culture

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Ethical art.

If you’re speaking to an (essentially captive, given the marketing monies involved) audience of five million people you’d better be sure your ideas are, at least, not actively harmful, and in fact should ideally be improving – – fine. How about an audience of 50 people? Or an audience of 0? Does that mean this work is less moral than what speaks to a larger crowd – in effect, that it’s worse? And what about the relationship to audience that this kind of teaching implies? i can think of several occasions where people from different subcultures or minority groups were reprimanded because something in their own experience might read differently, or problematically, when presented to a presumably white/cis/affluent etc audience – which is of course the audience that matters, because what’s the value of presenting work from an alternative perspective to an audience already familiar with that perspective, to whom it has no automatic moral significance (might, in fact, merely be ‘aesthetic’)? Compare the complexity of a specific local audience which can think for itself to the easy win of the alternative:  a phantasm audience of moral blanks to whom rote lessons in hypothetical empathy can be tastefully and profitably imparted over and over, forever.

If the ethical act is that which we’d be willing to posit as universal law, perhaps we could say: the ethical artwork is that which we’d be willing to mass produce. Small or hobbyist developers are encouraged to work from the perspective of a mass-productive capacity they do not in fact possess; their successes and inevitable failures are hoovered up alike by the industry proper for later deployment in the form of cute dating sim or inspirational narrative with similar but sanitized tone or aesthetic. In essence a kind of moral QA testing, with all the job security and recompense that this implies.

myfriendpokey on audiences.

I think the line ethical artwork is that which we’d be willing to mass produce is probably the most scathing rebuttal to the ~comfy uwu~ brigade I’ve ever read.

See also this and and this… and you can tell this is a topic that’s been on my mind a lot recently, no?

2019-07-31T09:40:01+11:0010th October, 2019|Tags: culture, pop culture, video games|

StaaS

By merging all updates from all the accounts you followed into a single continuous surface and having that serve as the default screen, Facebook News Feed simultaneously increased the efficiency of distribution of new posts and pitted all such posts against each other in what was effectively a single giant attention arena, complete with live updating scoreboards on each post. It was as if the panopticon inverted itself overnight, as if a giant spotlight turned on and suddenly all of us performing on Facebook for approval realized we were all in the same auditorium, on one large, connected infinite stage, singing karaoke to the same audience at the same time.

It’s difficult to overstate what a momentous sea change it was for hundreds of millions, and eventually billions, of humans who had grown up competing for status in small tribes, to suddenly be dropped into a talent show competing against EVERY PERSON THEY HAD EVER MET.

Eugene Wei on performance.

Quite long (so set aside some time), but really interesting look at the emerging status-as-a-service business, a.k.a. social media.

Also: Watching TikTok videos makes me feel Extremely Old™.

2019-04-30T09:24:36+11:009th October, 2019|Tags: culture, social media|

Uncomfy.

BRB forcing all the “uwu no one should ever have to be ~uncomfy uwu” brigade to watch this.

(Also insert “… Clive Barker is  gay?” because… apparently I managed to miss that, somehow?)

2019-04-29T20:45:15+11:005th October, 2019|Tags: culture, pop culture|

The new law.

Users around the globe are being subjected to the norms set by US-based companies. “Code is law” in the sense that computer code constitutes privatised regulation binding all users. If YouTube wants to block, say, the sharing of content protected by fair use, there’s not much that foreign jurisdictions can do.

The same goes for speech regulation, content moderation, and freedom of association: The major social networks use algorithms and employee rulebooks to censor content, shape what people see in news feeds, and determine which activist and other social groups people are allowed to form on their platforms.

This means that users outside of the US are under the de facto extraterritorial governance of Silicon Valley.

Michael Kwet on digital colonialism.

2019-04-29T09:54:10+11:005th October, 2019|Tags: culture, tech|

Woke/problematic.

Similar to the social justice power inverse, we haven’t moved beyond the harmful mechanism — in this case, binary thinking, or forcing people to reduce nuance and complexity into simple dualities — we’ve just swapped out the binaries and options you can choose from.

We’re maintaining and upholding the value of thinking in binary ways, as long as you confine yourself within the correct binaries.

Those binaries are bad. But I have some new ones that aren’t. Trust me.

Sam Killermann on woke binaries.

This relates to something I’ve been kind of… noticing? Thinking about? For a while. Like, there seems to be this whole movement of… conservative progressives? Like, people who generally exist in social justice-y spaces, and generally support social justice-y causes, but do so with mindsets that seem peeled straight out of hyper-conservative movements. I mean, like, deeply authoritarian, black-and-white, focused on rote recital and superficial presentation… and with a deep reluctantance to engage with anything new, uncomfortable, challenging, or confronting.

Usually people like this are members themselves of marginalized groups, hence the falling into progressive spaces. But the progressive movement’s current insistence that lived experience is “enough” means the Conservative Progressive… like, almost lacks any kind of critical, analytical, or even empathic framework with which to examine their own circumstances and extend that out more broadly?

