Friday, April 13, 2018

Random travels and micro-blogging and mystery hyperlinks

Really enjoying Steph Gray's family holiday updates of the randomised travel trip generated by Steph's home-grown app. The idea is half psychogeography, half healthy family adventure, and the updates are somewhere between a simple, enjoyable blog, and modern postcards of their daily fun.

It's great to see more exploratory, low-pressure, simple mixed media, micro-blogging around. It's something I've noticed Adrian Hon doing too, just dragging in snippets and updates from the net as needed, and covering a mix of content as well as format.

Technologists always want to tell you that One Thing is going to be the Next Big Thing. The 'blogosphere' is as guilty as Facebook and the Gopher resurgents in trying to persuade us that we need to choose a single platform as The Go-To Place. But as input devices become move from chunky keyboards to pen tablets to screen-based guesses to digital cameras to always-on personal data, how much sense does it make to have a single platform for your own publication? Why can't - or rather, why wouldn't - I spit out content in as many different ways as I have t-shirts? Who's to say that anyone must be able to see every piece of content that comes out of my brain?

Perhaps the future of personal identity is not in curating what content we publish alongside our avatar and bio, but in creating a sense of mystery around ourselves, in alluding to what isn't obvious to our own readers, a la Poppy. This idea has certain overlap with an Empty Technology idea, one infused by wu wei and taoism. As Lao Tzu put it:

"The Sage must dress in coarse robes while hiding precious jewels within his breast"

Perhaps content should open doors that you cannot walk through, questions your cannot answer, hyperlinks you cannot click.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Sci-fi vs Real world parodies

Paul Raven on Bezos and Iain M Banks, and Musk and Douglas Adams seems to dovetail into the counter-zeitgeist-literature thread nicely.

Musk appears to me less inspired by Hitchhiker’s, and more a character discarded from early drafts of it

Code vs Countries

Wendy Grossman picks up on the struggle that nation states are having over laws when the Internet has global reach. It's one of those debates that you can see coming from a mile off, I thought many years ago (back when Lawrence Lessing's Code book was still on version 1). But then I thought Facebook-scraping-data-for-power was also pretty obvious. What's wrong with me?

Anyway, good thoughts/questions on whether a global network forces states to go global too. Although shouldn't that have come a lot with the rise of Multinationals? Why the difference now? Because Code Is Borderless. For now.

I didn't realize how much I longed for a change of battleground until last week's Internet Law Works-in-Progress paper workshop, when for the first time I heard an approach that sounded like it might move the conversation beyond the crypto wars, the censorship battles, and the what-did-Facebook-do-to-our-democracy anguish. The paper was presented by Asaf Lubin, a Yale JSD candidate whose background includes a fellowship at Privacy International. In it, he suggested that while each of the many cases of international legal clash has been considered separately by the courts, the reality is that together they all form a pattern.

Scene as a memento of algorithms

Thinking a lot about culture networks recently. "Synth Britannia" on BBC mentions the crossover between early synth/punk bands, a bleak 70s urban backdrop, and JG Ballard's literature among others. This Mondo 2000 article looks back at the people and predictions hanging around the turn of the millennium, where virtual reality and drugs briefly overlapped.

I wondering what the zeitgeist is now, what the overarching human emotion is, cos in among the headlines about data and privacy and political control, it's hard to think for yourself. Everyone just seems to go along with the mainstream social media app these days, and the counter culture is often just another app, destined to be either bought up or imitated by the same elites you're running from.

The battle for our connection media goes hand-in-hand with the trends of our art and literature - because our art and literature are simply a way for us to work out just what the hell is going on. Our culture reflects our confusion as the world changes around us. Except now our modes of production are all defined by the culture we're trying to figure out. Instagram filters, Snapchat filters, iPhone camera modes, emoji - all of these are artifacts we inherit, and - more importantly - that are constrained by the apps we use. You can't hack an emoji, or a filter. Or can you?

I asked on Twitter what literature might represent the current zeitgeist. James suggested a few:

> Early le carre? Gibson's modern day trilogy. Warren Ellis's novels. The Europe in winter trilogy

So going have to check a few of those out. Thinking about it myself, I'm leaning towards certain chaoticism - maybe Thomas Pynchon. Or maybe something more naively magical - Murakami, or Gabriel García Márquez. Or something darker and more fatalistic, along the lines of Margaret Attwood.

Reminder to myself: I need to read more novels.

As our culture becomes more and more co-created (as in, the memetic process of rapid online comms combines with faster and faster, more automated filtering and feedback loops), is there even "a zeitgeist" anymore? Or are we subjected to a thousand zeitgeists a day - or, more likely, two opposing zeitgeists that are purely emotionally defined by each other?

Or, to jot out a third way, will our tools - and thus our mediums, and our culture - allow us to see outside of that process, to something else?