Categories
Technology The Internet

What makes RSS better than social timelines?

Replied to The Fail Whale Cascade by Luke Harris (lkhrs.com)

I’m bored of what I call “the timeline era”. Scanning an unending stream of disconnected posts for topics of interest is no longer fun, I prefer deciding what to read based on titles, or topic-based discussion.

I am a huge fan of RSS and have never stopped using it to follow blogs and webcomics. But lately as I’ve read lots of people talking about timelines, a question has been niggling at me: what does make an RSS feed* feel better to use than “the timeline” of social media? They are both streams of information, but I prefer RSS.

*by RSS feed, I mean the stream composed of multiple individual feeds — it is a little confusing that the singular and plural/collective of feed are the same.

Continuing in the vein of exploring what makes a blog a blog, I’m curious why an RSS feed feels better than social media timelines. Are we conflating our like of blogs with a like of RSS, or is there something about RSS feeds inherently that we really do prefer to other timelines?

I think it’s useful to dig into what elements of the experience make a substantive difference, so we can make better design choices with new tools in the future. I’m interested not in the technical details here (yay RSS is open and not owned by a corporation, boo it’s kind of a pain to explain and set up) — I’m interested in how we use the technology, and how we feel about using it.

Categories
Culture Technology

The aesthetics of the imaginary

Bookmarked Worshipping At The Altar of Artificial Intelligence by Jessica DeFino (The Unpublishable)

Lensa AI portraits are a modern iteration of an ancient drive: emulating our God(s) through beauty.

The immediate thing that came to mind is … this idea that modern “beauty” means being as divorced from your humanity as possible. Like, a complete separation from all that is human about you.

Beauty standards have always been about pursuing an impossible look by doing terrible things to our bodies.

My issue is this: As virtual avatars become blueprints for physical beauty … many people feel pressured to partake in physically and psychologically damaging products and procedures in order to adhere to that blueprint…

“Beauty” — in the standardized sense — is always a fantasy; it’s a fantasy of the future.

While AI art is popular, impossible, fantastical smoothness will be desirable, like HDR photos were hot shit for a while. Then it’ll overwhelm the market, and the look will be considered too fake and cheap, and we’ll have a resurgence of analog art (or at least the look of it). I already find art that’s too perfect unmoving. I like a touch of humanity visible in the work.

Read an article recently about how photography sparked the rise of abstract art, using Turner as an example, evolving from hyper realistic to emotive landscapes — but must’ve closed that tab 🤷‍♀️

Categories
Science Society Technology

When “ambiguity is a feature, not a bug”

Replied to Pluralistic: Netflix wants to chop down your family tree (02 Feb 2023) by Cory DoctorowCory Doctorow (pluralistic.net)

Suddenly, it was “computer says no” everywhere you turned, unless everything matched perfectly. There was a global rush for legal name-changes after 9/11 – not because people changed their names, but because people needed to perform the bureaucratic ritual necessary to have the name they’d used all along be recognized in these new, brittle, ambiguity-incinerating machines.

Digital precision

We encounter this problem often in the digital world in things like content-limited text fields and binary choices on a form (or limited options that drive us always to “other”).

The digital world demands exactitude in a way analog doesn’t. I recall my dad, a TV station electrician, explaining the difference between analog and digital signal to me as a kid; I couldn’t understand why the squared shape of digital signal — either you get it or you don’t — would win out over more flexible analog signal, which has some allowance to receive lower quality signal rather than none.

Too, this inherent precision of digital information influences the way we think about data. We interpret numbers to be more meaningful than they are:

Excel-calculated results down to four decimals falsely imply confidence unsupported by the input data.

Recipes call for a specific baking time, when everyone’s oven is a little bit different, and environmental conditions affect baking time by impacting the moisture content of the ingredients.

Ad metrics and pageview data and likes that don’t translate truly to reach or brand recognition or conversions. (Like Internet celebs with millions of followers getting book deals that don’t translate to sales.)

Ambiguity of knowledge

Information that should be more directional than exact is treated as gospel. “The numbers don’t lie.” (Well, actually…)

Anyone who’s collected scientific data is aware of the messiness of reality that must be translated into the concrete as “data.” Theoretically, methodology codifies the decision-making matrix researchers follow; but given the scientific reproducibility crisis, it’s clearly a tough job. Give five writers the same prompt and you’ll get five different stories; can you be certain five researchers will record the same value from the same observed reality? It is a tricky thing, as a communicator, to acknowledge the limitations of what is knowable and to what degree, without implying artificial uncertainties to be exploited through mis- and dis-information. (I know those are the terms we use nowadays, but sometimes I’d just like the plain language “lies.”)

