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Posts tagged “culture”

  1. Tech and Liberty
    stratechery.com

    Ben Thompson defends Facebook’s recent decision to let politicians lie in ads, arguing that free speech should be considered in terms of culture, not law.

    Here are his concluding remarks:

    Facebook, obviously, is not the government, and thank goodness: the fact that Zuckerberg answers to no one is deeply concerning to me. To be fair, in the case of political ads, this was arguably a benefit: I think he is making the right decision in the face of massive resistance. In the long run, though, it is very problematic that such a powerful player in our democracy has no accountability. Liberty is not simply about laws, or culture, it is also about structure, and it is right to be concerned about the centralized nature of companies like Facebook.

    To that end, the fact that this debate is even occurring is evidence of the problem: those opposed to Facebook’s decision about ads wish the company would wield its power in their favor; my question is whether such power should even exist in the first place. Facebook can close Munroe’s door on anyone, and there is nothing anyone can do about it.

    Ben makes a good case, but I have conflicting feelings about it. These last few moves by Twitter and Facebook have left me hopelessly lost in this debate. When does a lie become fraud?

  2. This essay is just Harry Potter for people who think comparing things to Harry Potter is stupid
    theoutline.com

    Rosa Lyster:

    “Fight club is just the matrix for incels.” “Big Thief is just Fleetwood Mac for sad bois.” “The Handmaids Tale is just Harry Potter for middle aged liberals.” “Otessa Moshfegh is just Mary Gaitskill for girls who talk too much about how they sometimes miss their periods due to being so waifish and slender.” “Bob Dylan is just Joni Mitchell for men who beat their wives.” “American Psycho is just the Joker movie for older white perverts.” “ABBA is just Fleetwood Mac for middle-aged suburban housewives whose drug of choice was cocaine instead of marijuana.” “Billie Eilish is just Avril Lavigne for girls who have too many cups in their bedroom.” This is fun to do, and definitely hilarious for people who love zingers, but it also sucks, and replaces the flash of real insight with the far cheaper thrill of recognizing things. It turns a constellation of possible meanings through which we might better know each other and ourselves into a vast Extended Universe.

    Damn, that’s pointed.

  3. Are China’s Tantrums Signs of Strength or Weakness?
    theatlantic.com

    Zeynep Tufekci wonders about China’s motivations around the Hong Kong situation:

    So why is China demanding significant censorship from Western companies—as in the case of this app—in the absence of a real threat? One thing to note is that while the original events being censored are minor to the point of trivial, the backlash creates a huge amount of publicity. You might be tempted to think that China has a Streisand-effect problem, in which trying to censor an event creates even more publicity. But that assumes the Chinese government doesn’t understand the Streisand effect, and that can’t be right, because if one government understands attention dynamics online, it’s China’s.

    Significant amounts of scholarship show that the Chinese government has been very good at burying important news by distracting from it with other, flashy but unrelated news. This shows a subtle and powerful understanding of the Streisand effect: Instead of censoring, China diverts attention.

  4. Why Don’t I Read All My Books?
    lithub.com

    Karen Olsson thinks about the importance of the many books she owns but will never read:

    Perhaps in some cases it has actually meant more to me to possess a book than to read it, because as long as its contents remain unknown to me, it retains its mystery. The unread book is a provocation, a promise of something that might dissipate if I slogged my way through the text. I’ve read a little of Cave, City, and Eagle’s Nest: An Interpretive Journey Through the Mapa de Cuauhtinchan No. 2, a sumptuous art book about a 16th-century pictorial manuscript from Mexico […]. I keep this book around even though I don’t wish to make anything of it in a literal sense—I don’t want to write fiction or nonfiction or a nutty screenplay about a mesoamerican document, but I wish for it to somehow whisper in my ear while I write something not at all about the map, for its enigmatic presence to leave some ineffable trace.

    I love this idea, and I must admit that I suffer from the same affliction. Design books, self-help books, nonfiction books… I want them to somehow transmit that “ineffable trace” to me just by virtue of sitting on my desk, mostly unread; no matter how many cookbooks I buy, it seems I always end up going to Serious Eats when I need a recipe.

    I’m trying to read more by divorcing the physicality of owning a book from the process of reading it, so I bought an eReader. Now I get paper versions of the books I want to own, and digital versions of the ones I want to read. Totally normal, I know.

