The Magnificent Bribe

Why has our age surrendered so easily to the controllers, the manipulators, the conditioners of an authoritarian technics? …The bargain we are being asked to ratify takes the form of a magnificent bribe. Under the democratic-authoritarian social contract, each member of the community may claim every material advantage, every intellectual and emotional stimulus he may desire, in quantities hardly available hitherto even for a restricted minority: food, housing, swift transportation, instantaneous communication, medical care, entertainment, education. But on one condition: that one must not merely ask for nothing that the system does not provide, but likewise agree to take everything offered, duly processed and fabricated, homogenized and equalized, in the precise quantities that the system, rather than the person, requires. Once one opts for the system no further choice remains. In a word, if one surrenders one’s life at source, authoritarian technics will give back as much of it as can be mechanically graded, quantitatively multiplied, collectively manipulated and magnified.

— Lewis Mumford in “Authoritarian and Democratic Technics” via The Convivial Society

LitMap and mindmapping tools

I love maps and visualization tools because I'm not a linear thinker. Here's one for literary discovery and another for shaking out your own ideas:

  1. Litnode
  2. Whimsical

The Media Shaped Memory

In his recent newsletter, Michael Sacasas re-articulated Marshall McCluhan's argument that new technology/media reconfigure society. Reconfiguration takes place, not by an ex nihilo big bang, but by rearranging the pre-existent material. New media rearranges "the public" culture (Kierkegaard). Sacasas gives the example inviting us to:

consider the effect of digital media on memory. If collective memory is a crucial element of a cohesive, well-functioning society, if, as Ivan Illich has observed, what we call different cultures are merely the manifestations of different means of remembering—then what are the consequences of the radical re-ordering of how we remember occasioned by digital media?

Cultures, as shared-memory communities (Ivan Illich), might be radically disrupted by this media re-arrangement of shared memory. Cultures are shaped by memory and memory is the story of the past. In other words, Media has the power to reshape the stories we tell about our past.

Some examples of media and what they've reshaped:

  • Cable news, entrenched two-party system
  • Social media, fundamentalist religious and ideological terrorism.
  • The digital scroll-feed, what an individual sees as most important (no temporal bandwidth).

A follow up:

Another instance of media shaping memory came to mind, when I watched the documentary "13th." The film begins with an extended discussion of the film "Birth of A Nation" and it's shaping of the race imagination in the US. Towards the end of the documentary, after a lengthy and sad discussion of disproportional incarceration, the interviews return to a discussion of how media shapes the telling and remembering of black history.

Remember, "The Danger of A Single Story?"

One Database to Rule All The Sports

OSDB Sports is a new startup that, as the the name suggests, acts as an IMDB for sports. An interesting concept that enables players, unions, teams, and leagues democratized space to tell stories and share conent. I wonder if it will catch-on with fans in a way that other sports platforms have struggled to.

How Humans Push and Pull The Internet Resulting in Flow and Stock

“Push and Pull” are Chris Dixon’s simplifying patterns of the internet named for the action that users enact on the tool. “Push and pull” classifies how we lay claim and opt-into the digital world.

This participation with the internet reminds me of what ends up shaking out over time and what Austin Kleon calls “Stock and Flow.” In fact, Dixon categorizes push and pull as stock and flow, respectively, under the category of “Content Durability.” To help us understand content durability here are Robin Sloans’ defenitions of flow and stock:

Flow is the feed. It’s the posts and the tweets. It’s the stream of daily and sub-daily updates that reminds people you exist.

Stock is the durable stuff. It’s the content you produce that’s as interesting in two months (or two years) as it is today. It’s what people discover via search. It’s what spreads slowly but surely, building fans over time.