Like… I’m sure I’m both phrasing this badly but, also, I’m equally sure that there are a non-zero number of people who are going to be nodding along to at least part of it, thinking, “Yes, that, but…” So there are probably like a zillion people out there more qualified to write about this, but…

It’s A Thing, right? Like… I’m not the only one who’s noticed it?

2019-04-29T08:34:42+11:004th October, 2019|Tags: culture|

The culture flood.

My frustration was for these overlooked artists, but also for the artists being overlooked now, the ones with interesting new ideas (if not necessarily revolutionary ones) that can inch the discourse forward in some way. We choose virality instead — repackaged, reshaped, shareable versions of what has come before — and equate it to quality because of its resonance. Which is itself resonant because the irony of the web is that even though everyone can have a voice, the ones that we project are projected over and over and over again. This isn’t quality, or real diversity; it’s familiarity. We model ourselves on fandom, where there is no sense of proportionality — there is everything, there is nothing, and there is little else — and the space between now and the future, the space in which critics used to sit, increasingly ceases to exist.

We need a mass realization that pulls us out of this flooding culture. That is: the acknowledgment by powerful organizations that we do in fact engage more with original stories — it’s a fact, look it up — that lasting conversations do not come out of Twitter trends, and that diversity means diversity — more that is different, not more of the same differences.

Soraya Roberts on drowning.

Another one of those long-quote-go-read-the-whole-piece articles.

2019-04-29T08:10:16+11:002nd October, 2019|Tags: culture, pop culture, social media|

“Just leave.”

In a forthcoming book this spring, the philosopher Elizabeth Anderson has advanced a critique of “private government,” the concept used to express the power wielded by large corporations in the labor market. For many workers, the force that most actively restricts their liberty is not government regulations but their employer’s rules; even gig economy laborers such as Uber drivers, who unlike traditional employees have the flexibility to set their own hours, risk being put out of a job for committing relatively innocuous sins such as canceling too many rides, driving with a car other than the one registered to you, or complaining about Uber on social media. There is little doubt that modern technology allows employers enhanced surveillance power, but hypothetically, the voluntary nature of employment should limit the abuse of this power; mistreated workers can always exercise their right to “exit” the employment relationship and get another job.

This works great if you’re a superstar athlete or hotshot coder; employers need you as much as you need them, and you can always take your talents to South Beach and/or Facebook (they’re hiring!). But contemporary conditions make simply up and quitting unfeasible for a significant slice of the population — namely, those who are already the most vulnerable. If you need a job as a condition of probation, or if your visa is tied to your employer, or if you’re an immigrant working without documentation, “exit” is impossible without imprisonment or exile. Even the average low-income worker might not have the savings to ride out a short gap in employment without getting evicted or going hungry. The frictions in the employment marketplace force many of us to put up with terrible treatment by giving bosses the leverage that knows that we can’t afford to just walk out.

Kevin Munger on whose rules.

This is the book being referenced, incidentally, and it is totally going on the GoodReads wishlist

2019-04-08T09:47:52+11:0024th September, 2019|Tags: culture, work|

Ubiquitous, tedious, inscrutable.

So my Baby’s First Graduate Rotation when I first started working was in the team that ran my organisation’s SAP install. If you’ve never done backend corporate logistics and/or HR work, you may have never even heard of this beast, but even if you haven’t heard of it, it’s definitely heard of you

2019-04-08T09:08:14+11:0023rd September, 2019|Tags: culture, tech, work|

Preemptive contempt.

I was taught to be contemptuous of the non-blessed narratives, and I was taught to pay for my continued access to the technical communities through perpetuating that contempt. I was taught to have an elevated sense of self-worth, driven by the elitism baked into the hacker ethos as I learned to program. By adopting the same patterns that other, more knowledgable people expressed I could feel more credible, more like a real part of the community, more like I belonged.

I bought my sense of belonging, with contempt, and paid for it with contempt and exclusionary behaviour.

And now, I realise how much of it is an anxiety response. What if I chose the wrong thing? What if other people judge me for my choices and assert that my hard-earned skills actually aren’t worth anything?

What if people find out I’m a fraud?

By perpetuating a culture of contempt as the means of acquiring credibility, I was able to avoid these difficult, introspective questions. We don’t have to look at how we’re harming other people who want in, don’t have to acknowledge the niggling little voice in the back of our head asking are you good enough. It wasn’t me that was wrong, it was them.

Aurynn Shaw on contempt culture.

Sorry for the long quote, and while Shaw’s post is ostensibly about programming languages,1 I also can’t help but think of, for example, fandom antis and that broader culture of toxic faux activism in fandom and media circles…

  1. And correctly! Programmer communities are absolutely, 100% like this. /she says, as the one with the HTML/CSS/PHP background []
2019-04-08T09:05:16+11:0023rd September, 2019|Tags: culture, fandom|

Stand, don’t walk.

Tl;dr in crowded environments, everyone standing on the escalator is significantly faster for everyone than leaving a lane for impatient people to stomp up and down on.

This makes me think of the escalators in the MTR in Hong Kong, for example, which not only move terrifying quickly but are generally only one person wide…

2019-04-08T08:54:34+11:0022nd September, 2019|Tags: culture|