Tag: Communicative Escalation and Cultural Abundance: How Do We Cope?

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about escalation effects, by which I mean the tendency of some courses of action to escalate beyond our initial expectations or capacity to control. My favourite examples involve information overload. An active reader will often follow up references from books they are reading, with an interesting book usually yielding at […]

This expression used by Alain de Botton in his How Proust Can Change Your Life (pg 42) stood out to me. He uses it in relation to the morning news, reflecting on how reporting inevitably strips away from the reality of what is reported on. This is an example of a broader tendency for human experience to “be […]

I’ve never completely understood my attraction to kitsch. As much as part of me would like to suggest otherwise, it’s not a knowing embrace of excessive sentimentality and contrived garishness, as much as these things genuinely appealing to me in a way that can prompt knowingness when I reflect upon it. For instance, I saw these […]

I knew curation had a root in ‘look after’ but I’d framed this in terms of organise or sustain. The role of care in it makes the notion take on a completely different intonation. Thinking about the way we ‘curate’ online information by selecting, retweeting, sharing, educating. Worth remembering the root of the word means ‘to care’ […]

On pg 57 of George Packer’s Unwinding, he describes how Oprah Winfrey’s rhetoric of authenticity and openness co-exist with a pronounced tendency to exercise control over representations of herself: She exalted openness and authenticity, but she could afford them on her own terms. Anyone allowed into her presence had to sign away freedom of speech […]

Digital Infrastructures: Poetics, Politics and Personhood – AAA San Jose 14-18 November 2018 Lorraine Weekes (Stanford University) Gertjan Plets (Utrecht University) Government databases, digital archives, online voting systems, and e-portals enabling the submission of everything from insurance claims to income tax returns increasingly define mundane engagements between citizen-users and a suite of public and private […]

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 later wrote for Wired magazine, […]

An interesting snippet on pg 164 of Jonathan Taplin’s Move Fast and Break Things suggests a metric of content density which could be extremely interesting to explore: Digiday looked at the race for what some are calling peak content. What it found was that in 2010 the New York Times, with 1,100 people employed in […]

In the last few years, I’ve become a little obsessed with speed. It seems this often leaves me coming across like an accelerationist. I occasionally flirt with the idea that I’m a slightly peculiar form of left-accelerationist, but it’s more for rhetorical amusement than genuine conviction. In fact I find much of what’s written about the […]

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 sense of curation tied in […]

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 context of cultural abundance, selection […]

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 2004 the number had risen […]

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 the author who has published […]

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 force that makes the whole […]

From How The World Changed Social Media, by Danny Miller et al, loc 1203 The stand-out figure here is from industrial China. This is probably the site where people’s working day involves the most unremitting labour in factories. It is therefore not all that surprising to note that they use gaming as a means to […]

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 this practice needs to be […]

I like this contrast drawn by Arlie Hochschild on loc 2780-2795 of Strangers In Their Own Land: Not only her values, but even the kind of self she proudly exhibited—an endurance self—seemed to need defending, because it too seemed to be going out of fashion along with all the blue-collar jobs. “They used to brag […]

An excellent footnote in The Global Minotour. From loc 3865: Once all your music, films, applications, addresses, etc. are on iTunes and readily accessible by any Apple product (iPod, iPhone, iPad, etc.), the opportunity cost of buying a Nokia or a Sony device is huge (even if these companies bring a better device to market) […]