Analog tools and the clawing back of the tangible evidence of our labor

I was thinking yesterday about my growing preference for analog media over digital, and especially about how and why I have switched over almost entirely to using pen and paper for stuff like notes, planning, and to-do lists. Even at work, while I still send and receive a lot of email, use instant messaging pretty heavily, and rely on Trello boards for my team’s planning, all of my own meeting notes and daily/weekly planning takes place in a spiral-bound Kyokuto Expedient dot-grid notebook, and I am really happy with that process.

Part of it is that it allows me to indulge my penchant for fancy notebooks and fountain pens. However, I think the underlying reason that I prefer pen and paper for this sort of thing is that it helps make all of the intangible aspects “knowledge work” tangible.

That got me to thinking about Marx’s notion of our alienation from our own labor—the stuff we do to deliberately change the world around us, the essence of what makes us human. Knowledge work in general and digital/online tools more specifically abstract us even further from the work that we do. We spend all day composing emails, drafting documents, and dragging cards around on digital boards, and yet there is not a single physical trace of all that labor.

It is—by nature—dehumanizing.

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The Case for Impeaching Donald Trump:

What a massive waste of time the Trump presidency has been. America has urgent challenges to address on behalf of all of its citizens and they’re just not getting much consideration. Instead, we’ve given the attention of the country over to a clown and a charlatan who wants nothing more than for everyone to adore and enrich him. Meanwhile, the US government and a populace bewitched by breaking news is stuck in traffic, gawking at this continually unfolding accident. And we somehow can’t or won’t act to remove him from the most powerful job in the world, this person that not even his supporters would trust to borrow their cars or water their plants while on vacation. What a shame and what a waste.

Yep, even if we somehow get through all of this without another major disaster or crisis, we will look back on these years and wonder at what could have been had we not been stuck dealing with this bullshit.

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Nancy LeTourneau writing at _Washington Monthly about AOC’s a Twitter smackdown of Scott Walker:

But a tweet like that doesn’t change anything. Scott Walker’s followers still love his take on tax cuts (perhaps even more than they did before) and he will continue to spread that kind of nonsense in future political endeavors. In other words, it feels like Ocasio-Cortez “owned” Scott Walker, but I can guarantee you that his followers will be tweeting that he “owned the libs” (as they like to say) with his original analogy. Each side feels like they won something, but other than those good vibes, they don’t walk away with anything else.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with spreading those kind of good vibes. It helps keep morale up during a very difficult time, which is no small thing. But here’s my point: it is not a political strategy. You don’t “win” anything by scoring a verbal victory on social media. I’m going to give Ocasio-Cortez the benefit of the doubt and assume she knows that. If not, she’s in for a very rude awakening.

I agree with LeTourneau—this sort of thing doesn’t change any voters’ minds.

However, I think it is more about working the refs—the media and punditocracy—which is something Democrats have historically been pretty terrible at.

As long as Republican tools like Walker are spouting off nonsense like he did without being challenged, the more it cements the bullshit public narrative that they are somehow more serious about taxes. Every time a Democrat punches back like this, it shifts that narrative slightly.

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I feel like I am the only person on earth who does not find Black Mirror all that interesting.
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I like this “Subscribe to my site” idea as a way of talking about RSS in a more user-friendly sort of way.

The analogy that comes to mind is that everyone knows what you’re talking about when you say “email”, but their eyes rightfully glaze over if you mention SMTP, POP3, IMAP, etc.

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In a random conversation with a coworker today, it came out that she owns twenty-two manual typewriters.


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The nib of my Pilot Vanishing Point completely dried up over the course of about two hours this morning. That has never happened before. I’ve got one of the J. Herbin 1798 inks in it at the moment. I thought maybe that had something to do with it, but this is at least the third round of that ink I’ve used in this pen, and this is the first time the nib has dried out.