Technoccult Turns 15

The first version of the Technoccult site went live 15 years ago today.

I had thought about putting together some sort of mini-event today to celebrate, but I’ve been a bit too busy with other things. Plus I’m having some trouble deciding what to do next with the site. It’s hard to know exactly what the role of an old fashioned blog in the age of social media. The “link blog” seems like a particularly dated idea today.

Andy Baio recently suggested that there’s been a blogging come-back of late for mid-length content. I like the idea, but most of my writing energy goes into paid work elsewhere. That’s a really good problem to have, but I just don’t have the steam to do much original writing here. I could barely muster the strength to write this post.

Then there’s email newsletters, which as I’ve written have made a comeback. I still like the idea of doing T0 as an “email first” thing with a web archive. But there’s still the question of content and format. Mutation Vectors already feels a bit like a newsletter, and not been posted a lot besides that and links to the podcast lately, so maybe that’s the way to go.

But it’s not a great format for the dossiers, which I’ve not had time to maintain lately, but which I think could be a useful way of actually organizing and sifting through the mountains of links and information buried in a decade and half’s worth of archives here.

For now, I’ll just keep plugging away as I have for the past few years. But it feels like it’s time for a change.

Anywayk, thanks for reading everyone! I hope you’re having a swell new year. Here’s to another 15 years.

Mindful Cyborgs: Your Digital Life After Your Death 2

The second part of our conversation with Willow Brugh of the MIT Media Lab about the Networked Mortality project and their efforts to help you figure out what to do with all your digital stuff when you die.

Download and Full Transcript: Mindful Cyborgs: Color Coding for Sex and Death PART 2

Mutation Vectors: Slackback Edition

Status Update

My tendonitis is flaring up and my stomach is killing me, so instead of writing up something new, here’s part of a Vectors that was originally going to go out November 29th, 2014 but that I didn’t finish due to …

This would have followed the Fantastic Death Abyss.

Browsing

This week’s must read: Deb Chachra on the 25th anniversary of the École Polytechnique:

There’s often a sense that women in the tech world make a big deal out of small events. But the myriad ways in which they are told their presence is illegitimate, that tells them that they don’t belong, is a constant pressure pushing them towards leaving technology (and game journalism, and the public sphere). In particular, when women in technology also have public voices, as with Anita Sarkeesian or Brianna Wu or Kathy Sierra, the pressure can be—is often intended to be—crushing.

I don’t think being a woman in technology is worth dying for, but I learned early that some men think it’s worth killing for.

Frank Serpico says the police are still out of control.

The Awl: the City That Split in Two

Vice: The Coming Blackout Epidemic

Listening

After posting about David Bowie’s Outside, I stumbled across Pushing Ahead of the Dame, a site written by one Chris O’Leary, dedicated to annotating every single Bowie song ever. There I learned about Leon a bootleg that may have been what Bowie originally intended Outside to be. And via O’Leary’s annotations, I’ve come to realize that OrpheanLyricist’s interpretation of Outside‘s story line is, though valid based on what was actually released, certainly not what Bowie had originally intended.

I ended up spending way too much time on this site. Here are the annotations for Leon and Outside.

Mindful Cyborgs: Your Digital Life After Your Death

This week we talk with Willow Brugh of the MIT Media Lab about what happens to all your digital “stuff” when you die. How will your co-workers get the last of your uncompleted work? What will happen to your Facebook page? Who will delete your porn folder? Willow talks about all that and more.

Download and Show Notes: Mindful Cyborgs: Color Coding for Sex and Death

Mutation Vectors: Dead Moral Issues Edition

Cartoon of a Muslim cleric and an earth both pointing at a Muslim man. The cleric says "you're with the infidels!" and the earth says "you're with the terrorists." The man says "I'm just a Muslim"

Islamic terrorism hurts Muslims too, by Khalid Albaih.

Status Update

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.
-Evelyn Beatrice Hall on Voltaire.

It took me a bit to put my finger on what really bothered me about the response to the Charlie Hebdo shootings this week, but I think this is it:

I feel like we’re all being called to defend what Charlie Hebdo said rather than just their right to say it. All the tribute cartoons, the debate over whether to reprint the paper’s cartoons, the people changing their social media profile pics to cartoons from the paper, and of course, the slogan “je suis charlie” itself, are a reflection of this.

As Fredrik deBoer points out, the idea that no one should be killed over cartooning is pretty uncontroversial. There is no danger of France or the U.S. passing a law forbidding criticism of Islam. The public, in general, are not likely to become less critical of Islam as a result of this attack. Hell, not even a Muslim police officer literally defended the paper to the death. So why the pressure to for everyone to carry the Charlie banner?

I mean, I don’t think Robert Faurisson should go to prison or be killed, but you’re not going to find me on the street corner handing out Holocaust denial literature. Yet there’s this weird sentiment that if you’re not spreading these ridiculous cartoons far and wide, you’re somehow against free speech. I could understand wanting to preserve this stuff for posterity sake if it were in danger of actually disappearing. It’s hard to debate the merits of something you can’t see. But these cartoons are still just a click away. Reproducing them at this point is just posturing. Which is fine, I guess. But free speech works both ways. You have the right to say what you want, and I have the right not to say things I don’t want to say.

Browsing

As to what I might find bothersome about the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, Arthur Chu has a good column on the topic, where he also digs up a particularly repugnant cover caricaturing Boko Haram’s kidnapping victims. Chu:

Yes, I know that the editorial staff of Charlie Hebdo identify as left-libertarian atheists, and that they’re “equal-opportunity offenders” —the exact same background and mindset as Trey Parker and Matt Stone, as Seth MacFarlane, as your typical 4chan troll. I know that, ironically, the last issue printed before the shooting was mocking a self-serious right-wing racist doomsday prophet and his fear of a Muslim takeover, that they’ve mocked Socialist President Francois Hollande and National Front leader Marine La Pen and everyone in between.

