#Friendsgiving on Instagram
Airports suck. They suck the worst on holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving: some nearly a sixth of all Americans travel for the holiday and most of them are taking to the sky to get to leave their homes and go “back home” to some dining room that’s larger than their own. Every airport is full of government-groped travelers anxious over the possibility of missing their flight to a Thanksgiving table. For the 20-30 year-old set, Thanksgiving out of town usually means a paycheck’s worth of plane ticket plus a couple days of missed work or precious class time needed for a final exam. For many more, the prospect of taking an extended weekend is completely out of the question because most of us work in retail. As my friend Lisa wrote on her Facebook yesterday: “To fellow retail employees this holiday: Godspeed, we can do this.” Thanksgiving isn’t a time to relax, its a time to either gear up for a 12-hour work day or spend as little as money as possible to make up for the remarkable food bill you just racked up. To leave town on Black Friday’s Eve is near-impossible, and so many millennials plan for a Friendsgiving: the thoroughly post-modern holiday that celebrates a paradoxical mixture of just getting by, the excesses of late-capitalism, and the infinitely negotiable non-familial ties that make up young peoples’ lives.
File this one under “what is at stake” when we talk about the digital dualist critique. Bitcoin, the Internet’s favorite way to buy pot and donate to Ron Paul, hit an all-time high this week of around $900 to one Bitcoin (BTC). The news coverage of Bitcoin and the burgeoning array of crypto-currencies (according to the Wall Street Journal there’s also litecoin, bbqcoin, peercoin, namecoin, and feathercoin) has largely focused on the unstable valuation of the currencies and all of the terrible things people could do with their untraceable Internet money. What hasn’t been investigated however, is the idea that crypto-currencies are somehow inherently more “virtual” and thereby less susceptible to centralized control the way US dollars, Euros, or Dave & Buster’s Powercards are. Both assumptions are wrong and are undergirded by the digital dualist fallacy. (more…)
The What-Would-I-Say App, (#wwis) created by HackPrinceton, has garnered widespread popularity. The app basically amalgamates your Facebook posts, rearranges them, and computes a best guess at what you, the Facebook user, would say. According the app’s creators, here’s how it works: (more…)
Note: I’ve been invited to participate in a game culture event in January, a joint venture between the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research and the Goethe Institut. This post is me trying to organize some of my thoughts for that event. So if it seems a bit fractured and confused, please forgive.
I guess I find these games insanely irresponsible and also somehow irresistible, which is what I most hate about them. Couldn’t you argue that the men and women who make Battlefield and Modern Combat and Call of Duty are making the world a demonstrably worse place? I think you could. Sometimes I wonder how they sleep at night. Sometimes, when I can’t sleep at night, I play Call of Duty. – Tom Bissell
I keep coming back to Spec Ops: The Line.
Just about every social media network that relies on voting has more men than women in their user base. Graph from pingdom,com
The merits of voting have come under scrutiny as of late, thanks in part to Russell Brand’s comments on the topic in his guest edited edition of the New Statesman. (Oh and I think there might have been an interview as well.) I’m highly suspicious of voting as well, which is why my ballots are mostly blank except for the one or two things I think might be strategically useful in later direct action. I voted earlier this week in a local election because my city is still small enough that there are very real and tangible differences to electing one counsel person over another: One city council person authorizes citizen working groups to organize municipal composting while another led the charge to close an indy media center that hosted an Iraqi artist because… terrorism. A lot has already been said about the efficacy of voting and why it alone cannot possibly bring about the fundamental change that politicians promise. Besides, if you’ve read your Zinn, you know that all the important stuff happens between elections anyway. What I want to touch on today however, has less to do with government elections, and more to do with the abstract concept of voting. Why is it that, if voting is implemented within a system, do we automatically assume that it is more democratic? What happens to social networks and web platforms when we install voting as the overriding system of displaying public opinion? Why shouldn’t the critique of voting in general be directly imported as a critique of the social networking sites that use voting as the primary form of interaction on the site? (more…)
