sun

    A more empowered or positive relationship to technology can’t happen through sheer innovation or different consumer choices within the existing structure. Instead, the task is to craft new tools and new structures of interaction at the same time, realizing that they were always already intertwined.

    Anthem of the Sun
  • Momentary Connections

    Hanif Abdurraqib
    2018-02-20

    There are hundreds of videos on the internet like this. Animals, young and old, playing in snow for the first time, or perhaps for the 10th time, but a time that might as well be the first all over again. The internet is still good for this, too.

    Momentary Connections

    There are hundreds of videos on the internet like this. Animals, young and old, playing in snow for the first time, or perhaps for the 10th time, but a time that might as well be the first all over again. The internet is still good for this, too.

    Momentary Connections
  • Playing Favorites

    Sasha Geffen
    2018-02-20

    What would it look like for a game to simulate not just the accumulation of approval points on social media, but sociality as a broader whole? What, for that matter, would social media look like were it not designed to reward the massive accumulation of approval points above all else? I am imagining a connection that does not look like money, one with space for variations in tone and affect, one whose goal is not necessarily “more.”

    Playing Favorites

    What would it look like for a game to simulate not just the accumulation of approval points on social media, but sociality as a broader whole? What, for that matter, would social media look like were it not designed to reward the massive accumulation of approval points above all else? I am imagining a connection that does not look like money, one with space for variations in tone and affect, one whose goal is not necessarily “more.”

    Playing Favorites
  • TEAMS

    Real Life
    2018-02-12

    This sentimentality about teamwork should not distract us from the fundamental organizing principle of teams: winning. Forming a team implies choosing an enemy. Beating that enemy redeems the personal sacrifices. A team is a collective subject that corresponds to capitalist organization, pre-empting the kinds of collectivity that might go against its grain. Social media, often discussed as means of self-branding, also allow for, if not encourage, the formation of teams, positioned to seize upon the way being online can gamify everyday life.

    TEAMS

    This sentimentality about teamwork should not distract us from the fundamental organizing principle of teams: winning. Forming a team implies choosing an enemy. Beating that enemy redeems the personal sacrifices. A team is a collective subject that corresponds to capitalist organization, pre-empting the kinds of collectivity that might go against its grain. Social media, often discussed as means of self-branding, also allow for, if not encourage, the formation of teams, positioned to seize upon the way being online can gamify everyday life.

    TEAMS
  • Like and Subscribe

    Vicky Osterweil
    2018-02-12

    New media forms have intensified the cult of celebrity’s pull in both those seemingly opposed directions at once. Stars can participate more openly and directly in their publicity, making a seamless blur of their life and their image, while deepening their aura with unfathomable follower counts and engagement metrics. Their relation to fans becomes at once more intimate and more mediated.

    Like and Subscribe

    New media forms have intensified the cult of celebrity’s pull in both those seemingly opposed directions at once. Stars can participate more openly and directly in their publicity, making a seamless blur of their life and their image, while deepening their aura with unfathomable follower counts and engagement metrics. Their relation to fans becomes at once more intimate and more mediated.

    Like and Subscribe
  • Clone Wars

    Robert Minto
    2018-02-12

    The same technology that had helped to call the protest into being made visible, by recording it, what it means to be swallowed by the crowd. At the protest, my feed had proved to me that I was both a participant and an observer, that my personality had not quite dissolved in the moment and the mass but remained outside it. Now I saw my “feed self” caught up in an even bigger crowd. Paradoxically, I had become the spectator to a thing I had made to reflect my autonomy as it became integrated into a different kind of affective machine.

    Clone Wars

    The same technology that had helped to call the protest into being made visible, by recording it, what it means to be swallowed by the crowd. At the protest, my feed had proved to me that I was both a participant and an observer, that my personality had not quite dissolved in the moment and the mass but remained outside it. Now I saw my “feed self” caught up in an even bigger crowd. Paradoxically, I had become the spectator to a thing I had made to reflect my autonomy as it became integrated into a different kind of affective machine.

