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Jurassic World and Facebook Elegies

Jurassic World and Facebook Elegies

Sitting in a breezy movie theater waiting for Jurassic World to start, my friend looked up from his Facebok timeline to ask me a question. We had been talking earlier about the devastating death of a friend and classmate, and in the last hour it had started to dominate our News Feed. “Dude, are we supposed to like these posts?” He asked. “It doesn’t seem quite right.”

In this day and age, it seems like nothing has truly happened until it’s documented online. As the saying goes, “Pics or it didn’t happen.” Jacob Silverman wrote an article with the phrase as…

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Focus Focus Focus! The Law of Attention in an Age of Distraction

Focus Focus Focus! The Law of Attention in an Age of Distraction

Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d write: You know you’re watching something good when it forces you to shelve your laptop. This was certainly the case this past Sunday evening, during the finale of a certain HBO fantasy drama. There are plenty of reasons why Game of Thrones gets such huge ratings, but one is surely the way it demands our full attention with its radical–and some might say overly antagonistic–plot developments. Yeesh.

It’s hard to tell when multitasking became our default mode of consumption, but it was at least a year or two before AMC started promoting their “two-screen…

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Automatic Transmissions and the Phenomenon of “Miswanting”

Automatic Transmissions and the Phenomenon of “Miswanting”

Nicholas Carr has a new book out, called The Glass Cage: Automation and Us, and he opens it by describing his yearning as a young driver for a car with an automatic transmission. It was a new thing at the time, something which allowed drivers the novel experience of multitasking. Those who had automatics had an extra hand for a coke or an eight-track, and an extra foot for thumping the bass line of their favorite Led Zeppelin cut.

The point that this illustration seems downright prehistoric is intended. It was only 40 years ago. 40 years ago we imagined the future with…

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Internet Shame and the Price of a Reputation

Internet Shame and the Price of a Reputation

If you already have a list of podcasts you pretend to listen to, put Reply All at the top. It’s a show I had avoided for a while because it’s exclusively “a show about the internet,” a medium I surrender so much of my time to already. But I quickly found that, like most of the public radio offerings these days, it’s just another wide avenue for good human-interest stories. I mean, where else do you see human nature writ large than in your Instagram feed or in some nefarious Reddit comment chain? Besides, each episode is short—some are fifteen…

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Jamin Warren’s Games for Non-Gamers: A Magazine List

Jamin Warren’s Games for Non-Gamers: A Magazine List

From our Work and Play Issue, this list comes from Jamin Warren, who blew minds at MbirdNYC15 this past Friday. For those who want more Jamin, his gaming festival Two5Six is taking place in May, and the lineup looks pretty unbelievable. He’s also hinted at an Mbird group rate, which if you go here you can redeem.

Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, an esteemed, well-respected cultural historian named Johan Huizinga undertook a very strange project given his post. He wanted to understand the nature of play in all of its forms. What Huizinga found and subsequently argued was that…

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Social Media, Shame, and the Prescience of DFW

Social Media, Shame, and the Prescience of DFW

This month’s edition of Christianity Today features a cover story, “The Return of Shame,” that draws a clear, causative link between the prevalence of social media and its corollary stripping of privacy with the emergence of a shame-fame culture. I couldn’t help but relate this to David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest (and Billy Idol’s “Eyes without a Face”).

n contrast to a guilt culture wherein morality is evaluated on the basis on individual conscience, a shame culture’s efficacy rests on community’s conception of your behavior. According to Crouch, “you know you are good or bad by what your community says about you.” This…

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Another Week Ends: Even More Camille Paglia, Digital Soul-Training, Backstabbing Enablers, Apolitical Auden, and Masculine Christianity

Another Week Ends: Even More Camille Paglia, Digital Soul-Training, Backstabbing Enablers, Apolitical Auden, and Masculine Christianity

1. Where to start with a hierarchy of most severe ‘little-l law’ in ‘secular’ society? We could start with body image, health, having cool experiences, and the like, but prosperity honestly takes the cake. And among the people who have already checked that box, it’s fast becoming political correctness. Political correctness is important, but its ascendant, uncompromising severity and occasional use as a class-code leads to a totalization which is, to say the least, in tension with the traditional (L/l)iberal ideal of discourse. Cue Camille Paglia, who had some fantastic things to say in America Magazine (Jesuits) about the backslide of feminism and…

