Tag: digital

White III

Wednesday, 8 May, 2019

“I’ve been involved with actors since I was a child, in close proximity from elementary school and high school into adulthood, both professionally and a few times romantically.” Thus begins Bret Easton Ellis his analysis of the acting trade in White, his latest book. Acting is a hard life, says Ellis, because actors want us to want them. That’s why they live in fear because if we don’t like them they won’t get roles and this fear of rejection is at the heart of their neuroses. None of us likes criticism but actors dread it because criticism “means the next job, the next flirtation, maybe the career-changing payday might not happen.” Then social media came along.

White “A long time ago in the faraway era of Empire, actors could protect their carefully designed and enigmatic selves more easily and completely than is possible now, when we all live in the digital land of social media where our phones candidly capture moments that used to be private and our unbidden thoughts can be typed up in a line or two on Twitter. Some actors have become more hidden, less likely to go public with their opinions, likes and dislikes — because who knows where the next job’s coming from? Others have become more vocal, stridently voicing their righteousness, but signalling one’s social-justice virtue isn’t necessarily the same as being honest — it can also be a pose…

… But most of us now lead lives on social media that are more performance based than we ever could have imagined even a decade ago, and thanks to this burgeoning cult of likability, in a sense, we’ve all become actors. We’ve had to rethink the means with which to express our feelings and thoughts and ideas and opinions in the void created by a corporate culture that is forever trying to silence us by sucking up everything human and contradictory and real with its assigned rule book on how to behave. We seem to have entered precariously into a kind of totalitarianism that actually abhors free speech and punishes people for revealing their true selves. In other words: the actor’s dream.”

Tomorrow here, Generation Wuss and the widespread epidemic of self-victimization.


The Unbundling of Jobs

Wednesday, 22 August, 2018

“In the mass economy, each job used to be a bundle. With that job came money, health care, a pension, provable solvency to purchase a house and a car, the promise of stability and constant enrichment, and more. Each worker accepted a ‘bargain’: division of labour in exchange for a ‘bundle’ of benefits and security. Work wasn’t necessarily fulfilling and interesting. But the bargain made the relative alienation perfectly acceptable.”

So begins The Unbundling of Jobs and What it Means for the Future of Work by Laetitia Vitaud at Medium. She believes that the “bargain” is ending and the “bundle” is being undone, but a brighter future beckons thanks to what she calls the “digital transition” that’s happening right now. Those who “hunger for more autonomy, flexibility and purpose” will be at the forefront of adopting “new work models”, and these workers, “freelancers, in particular” will be “in a position to negotiate a new ‘bundle’, one where work comes with self-fulfillment and autonomy,” claims Vitaud.

This may be true for an elite, but those who have been unbundled and unbargained will face new overlords intent on devising ever more repressive forms of bondage. In the past, serfs would pay dues (in the form of work) to the manor in exchange for using part of the lord’s land to produce their own food. If the microserfs of the future ever get around to reading history, they’ll find the Middle Ages oddly familiar.


#IoTDay today and the glass is filling

Saturday, 9 April, 2016 0 Comments

It’s the fifth annual Internet of Things Day today. In a much-quoted report about the IoT issued in November last year, the Gartner research firm predicted that “6.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2016, up 30 percent from 2015, and will reach 20.8 billion by 2020. In 2016, 5.5 million new things will get connected every day.”

These are astonishing numbers and they reinforce the notion that the internet is ubiquitous. Blake Snow considers the implications of this in The Atlantic in a piece titled What Would a World Without Internet Look Like? He quotes the academic Clay Shirky, who thinks that it’s futile now to separate the net from everyday life: “the Internet has become our civilization,” says Shirky.

This is a philosophy that would be endorsed by Kevin Kelly, the founding executive editor of Wired magazine. Two years ago, in a post on Medium, he looked at innovation from the viewpoints of 1984 and 2044, and concluded: “Can you imagine how awesome it would have been to be an entrepreneur in 2014? It was a wide-open frontier! You could pick almost any category X and add some AI to it, put it on the cloud.”