  5. The Real Dark Web
    sonniesedge.net

    Charlie Owen:

    The vast majority of respondents are still using Sass and vanilla CSS? Wow! This made me pause and think. Because I feel there’s an analogy here between that unseen dark matter, and the huge crowd of web developers who are using such “boring” technology stacks.

    These developers are quietly building their sites and apps, day in, day out. But they are rendered invisible as they are not making use of the cutting-edge technologies that the 1% of the bleeding edge love to talk about.

    They are the 99% of the web universe that is quietly getting on, not blogging about their technology stack, not publishing amazing new tooling. Simply building things.

    Sass and not much else? It me. Though I am using some state-of-the-art tech like the fancy underlines made possible by CSS Text Decoration Module Level 4 😎

  6. Self-Care for Men
    newyorker.com

    Megan Amram:

    Men and women have completely different needs in the skin department. While a woman’s skin is soft like a dying flower and barely strong enough to keep her insides in, a man’s skin is thick like the door to a safe. We men need makeup that covers our hungry-boy blemishes and larger-than-average pores. There’s a reason they call those sewer things manhole covers—it’s because they’re thick like a man and big enough to cover a man’s holes (“pores”)!

  7. Chinese vertical dramas made for phone viewing show the future of mobile video
    thenextweb.com

    Henry Sung:

    What’s remarkable about vertical drama is that it’s not just any scripted content cropped for a vertical aspect ratio. These shows are specifically imagined for the mobile screen from the ground up. This is evident in three features they all share.

    I am fascinated by vertical video — it feels like a completely different medium. To me, horizontal video always represents a very deliberate choice to “make a video.” Vertical video is much more spontaneous, like a long photo that lives on your phone.

    Seeing the vertical format used for more serious scripted stuff is still uncanny, but I suspect there’s a lot to explore there.

  8. Ebert’s Walk of Fame remarks
    rogerebert.com

    Thanks Todd Vaziri for tweeting about this great Roger Ebert quote that I had forgotten about:

    Movies are the most powerful empathy machine in all the arts. When I go to a great movie I can live somebody else’s life for a while. I can walk in somebody else’s shoes. I can see what it feels like to be a member of a different gender, a different race, a different economic class, to live in a different time, to have a different belief.

  9. He Crossed the Atlantic in a Barrel.
    nytimes.com

    Emily S. Rueb interviews Jean-Jacques Savin, a French adventurer who “spent 127 days alone in a large, barrel-shaped capsule made of plywood, at the mercy of the winds and currents.” It sounds like he had a lovely time:

    If it was nice, I swam, and dove underneath the barrel to catch a fish, sea bream, to supplement my meal.

    I made a breakfast in the morning, and a nice dinner in the evening. I had a lot of time to write my book. I played a lot of bluegrass on my mandolin.

  10. Let People Enjoy Things
    medium.com

    Esther Rosenfield:

    It’s no coincidence that you never see the comic posted in response to criticism of some understated indie drama or underground Bandcamp musician. You only ever see it used to defend the commercial output of mega-corporations; your Marvel, your Game of Thrones, your Ariana Grande, etc. It’s no surprise, either. A recent development in corporate art is the positioning of it as a cultural underdog, constantly under siege from Haters and Trolls. You see it most with the nerd properties mentioned above. They parry the childhood fear of being bullied for liking nerd stuff into the suggestion that those bullies are still out there, waiting to pounce, and they take the form of everyone who dares to not like the IP in question.

  11. Advice to a Young Me
    craigmod.com

    Craig Mod:

    At 23 I was obsessed with minimizing recurring costs of living. They felt like poison to me.

    Obsessing over minimized cost of living has a light-touch hint of Thoreau to it: the calculating, the measuring, the valuing of time.

    “House: $28.12 ½; Farm one year: $14.72 ½ …” and on and on Thoreau wrote in Walden. “The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediate or in the long run.”

    Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism devotes a chapter to Thoreau. My favorite quote though is from Frédéric Gros on Thoreau’s processes: “[Thoreau] says: keep calculating, keep weighing. What exactly do I gain or lose?”

  12. Defining Productivity
    jeremy.codes

    Jeremy Wagner:

    It’s easy to slap something up on a web server, but it’s quite another to be a steward of it in a way that makes the web a better place. That starts with redefining our productivity with the goal of serving the interests of others instead of our own.