Category: Distracted People

From Richard Seymour’s wonderful Patreon blog: It was in this context that what Evans calls “communal listening”, in which the Führer’s speeches were broadcast to workplaces and schools each week, worked. They were, yes, propaganda. But they were also a form of entertainment, organising a grotesquely celebrified relationship between leader and followers. They were glamorous, […]

The popular character of this diagnosis, summarised by Tim Wu on pg 6 of his Attention Merchants, poses the question of how we should treat it as common sense, in the Durkheimian tradition of skepticism about received wisdom. How widespread is this? To what extent does it misrepresent the nature of the problem? To what […]

There’s a fascinating connection between this account on Suicide pg 46-47 and what Bourdieu describes as hysteresis and Archer as contextual incongruity: Because of the extreme sensitivity of his nervous system, his ideas and feelings are always in a situation of unstable balance. Because the faintest impressions have an abnormal effect on him, his mental […]

There’s a simple question at the end of Andrew Chadwick’s The Hybrid Media System which rewards serious thought. From pg 288: Today, we might ask whether the average citizen interested in influencing politics but without ambitions for high political office should join a political organization or create a Twitter account and start interacting with others […]

This is a fascinating finding from a report tracking engagement rates for influencers within a number of sectors. This finding from Instagram reflects my hunch the same thing has happened on Twitter. There are a number of reasons that can be invoked here: the commercial imperatives leading to the decline of organic reach, algorithm tweaks […]

This interesting observation from Robin Sloan (HT The Convivial Society) left me thinking about the duration of projects: For my part, re: craft and theory, I think giving a newsletter some temporal boundaries can be healthy and (weirdly?) productive. Start it up, but decide ahead of time when it will end, and call that a […]

On pg 258-259 of her Don’t Be Evil, Rana Foroohar poses a question which will become more urgent with each passing year, binding political economy and digital governance together in a way which will define the fabric of social life: Is digital innovation best suited to an environment of decentralization, in which many firms in […]

From Rana Foroohar‘s Don’t Be Evil pg 208: At the very least, Facebook, Google, Amazon, and the other systemically important platforms should be forced to disclose political advertising in the same way that television, print, and radio firms do. When in the financial markets, they should be forced to stay in their own sandbox the […]

I’m going to be thinking about this section from the (superb) Convivial Society for the rest of the day: Ivan Illich, whose work has played an important role in shaping my own thinking about technology, was not one for measured critiques or timid incrementalism. He targeted not only the usual culprits in his critique of […]

One of many dangers with acceleration rhetoric is that it creates the impression of what Filip Vostal calls a ‘mega force’, rampaging through society in a way that effects all individuals with equal significance. The reality is that existing resources shape our capacity to respond to acceleration in a way which means a problem for […]

I’ve written in the past about the Great Disruptive Project engaged in by firms like Uber, seeking change in the world in a way which expresses a moral vision, albeit often somewhat inchoately. This is something which emanates from the founders and plays a crucial role in establishing their charismatic authority and to varying degrees […]

This is a fascinating observation by Andrew Chadwick on pg 114-115 of The Hybrid Media System concerning Wikileak’s strategic agency with regards to the circulation of data, recognising that ‘information might want to be free’ but the sheer fact of its freedom is insufficient to bring about an effect in the world. As he notes […]

This offers a fascinating insight into Google’s (apparent) astroturfing operation concerning the European copyright directive: Constantin van Lijnden writing in the top German paper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung has uncovered the financial link between YouTubers in the paid service of Google to “protest” in favor of the multinational monopolist’s interests in the European Copyright Directive (aka “Article […]

I thought this was a crucial observation by Andrew Chadwick about the tendency to conflate ‘online’ with ‘grassroots’. It’s from pg 67 of this The Hybrid Media System. It lingers on in the platform imaginary in a way reinforced by the tendency to conflate the demotic and the democratic: One problem with the “convergence culture” […]

There’s an important observation in Rana Foroohar’s The Case Against Big Tech concerning how American tech firms are invoking national interest to avoid the threat of regulation. From pg 10: All of which makes it particularly rich that some Big Tech firms have responded to the growing public concern about privacy and anticompetitive business practices […]

Most recently, Amazon has gotten into healthcare—a $ 3.5 trillion industry—working to disrupt how we buy prescription drugs, pick and purchase health insurance plans, and more, by drawing on its supply chain and trove of personal background data that could easily be supplemented with real-time reports from health monitors in homes, hospitals, and doctors’ offices. […]