Presentation Software Sucks

Here are some features that would make it better.

I do a lot of presentations. They come in various forms: class lectures, conference papers, keynote talks, corporate presentations, and business pitches, to name a few. Often I use slides and visuals in these talks, and I do so in various ways. In my class lectures I try to use slides as a way to reinforce the key ideas from the… read more

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Programmers: Stop Calling Yourselves Engineers

It undermines a long tradition of designing and building infrastructure in the public interest.

I’m commiserating with a friend who recently left the technology industry to return to entertainment. “I’m not a programmer,” he begins, explaining some of the frustrations of his former workplace, before correcting himself, “—oh, engineer, in tech-bro speak. Though to me, engineers are people who build bridges and follow pretty rigid processes for a reason.” His indictment touches a nerve.… 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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Game Studies, Year Fifteen

Notes on Thoughts on Formalism

I know it’s been a long time since I blogged—really blogged, you know, in the style of that form—for three reasons. First, because I’m talking about blogging in the first sentence, and second because I’m sending you here to read the prerequisites for this post. You’ll want to read the linked piece and as many of the subsequent pieces linked… read more

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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

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What Are Game Developers? A View From the Future

Centuries hence, a citizen reads up on a bygone industry.

I squinted at the discolored reading pad I’d borrowed from the archives. The material was as dry as the title—“Taxonomy of Extinct Terrestrial Tribes”—but these ancient practices had long fascinated me. Take “games,” for example. They were played by adults and children alike, without shame—even in public! I had once scoffed at the idea that beings of my genetic lineage… read more

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The Squalid Grace of Flappy Bird

Why playing stupid games staves off existential despair

Games are grotesque. I’m not talking about games like Grand Theft Auto or Manhunt, games whose subjects are moral turpitude, games that that ask players to murder, maim, or destroy. I mean games in general, the form we call “games.” Games are gross, revolting heaps of arbitrary anguish. Games are encounters with squalor. You don’t play a game to experience an… read more

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Hyperemployment

or the Exhausting Work of the Technology User

In 1930, the economist John Maynard Keynes famously argued that by the time a century had passed, developed societies would be able to replace work with leisure thanks to widespread wealth and surplus. “We shall do more things for ourselves than is usual with the rich to-day,” he wrote, “only too glad to have small duties and tasks and routines.” Eighty years… read more