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In Virtual Reality, Finally a World for Men

Decades hence, a citizen relives a famous photograph.

“Oh, that was a long time ago,” I said, looking at the old photograph on the battered tablet, hoping to demur. Rows and rows of men bearing one of the earliest visor headsets. “That was a long time ago.” “Were you there?” Huxley asked. Her big eyes—we used eyes again, by then, at least some of the time—were blood-red from… read more

Yurika Miki (R) and her mother Yoshiko take photos of raw beef liver sashimi before eating them at a restaurant in Tokyo June 28, 2012. While Japan has a reputation as the home of sushi and sashimi, one item is about to be taken off the menu as Japan's government looks to ban the popular dish of raw liver in sashimi style. The dish, which consists of raw beef liver sliced up into bite sized chunks and then served with onions and sauce had become a popular dish across the country. Picture taken June 28, 2012. REUTERS/Toru Hanai (JAPAN - Tags: BUSINESS FOOD SOCIETY) - RTR34CQ5

Offloading Affective Labor to Customers

Companies once asked only their employees to feign heartfelt devotion to their products. Now their customers are expected to do so too.

Dining recently with friends, everything looked the way it always does. The menu boasted appealing but ordinary fare—antipasti and starters, wood-fired pizzas, freshly-made pastas, meaty mains. I noticed that a handful of the menu items were printed in red, and I asked the server why. “These are our signature dishes,” he explained. “They’re the ones that are most shared on… read more

Children look at wrapped gifts on the ground as a man dressed as Santa Claus (not pictured) climbs a building to hang them during a ceremony in the northern Italian ski resort of Selva Di Val Gardena December 8, 2007.   REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi   (ITALY) - RTX4J9A

The Deeper Meaning of Black Friday

Giving a gift is an act of competition as much as generosity.

Get $100 off the iPad Air 2 at Best Buy. Save $50 on the Xbox One Gears of War Bundle plus get a $60 Target Gift Card. At Walmart, one can buy a Samsung Smart HDTV for under $200. Under $200! These are the marks of Black Friday, the annual bacchanal for consumer excess. And excess, it is normally thought,… read more

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The Car That Killed Glamour

Tesla and the end of the automobile as an object of desire

The Tesla Model S is a supercar without equal. Recently, the P85D trim broke the Consumer Reports rating system, earning a score of 103 out of 100. They rounded down to just 100, calling it “closest to perfect we've ever seen.” The Model S accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in under 3.5 seconds, via an electric motor that produces… read more

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Don’t Hate the Phone Call, Hate the Phone

Our telephone habits have changed, but so have the infrastructure and design of the handset.

One of the ironies of modern life is that everyone is glued to their phones, but nobody uses them as phones anymore. Not by choice, anyway. Phone calls—you know, where you put the thing up to your ear and speak to someone in real time—are becoming relics of a bygone era, the “phone” part of a smartphone turning vestigial as… read more

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How to Talk About Videogames

A fond look at the preposterous—and yet essential—pursuit of games criticism

This book is available in digital or physical format. Buy from Amazon Videogames! Aren’t they the medium of the twenty-first century? The new cinema? The apotheosis of art and entertainment, the realization of Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk? The final victory of interaction over passivity? No, probably not. Games are part art and part appliance, part tableau and part toaster. In How to… read more

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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

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A Master Key to the Ultimate Dumb Device

The future of the iPhone could be a way of tethering people to Apple products even when they don't want them anymore.

Lock-in. That's what we call it when you're dependent on a specific vendor for particular services. When you buy a single-serving coffee machine boasting convenient, mess-free coffee inserts, like Keurig K-Cup or Nespresso, you're bound to its brand of coffee pods. When you purchase digital music on iTunes, proprietary formats and digital rights management (DRM) make it difficult to listen… read more

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Video Games Are Better Without Characters

The real legacy of SimCity is its attempt—and failure—to make complex systems the protagonists instead of people.

In the mid-1980s, the easiest way to check out the latest computer games was to go to a bookstore in the mall. Past the John Grisham and the bargain history books in the B. Dalton Bookseller, you’d find Software Etc., a small island of boxes amidst bound volumes, and a few computers on which to play the latest releases. It… read more

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The End of the Big Mac

The burger's demise won’t be marked by a declaration in a quarterly report, but by a collective appreciation for the comfort it offered America.

If you like to lunch on two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun, you’d better act fast: McDonald’s has announced plans to phase out the Big Mac. Okay, not really. But social media ate up the news of its axing, published by the satirical site Daily Buzz Live at the end of last… read more