Mana did not make it into the D&D rule­book because Gary Gygax and the oth­er cre­ators of D&D based their mag­ic sys­tem on the nov­els of Jack Vance, where a lim­it­ed num­ber of spells could be mem­o­rized, cast once, and then forgotten.”

One of many amaz­ing insights into how the con­cept of mana made its way from Poly­ne­sian antiq­ui­ty into today’s gamer culture.

(via The His­to­ry of Mana: How an Aus­trone­sian Con­cept Became a Video Game Mechanic—Vol. 2, No. 2—The Appen­dix)

Pota­to sal­ad sat­is­fies these and all oth­er doomed attempts to sys­tem­atize humor, which might be the only way to under­stand it: It is humor-shaped and per­fect­ly opti­mized. If it was ever whim­si­cal it isn’t anymore—there is too much mon­ey, too much poten­tial, tied up with this sal­ad. But this foun­da­tion of whim­sy has cre­at­ed cir­cum­stances in which more cap­i­tal is equat­ed with more humor, which is too hor­ri­ble an idea to even joke about: It is a tran­scen­dence that is out of our con­trol, a vil­lain, an invad­er, an awak­en­ing of The Old Ones, a Dire Event, or at least a Por­tent. What’s fun­nier than $37,115 for pota­to sal­ad? $47,115 for pota­to sal­ad, ha ha. What’s fun­nier than $47,115? $100,000. With every new dol­lar it feels more urgent to a view­er that he attach his name and his dol­lars to the thing, which is now obscured entire­ly by noise—a fee for ensur­ing that you’re in on the joke.

Adding yet anoth­er lay­er of humor/horror is Ian Bogost’s sell­ing his daughter’s paint­ing of the Kick­starter pota­to sal­ad on eBay.

(via The Pota­to Sal­ad Kick­starter Is the Sci­ence Fic­tion Vil­lain We Deserve — The Awl)

Things start to come togeth­er with M. Night Shya­malan, hit-your­self-in-the-fore­head obvi­ous­ness. The “you” in “you are moun­tain” doesn’t refer to the ter­raformed 3D game object, at all. Instead, it describes the game itself. You are not moun­tain; rather, you are Moun­tain. You play as the abyss between the human and the alpine.

Two things are par­tic­u­lar­ly great about this: (1) Bogost writes about the actu­al expe­ri­ence of play­ing the game in stead of the idea of the game (2) he pulls in the larg­er media ecosys­tem to fur­ther illu­mi­nate the sig­nif­i­cance of the work.

(via You Are Moun­tain — Ian Bogost — The Atlantic)

While walk­ing in res­i­den­tial areas, I am cap­tur­ing the wire­less sig­nals of secu­ri­ty cam­eras that are placed in and out­doors by the res­i­dents using a cam­era and a receiv­er. With this I explore the bound­aries between the pub­lic and the pri­vate. It reflects on the chang­ing atti­tude towards sur­veil­lance and safety.”


The real­ly good cre­ative peo­ple are always orga­nized, it’s true. The dif­fer­ence is effi­cien­cy. If you have an agenda—a schedule—you will be bet­ter. In order to have moments of chaos and anar­chy and cre­ativ­i­ty, you have to be very ordered so that when the moment arrives it doesn’t put things out of whack.”

Rem­i­nis­cent of “play is free move­ment with­in a more rigid sys­tem” – I always enjoy using pro­fes­sion­al cook­ing as source of inspi­ra­tion for improv­ing design.

(via The Stan­dard — Can the Brains Behind elBul­li Take the Chaos Out of Cre­ativ­i­ty?)

As a mat­ter of his­tor­i­cal analy­sis, the rela­tion­ship between secre­cy and pri­va­cy can be stat­ed in an axiom: the defense of pri­va­cy fol­lows, and nev­er pre­cedes, the emer­gence of new tech­nolo­gies for the expo­sure of secrets. In oth­er words, the case for pri­va­cy always comes too late. The horse is out of the barn. The post office has opened your mail. Your pho­to­graph is on Face­book. Google already knows that, notwith­stand­ing your demo­graph­ic, you hate kale.”

Some­thing creepy hap­pened when mys­tery became sec­u­lar, secre­cy became a tech­nol­o­gy, and pri­va­cy became a right. The invi­o­la­bil­i­ty of the self replaced the inscrutabil­i­ty of God. No won­der peo­ple got bug­gy about it.”

In the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry, the gold­en age of pub­lic rela­tions, pub­lic­i­ty, mean­ing the atten­tion of the press, came to be some­thing that many pri­vate cit­i­zens sought out and even paid for. This has led, in our own time, to the para­dox of an Amer­i­can cul­ture obsessed, at once, with being seen and with being hid­den, a world in which the only thing more cher­ished than pri­va­cy is pub­lic­i­ty. In this world, we chron­i­cle our lives on Face­book while demand­ing the lat­est and best form of pri­va­cy protection—ciphers of num­bers and letters—so that no one can vio­late the selves we have so entire­ly con­trived to expose.”

Just a mar­vel­lous his­tor­i­cal account of how the con­cepts of pri­va­cy, secre­cy, mys­tery, pub­lic­i­ty and trans­paren­cy devel­oped under the influ­ence of new technologies.

(via Jill Lep­ore: Pri­va­cy in an Age of Pub­lic­i­ty : The New York­er)

If there is a def­i­n­i­tion­al fight to have, let’s pre­serve the term ‘shar­ing,’ reserv­ing it not for anti-eco­nom­ic nice­ness, but for eco­nom­ic rela­tions that have a social thick­ness to them. This is why I began with the dema­te­ri­al­iza­tion his­to­ry of sys­tems of shared use. In the end, shar­ing is about the messy nego­ti­a­tion of access to goods, goods that in the name of sus­tain­abil­i­ty become more scarce. Cap­i­tal­ism is an alien­at­ed way of han­dling those nego­ti­a­tions; shar­ing forces you to nego­ti­ate with aliens.

I appre­ci­ate this piece’s zoom­ing in on the notion of fric­tion as a source of mean­ing­ful interactions.

Shar­ing you can Believe in — Medium

So here is the most clichéd night­mare of neolib­er­al­ism: pre­car­i­ous post-safe­ty-net exis­tence is embraced (for these sys­tems are not being imposed by gov­ern­ments — rather the reverse: peo­ple appear to be sup­port­ing the new sys­tems them­selves) in ways that turn per­son­al iden­ti­ty and social rela­tions into mon­ey-mak­ing opportunities.