Steampunk reveals three relationships that people want with their technology. First, they want their technology to have a sense of humor. Humor and jokes give us a way to connect with and understand each other. Also, humor is a great cultural indicator that we understand each other. Studies show that if I can make you laugh, you not only think I’m smarter but also feel a deeper human connection to me. If we want to have a closer relationship to these technologies that are filling our lives, it makes sense that we would want them to get our sense of humor and make us laugh.
Second, people want their technology to have a sense of history. History is the on-ramp to the future. Only by understanding where we have come from can we make sense of where we are going. It might surprise you to realize that a pocket watch is a lot like an iPhone. We carry both around in our pockets. Both give their owners an advantage over other people who may not have them. But there is one difference: a pocket watch was designed to be handed down from generation to generation. An iPhone is designed to be refreshed from generation to generation. For an increasing number of people this doesn’t work. They want their devices to have grounding in history, a connection to the past so we can have a clearer view of our future.
Finally, people want their technology to have a sense of humanity. They want their devices to understand them as individuals. If you sleep with your smartphone next to your bed you want it to know who you are when you wake up in the morning. As our devices become increasingly smarter and central to our lives, we want these devices to understand us as individuals, not as consumers.”
A Thin Line Between Documentation + Surveillance
“'The right to privacy is often understood as an essential requirement for the realization of the right to freedom of expression. Undue interference with individuals' privacy can both directly and indirectly limit the free development and exchange of ideas. An infringement upon one right can be both the cause and consequence of an infringement upon the other.'”
Futurist John Smart, president and founder of the Acceleration Studies Foundation, recalled an insight of economist Simon Kuznets about evolution of technology effects known as the Kuznets curve: “First-generation tech usually causes ‘net negative’ social effects; second-generation ‘net neutral’ effects; by the third generation of tech—once the tech is smart enough, and we’ve got the interface right, and it begins to reinforce the best behaviors—we finally get to ‘net positive’ effects,” he noted. “We’ll be early into conversational interface and agent technologies by 2020, so kids will begin to be seriously intelligently augmented by the internet. There will be many persistent drawbacks however [so the effect at this point will be net neutral]. The biggest problem from a personal-development perspective will be motivating people to work to be more self-actualized, productive, and civic than their parents were. They’ll be more willing than ever to relax and remain distracted by entertainments amid accelerating technical productivity.
“As machine intelligence advances,” Smart explained, “the first response of humans is to offload their intelligence and motivation to the machines. That’s a dehumanizing, first-generation response. Only the later, third-generation educational systems will correct for this.””
Rejecting Materiality for the “Authentically Digital,” Or a Note about Windows 8 New Logo
If one concedes the point that a Sabbath for restorative reasons need not proscribe technology, it may seem pointless to argue against the digital sabbath. What’s the harm?
The reason is that if we allow ourselves to blame the technology for distracting us from our children or connecting with our communities, then the solution is simply to put away the technology. We absolve ourselves of the need to create social, political, and, sure, technological structures that allow us to have the kinds of relationships we want with the people around us. We need to realize that at the core of our desire for a Sabbath isn’t a need to escape the blinking screens of our electronic world, but the ways that work and other obligations have intruded upon our lives and our relationships.
We can begin by mimicking the Sabbath in small, by recognizing that by dedicating time to one activity or one person, without interruption from gadgets, work, or other people, will help us slow down and connect. We can use our gadgets to do this — a long talk on the phone is the most obvious way — or we can leave them out of it”
“TED attempts to present itself as fresh, cutting edge, and outside the box but often fails to deliver. It’s become the Urban Outfitters of the ideas world, finding “cool” concepts suitable for being packaged and sold to the masses, thereby extinguishing the “cool” in the process. Cutting-edge ideas not carrying the Apple-esque branding are difficult to find.”
That is, our consumption, especially of information, is a mode of production. The general intellect is the sum of all that information circulation.
Google, then, is the reification of the general intellect. It manages to take human curiosity and turn it into capital.
The consequences of that are profound. Our curiosity is no longer a sign of our leisure; it’s an enormously important economic factor. To a degree this has always been true. Our willingness to pay attention to things is at the root of consumer demand. But it is now far more productive of informational goods in and of itself, thanks to ubiquitous online surveillance and data-storage capabilities. Much of the way we express our human curiosity can now be recorded and fed into algorithms and plotted on graphs of connections to generate more information, stimulate more curiosity, produce more demand. That’s why, as Gibson points out, Google’s Eric Schmidt claimed that people “want Google to tell them what they should be doing next.” Google doesn’t end lines of inquiry; it gives users momentum. The point of Google is to try to keep you Googling.”
The first time I laid eyes on the forthcoming Facebook Timeline feature, I immediately thought of Gawker. And then of TV. And then of how Gawker was trying to become TV and how apparently now Facebook was, too. I think going mass, and — better — becoming a mass of infinitely individualized niches is probably good business, but I don’t enjoy it. That’s about the time I start looking for the door. I might just be an early-product-life-cycle consumer, if there is such a thing. (In the early days of alt rock, I think we used to call these people pretentious assholes.)
Why might that be? Where do they lose me? I think part of it might be that what I’m really interested in is writing. I say that in the lowest-brow way possible. I like snarky writing. I like informal writing. I like long writing. I like short writing. I really don’t care, but my expertise — and thus my fandom — lies in the written word. And there’s a point in the life of every website where it makes business sense to go beyond writing, to other, more expensive, supposedly more compelling media. This is the idea behind enhanced ebooks — that books really contain platform agnostic stories that can be elaborated in a dizzying variety of other media”
Dave Winer wrote a timely piece this morning about how Facebook is scaring him since the new API allows applications to post status items to your Facebook timeline without a users intervention. It is an extension of Facebook Instant and they call it frictionless sharing. The privacy concern here is that because you no longer have to explicitly opt-in to share an item, you may accidentally share a page or an event that you did not intend others to see.
The advice is to log out of Facebook. But logging out of Facebook only de-authorizes your browser from the web application, a number of cookies (including your account number) are still sent along to all requests to facebook.com. Even if you are logged out, Facebook still knows and can track every page you visit. The only solution is to delete every Facebook cookie in your browser, or to use a separate browser for Facebook interactions.”