A Brief History of Websites

1989 Any particle physicist can have a website! 1993 Any researcher can have a website! 1995 Anybody at a university can have a website! 1996 Any company can have a website! 1997 Anybody can have a crappy website! 2001 Anybody can have a decent website if it’s a blog! 2003 Tech companies can help anybody have a blog! 2005 Big… read more

Website Updates

New stuff and new ways to get it

A few housekeeping notes this weekend. First, I’ve updated the Speculative Realism Aggregator to include the blogs of Jeff Bell (“Aberrant Monism) and Tim Morton (“The Ecological Thought”). If there are any other blogs that belong in the system that I’m missing, let me know. Second, you may not know it, but you can access a mobile version of this… read more

Taste the Feeling 12

Things You Can’t Talk About in a Coca-Cola Ad

A “Profanity API” for a user-generated marketing campaign censors vulgarity, Pepsi, belching, and murder—but also Bill Cosby, capitalism, the Book of Genesis, and tacos.

When Daniel Joseph, a York University doctoral student studying labor and technology, found out about Coca-Cola’s GIF the Feeling promotion, he knew exactly what he wanted to make with it: a Coke-branded critique of capitalism. An accessory for Coke’s newly launched “Taste the Feeling” global ad campaign, GIF the Feeling is a website that allows visitors to fashion Coke ads by combining… read more

A man dressed as Father Christmas and children look at a computer screen at a special Christmas post office in the village of Himmelpfort (Heaven's Gate), north of Berlin November 10, 2011. The post office in the village of Himmelpfort opened on Thursday with a special Christmas service, replying to mails addressed to Santa Claus that were sent by children from all over the world. Some 20,000 letters already arrived at the post office and organisers expect to receive some 280,000 letters and wish lists from children writing in 17 languages.  REUTERS/Thomas Peter (GERMANY - Tags: RELIGION SOCIETY) - RTR2TTX2

Stop Rebranding Months as Causes

A “Devember” for coding is the latest and most ridiculous of commemorative months.

In his 1996 book Infinite Jest, the late American writer David Foster Wallace imagined a near future in which corporations could sponsor the calendar. Instead of counting up from the birth of Christ, the Organization of North American Nations (O.N.A.N.) develops a “revenue enhancing subsidized time.” Year of the Whopper. Year of Dairy Products from the American Heartland. Year of the… read more

Engineer inspecting air conditioning pipes

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

gamelife

In the Habit

A Review of Michael W. Clune's Gamelife

I am on an airplane reading Michael W. Clune’s Gamelife, a memoir about growing up playing computer games in the 1980s. I’ve just finished eating the smoked salmon and kiwi on the “fruit plate” I was offered by the flight attendant but had initially declined. Just like I had declined to review Gamelife for this publication, initially. For reasons, too. Michael… 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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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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Winning Isn’t Everything

I used to think that games would be the dominant medium of the 21st century. The reality? They’re too big, too complex, and too smart for that to be true.

It’s hard to turn around in video game circles without hearing someone proclaim that “games are the dominant medium of the 21st century.” Deus Ex and Epic Mickeydesigner Warren Spector has a lecture built around the idea. The author Tom Chatfield devoted the subtitle of his book Fun, Inc to the concept. Journey composer Austin Wintory’s uttered the quip in an interview. Film critics writing about recent documentaries about games have even let… read more