Who determines reality?

As Doctorow points out, digital condenses complex reality into defined fields — and the people defining the fields are those in power / the elite. Powerful, controlling cultures demand that their perspectives be codified.

The “Shitty Technology Adoption Curve” describes the process by which abusive technologies work their way up the privilege gradient. Every bad technological idea is first rolled out on poor people, refugees, prisoners, kids, mental patients and other people who can’t push back.

Their bodies are used to sand the rough edges and sharp corners off the technology, to normalize it so that it can climb up through the social ranks, imposed on people with more and more power and influence.

When [Netflix] used adversarial interoperability to build a multi-billion-dollar global company using the movie studios’ products in ways the studios hated, that was progress. When you define “family” in ways that makes Netflix less money, that’s felony contempt of business model.

Netflix is careful to stick to the terminology “household,” but I suspect to many, household implies family. I know a married couple who live in different parts of the state for work; would you not consider them a household in how they run their finances and make their decisions? It is easier to justify a physical utility like Comcast requiring a connection at each physical location versus a digital service like Netflix that is not location dependent. This is true too for ebooks, which have fucked libraries royally by pretending a physical book could be loaned only twelve (?) times (lolololol I worked at a library back when we stamped checkouts and lemme tell you, those stamp slips had space for like forty checkouts, and often the book was still going strong when the slip was full), and individuals by pretending it’s only possible to loan a book to a friend once in a lifetime. Digital product corporations want the limitations of the analog with the benefits of the digital. The elites setting the rules want to have one account they can use at their multiple homes, but not for the poors whose families are spread across multiple dwellings to be permitted to share.

Categories
Art and Design Future Building Reuse Technology

Retrocycling as entry to creative reuse

Replied to Field Notes: Why It’s Time for “Retrocycling” – Immerse by an author (Immerse)

Over the past decades, I have explored different approaches for repurposing outdated technologies, including video game consoles from the 1970s; TVs and slide projectors from the 1980s; CD players…

Loosely skimmed the article but love the idea of retrocycling as a way of thinking about reuse and product lifecycles.

Could you host a workshop/ course to encourage hacking old tech?

An interactive event / pop-up space with old games and equipment?

A photography / documentary project where people could celebrate hand-me-downs by sharing their stories? Or a website where people could post their stories?

Categories
Cool Technology The Internet Websites

A website devoted to NYC internet infrastructure

Liked Seeing Networks in New York City by Ingrid Burrington (seeingnetworks.in)

New York’s network infrastructure is a lot like the city itself: messy, sprawling, and at times near-incomprehensible. However, the city’s tendency toward flux is a strange blessing for the infrastructure sightseer: markings and remnants of the network are almost everywhere, once you know how to look for them.

And book!

It’s fun to stumble on dedicated little web projects like this. It’s such a niche project that only someone who really cared would bother making it.

Makes me think of a tweet I saw recently that the world is basically made of people’s random passion projects.

Categories
Mental Health Society Technology

I don’t want this to be the future

Bookmarked HUMAN_FALLBACK | Laura Preston (n+1)

I WAS ONE OF ABOUT SIXTY operators. Most of us were poets and writers with MFAs, but there were also PhDs in performance studies and comparative literature, as well as a number of opera singers, another demographic evidently well suited for chatbot impersonation—or, I suppose, for impersonating a chatbot that’s impersonating a person.

Let alone the present.

Each day when we reported for work one of them would hail us with a camp counselor’s greeting. “Top of the morning, my lovely Brendas!” they would say. Below their message, a garden of reaction emojis would bloom.

I am tired of the exploitation and undervaluation of emotional labor.

In the same way that algorithms tell us what they think we want, and do so with such tenacity that the imagined wants become actual, these buildings seemed intent on shaping a tenant’s aspirations. They seemed to tell the tenant they should not care about regional particularities or the idea of a neighborhood. The tenant should not even desire a home in the traditional sense, with hand-me-down furniture, hand-built improvements, and layers of multigenerational memory. This tenant was a renter for life, whose workplace was their primary address, and who would nevertheless be unable to afford property for as long as they lived.