When I was young, Robert Stack would visit me in my dreams. His monotone voice and sharp eyes would come through my wood-paneled RCA cathode-ray childhood TV and settle in my subconscious until I went to sleep. During the day Unsolved Mysteries was an opportunity to, “solve a mystery” from the comfort of my own home. If I watched the dramatizations closely enough I thought I might recall some repressed memory of an alien abduction or I might notice a telltale tattoo that marks the new neighbor as a relocated serial killer. Solving these Lifetime-disseminated mysteries was a sacred trust that I did not take lightly. Everything from persistent hauntings to serial killings were on my plate. When you grow up in South Florida, extra terrestrial abduction and friendly serial killers seem so plausible. If we were able to fit over a million people on a sandbar and intoxicate them long enough to stay through hurricane season, anything could happen. But no matter how much I investigated I always seemed to disappoint Robert. My neighbor with eight fingers that loved ham radio was not the man suspected of murdering two teenagers in Ohio; he was just really racist. The lady across the street was not a reoccurring spectral phenomena; she was just 90 years old. None of these people were particularly extraordinary —let alone extraterrestrial— but Unsolved Mysteries injected a sense of the enchanted in an otherwise mundane suburban landscape. (more…)
Confession: I watched the Apple event yesterday, and I’ve watched at least part of every product announcement for the last several years. Apple announcements are the opposite of a guilty pleasure; they are a burden that I take on with pride. They are insipid and represent everything that is wrong with Silicon Valley and yet I feel obliged to watch them because they let me stare deeply into this heaving morass of Cronenbergian lust for technology. It always feels like we’re one year away from Phil Schiller offing himself with an iGun after screaming “LONG LIVE THE NEW FLESH!” When I watch Silicon Valley spread out on the Moscone Center stage I feel prideful (to a fault perhaps) that these events just seem so… transparent. They’re so easy to read and so easy to critique they amount to social science target practice. (more…)
#qs13 took place in San Francisco’s Presidio. Image credit: Whitney Erin Boesel
It’s almost a week now since I attended the 2013 Quantified Self Global Conference in San Francisco, and I’m still not sure where to begin with my summary of the event itself. Instead of jumping in with an overview, this time I’ll cover my own session—in which what started out as asking how researchers studying Quantified Self could better connect with each other became an (at times) intense debate about what Quantified Self is, what Quantified Self should be, and what role (if any) academic or institutional research and researchers should have within the Quantified Self community.
James Bridle – “The Light of God” (2012)
Just let it in. Let it watch you at night. Tell it everything it wants to know. These are the things it wants, and you’ll let it have those things to keep it around. Hovering over your bed, all sleek chrome and black angles that defer the gaze of radar. It’s a cultural amalgamation of one hundred years of surveillance. There’s safety in its vagueness. It resists definition. This is a huge part of its power. This is a huge part of its appeal. – “I Tell Thee All, I Can No More”
This past weekend I was in New York for the Drones and Aerial Robotics Conference (the aptly acronymed DARC) with The State’s Olivia Rosane and Adam Rothstein. In our panel we were expanding on our ongoing discussion about drones and culture, particularly what we can understand as “drone culture” and “drone fiction” and what the greater implications of these things are for how we understand ourselves as technological beings.
A couple of months back, I wrote about an informal meeting of the Cyborgology Crew in which we began to hash out some of the vocabulary issues that currently muddle up theorizing about technology and society. In that post, I interrogated the words “online” and “offline.” This online/offline discussion took up the better part of our day. A second issue also arose, however, and this was one that we never fully resolved. With bellies full of pizza and leg-shaking levels of caffeine, we duked it out over the term “physical co-presence.” Today, I want to put forth our (mostly?) agreed upon critique of the term physical co-presence, and offer an alternative which, on the day of the meeting, I probably articulated poorly. Like the interrogation of online and offline, this is far from a definitive statement. Rather, it is a starting point and a widespread invitation for critique, suggestions, and participation in the construction of a useful theoretical vocabulary. (more…)