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Tenure, a game by Owen Gaede

The example title that opens my book Persuasive Games

In 2007—ten years ago!—I published Persuasive Games, a book about how computer software, and especially games, make arguments. In it, I advanced a theory of “procedural rhetoric,” or argumentation through process and model instead of oration, writing, image, and the other media formats typically associated with rhetoric. The book opens with an anecdote about my session with remarkable game. Remarkable in part because it offered such a… read more

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‘Artificial Intelligence’ Has Become Meaningless

It’s often just a fancy name for a computer program.

In science fiction, the promise or threat of artificial intelligence is tied to humans’ relationship to conscious machines. Whether it’s Terminators or Cylons or servants like the “Star Trek” computer or the Star Wars droids, machines warrant the name AI when they become sentient—or at least self-aware enough to act with expertise, not to mention volition and surprise. What to… read more

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The Wisdom of Nokia’s Dumbphone

The smartphone’s ubiquity has made it boring and oppressive. A new, retro handset opens the door to a different future.

They weighed heavy in pockets and jackets and bags, for they were thick and bulky, not lithe and narrow. Harried professionals never clutched one ostentatiously to say silently, “I’ve got better things to do than listen to this pitch or order this coffee.” Fashionable youth never dangled one nonchalantly from fingers as a flirty pique. Nothing was less sexy or… read more

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Why Nothing Works Anymore

Technology has its own purposes.

“No… it’s a magic potty,” my daughter used to lament, age 3 or so, before refusing to use a public restroom stall with an automatic-flush toilet. As a small person, she was accustomed to the infrared sensor detecting erratic motion at the top of her head and violently flushing beneath her. Better, in her mind, just to delay relief than… read more

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How a Million-Dollar Superwatch Is Fighting Back Against Computing

Cheap or expensive, mechanical timepieces remind human wearers of their own humility.

At its heart, a mechanical watch is a fancy spring. A metal coil stores power when the crown is wound tight. A series of gears harnesses that energy in even increments. It spins a central wheel, whose oscillations are geared to turn the watch’s hands. Once gears spin, it’s possible to add more complications, as watchmakers call them. A date… read more

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The Myth of Apple’s Great Design

The company’s new “spaceship” headquarters shows how its beauty has always been skin deep.

Apple has great design is the biggest myth in technology today. The latest victim of this ideology comes in the form a remarkable report on the late Steve Jobs’s final project, still in production: a new, $5 billion Cupertino headquarters for Apple Inc. Writing for Reuters, Julia Love outlines the campus’s “astonishing attention to detail.” Vents and pipes remain obscured… read more

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Is #DeleteUber Good for Workers’ Rights?

The social-media campaign highlights labor issues, but only through the lens of identity.

When the New York Symphony goes on strike for better wages and benefits in the web TV series Mozart in the Jungle, its members find new ways to make do. Union Bob, a piccolo player whose nickname underscores his commitment to union rules, starts taking Uber fares in his Prius. Uber couldn’t have asked for a better endorsement: Even for… read more

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Obama Was Too Good at Social Media

His “cool dad” presidency blinded him to technology’s dangers.

President Obama has been called the “first social-media president.” It’s both a true and a misleading characterization. On the one hand, the Obama White House was indeed the first presidency to make use of services like Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram. But on the other hand, these services either didn’t exist or weren’t used by a broad public before Barack… read more

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Nintendo’s Sad Struggle for Survival

Facing an uncertain future, the company keeps trying to mine its storied past.

The Japanese video-game giant Nintendo has had a rough decade. Ten years ago, the company was riding high on the commercial and cultural success of the Wii, its physical-controller console, and the DS, its popular handheld. Nintendo’s stature—and its stock price—climbed to record highs by 2007. But flailing Wii remotes around in the den proved to be a short-lived trend… read more

Executive Producer and host Donald Trump (C) speaks about the NBC television show "The Celebrity Apprentice" during the TCA presentations in Pasadena, California, January 16, 2015. Seen (L-R) are other participants Vivica A. Fox, Geraldo Rivera, Brandi Glanville, Kate Gosselin, executive producer Mark Burnett, Donald Trump, Kenya Moore, Lorenzo Lamas and Ian Ziering. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT PROFILE MEDIA BUSINESS) - RTR4LQWC

Will Trump Make Silicon Valley Kiss the Ring at His Tech Summit?

The president-elect’s history in Hollywood might offer a clue.

Many years ago, when I was working at a Hollywood production company, a coworker went out to dinner with an out-of-town friend. When conversation turned to work, my colleague explained that he was producing marketing for a film by the director Michael Bay. His friend was no fan of Bayhem, it turned out, and issued a tirade against the director’s… read more