The Internet of Things You Don’t Really Need

Smart devices turn every industry into the computer industry, and dupe consumers into thinking their lives are better for it in the process.

Atlanta turns yellow for two weeks in April. Streets, driveways, terraces, cars—everything cakes with pollen. It’s the trees that cause the worst of it. Pine, oak, sweet gum, sycamore, mulberry, hackberry, birch, willow. Prolific itching, sneezing, and car-washing ensue. Grilling season officially begins when the pollen subsides. This year’s was particularly grievous, and perhaps that’s why I was so eager… read more


The Cathedral of Computation

We’re not living in an algorithmic culture so much as a computational theocracy.

Algorithms are everywhere, supposedly. We are living in an “algorithmic culture,” to use the author and communication scholar Ted Striphas’s name for it. Google’s search algorithms determine how we access information. Facebook’s News Feed algorithms determine how we socialize. Netflix’s and Amazon’s collaborative filtering algorithms choose products and media for us. You hear it everywhere. “Google announced a change to… read more


Swing Copters: The Randomness of the Universe, Captured in Pixels

The creator of Flappy Bird is back with a game offering the sublime agony that comes with mastering a craft—and still failing.

Many of the highest-performing professional athletes are also the most superstitious. Serena Williams bounces the tennis ball five time before her first serve, twice before the second. Michael Jordan wore his University of North Carolina basketball shorts under his Chicago Bulls uniform. Baseball hall of famer Wade Boggs bore a bounty of superstitions. Among them: He ate chicken before each… read more

The McRib: Enjoy Your Symptom

How McDonald's strange, seasonal sandwich explains the rest of its menu

Each year, the McRib makes a brief visit to Earth. Its arrival elicits reactions ranging from horror to awe. And for good reason: this would-be rib sandwich is really a restructured pork patty pressed into the rough shape of a slab of ribs, its slathering of barbecue sauce acting as camouflage as much as coating. “Pork” is a generous term,… 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 Mereology of Cola

On generic names for carbonated soft drinks

Harman links to this lovely map infographic of generic names for soft drinks in the United States (click below for a bigger version). It’s been around for a while but is worth revisiting in light of a few points Graham makes in his post. First, Graham wonders what comprises the green “other” category in these maps, which is far more… 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

Pragmatic Speculative Realism

A stake in the ground

Even though we didn’t really talk much about philosophy, after visiting Graham Harman in Cairo two weeks ago, I was reenergized to think about philosophy in general and speculative realism in particular. In the short time since, a number of friendly bonfires have flared up around the web, most of them camps emanating from Graham’s blog and that of Levi… read more

Where in the World was Middle Earth?

A geography professor's hypothetical geomorphology of Middle Earth

Do you read Strange Maps? You should, if you’re at all a map geek. It’s a blog about curious cartography. It’s really exactly the kind of site blogs seem to promise, regular musings on a subject so specific or arcane that another medium couldn’t support regular publication. Thanks largely to Boing Boing, there’s been a running meme lately of subway… read more

Bloomsday on Twitter

A performance of Wandering Rocks on Twitter, and a commentary on both. Created with Ian McCarthy.

I do not like Twitter, the micro-blogging service that allows users to send short (SMS-sized) text-based updates that are displayed publicly and shared with friends social-network style.