Her research for the book has involved hours upon hours of talk­ing with peo­ple about con­ver­sa­tion as well as eaves­drop­ping on con­ver­sa­tions: the kind of low-grade spy­ing that in acad­e­mia is known as “ethnog­ra­phy,” that in jour­nal­ism is known as “report­ing,” and that every­where else is known as “pay­ing atten­tion.”
She advo­cates lim­it­ing our device usage in “sacred spaces” like the din­ner table, the places where phones and their entice­ments may impede inti­ma­cy and inter­ac­tion. She wants us to look into each other’s eyes as we talk. She wants us to read each other’s move­ments. She wants us to have con­ver­sa­tions that are supreme­ly human.

Sav­ing the Lost Art of Con­ver­sa­tion — Megan Gar­ber — The Atlantic

Of all the tech skep­tics, Turkle is cer­tain­ly the best informed and most rea­son­able. For sure, hav­ing a prop­er con­ver­sa­tion requires atten­tion, and most of our tech con­stant­ly draws this atten­tion away. Being able to ignore it, even for a short while, takes willpow­er.

Because many slaves had their his­to­ry erased by their own­ers when they were brought to Amer­i­ca from Africa cen­turies ago, Afro­fu­tur­ism emerged in 20th-Cen­tu­ry music, film, art and lit­er­a­ture and point­ed this exiled cul­ture in a new direc­tion: the future. In this view, Africans are the alien ‘oth­er’ in West­ern soci­ety, stig­ma­tized as out­casts, who must build bridges in their imag­i­na­tions to a new utopia, pos­si­bly far removed geo­graph­i­cal­ly and spir­i­tu­al­ly from the world that is mar­gin­al­iz­ing them.

BBC — Cul­ture — Janelle Mon­ae: Sci­ence fic­tion in African-Amer­i­can pop

Unex­pect­ed­ly inter­est­ing arti­cle on sci-fi influ­ences in African-Amer­i­can pop music. ATLiens, The Cold Vein and Del­tron 3030 remain favourite albums of mine but I’d nev­er con­nect­ed them under the umbrel­la of Afro­fu­tur­ism. 

The direc­tion of social hous­ing pol­i­cy since 1979 has been grad­u­al­ly to remove the state from the busi­ness of build­ing hous­es, and now grad­u­al­ly to remove the state from the busi­ness of sub­si­dis­ing rent. You can imag­ine free mar­ke­teers believ­ing the mar­ket can house the poor in decent com­fort with­out the bet­ter-off being forced to chip in, although there is no evi­dence that it can. This is the benign view of the Thatcherites’ motive. But it is eas­i­er to believe that the actu­al inten­tion – not for­mal­ly designed in some con­spir­a­to­r­i­al way, and nev­er open­ly described as such – is to demon­e­tise that part of gen­er­al tax­a­tion on the well-off that goes towards evening things out for the poor and replac­ing it with a tax in kind, a tax on con­science. To per­mit the grad­ual re-emer­gence of slums, in oth­er words, in order to keep income and cor­po­ra­tion tax low, and to make the threat to the well-off an eas­i­ly ignored threat to their con­science, rather than to their wealth. To set­tle for his­to­ry as wheel rather than ascent, in which it will even­tu­al­ly be time for Dick­ens to come around again.

James Meek · Where will we live?: The Hous­ing Dis­as­ter · LRB 9 Jan­u­ary 2014

This is a prop­er long read (I mean, 13468 words) on Britain’s hous­ing cri­sis with some dis­con­cert­ing par­al­lels to what has hap­pened in main­land Europe (although per­haps to a less­er degree). The pos­si­bil­i­ty of the reemer­gence of slums sim­ply bog­gles my mind.

On the oth­er hand, no one — not even Yellin — is quite sure why there are so many alt­gen­res that fea­ture Ray­mond Burr and Bar­bara Hale. It’s inex­plic­a­ble with human log­ic. It’s just some­thing that hap­pened. I tried on a bunch of dif­fer­ent names for the Per­ry Mason thing: ghost, grem­lin, not-quite-a-bug. What do you call the some­thing-in-the-code-and-data which led to the exis­tence of these micro­gen­res? The vex­ing, remark­able con­clu­sion is that when com­pa­nies com­bine human intel­li­gence and machine intel­li­gence, some things hap­pen that we can­not under­stand. “Let me get philo­soph­i­cal for a minute. In a human world, life is made inter­est­ing by serendip­i­ty,” Yellin told me. “The more com­plex­i­ty you add to a machine world, you’re adding serendip­i­ty that you couldn’t imag­ine. Per­ry Mason is going to hap­pen. These ghosts in the machine are always going to be a by-prod­uct of the com­plex­i­ty. And some­times we call it a bug and some­times we call it a fea­ture.”

How Net­flix Reverse Engi­neered Hol­ly­wood — Alex­is C. Madri­gal — The Atlantic

This piece on Netflix’s alt­gen­res is a sol­id bit of report­ing on the inter­sec­tion of tech and cul­ture, although it nev­er real­ly gets very adventurous—until the very end. Per­ry Mason as an emer­gent prop­er­ty of the service’s hybrid approach to rec­om­men­da­tions. Just deli­cious.

We’re gonna tag how much romance is in a movie. We’re not gonna tell you how much romance is in it, but we’re gonna rec­om­mend it,” Yellin said. “You’re gonna get an action row and it may have more or less romance in it based on what we know about you.” […] They could have pure­ly used com­pu­ta­tion. For exam­ple, look­ing at peo­ple with sim­i­lar view­ing habits and rec­om­mend­ing movies based on what they watched. (And Net­flix does use this kind of data, too.) But they went beyond that approach to look at the con­tent itself. “It’s a real com­bi­na­tion: machine-learned, algo­rithms, algo­rith­mic syn­tax,” Yellin said, “and also a bunch of geeks who love this stuff going deep.
In a healthy medi­um you have artists push­ing the lim­its,” he says. “Most of them push in the wrong direc­tion and fail. Every now and again some­one push­es in an inter­est­ing direc­tion and every­one fol­lows. It’s not hap­pen­ing in games, apart from indies. Of course, most of their stuff is crap. But every now and again some­one comes along with some­thing that is new, dif­fer­ent and inter­est­ing.

30 Years Lat­er, One Man Is Still Try­ing To Fix Video Games

Enjoy­able pro­file on Craw­ford who despite his failed exper­i­ments of the past years, or per­haps thanks to them, is still one of the most thought-pro­vok­ing fig­ures in “the indus­try”. I am par­tic­u­lar­ly fond of his insis­tence on invent­ing new verbs. 

11 vs 100 Soc­cer Match.flv (by ice­ber­glau)

When I saw this post­ed by Doug I had the fol­low­ing to say:

Reminds me of how back in pri­ma­ry school the best foot­ball play­ers would always play against “the soup” — who­ev­er was left over. They would usu­al­ly have strength in num­bers to com­pen­sate for lack of skill. I of course was always part of the soup.

More weird foot­ball vari­ants in this MetaFil­ter post.

There aren’t real­ly good lan­guages for non-com­mod­i­ty, non-sac­ri­fi­cial acts. A task of our time might be to free the aes­thet­ic from its com­plic­i­ty with com­mod­i­ty forms, even atten­u­at­ed ones, and prac­tice it again, in the every­day, as a sen­si­bil­i­ty of the gift. Art is Xmas. The art not of signs but of rit­u­als. The art of with­draw­ing the hand that gives and leav­ing just the gift as giv­en.


Read­ing this well past Christ­mas, but still packs a punch. I like the idea of gift-giv­ing across gen­er­a­tions as rit­u­als with long loops.