Glass There is, however, a different take on the IoT and it was expressed, also in 2014, by Bruce Sterling, the science fiction author, in “The Epic Struggle of the Internet of Things.” This long-form composition was in the style of his 2005 book Shaping Things. For Sterling, the IoT is an ominous social transformation: omnipresent automation via digital surveillance enabled by wireless broadband. Snippet:

“So, let’s imagine that the reader has a smartphone in one hand, as most people in the Twenty-Teens most definitely tend to. In the other hand, the reader has some ‘Thing’. Let’s say it’s the handle of his old-fashioned domestic vacuum cleaner, which is a relic of yesterday’s standard consumer economy.

As he cheerfully vacuums his home carpet while also checking his Facebook prompts, because the chore of vacuuming is really boring, the reader naturally thinks: ‘Why are these two objects in my two hands living in such separate worlds? In my left hand I have my wonderfully advanced phone with Facebook — that’s the ‘internet’. But in my right hand I have this noisy, old-fashioned, ineffective, analogue ‘thing’! For my own convenience as a customer and consumer, why can’t the ‘internet’ and this ‘thing’ be combined?”

And then it turns pessimistic. Meanwhile, here’s wishing you a Happy #IoTDay! 🙂


The Independent’s last print editor writes

Thursday, 18 February, 2016 0 Comments

“The business model for printed general news from Monday to Friday is kaput.” So writes Amol Rajan, the editor of The Independent. His entry in the Spectator Diary is titled: “From the start, I knew I’d be the Independent’s last print editor.” So what’s the future for journalism, if not print? Specialism, says Rajan. “Thriving periodicals such as the Spectator and Private Eye can pursue that. But for providers of general news in a landscape dominated by the BBC, free is the future.”

And the future of The Independent? Rajan points to i100. “It’s a kind of smart Buzzfeed that does concise, shareable, video-heavy news.” Typical stories:

  • Everyone’s in love with this man dancing in the cold and it’s not hard to see why
  • This young woman decided to use a paint roller to apply fake tan. Not a great idea
  • Husband asks wife (yes, really) for help with his Tinder profile, immediately lands two dates

Is this kind of bottom feeding the way forward? Michael Wolff threw a very heavy wet blanket on Rajan’s vision on Monday in USA Today: “… the effort to compete with native digital news outlets like BuzzFeed means traditional news organizations, with traditional share price values, must, like the venture-capital supported natives, pay more for traffic than can ever hope to be made back from advertisers. In this model, the digital natives can yet hope to sell to deep-pocket buyers, whereas the traditionals can only go out of business.”

Amol Rajan is right when he says that the business model for printed general news from Monday to Friday is kaput. What he needs to do now is make the Independent brand synonymous with a solution that makes digital general news profitable from Monday to Sunday. The odds are against it, but Yevgeny Lebedev has lots of cash, still.

Newspapers


What’s the Matter with Owen? With GE?

Thursday, 14 January, 2016 0 Comments

Scene: Two geeky couples are chilling, and one guy (Owen) announces that he’s just got a job coding at General Electric. The other guy responds that he’s working on the app that lets you put fruit hats on animals. Forget about the life-changing projects Owen will be working on at GE. The really cool thing today is putting melon hats on cats.

Industry 4.0: The idea behind the clip is that GE is re-branding itself from old to new, from Industry 1.0 to Industry 4.0. Household appliances are in the product portfolio, but GE is also involved in renewable energy and healthcare. “The Digital Company. That’s Also an Industrial Company” is the new mantra.

Boston: Yesterday, GE announced that it will relocate its headquarters from Connecticut to Boston’s hip waterfront. The move signals that it’s serious about the new industrial era that will revolve around software innovation. GE is also saying that its priority now is to attract the kind of workers who prefer to live in cities instead of the suburbs.

Quote: “We want to be at the center of an ecosystem that shares our aspirations,” GE Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Immelt said in a statement, quoted by Bloomberg. “Greater Boston is home to 55 colleges and universities. Massachusetts spends more on research and development than any other region in the world, and Boston attracts a diverse, technologically-fluent workforce focused on solving challenges for the world.”