    Clone Wars
  • Enemy Bodies

    Tom Thor Buchanan
    2018-02-12

    In fitness “boot camps,” our body, seemingly a self-evident border between ourselves and the world, becomes instead a threshold that exercise, the advice of trainers, fitness discourse in general, and the organization of the gym itself, can take us beyond. We pass through that boundary, and our body dissolves into systems of classification, measurement, and competition. The body is a site of opportunity, but it is also an enemy.

    Enemy Bodies

    In fitness “boot camps,” our body, seemingly a self-evident border between ourselves and the world, becomes instead a threshold that exercise, the advice of trainers, fitness discourse in general, and the organization of the gym itself, can take us beyond. We pass through that boundary, and our body dissolves into systems of classification, measurement, and competition. The body is a site of opportunity, but it is also an enemy.

    Enemy Bodies
  • OBJECTIVITY

    Real Life
    2018-02-05

    Bias is not a problem that should be solved by resolving perspectives into one master “god view.” Eliminating “bias” means invalidating points of view, nullifying entire lives of lived experience. Rather than try to eliminate “bias” in the name of expediency, rather than homogenize experience into a uniform consistency, we must recognize that just as digitalization yields tractable representations of big data, it entails even greater losses if we insist on seeing society through only those lenses.

    OBJECTIVITY

    Bias is not a problem that should be solved by resolving perspectives into one master “god view.” Eliminating “bias” means invalidating points of view, nullifying entire lives of lived experience. Rather than try to eliminate “bias” in the name of expediency, rather than homogenize experience into a uniform consistency, we must recognize that just as digitalization yields tractable representations of big data, it entails even greater losses if we insist on seeing society through only those lenses.

    OBJECTIVITY
  • Helping Hand

    Linda Besner
    2018-02-05

    When large organizations delude themselves into thinking that they are truly neutral actors, they put themselves in danger of hurting the people they are ostensibly helping and directing attention away from others in need. And when tech companies present themselves as neutral platforms for expression and connection, they disguise the extent to which they manipulate our sensibilities.

    Helping Hand

    When large organizations delude themselves into thinking that they are truly neutral actors, they put themselves in danger of hurting the people they are ostensibly helping and directing attention away from others in need. And when tech companies present themselves as neutral platforms for expression and connection, they disguise the extent to which they manipulate our sensibilities.

    Helping Hand
  • Model Citizens

    Mila Samdub
    2018-02-05

    Models in SimCity are not only describing a reality in the game; they are also projecting a reality in the world, and bringing it into being. At stake is not whether SimCity’s model “reads” as representationally accurate. The more pernicious issue is that players will come to think of this perspective as objective — if a particular model seems off, then it is only a matter of shifting certain parameters to make the model correct. In this view, the entire world works according to a hidden logic that can be captured by ever more precise algorithms. But the work of modeling will never be complete.

    Model Citizens

    Models in SimCity are not only describing a reality in the game; they are also projecting a reality in the world, and bringing it into being. At stake is not whether SimCity’s model “reads” as representationally accurate. The more pernicious issue is that players will come to think of this perspective as objective — if a particular model seems off, then it is only a matter of shifting certain parameters to make the model correct. In this view, the entire world works according to a hidden logic that can be captured by ever more precise algorithms. But the work of modeling will never be complete.

    Model Citizens
  • Playing With Marbles

    Anna Reser and Leila McNeill
    2018-02-05

    Feminist approaches to climate change insist that we ground solutions in the particular, not in the domination of the universal and the fiction of the objective. To move beyond simple recognition of women’s vulnerability to climate change, the research and methods used to formulate solutions to climate change effects must begin from marginal lives, with an understanding of gender inequality.

    Playing With Marbles

    Feminist approaches to climate change insist that we ground solutions in the particular, not in the domination of the universal and the fiction of the objective. To move beyond simple recognition of women’s vulnerability to climate change, the research and methods used to formulate solutions to climate change effects must begin from marginal lives, with an understanding of gender inequality.

    Playing With Marbles
  • REALITY TV

    Real Life
    2018-01-29

    When reality TV stages its rituals of confession and exposure, they don’t reconstruct the illusion of a pre-existing personal privacy. They confirm what we are all coming to accept: “Reality” is not what evades capture — the unmediated “authentic” life lived in the moment purely for its own sake — but what can be mobilized for attention.

