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Fascism and the pleasures of joining in

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 […]

The widespread sense of homo distractus

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 […]

To what extent is political Twitter pointless?

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 […]

Knowing when to end projects

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 […]

Machine learning and authoritarianism

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, […]

Big tech is now too-big-to-fail

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 […]

Ivan Illich on the myth of limits

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 […]

The politics of being well-organised

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 […]

Google’s astroturfing operation

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 […]

Online != Grassroots

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 […]

Big Tech, Nationalism and Globalisation

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 […]