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What I Read Today: Tasty quotes on our online life

Two tasty quotes concerning our online life:

“have you ever wondered why discussions in chat rooms or instant messaging turn nasty so easily? Or wander off topic? It’s because the behavioural cues we use to trigger socially acceptable responses aren’t there in a non-face-to-face environment. If you can’t see the other primate, your ethical reasoning is impaired because you can’t build a complete mental image of them—a cognitive frame.”

Rule 34 by Charles Stross

We have information fatigue, anxiety, and glut. We have met the Devil of Information Overload and his impish underlings, the computer virus, the busy signal, the dead link, and the PowerPoint presentation.

What Just Happened: A Chronicle from the Information Frontier by James Gleick

Filed under: What I Read Today, , , , ,

Slavoj Žižek: Wake up and smell the apocalypse (update)

Slavoj Žižek: Wake up and smell the apocalypse:

Science is completely entangled with capital and capitalism. It is simultaneously the source of some threats (such as the ecological consequences of our industries or the uncontrolled use of genetic engineering), and our best hope of understanding those threats and finding a way to cope with them…

read the full discussion with “the most dangerous philosopher in the west” in the current New Scientist. (sadly, now behind a pay wall – why you need to get it while the getting is good)

Once again, serendipity – coincidence – connection – running across this while reading about the same issues, talked about in somewhat similar ways, in Sixty Days and Counting, the final volume of Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Science in the Capital” series. Beyond that, though, Žižek’s comments are provocative and interesting and worth a read.

Filed under: What I Read Today, ,

Reading and Coincidence/Connection

I’m not sure what to make of this, but this past week, whatever I’ve been reading – or rather the fiction reading I’ve been doing for fun – has seemed to connect up with stuff I’ve come across in the course of my other work and what I think of as my “info-slog” – my daily attempt to work through what I think of as the more interesting and important websites and blogs and feeds.

This week, for instance, I’m rereading Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Science in the Capital” series (in part as a response to finishing his Galileo’s Dream), and tonight I was on the second book, Fifty Degrees Below, and had just read about the protagonist, Frank Vanderwal, learning that he is under government surveillance, and that they might activate GPS tracking on his van. And then I ran across this in one of my feeds:

Government agents can sneak onto your property in the middle of the night, put a GPS device on the bottom of your car and keep track of everywhere you go.

via The Government’s New Right to Track Your Every Move With GPS – TIME.

The “Science in the Capital” series in part concerns the plight of Khembalung, a country of Tibetan refugees living on an island in the delta of the Ganges threatened by rising sea levels. The country is working with the “League of Drowning Nations”… and just now, I ran across a design for an “Embassy of Drowned Nations:

Embassy of Drowned Nations: Floating City for Rising Tide Victims | Inhabitat – Green Design Will Save the World

I guess given that a large percentage of my info-slog is focused on issues of climate change, this latter is less of a coincidence. But still… interesting. And it points to how right on and relevant the “Science in the Capital” series is.

Filed under: What I Read Today, ,

Seven Secret Lives

I’ve just finished Kim Stanley Robinson’s most recent book, Galileo’s Dream. It’s many things – including a very satisfying historical novel, and an attempt to grapple with the role of science in society. In this latter, it is part of a project that Robinson has been engaged in for a long time – through the Mars Trilogy and the more recent “Science in the Capital” series (Forty Signs of Rain, Fifty Degrees Below, Sixty Days and Counting, and perhaps Antarctica as well.)

It’s a profound issue, and Robinson also makes a compelling case in these books for its vital importance – in particular as a way to confront and confound the processes of what he once called “Götterdämmerung capitalism” that are behind climate change/global warming as well as much of the poverty and misery that still torments the world, despite our enormous technical and scientific achievements and the immense wealth and power humanity has at its disposal.

But while Robinson is a great “big picture” writer, a writer of ideas and often of an epic scope, what makes him such a rewarding and poweful writer, so pleasurable to read, is his humanity, and his grounding in the lives and feelings of his characters. How alive Galileo becomes for us reading this book (and also how like Sax from the Mars books).

And there are moments when Robinson is just writing about what it means to be human, to be alive, when he strikes a real chord with me – when, like Galileo, I feel as if I am a bell that has been rung:

We all have seven secret lives. The life of excretion; the world of inappropriate sexual fantasies; our real hopes; our terror of death; our experience of shame; the world of pain; and our dreams. No one else ever knows these lives. Consciousness is solitary. Each person lives in that bubble universe that rests under the skull, alone. (p. 280)

Filed under: What I Read Today,

What I Read Today: “Silver Linings”

I’ve downloaded and read a dozen short stories from Tor.com over the last week. My favorites so far have probably been the two by Charles Stross, whose “Laundry” series (eg, this) and novel Halting State I really, really like. But this one was great, by an author whose name I’ve seen around a lot lately but had never read before.

Silver Linings by Tim Pratt and Thom Tenery.

Cloudmining is a rough business at the best of times, mostly because everyone on the ground wants to kill you, but I had more particular problems…

(via Tor.com / Science fiction and fantasy.)

Filed under: Literature, What I Read Today,

What I Read Today: on “Valences of the Dialectic” by Fredric Jameson

London Review of Books

Benjamin Kunkel · “Into the Big Tent”:

During this period of neoliberal ascendancy – an era of deregulation, financialisation, industrial decline, demoralisation of the working class, the collapse of Communism and so on – it often seemed easier to spot the contradictions of Marxism than the more famous contradictions of capitalism, and no figure seemed to embody more than Fredric Jameson the peculiar condition of an economic theory that had turned out to flourish above all as a mode of cultural analysis, a mass movement that had become the province of an academic ‘elite’, and an intellectual tradition that had arrived at some sort of culmination right at the point of apparent extinction. (via LRB)

Filed under: Cultural Studies, What I Read Today,

BLDGBLOG: The Switching Labyrinth

The Switching Labyrinth: “Sam McElhinney, a student at the Bartlett School of Architecture, has been building full-scale labyrinths in London and testing people’s spatial reactions to them.”

(via BLDGBLOG.)

A fascinating read, generally, but particularly if you spend any time thinking about how people interact with the built environment.

Filed under: What I Read Today, , ,

Mark Dery on Lady Gaga

Is Lady Gaga dumb? This is the question that Mark Dery ponders, as only Dery can, in his latest True/Slant essay: “Aladdin Sane Called. He Wants His Lightning Bolt Back: On Lady Gaga.” The point-of-entry is a New Yorker essay from last year by music critic Sasha Frere-Jones in which he raised the eternal inquiry, “How not dumb is Gaga?” Dery’s answer may not not surprise you.

via Mark Dery on Lady Gaga – Boing Boing.

Filed under: What I Read Today,

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The 400 Blows

zerode

is an over-caffeinated and under-employed grad school dropout, aspiring leftwing intellectual and cultural studies academic, film buff and occasional reviewer, and former private detective. Raised in San Francisco on classic film, radical politics, burritos and soul music, then set loose upon the world. He spends his time in coffee shops with his laptop and headphones, caffeinating and trying to construct a post-whatever life.

 

What's in a name... The handle "zerode" is a contraction of Zéro de Conduite, the title of Jean Vigo's 1933 movie masterpiece about schoolboy rebellion.

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