    REALITY TV

    When reality TV stages its rituals of confession and exposure, they don’t reconstruct the illusion of a pre-existing personal privacy. They confirm what we are all coming to accept: “Reality” is not what evades capture — the unmediated “authentic” life lived in the moment purely for its own sake — but what can be mobilized for attention.

    REALITY TV
  • Deleted Scenes

    Linda Besner
    2018-01-29

    For scripted television and movies, “behind-the-scenes” footage offers committed audiences the actors and directors as substitutes, so the viewer can continue the relationship they’ve forged with fictional characters by displacing these emotions onto real human beings. For reality television, these “extras” promise an honesty beyond the honesty. Reality television takes off one disguise — the false mustache of fiction — only to don a more complex one: the disguise that looks like a natural face.

    Deleted Scenes

    For scripted television and movies, “behind-the-scenes” footage offers committed audiences the actors and directors as substitutes, so the viewer can continue the relationship they’ve forged with fictional characters by displacing these emotions onto real human beings. For reality television, these “extras” promise an honesty beyond the honesty. Reality television takes off one disguise — the false mustache of fiction — only to don a more complex one: the disguise that looks like a natural face.

    Deleted Scenes
  • Sweet Nothings

    Kelli Korducki
    2018-01-29

    Sixteen years after The Bachelor first aired, viewers know how the story ends. Few of the couples brought together by the show have made it to the proverbial altar, let alone beyond it. As if that was ever the point. What makes The Bachelor appealing isn’t the naive romanticism of its audience but the show’s imposition of structure onto a process whose offscreen equivalent lacks a clear narrative arc.

    Sweet Nothings

    Sixteen years after The Bachelor first aired, viewers know how the story ends. Few of the couples brought together by the show have made it to the proverbial altar, let alone beyond it. As if that was ever the point. What makes The Bachelor appealing isn’t the naive romanticism of its audience but the show’s imposition of structure onto a process whose offscreen equivalent lacks a clear narrative arc.

    Sweet Nothings
  • ALTERNATIVE

    Real Life
    2018-01-22

    The idea of “alternative” has always carried with it a sense of individual alienation and the faith in a community that might resolve or redeem it. The prominence of the alt-right, in discrediting the term, is also threatening to discredit the promise that has always been latent within it: that an ultimately inclusive solidarity can be forged through opposition to a mainstream that relies on so many exclusions.

    ALTERNATIVE

    The idea of “alternative” has always carried with it a sense of individual alienation and the faith in a community that might resolve or redeem it. The prominence of the alt-right, in discrediting the term, is also threatening to discredit the promise that has always been latent within it: that an ultimately inclusive solidarity can be forged through opposition to a mainstream that relies on so many exclusions.

    ALTERNATIVE
  • No Alternative

    Gavin Mueller
    2018-01-22

    Before, in the 1990s, one radical solution was finding means of creating more critical, combative, active media consumers and expanding the range of perspectives on offer. “Alternative” was, it seems to me now, itself a kind of insufficient consumerist prerogative, a demand for more choices that was agnostic to the content of those choices.

    No Alternative

    Before, in the 1990s, one radical solution was finding means of creating more critical, combative, active media consumers and expanding the range of perspectives on offer. “Alternative” was, it seems to me now, itself a kind of insufficient consumerist prerogative, a demand for more choices that was agnostic to the content of those choices.

    No Alternative
  • Lonely Road

    Adam Clair
    2018-01-22

    On the late night radio show Coast to Coast AM, a community of loners support each other in the alternative convictions that isolate them. Their conspiracy theorizing “solves” feelings of powerlessness by enhancing them, just as social media can sometimes seem to solve loneliness by increasing feelings of isolation.

    Lonely Road

    On the late night radio show Coast to Coast AM, a community of loners support each other in the alternative convictions that isolate them. Their conspiracy theorizing “solves” feelings of powerlessness by enhancing them, just as social media can sometimes seem to solve loneliness by increasing feelings of isolation.

    Lonely Road
  • EXTREMELY ONLINE

    Real Life
    2018-01-16

    What if we thought about the “on” of “online” not as a location — I’m on this raft of a website — but as a kind of being attuned, as in being turned on or being on trend?  What if instead of an escape from being “in real life,” we think of the internet as a genre or style? “Online” can be seen as structuring an entire a way of being in the world. Akin to goth or punk or any number of cultural identities, “online” can be thought of as a way of doing things, not the place they are done.

