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A Writer’s Glossary

Terms and concepts for working writers and the people who must tolerate them

Piece – a short-form work you are actually writing or actually have written. Feature – a long-form piece you wrote instead of your writer friends (neener). Longread – a feature or longish piece you are promoting on social media. Latest – informal term for a piece (“Here’s my latest for venue on hot-topic.”) Thing or This thing I wrote – term for piece for the non-self-assured (“So, here’s this thing I wrote…”) Blog… read more

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Why Anything but Games Matters

On isolationism in game development; my Indiecade 2014 talk

A couple months ago, I was talking to a friend in technology media. “Sometimes I wonder why I’m in tech,” he started saying. He paused for a beat. “Then I think, at least I’m not in games.” He wasn’t even really talking about the Voldemortian “you-know-what” that was indeed the original impetus for our conversation. That’s just the latest example.… read more

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Future Ennui

As we march onwards towards wearables and alerts on our wrists, we're no longer shocked by technological progress, but rather exhausted by it.

It’s been seven years since the first launch of the iPhone. Before that, smartphones were a curiosity, mostly an affectation of would-be executives—Blackberry and Treo and so forth. Not even a decade ago, they were wild and feral. Today, smartphones are fully domesticated. Tigers made kittens, which we now pet ceaselessly. Over two-thirds of Americans own them, and they have… read more

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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

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Academic Paydom

Tactical lessons from the Steven Salaita situation

For those of you who don’t follow university labor politics, Inside Higher Ed reported this week that the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign apparently rescinded a job offer for a tenured professorship in Native American Studies to Steven G. Salaita, a Virginia Tech English professor. Well, not exactly rescinded. Rather, the UIUC chancellor decided not to advance Salaita’s appointment through a usually pro-forma approval process.… read more

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Welcome to Dataland

Design fiction at the most magical place on Earth

I am in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, and I am standing in line. My family is awaiting entrance to Be Our Guest, a Beauty and the Beast-themed quick-service restaurant nestled into the recently-revamped Fantasyland. It’s late spring in central Florida, and it’s hot. A Disney “cast member” wheels out a cart with drinking water and disposable cups, and each family… read more

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The Opposite of Good Fortune is Bad Fortune

Is 'adjunct activism' the only path to labor reform in higher ed?

At Chronicle Vitae, full-time adjunct professor Lori Harrison-Kahan writes “Blaming the Victim: Ladder Faculty and the Lack of Adjunct Activism”. The piece addresses tenured faculty’s apparent (or at least relative) silence in the ongoing debate over adjunct labor in higher education. Harrison-Kahan rejoins such faculty for failing to extend their ongoing defenses of marginalized communities to their own community: Why… read more

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My Phone is Dying

On elderly iPhones

Everyone knows that iPhones are manufactured with planned obsolescence built in: processors and RAM allocations that can’t keep up with operating system upgrades purposely designed not to account for earlier models. Apple makes too much of its profits from hardware sales, so handsets have become akin to fashion seasons. Hardware upgrades entail power and capacity. The new activities made possible… read more

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You Are Mountain

A strange video game from the Her animator bests Spike Jonze's film at depicting what a relationship with an alien really would be like.

Near the start of his relationship with a computer operating system in Spike Jonze’s Academy Award-winning film Her, Samantha the OS (Scarlett Johansson) helps Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) play a videogame. Called “Alien Child” by the filmmakers, the game seems familiar enough to be plausible to viewers, yet foreign enough to induce estrangement. The same could be said of the film’s high-waisted… read more

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The Clumsiest Way to Exercise Imagination

or, Garry Winogrand was wrong

Some time ago, I posted this fantastic quote about the difference between photography and other kinds of creativity, by the famous street photographer Garry Winogrand: Still photography is the clumsiest way to exercise imagination, to illustrate literary ideas. Anybody with a pencil beats you. Period. To take a simple illustration of the point: if you wanted a melted watch, how… read more