Very important things

I was just down at a local music venue buying early-bird special weekend passes for next summer’s big annual music festival. I had arrived during a quiet moment in their day and none of the ladies at the ticket table was taking the opportunity to rearrange all the bills in the cash box. “There,” she said as she finished up. “Now they’re all facing the same way.” As a somewhat compulsive bill-straightener, I can appreciate that.

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Regarding my previous post, maybe the better way to ask the question is “Why should I care about this?” rather than “Who cares?”

#196: I Care Because You Do - by Drew Austin - Kneeling Bus:

Decontextualization—the temporary or permanent removal of an individual or object from its familiar environment—is frequently blamed for misinformation and fake news, but more broadly, it is an opportunity for other parties to fill the void with their own context. Victor Gruen, who is only indirectly responsible for the Transfer, invented the shopping mall as we know it in the 1950s in a utopian effort to recreate the pedestrian-friendly shopping districts that were vanishing from urban downtown areas due to the transformative impact of the automobile. The existing environment’s flaws, in other words, demanded the creation of self-contained bubbles where the pernicious external forces would not impinge. More than sixty years later, we constantly inhabit the proverbial mall—physical and digital environments that furnish their own all-enveloping context in place of whatever context we arrived with (if any). In his 1996 book Ladders, Albert Pope wrote, “Today, the single overriding ambition of each closed development (meaning the single overriding ambition of urbanism today) is to enhance and refine our ability to simulate the world.” The equally utopian digital version of this constitutes the realm where our minds, if not yet our bodies, spend more and more time; as this partitioned interior becomes increasingly comprehensive, we lose the ability to point to any external reality that might ground us.

The clearest indication of this condition is suddenly caring about something that you wouldn’t have cared about at a safe distance—the Gruen Transfer at work. “Who cares?” is a question we don’t ask ourselves enough as we trawl the contemporary information landscape, a truth that is painfully clear upon cursory examination of so many cultural phenomena. Digital media is haunted by the idea of quality and its measurability (via engagement stats) or at least knowability (by recommendation algorithms), but “quality” is a red herring. Something can be good and still not matter; we should focus more on the latter and less on the former.

I am always telling my kids that “Who cares?” is never an appropriate response to anything, I have to admit that I think we need to ask this question a lot more often about stuff on the internet.

Liberalism is difficult.

How liberalism lost its lustre – Julian Baggini: A more troubling explanation is that liberal democracy has simply not lived up to its own values and promise. Its claims to virtue are increasingly seen as hollow. There is a gap between what liberalism should be and what it actually is, and that gap has to be closed if it is to prevail. Liberal democracy has three key features: it is plural, progressive and participatory.

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When I go to search for something on the web, the first ten (or twenty) results should not be ways to buy something. That those are the results that I get tells me that things are broken and messed up.

Maybe I’m just old and my memory is hazy regarding how things used to be in The Good Old Days, but I’m pretty sure that it didn’t used to be like this.

A Weblog · Human-sized Services:

Humans making websites was what made 1.0, back in the Netscape Navigator days, great. Blink tags, under construction logos, and multi-colour Times New Roman font. It was joyous because it was the web at human level.

Then we went to corporations. We had Tumblr, and Facebook, and Twitter. Corporations mining your creativity for profit.

It seems we are now on our return, retrograde orbit back to human-scale once more.

I whole-heartedly agree.

The thing about human-sized services is that they do not scale. That’s not bad. Actually, it’s good. A human-sized service will not work if millions of people try to use it. It probably won’t work if thousands of people try to use it.

The problem with services that scale is that once they do scale, they become a shitty experience for the individual humans that are actually using them. That’s the experience that should be centered in any of this—it’s the only reason we should even be doing any of this.

And for what it’s worth, you should go check out the human-sized services that Andrew recommends farther down in his post. They are all excellent, and are run by good folks.

I guess I have gone ahead and fired up my own Mastodon instance. Not sure why, exactly—I really like, especially the Local tab. I’m planning to keep both for at least a little bit. We’ll see what happens.

Finally got around to watching the Andor finale. I like Mandalorian plenty, but this show is just working on a whole other level.

Call me cranky, but I am pretty tired of reading posts about whatever AI-generated thing some model spit out. 🥱

Finished reading: Fairy Tale by Stephen King 📚

I feel like I enjoyed this book in spite of the plot, which I hardly cared about at all. It wasn’t bad, but it just wasn’t that interesting. King is such a skilled writer, though, that he kept me engaged.

More broadly, I think I liked how the book made me feel—the emotions it summoned. Reading this book was, in this way, a similar experience to watching The Force Awakens. Do I like it because it is good, or do I like it because of how it makes me feel? I don’t know.