Category: Platform and agency

In his final book Metamorphosis Ulrich Beck contrasts two forms of social integration. As he writes on pg 168-169: If one understands the communities of world cities in this sense as ‘cosmopolitan communities of global risk’, however, one must abandon the widespread assumption in the social sciences that community-building is possible only on the basis […]

I thought Jade Lindgaard and Xavier De La Porte identify something important about the strategic issues faced by those who style themselves as intellectuals while remaining resolutely outside the academy. This is from their incisive critique BHL in Wonderland loc 4617, describing the growing rivalry between their titular nemesis Bernard-Henri Lévy and his emerging foe […]

From today’s Protocal newsletter: There are three kinds of video chat, Zuckerberg said: One is video calling — “when you call someone and their phone or computer actually rings.” It’s good for quick, ad-hoc interactions. Two is video rooms, “where you create a link, send it out to people, and they can go ahead and join […]

From Amitav Ghosh’s The Great Derangement pg 83: This pattern is epitomized by the career of the novel, which in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries often included frontispieces, plates, and so on. But all of these elements gradually faded away, over the course of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, until the very word illustration […]

I thought this was a really insightful passage from Amitav Ghosh’s The Great Derangement. I’m trying to deepen my understanding of the socio-environmental at the moment (not least of all because you can’t understand Covid-19 without it) and conjunctures like this built around a specific causal relationship between the material and the social over time seem like […]

This was a succinct summary by Laurie Macfarlane of the emerging interface between a US national security apparatus seeking to ward off the growing power of China and a Big Tech apparatus in Silicon Valley seeking to ward off the threat of regulation. His excellent essay shows how this will become more significant in the […]

I thought this was an interesting extract from Imperial Messenger concerning Thomas Friedman’s advocacy of a digital imperative (‘get-wired-or-die’) which he himself is insulated from. As Belén Fernández writes on loc 668: Quoted in Foreign Policy as saying “I talk the talk of technology, but I don’t walk the walk,” Friedman elsewhere admits to not knowing how […]

This extract from Xavier de la Porte’s The Imposter: BHL in Wonderland reproduces a conference opening given by Derrida in which he drew attention to the new generation of philosophers who were being put forward as a consequence of the ‘techno-politics of telecommunications’. From loc 1809 of their book: There lies, in the techno-politics of telecommunications, […]

I thought this extract from Ulrich Beck’s final book Metamorphosis shed light on our current situation. The role of expert systems in rendering the crisis legible is familiar, with “the means to make the invisible threat to their life visible” lying in the mediation of events. The obvious different though is how intensively mediated Covid-19 […]

I thought this action by Eventbrite was really interesting. Platform firms reliant on face-to-face interaction face a difficult future and their relationship with their user base is one of the key resources they have access to: On Thursday, March 19, we sent a letter to the White House and Congressional leadership urging them to protect the live events […]

This extract from loc 335 of Anna Weinar’s Uncanny Valley captures something I find fascinating about the so-called ‘sharing economy’: the challenge of creating normative guidelines for novel forms of interaction which these platforms have facilitated. It was my first time paying to stay with strangers. The apartment was clean and welcoming, full of overstuffed […]

This call for papers looks brilliant: Special Issue CFP: “Marxist Transhumanism or Transhumanist Marxism?” To be published in New Proposals: Journal of Marxism and Interdisciplinary Inquiry  Guest editors: James Steinhoff and Atle Mikkola Kjøsen In this special issue call, New Proposals asks authors to explore how Marxism and Transhumanism might be brought into conjunction. Could […]

This extract from Tim Wu’s The Attention Merchants pg 343 captures something important about the sociology of Donald Trump’s presidency. I think he’s correct about the use of constant strife, echoing the argument by Will Davies about the blurring boundary between war and peace, to dominate the media agenda in a way which ensures the […]

We should be cautious about apparent signs of Big Tech’s willingness to accept regulation when we consider the history of AT&T. As Tim Wu documents on pg 56 of The Master Switch, the telephone monopoly was willing to accept regulation once it had already won: The trick of the Kingsbury Commitment was to make relatively painless […]