FYI, See Below

The purpose (and the sorrow) of the worst kind of email—the passive-aggressive forward

Email is the worst, but some emails are worse than others. The worst emails are forwards. And the worst forwards? Not the jokes your uncle sends you from his AOL account, but the ones your boss or your coworkers send along from some obscure corner of Administrivistan. Most work emails are purely defensive missives. They seek to shift effort, hide… read more


Future Ennui

As we march onwards towards wearables and alerts on our wrists, we're no longer shocked by technological progress, but rather exhausted by it.

It’s been seven years since the first launch of the iPhone. Before that, smartphones were a curiosity, mostly an affectation of would-be executives—Blackberry and Treo and so forth. Not even a decade ago, they were wild and feral. Today, smartphones are fully domesticated. Tigers made kittens, which we now pet ceaselessly. Over two-thirds of Americans own them, and they have… read more


The Clumsiest Way to Exercise Imagination

or, Garry Winogrand was wrong

Some time ago, I posted this fantastic quote about the difference between photography and other kinds of creativity, by the famous street photographer Garry Winogrand: Still photography is the clumsiest way to exercise imagination, to illustrate literary ideas. Anybody with a pencil beats you. Period. To take a simple illustration of the point: if you wanted a melted watch, how… read more


Sympathy without sympathy

originally published at Medium “YMMV” (Your Mileage May Vary) is among the most mistakenly noble gestures of modern online life. It seems generous on first blush. In online forum talk in particular, YMMV is used to flag one’s opinion, and purportedly to recognize that others might have a different one. I found this diet really helpful, but YMMV. A kind… read more

PlayStation 4: A Videogame Console

Today, the most novel feature of new technology is ordinariness.

The logo for the Dutch videogame studio Guerrilla Games is an object lesson in mixed metaphor: an orange “G” contorted into the chevron shape of a military rank insignia. Guerrilla insurgencies are often organized and sometimes even state-based, but they are hardly represented by the formal emblem of command and control military structure. Guerrilla warfare is irregular, asymmetrical, and lithe.… read more

The Cigarette of This Century

Notes on the Rise and Fall of Blackberry

In January 1995, a year and a half before Hotmail launched the world’s first web-based email service, a landmark California law banning smoking in most public places went into effect. Back then smoking was already on the decline, especially in California, but it was probably still more common than having an email account. The change was most immediately noticeable in… read more

The New Aesthetic Needs to Get Weirder

From the New Aesthetic to Alien Aesthetics, at the Atlantic

You know that art has changed when a new aesthetic movement announces itself not with a manifesto, but with a tumblr. Manifestos offer their grievances and demands plainly, all at once, on a single page—not in many hundred entries. “Literature has up to now magnified pensive immobility, ecstasy, and slumber,” wrote Filippo Marinetti in his 1909 Futurist Manifesto. “We want… read more

The Illusion of a Literal Description

Garry Winogrand, circa 1974

Tod Papageorge shared with me a talk Garry Winogrand gave at MIT in 1974, which he (Papageorge) introduced. An audio recording from the University of California Riverside’s archive captures much of the lively question and answer period, which included a wealth of fantastic material. Here are two of my favorites: A photograph has to be rational. It has to be… read more

The Legume, the Piston, and the Bearded Man

My Contribution to the Speculative Heresy/The Inhumanities Cross-Blog Event

This week and next, Speculative Heresy and The Inhumanities are running a series on speculative realism and ethics, responses addressing the following question: “While speculative realism has critiqued anthropocentrism in ontology, and critical animal studies has critiqued anthropocentrism in ethics, there has yet to be many productive connections made between the two. With each offering the other important insights, the… read more

Videogames are a Mess

My DiGRA 2009 Keynote, on Videogames and Ontology

What follows is the text of my keynote at the 2009 Digital Games Research Association (DiGRA) conference, held in Uxbridge, UK September 1-4, 2009. The text corresponds fairly accurately to the address I gave at the conference. In a few cases, I’ve added some clarifications in square brackets, where additional context or commentary was relevant. (You can also download the… read more