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Conduits for variety

In his superb From Counterculture to Cyberculture, Fred Turner vividly describes The Whole Earth Catalog and the horizon it opened up for many of its readers. From loc 1212: For many, the Catalog provided a first, and sometimes overwhelming, glimpse of the New Communalists’ intellectual world. Gareth Branwyn, for instance, a journalist who […]

The precursors to curation

While many see the term ‘curation’ as modish and vague, I see it as an important concept to make sense of how we can orientate ourselves within a changing cultural landscape. However I can sympathise with the thrust of these objections, in so far as they take issue with a […]

In defence of ‘curation’

The term ‘curation’ has got a bad press in recent years. Or rather the use of the term beyond the art world has. To a certain extent I understand this but I nonetheless always feel the need to defend the term. There are a few reasons for this: In a […]

The proliferation of books

From Merchants of Culture, by John Thompson, pg 238. In the United States: The number of new books published in the US each year prior to 1980 was probably under 50,000. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the number of new books published greatly increased, reaching nearly 200,000 by 1998. By […]

Metrics and the death of imagination

In John Thompson’s Merchants of Culture, there’s an interesting remark about the structural position of first time authors which I think has wider purchase. From pg 200: Ironically, in a world preoccupied by numbers, the author with no track is in some ways in a strong position, considerably stronger than […]

Digitalisation and the elimination of latency 

From Work’s Intimacy, by Melissa Gregg, loc 3594-3609: Describing the impact of the BlackBerry in 2006 –just before the iPhone changed mobile computing for keeps –Research in Motion’s John Balsillie explained his bestselling devices as “latency eliminators.” According to this logic, Balsillie argued, “successful companies have hearts … and intrinsic […]

Algorithmic Guerrilla Warfare

This documentary is worth watching for many reasons but there’s a particularly fascinating section in which the presenter goes undercover at a digital activism training course. The facilitator describes how he spends half an hour a day finding liberal books on Amazon and giving one star reviews, before explaining how […]

The Joys of Weak Ties

I love this description by Damon Young on pg 154 of his Distraction: Online friendships afford a similar bounty: instantaneous, often hilarious adventures in debate, discussion, dialogue. The ties are strong enough to sate the social urge, but their gossamer threads never bind us tightly, rarely ask for the commitments […]

The necessity of selection

This is a really nice account in Damon Young’s Distraction of what Margaret Archer calls the necessity of selection. From pg 2: Psychological blockages are part of a much larger set of limitations: those of mortal life itself. There are only so many professions, sexual partners, houses, entertainments and amusements available; […]

Overlapping categories and the problem of abundance

An interesting snippet from Digital Methods, by Richard Rogers, loc 1883: To an “Internet cataloger” writing a well-known essay in 1998, Yahoo! was making a significant contribution to newfangled online library science, not only by its classification scheme but also by the means of content “navigation” it developed. Yahoo!’s system […]