    EXTREMELY ONLINE

    What if we thought about the “on” of “online” not as a location — I’m on this raft of a website — but as a kind of being attuned, as in being turned on or being on trend?  What if instead of an escape from being “in real life,” we think of the internet as a genre or style? “Online” can be seen as structuring an entire a way of being in the world. Akin to goth or punk or any number of cultural identities, “online” can be thought of as a way of doing things, not the place they are done.

    EXTREMELY ONLINE
  • Sharper Image

    Rina Nkulu
    2018-01-16

    On internet fashion forums, users post outfits adapted for the message board or timeline, rather than public space. Their grammar reflects that of memes themselves: fashion trends, untethered from the limitations of real time, encompass entire ways of being, arrived at collaboratively and then passively falling away.

    Sharper Image

    On internet fashion forums, users post outfits adapted for the message board or timeline, rather than public space. Their grammar reflects that of memes themselves: fashion trends, untethered from the limitations of real time, encompass entire ways of being, arrived at collaboratively and then passively falling away.

    Sharper Image
  • How to Do Things With Memes

    Eric Thurm
    2018-01-16

    Memes are not deposits of exclusionary knowledge and archaic references — at least, they’re not just that. They don’t just name things; they also do the work of creating and collapsing contexts. They don’t reproduce a world but bring one into being. They are what Wittgenstein calls language games.

    How to Do Things With Memes

    Memes are not deposits of exclusionary knowledge and archaic references — at least, they’re not just that. They don’t just name things; they also do the work of creating and collapsing contexts. They don’t reproduce a world but bring one into being. They are what Wittgenstein calls language games.

    How to Do Things With Memes
  • CIRCADIAN MEDIA

    Real Life
    2018-01-08

    “Circadian media” — technologies that once helped situate consumers within or without the rhythms of a collective day — are no longer calibrated to one consistent daily rhythm but to countless rhythms at once. We’re now embedded in an welter of circadian technologies, struggling to calibrate an abundance of circadian rhythms. Ideally they give our days shape and connect us to others who, for whatever reason, find themselves similarly situated in time. At worst they perpetuate a feeling of personal untimeliness.

    CIRCADIAN MEDIA

    “Circadian media” — technologies that once helped situate consumers within or without the rhythms of a collective day — are no longer calibrated to one consistent daily rhythm but to countless rhythms at once. We’re now embedded in an welter of circadian technologies, struggling to calibrate an abundance of circadian rhythms. Ideally they give our days shape and connect us to others who, for whatever reason, find themselves similarly situated in time. At worst they perpetuate a feeling of personal untimeliness.

    CIRCADIAN MEDIA
  • Already Late

    Ana Cecilia Alvarez
    2018-01-08

    I have since left New York, and have stopped checking my iPhone in the mornings because I no longer own one. Instead, when you dial my number, you’ll be ringing a flip: It does not hold me in a kind of addictive thrall: I need it, I use it, I forget about it. I have the same relationship with my phone as I do with my toothbrush. It is a routine activity with the wind taken out of it, done out of repetition or necessity rather than out of faith.

    Already Late

    I have since left New York, and have stopped checking my iPhone in the mornings because I no longer own one. Instead, when you dial my number, you’ll be ringing a flip: It does not hold me in a kind of addictive thrall: I need it, I use it, I forget about it. I have the same relationship with my phone as I do with my toothbrush. It is a routine activity with the wind taken out of it, done out of repetition or necessity rather than out of faith.

    Already Late
  • After Hours

    Linda Besner
    2018-01-08

    Nine-to-five work was normal in a century when steady employment and home ownership were also normal. Now that none of these things are reliable markers of adulthood, why not refashion our own systems of idiosyncratic time that allow us to place something other than work at the center of our lives?

    After Hours

    Nine-to-five work was normal in a century when steady employment and home ownership were also normal. Now that none of these things are reliable markers of adulthood, why not refashion our own systems of idiosyncratic time that allow us to place something other than work at the center of our lives?

