Frank Chimero on the struggle between the commons and commerce of the internet, and the spirituality of technology:
Most of our dream worlds are dystopias. One reason for this is that we feel technology is only producing commercial possibilities while neglecting or distorting the other essential parts of us. It’s not being very library-like. People have an easier time imagining how technology’s influence can go wrong. Our imaginations have a negative flair, and it’s always been this way.
I don’t quite agree with everything he says (the Center for Humane Technology’s survey methodology is worthless) but otherwise the essay is thoughtful and quietly optimistic.
Alex Pareene on the link between the profitability and ethics of newspapers in the Columbia Journalism Review:
In retrospect, it seems inevitable that American journalism’s professional norms around fairness and ethics emerged at a time when newspapers and magazines were good investments for normal financial reasons. Safe investments attract safe corporate investors. Corporations like clear standards of conduct and don’t like offending huge numbers of potential customers, which is how Yellow Journalism gave way to “All the News That’s Fit to Print” and the mainstream media as we knew it. The market played a big role in determining content. A big city paper could lean a little to the left or the right, but it couldn’t go full–John Birch or all–in Yippie without losing the thing that gave it power: monopolistic access to the eyeballs of the city’s literate adults.
Like the original game, Life is Strange: Before the Storm has baffling lapses in writing quality and yet remains an beautifully touching and earnest story. What Remains of Edith Finch is great, but there aren’t that many mostly-realistic games like LIS these days.
To celebrate The Space (an Arts Council/BBC-funded digital art body) being awarded £3 million to spend on 800 arts and culture organisations, here is my bridge-burning piece from three years ago on how they wasted ~£20m on laughably bad ‘digital art’.
Adam Greenfield has a good introduction to the scope and folly of China’s new tech-driven social credit score in The Atlantic. On Metafilter, he also remarked on how he was disappointed by constant responses of “it’s just like Black Mirror!”:
It makes me really sad that so much of the response to this piece has been, “Gee, it’s just like an episode of Black Mirror.” (The same thing happened with the new Boston Dynamics video the other day.) It’s really made me rethink the role of that show in the culture: how it works, what effects it has, what it does. It seems to me to be dulling our capacity for preventative disgust, in that we see something like social credit, or a military robot capable of operating in domestic environments, and nod and say, “Yeah, that’s some real Black Mirror shit right there, huh?” and go back to the thing we were doing before.
And that doesn’t, you’ll forgive me, seem like a superhealthy response. I’m not accusing anyone here if doing that, necessarily, just noticing how often the show is invoked as a kind of palliative or preemptive gesture of learned helplessness.
I don’t know that we can blame Black Mirror for learned helplessness, but a couple of episodes notwithstanding, the show’s utter dystopian nature combined with its outsize budgets and outsize audience has meant that we’re lacking in stories of hope and optimism.
Perhaps Black Mirror was an antidote to the techno-utopianism of the early days of Twitter and Facebook, but now we need an antidote to Black Mirror.
Hit me up with your Disneyworld recs! I’m going there – and Kennedy Space Center – in two days time…