as you gaze into the social media abyss, so the...

This book will be available in the US in late June:

Social Media Abyss: Critical Internet Culture and the Force of Negation, by Geert Lovink

In this fifth volume of his ongoing investigations, Dutch media theorist and internet critic Geert Lovink plunges into the paradoxical condition of the new digital normal versus a lived state of emergency. There is a heightened, post-Snowden awareness; we know we are under surveillance but we* click, share, rank and remix with a perverse indifference to technologies of capture and cultures of fear. Despite the incursion into privacy by companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon, social media use continues to be a daily habit with shrinking gadgets now an integral part of our busy lives. We are thrown between addiction anxiety and subliminal, obsessive use. Where does art, culture and criticism venture when the digital vanishes into the background?

Geert Lovink examines the symbiotic yet problematic relation between networks and social movements, and further develops the notion of organized networks. Lovink doesn’t just submit to the empty soul of 24/7 communication but rather provides the reader with radical alternatives.

Selfie culture is one of many Lovink’s topics, along with the internet obsession of American writer Jonathan Franzen, the internet in Uganda, the aesthetics of Anonymous and an anatomy of the Bitcoin religion. Will monetization through cybercurrencies and crowdfunding contribute to a redistribution of wealth or further widen the gap between rich and poor? In this age of the free, how can a revenue model of the 99% be collectively designed? Welcome back to the Social Question.

English/UK edition (Polity Press, Cambridge)

*What do you mean "we," social media man?

Destiny Clock demo at Eyebeam


Last night at Eyebeam, resident Brendan Byrne gave a talk on his project Destiny Clock (formerly, Theseus), a music interface/installation/environment that sends MIDI notes to Ableton and triggers sounds. Essentially this is a modular, patchable computer, with components (sequencer, multiplexer, clock divider, logic gates) that the user connects in various ways by means of patch cables of ordinary thin wire. The design is extremely elegant but the output is bottlenecked by being limited to a stream of on-off notes. Patching changes the sequence, speed and volume, but the device is not sending MIDI CC commands to affect timbre, envelopes, effects, or other typical aspects of electronic music. Also, because the computer components are unlabeled, you aren't really learning much about computation.

Byrne might be cut slack for these limitations except that, in his slide talk, he posed the interface as a challenge, or alternative, to Eurorack-style modular synthesis. He showed examples of "Eurocrack" addicts whose homes have been taken over by their gear purchases, by way of contrast to his modest circuitboard (about 8 x 12 inches). This was kind of unfair -- there might be some middle ground between those lost souls and what he's doing.

clicking the red X gets you an "upgrade"

The BBC reports that Microsoft is actively deceiving consumers into switching to Windows 10 (hat tip reneabythe). That's how desperate Redmond is to avoid having to "support" 7. In the screenshot below, when you click the red X (which is normally how you close a popup), you signal that it's OK to install 10 on your machine. This is a classic Dark Pattern design.


Atrios mentions how disruptive installing a new operating system could be to a small business. An "upgrade" requires wiping your drive! It will save your personal files to a folder that's not erased, but programs will have to be reinstalled. If you have, say, dozens of music studio apps with dongle licenses, special connections to drivers, and plugins installed in a certain way, you're looking at days trying to recreate that working environment. This is not something that should happen because you closed a popup.