    After Hours
  • Here Comes the Sun

    Adam Fales
    2018-01-08

    Beyond merely establishing a set schedule, morning shows provide a sense of continuity. The same hosts appear every morning, continuing a conversation that picks up on the previous day’s stories and events. A morning show points to the newly risen sun in the sky. It says that today’s morning is just like yesterday’s.

    Here Comes the Sun

    Beyond merely establishing a set schedule, morning shows provide a sense of continuity. The same hosts appear every morning, continuing a conversation that picks up on the previous day’s stories and events. A morning show points to the newly risen sun in the sky. It says that today’s morning is just like yesterday’s.

    Here Comes the Sun
  • TOO MUCH NEWS

    Real Life
    2018-01-02

    “Information overload” made sense as a frame when we still had an intuitive sense of how big a newspaper should be, or how many stories fit into an hour. None of that is relevant anymore. “News cycles” are nostalgia fodder. Now we have “news feeds” that populate with stories just as fast as we can scroll. The limited spaces in which a shared sense of the news was constructed have become infinite personalized expanses. Our information problem has become “too much news” and “never enough news” at the same time.

    TOO MUCH NEWS

    “Information overload” made sense as a frame when we still had an intuitive sense of how big a newspaper should be, or how many stories fit into an hour. None of that is relevant anymore. “News cycles” are nostalgia fodder. Now we have “news feeds” that populate with stories just as fast as we can scroll. The limited spaces in which a shared sense of the news was constructed have become infinite personalized expanses. Our information problem has become “too much news” and “never enough news” at the same time.

    TOO MUCH NEWS
  • Breaking News

    Nathan Jurgenson
    2018-01-02

    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.

    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.

    Breaking News
  • True Crime

    Elisa Gabbert
    2018-01-02

    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.

    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.

    True Crime
  • Emotional Overdrive

    Navneet Alang
    2018-01-02

    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.

    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.

    Emotional Overdrive
  • SPECIAL ISSUES: Vision

    Real Life
    2017-12-28

    As the AIs behind image feeds come to “remember” for us, showing what they see in our aggregated lives and projecting our future’s past, we may become another sort of distanciated audience, with the same temptation to distrust what we see: Maybe it wasn’t really the sun lighting that outdoor shot; maybe we never really landed on Mars. Vision as presence, not absence — as responsibility for what we see rather than consumption of it — can contain the past and the future without being strung up between them.

    Vision

    As the AIs behind image feeds come to “remember” for us, showing what they see in our aggregated lives and projecting our future’s past, we may become another sort of distanciated audience, with the same temptation to distrust what we see: Maybe it wasn’t really the sun lighting that outdoor shot; maybe we never really landed on Mars. Vision as presence, not absence — as responsibility for what we see rather than consumption of it — can contain the past and the future without being strung up between them.

    Vision
  • SPECIAL ISSUES: Memory

    Real Life
    2017-12-26

    Most of the photos I’ve taken on my own are stored with services that make them arrangeable, reproducible, and public, with options. Some I took to capture the moment, and others, more and more, because the moment called for them. This form of storage is sturdier, but it leaves them at the mercy of elements less predictable than mold, and turns things infinite that were meant to be finite. Not all images are meant to be memories, but the technological systems we increasingly tend to default to for archiving don’t know the difference.

    Memory

    Most of the photos I’ve taken on my own are stored with services that make them arrangeable, reproducible, and public, with options. Some I took to capture the moment, and others, more and more, because the moment called for them. This form of storage is sturdier, but it leaves them at the mercy of elements less predictable than mold, and turns things infinite that were meant to be finite. Not all images are meant to be memories, but the technological systems we increasingly tend to default to for archiving don’t know the difference.

    Memory
  • SPECIAL ISSUES: Paranoia

    Real Life
    2017-12-21

    Attention has become a scarce economic resource, and the efforts to commandeer it and disrupt our sense of control over it have become more and more intense and technologically sophisticated. Paranoia appears in this context as a kind of coping mechanism, a Pyrrhic effort to reassert executive function and reorient the self through heroic acts of feverish interpretation.

    Paranoia

    Attention has become a scarce economic resource, and the efforts to commandeer it and disrupt our sense of control over it have become more and more intense and technologically sophisticated. Paranoia appears in this context as a kind of coping mechanism, a Pyrrhic effort to reassert ex