Some longform articles I read this week.
I love this story of the guy who fooled TripAdvisor into thinking his garden shed was a super-exclusive London restaurant. When it becomes #1 and he is found out, he has only one option: embrace the false reality.
But how? I’ve never even had more than three people round at once, let alone provided dinner and drinks for 20. There’s only one way to do it: recreating the exact location people have been describing in reviews for the past six months.
My social media/news diet has reduced anxiety somewhat. So essays like this from Clive Thompson help encapsulate why this is a good thing. It introduced me to media theorist (and Canadian cultural nationalist) Harold Innis as well. He’s long gone, but what he saw in newspapers have become hypermetabolized in the info-stream of Twitter, which keeps us always refreshing the feed, afraid to miss something new. Says Thompson:
A culture that is stuck in the present is one that can’t solve big problems. If you want to plan for the future, if you want to handle big social and political challenges, you have to decouple yourself from day-to-day crises, to look back at history, to learn from it, to see trendlines. You have to be usefully detached from the moment.
This was a useful and in-depth video essay from Vox on the history of Technicolor:
This promo for Tim O’Reilly’s book WTF? looks at separating what is actually useful about social media and/or an app from any evil that its company does. Could we separate what Uber does for us (helpful improvement on catching a cab) from Uber itself (shitty, anti-worker techbro asshats)? I’ve been thinking about that recently.
The progressive insistence that the baby is inseparable from the bathwater works to the favor of big business and big tech. If technology’s critics insist that you have to choose between Facebook and surveillance and manipulation, they affirm Facebook’s own position. But if critics insist that Facebook has deliberately, cynically married something wonderful with something terrible, they invite people to join their case and fight for a good Facebook, rather than demanding a kind of antitech hairshirt that insists that you have to give up, not demand better.
Furthermore, does being a pro-environment progressive necessarily mean trying to live in some magical pre-industrial age? Or should we seize the means of production (technology-wise) and actually make the world a better place? This promo for Leigh Phillips’s Austerity Ecology & the Collapse-Porn Addicts: A Defence Of Growth, Progress, Industry And Stuff is all in on the latter and is a straight-up Marxist to boot.
The socialist says: Through rational, democratic planning, let’s make sure that the innovation arrives so that we can move forward without inadvertently overproducing. And move forward we must, in order to continue to expand human flourishing. So long as we do that, there are in principle no limits. Let’s take over the machine, not turn it off!
The two minds behind “Every Frame a Painting”–one of the pioneering film studies video essayists, and who videos on Edgar Wright and Jackie Chan get shown in my film classes every semester–have called it quits. Instead of just saying goodbye, they reveal their working methods and show exactly how much work goes into one of their five minute gems.
Take aways: On YouTube style is more important that substance, but in a good way
Making it a channel meant creating a uniform tone and style, something that Tony initially resisted. But I argued that a person who watched one video would be more likely to come back and watch another if there was a uniform style — even if they weren’t interested in that specific topic.
This meant we could get away with talking about less-known subjects and plenty of people would still watch because the format was the same. To his credit, Tony now admits I was right. (Tony’s note: “I refuse to admit this”).
YouTube has so many algorithms to stop copyright material from being uploaded that they style developed from fooling the algorithm:
Nearly every stylistic decision you see about the channel — the length of the clips, the number of examples, which studios’ films we chose, the way narration and clip audio weave together, the reordering and flipping of shots, the remixing of 5.1 audio, the rhythm and pacing of the overall video — all of that was reverse-engineered from YouTube’s Copyright ID.
The whole essay is full of goodies, so check it.
Laurie Penny has a freakin’ gangbusters essay over at LongReads.com which puts the #metoo movement in context with the increasingly awfulness of neoliberalism. Just like women are harrassed and worse without consent, so are we all exploited without consent. I’ve been thinking about this essay all week.
But that’s a hard truth to hang on to. Most people don’t want to know how much freer they might be if they had the energy and audacity to want it. And so we lie to ourselves and allow ourselves to be lied to. We watch the despots warming their tiny grasping hands around the trash fire of civil society, we look at the real extent of rape and abuse being revealed all around us and some of us still try to believe that we somehow choose this. Because the alternative is even worse. The alternative, awful truth is that it doesn’t matter what the vast majority of us choose. That none of the choices on offer are enough to protect us, or our families, or our communities from violence, that the important choices were never ours to begin with, that we are not living in an age of consent.
Kottke.org reported on Google’s AI machine not only learning chess in four hours but also beating the world’s top chess engine right afterwards. Fascinating read, but here’s my favorite takeaway quote:
I’ve long said that Google’s final fate will be to evolve into a hedge fund.
Indeed, what would happen if all these AI machines looked at the global market? Would it see inequality or equality as the best state?