Real Life is on winter break. We’ve put together eight SPECIAL ISSUES for your consideration. We’ll publish one a day, each selected by an editor and based on a thematic topic. Click the image below for a pdf. And please enjoy these mid-season reruns until we return to our usual scheduled program.
There is an old joke that technology is everything invented after you were born. Everything else we take for granted, forgetting how it had been developed, implemented, naturalized. It’s easy to fixate on the novelty of screens and overlook how the rest of our environment already consists of technologies that are so familiar as to seem immutable. Cities, buildings, clothing, transportation systems may not seem technological in the same way as digital devices, but they all are means by which social relations are sustained and given a graspable order. They all shape what kinds of thought are possible, what collective and individual aspirations can be conceived, what sorts of failure we may face. That is to say, they structure, and the innumerable iterative choices that have gone into them afford and preclude experience, extending new freedoms — and risks. The affordances of digital technology are so new as to seem somehow apart, a supplement to what’s always been integral and “real” about our lives. But recognizing how the entire built environment is both structured and structuring makes it plain that what happens on screens is as real as the room you’re standing in. —Nathan Jurgenson, Founding Editor