Slogan: That’s good news for Owen. One can imagine him in a meeting discussing how to update the company slogan. “‘The Digital Company. That’s Also an Industrial Company'”? “It’s, like, so 2016. How about this, guys?” ‘The Digital Company. That’s Still an Industrial Company'”! Cool. Then, when Owen is the CEO, it won’t take him long to transform the slogan and GE to a three-word sentence: “The Digital Company.”


The Apple Watch as worn by John Gruber

Thursday, 9 April, 2015 0 Comments

Joanna Stern has written a detailed review for the Wall Street Journal: “The Apple Watch makes you look good. But the next one is bound to make you look even better.”

Joshua Topolsky offers a thorough tour d’horizon at Bloomberg: “In some ways, it can be more distracting than your iPhone, and checking it can feel more offensive to people around you than pulling out your phone. The watch wants and needs you now, as its insistent taps make painfully clear.”

Nicole Phelps presents a fashionable appreciation for STYLE.COM: “I came to think of it as a filter instead, bringing what’s essential or pleasurable to me closer to me and editing out the rest.”

But for wannabe insiders, the only analysis that matters in the end is the one offered by John Gruber. While the New York Times enthuses “Bliss, but Only After a Steep Learning Curve“, in typical Gruber style, his review is titled simply The Apple Watch. Snippets:

Time telling is where Apple Watch fares worst compared to traditional watches. That was inevitable. The primary purpose of traditional watches is telling time. Apple Watch is a general purpose computing device, for which telling time is an important, but not primary, use.

In short, I think Apple Watch might be a tougher sell to current watch wearers than non-watch wearers. Non-watch wearers have an open wrist, and if they cared about the glance-able convenience of an always-visible watch dial, they would be wearing a traditional watch already. Watch wearers, on the other hand, already have something on their wrist that Apple Watch needs to replace,3 and the reason they already have a watch on their wrist is that they care about telling time at a glance — something Apple Watch is (and only ever will be, I suspect) merely OK at, not great at…

…The quality of Apple Watch simply as an object is meaningful. When you wear something, it matters how it feels, and it matters how you think it looks. And much like with time-telling as a feature, Apple Watch may well appeal more to those who aren’t currently watch wearers than to those who are.

Apple Watch

The Gruber bottom line: “The single most innovative feature of Apple Watch — the most intimate feature of the company’s most personal device — will only matter if some of the people you care most about wear one too.”

Pretty much like the iPhone, then. Peer pressure and status anxiety will drive sales of the Apple Watch. In other words, it’s going to be a huge success.


Love at first sight: Fiware and the grantrepreneur

Wednesday, 8 April, 2015 0 Comments

“Some recipients of the EU grants have told this website that they were more interested in the grant money than in Fiware.” That perturbing sentence appears near the end of Peter Teffer’s EUobserver article, EU spends millions to make next Facebook European. The headline has a hint of clickbait about it as the story does not live up to the billing. There is no mention of how EU millions could create a global network with 1.39 billion members and a market capitalization of $212 billion. Still, the piece makes for interesting reading as it reveals quite a bit about the bureaucracy of start-up funding.

At the heart of the matter is a project is called Fiware, which is a combination of “future internet” and “software”. Critics, writes Teffer, “say the project, which is costing EU taxpayers €300 million, is superfluous because alternatives already exist.” Teffer quotes Jesus Villasante, from the department of Net innovation in the European Commission, who appears to have a very sanguine attitude to the spending of public monies. “We don’t believe that all the 1,000 start-ups will develop applications that will be successful in the market. There may also be some SMEs that play with Fiware, develop the product, but decide: this is not for me, I prefer to use this other thing. That’s fine.”

Really? Back to Teffer: “‘There are plenty of alternatives to Fiware that are also open source,’ said one entrepreneur who wished to remain anonymous.” Wonder why?