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Incurvatus In Se according to The New Yorker

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“Our nature, by the corruption of the first sin being so deeply curved in on itself (incurvatus in se) that it not only bends the best gifts of God towards itself and enjoys them, as is plain in the works-righteous and hypocrites, or rather even uses God himself in order to attain these gifts, but it also fails to realize that it so wickedly, curvedly, and viciously seeks all things, even God, for its own sake.” —Martin Luther, Lectures on Romans

Another Week Ends: Health As Wealth, A New(ish) Take on Addiction, More DFW, Cellular Dependence, and Francis I

Another Week Ends: Health As Wealth, A New(ish) Take on Addiction, More DFW, Cellular Dependence, and Francis I

1. Whatever form the Law takes, dictated by fickle zeitgeist, it leaves behind a few years later. Forms can be remarkably inconsistent among different demographics, and after we finally escape one form of (little-l) law, we look back and scorn it, wondering how we (or anyone else) ever could’ve gotten so attached to it. For example, masculinity: the more and more we escape the pressure for men to be super macho, the more contemptible we find its earnest expression, as if embarrassed by our previous adherence. Even commercials which target the lowest common denominator of the masculine – such as Axe –…

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On Playing Catch Up (In Case You Missed It)

On Playing Catch Up (In Case You Missed It)

God bless Portlandia. Their first season contained a skit that has proven to be more than a little prophetic. In case you missed it (ICYMI):

On the surface, Fred and Carrie are emphasizing how people compete over being well informed, how prideful our relationship with information has become. They’re lampooning a world where ‘staying on top of things’ has become an increasingly treasured form of righteousness, where the mastery of information–for certain personality types–is as tantalizing as it is illusive.

One expression of this pursuit is the barrage of links we receive and share with others over social media. Taken individually, such…

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#Blessed in the Storm

#Blessed in the Storm

It may be the most ubiquitous hashtag on the internet. We use it on every platform. And, of course, it totally transcends every category. Everyone from the 16 year old with a new Lexus SUV to the wife telling the world about her 40th wedding anniversary is #blessed. Of course, for those of us who drove an old pick up truck in high school or who’s first marriage lasted just two years, #blessed cannot mean anything good. We have somehow failed. Our lives have not measured up.

Certainly there are underlying theological implications. We may worry that other people are #blessed…

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Liv Ullmann on Something Better Than Violence

While we’re on the subject of social media, a highly unusual interview came across my desk this week, with Swedish actress-director Liv Ullmann, widely known for her collaborations with Ingmar Bergman. If at first it sounds like the rant of a septuagenarian, keep reading–would that we all could be so frank. It’s almost enough to make a person want to go rewatch Scenes from a Marriage (which is really saying something!):

Liv+Ullman+2012+IIFA+Awards+Day+2+1gzfVbxS37Il“What is this chatting? And then they Twitter, and I understand the Twitter can be so mean and horrible and people are killing themselves because of what they’re reading about themselves. A lot of evilness comes when you are anonymous.” It’s a false democracy, [Ullman] thinks, a veneer behind which powerful groups can slip in and assume power.

Maybe being famous means she can’t understand why others might want to be celebrities. It’s true, she can’t fathom it – why people would set their self-worth by such a measure. “We should tell them what is really to be cared for. It’s not because you’re suddenly famous, it’s really when you’re sitting one person to another and you are listening to each other and the other person is seeing you and then you have maybe a strange thought and you say it and suddenly see some understanding in the other person. Or you go to a movie and things you didn’t have words for are there. That is the communication I prefer.”

Ullmann apologises. She’s gone off topic, she says. Her eyes are gleaming. She’s made this screamingly mean movie [an adaptation of Strindberg’s ‘Miss Julie’, starring Jessica Chastain and Colin Farrell] to try to show people how not to behave. People ought to feel bad more than they do, she says, to try to make amends. “If you have a row with your husband and you see them lying down trying to sleep and you see they’re so scared, instead of saying: ‘You have to change or I’ll leave’, you should say: ‘I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.’” When Jesus hung on the cross, he asked forgiveness of the brutes. There’s something that is better than violence. ‘Forgive me’, you should say, even if you have been wronged.”