See also: Neutralizing reality to sell

Brenda, they claimed, said the same thing to everyone, which meant that she was incapable of bias. And yet she was awfully good at repelling certain people: people without smartphones or reliable internet, people unaccustomed to texting, people who couldn’t read or write in English, and people who needed to figure out if they could access a property before showing up for a tour. Brenda deflected them all with polite violence. She was not a concierge but a bouncer, one made all the more sinister for her congeniality and sparkle.

 

See also:

OpenAI Used Kenyan Workers on Less Than $2 Per Hour to Make ChatGPT Less Toxic (TIME)

But the working conditions of data labelers reveal a darker part of that picture: that for all its glamor, AI often relies on hidden human labor in the Global South that can often be damaging and exploitative.

The work’s traumatic nature eventually led Sama to cancel all its work for OpenAI in February 2022, eight months earlier than planned.

An OpenAI spokesperson said in a statement that the company did not issue any productivity targets, and that Sama was responsible for managing the payment and mental health provisions for employees.

🙄 Of course they’re not responsible for the work they hired out.

Conditions for vendors are so much worse than employees, so of course that’s the direction companies want to move: cheaper labor that they aren’t liable for. Ethics has no part in corporatism.

“They’re impressive, but ChatGPT and other generative models are not magic – they rely on massive supply chains of human labor and scraped data, much of which is unattributed and used without consent,” Andrew Strait, an AI ethicist, recently wrote on Twitter. “These are serious, foundational problems that I do not see OpenAI addressing.”

Categories
Culture Technology The Internet

Personality shaped by the algorithm

Emphasis mine.

The blandness of TikTok’s biggest stars by Rebecca Jennings (Vox)

[P]op culture is being increasingly determined by algorithms… [W]hat we’re seeing is the lowest common denominator of what human beings want to look at, appealing to our most base impulses and exploiting existing biases toward thinness, whiteness, and wealth.

TikTok fame celebrates a different kind of mediocrity, though, the kind where “relatability” means adhering to the internet’s fluctuating beauty standards and approachable upper-middle-classness and never saying anything that might indicate a personality.

+

What Works by Tara McMullin

Creators are basing their livelihoods on the performance of an identity through the expression of their knowledge, experiences, or talents.

As our actions are influenced by what Richard Seymour dubs the twittering machine, our identities are revealed to us by the algorithm. Not only does the machine tell us who we are and who we will become, it turns around and sells us the symbols of the identity. My identity is commodified in an instant. Who I Am and What I Do On the Internet can feel like an act of self-expression, but they are more likely artifacts of conformity.

Categories
Technology The Internet

Smartphones consume rest

Liked Out of time by Mandy Brown (newsletter.aworkinglibrary.com)

Phones (and, I’d argue, other digital technology, and social media in particular) have an abundant sense of restlessness—I feel as if I am scurrying from one notification to the next like a hunted animal, one item in the feed, after another, after another, never stopping or lingering. Never resting. The word says it: restless, as in, without rest. The technology consumes all the in-between moments, all the seconds where you might close your eyes, stare out a window, sigh loudly. Wonder if a timer is moving or stuck.

In this way, smartphones consume rest.

I got a Time Timer and did the exact same thing, except I thought it was broken 😂

Categories
Getting Shit Done Meta Technology

Use different tools for creation and consumption

Replied to

I just realized I have mostly  migrated consumption to my phone somewhat unintentionally — but because I read articles on my phone I also tend to compose my commentary on the phone as well, even though typing on my phone sucks 😂 The editor is also hard to use on my phone, and cutting and pasting doesn’t work correctly, so I edit less than I might on desktop. On my phone, I can only see about two sentences at a time, making it harder to write longer form work.

How much does the tool shape what content people produce? Considering many people no longer have desktops and solely use phones for computing, does lacking a PC deter them from writing? How much of the shift to video is because it’s simpler to film than type on phones? How much is the rise of microblogging and descent of blogging tied to smartphones?

Categories
Technology Websites

WordPress-powered email newsletter service

Bookmarked Mail Poet by Quentin FreryQuentin Frery (mailpoet.com)

The Best Email Plugin for WordPress More than 500,000 websites are using MailPoet to keep in touch with their subscribers. Enjoy everything in one place. MailPoet works seamlessly with your favorite CMS so you can start sending emails right now. Quickly add content and images directly from your media library. No need to upload files […]