Anyway, five years ago Pingdom looked under the hood at Facebook and found, “Not only is Facebook using (and contributing to) open source software such as Linux, Memcached, MySQL, Hadoop, and many others, it has also made much of its internally developed software available as open source. Examples of open source projects that originated from inside Facebook include HipHop, Cassandra, Thrift and Scribe. Facebook has also open-sourced Tornado, a high-performance web server framework developed by the team behind FriendFeed.”

The list has expanded significantly since then. They prefer to use the other thing.

Urban Dictionary: grantrepreneur: “People who exist on and for public subsidies, also known as corporate welfare. They’re not business people, they’re just good at getting money from government.”


The ideology of digitality

Monday, 12 January, 2015 0 Comments

“Never mind the platforms,” writes Leon Wieseltier. “Our solemn responsibility is for the substance.” His essay, “Among the Disrupted,” is a fierce attack on what he calls “the ideology of digitality.” Snippet:

“All revolutions exaggerate, and the digital revolution is no different. We are still in the middle of the great transformation, but it is not too early to begin to expose the exaggerations, and to sort out the continuities from the discontinuities. The burden of proof falls on the revolutionaries, and their success in the marketplace is not sufficient proof. Presumptions of obsolescence, which are often nothing more than the marketing techniques of corporate behemoths, need to be scrupulously examined. By now we are familiar enough with the magnitude of the changes in all the spheres of our existence to move beyond the futuristic rhapsodies that characterize much of the literature on the subject. We can no longer roll over and celebrate and shop. Every phone in every pocket contains a ‘picture of ourselves,’ and we must ascertain what that picture is and whether we should wish to resist it.”

Talking of phones, here is a photo by Peter Dejong/AP of people holding their mobile phones in front of Rembrandt’s painting, The Night Watch, during a visit by King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden, with King Willem Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands, to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam on 5 April last year.

Amsterdam

Tomorrow, here, fear of AI (artificial intelligence) and its role in “the tyranny of technology.”


At the paperfull office

Tuesday, 9 December, 2014 0 Comments

The term “The Paperless Office” was first used in business in 1994 by Computhink and the firm still owns the trademark. So, 20 years on, how is it working out? Well, Computhink has been joined by “agile document management” vendors like Alfresco, OnBase and M-Files in the battle to to make the office digital, but paper is proving stubborn. Many people still prefer it for reading longer documents and many companies still don’t understand what the paperless options are. Paper consumption per person is falling, according to the data, but the doubters insist that the paperless toilet will arrive before the paperless office. Abigail Sellen and Richard Harper argue that the paperless office is a myth, which is why they called their book The Myth of the Paperless Office.

office paper


Three billion, and counting

Monday, 3 November, 2014 0 Comments

Another day, another statistic. But a big one, nonetheless. Internet Live Stats is showing that the number of internet users has passed the the three billion milestone. In its monthly snapshot of all things connected, We Are Social goes granular on the details in this SlideShare embed.

We Are Social

Talking of SlideShare embeds, one of the most discussed in recent days was “Mobile is eating the world,” which formed the core of an updated presentation Benedict Evans gave at the WSJD conference and at the a16z Tech Summit. Each slide is a gem.


The debatable future of reading, and writing

Monday, 26 May, 2014 0 Comments

What does the consumption text snippets on portable devices portend? Does scrolling represent the erosion of concentration? Is the constant clicking on links leading us into a cul de sac? Are the skimming and scanning and grazing enabled by our digital devices scrambling our heads? Maryanne Wolf of the Center for Reading and Language Research at Tufts University fears that our treasured tradition of contemplative reading is being compromised:

“The omnipresence of multiple distractions for attention — and the brain’s own natural attraction to novelty — contribute to a mindset toward reading that seeks to reduce information to its lowest conceptual denominator. Sound bites, text bites, and mind bites are a reflection of a culture that has forgotten or become too distracted by and too drawn to the next piece of new information to allow itself time to think.”

That’s from Wolf’s stimulating essay titled “Our ‘Deep Reading’ Brain: Its Digital Evolution Poses Questions — Poses-Questions.” There is a counter-argument to be made, of course, that the new devices are opening up reading for an entire public that previously had little to do with the written word. All is not lost just because form and formats are undergoing change.