So what? There’s no particular merit to being an “equal-opportunity offender”—indeed, it’s lazy and cheap, a way to avoid being held accountable for anything you say because none of it is part of a moral worldview or to be taken seriously.

Also, the paper’s racial caricatures of Jews seems particularly distasteful given the current climate of anti-Semitism in France.

Speaking of Boko Haram, the group allegedly killed as many 2,000 people this week in Nigeria. Meanwhile, I didn’t see a lot of people tweeting “We Are the NAACP” this week.

Elsewhere, Trevor Timm asks: The Charlie Hebdo attack was a strike against free speech. So why is the response more surveillance?.

In an actually-funny use of free speech this week, the Maryland paper Frederick News-Post published a hilarious response to local councilman Kirby Delauter’s threat to sue one of its reporters for using his name in a story without permission. It certainly brightened an otherwise dismal week.

Watching

we_are_the_best_06

Yes/no movie reviews:

Blue Ruin: Yes

Blitz: No

The Conversation: Yes

Only God Forgives: No

We Are the Best!: Hell yes!

The Search for Extraterrestrial Life Forms That Eat Stars

Maddie Stone reports for Vice Motherboard:

Dr. Clement Vidal, who’s a researcher at the Free University of Brussels, along with Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology Stephen Dick, futurist John Smart, and nanotech entrepreneur Robert Freitas are soliciting scientific proposals to seek out star-eating life. Vidal, who coined the term starivore in a paper he wrote in 2013, is the first to admit how bizarre it sounds. Yet he insists that some of the most profound scientific discoveries have come about by examining natural processes through a radically different lens.

“Newton did not discover new gravitational bodies: He took a different perspective on a phenomena and discovered new things exist,” Vidal told me. “It might well be that extraterrestrial intelligence is already somewhere in our data. Re-interpreting certain star systems as macroscopic living things is one example.”

Full Story: The Search for Starivores, Intelligent Life that Could Eat the Sun

Mindful Cyborgs: Getting Ready for the Year Ahead

Last Chris Dancy, Sara Watson, and I looked back on 2014. This week we take a look forward to what we expect and hope to see in 2015. Oh: we’re also looking for sponsors. Please get in touch if you’re interested.

Download and Show Notes: Mindful Cyborgs: Back to the Future Year 2015

New Book by R.U. Sirius and Jay Cornell: Transcendence – The Disinformation Encyclopedia of Transhumanism and the Singularity

Transcendence: The Disinformation Encyclopedia of Transhumanism and the Singularity

R.U. Sirius and Jay Cornell have a new book out: Transcendence – The Disinformation Encyclopedia of Transhumanism and the Singularity.

We talked to R.U. about the book, and other stuff, on the Mindful Cyborgs podcast last year. Here’s part 1 and part 2.

Mutation Vectors: Best Vectors of 2014

A video posted by Mark Graves (@markwgraves) on

Above: time lapse video shot by my friend Mark of him, my wife and me putting down flooring in my new office.

Status Update

I had an eventful year. A few highlights:

Writing a cover story for Oregon Business magazine

Doing an art installation at the Weird Shift gallery, and giving a talk on tarot there as well.

And, of course, buying a house. We’ve only just hauled the last bits of stuff out of our old apartment into the new place today, which is why I decided to just do a best of 2014 post instead of a new post.

Browsing

gamergate-flag

The best article I read all year was, hands down, Betsy Haibel’s “The Fantasy and Abuse of the Manipulable User”, which manages to sum up exactly what’s wrong with the Silicon Valley mindset: a complete disregard for gaining users’ consent for practically anything, from data collection to whether to sign-up for email notifications.

My nine other favorites of the year, in no particular order:

Grooming Students for A Lifetime of Surveillance by Jessy Irwin.

A Mysterious Sound Is Driving People Insane — And Nobody Knows What’s Causing It by Jared Keller.

The Sexist Facebook Movement The Marine Corps Can’t Stop by Brian Adam Jones.

Dylan Matthews’s profile of BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti and the influence that Deleuze and Guattari had on him.

The Future Of The Culture Wars Is Here, And It’s Gamergate by Kyle Wagner.

Mark Dery’s interview with Mikita Brottman.

The New York Times’ profile of Dark Mountain founder Paul Kingsnorth.

The Mindfulness Racket by Evgeny Morozov.

Miya Tokumitsu’s article on how the “Do What You Love” mantra enables exploitation.

Data Doppelgängers and the Uncanny Valley of Personalization by Sara Watson.

Watching

true-detective

The best TV show I watched this year had to be True Detective. (Stephen Grasso’s take on the show is definitive).

The best new series I watched was The Knick which, as Matt Zoller Seitz put it, is doing some next level shit, despite something of a slow start.

I didn’t see many new movies this year, but I liked and Snow Piercer well enough. It didn’t come out last year, but I loved Electrick Children.

Reading

The Peripheral by Wlliam Gibson

I didn’t read any other novels that came out in 2014, so The Peripheral by William Gibson wins by default. But I have the feeling it probably would have been the best thing I read anyway.

My favorite books I read this year, overall, were Cat’s CradleThe Dispossed by Ursela K. le Guin.

Comics

Stray Bullets issue 3 "The Party" cover

I didn’t read many comics last year, and to be honest am feeling a bit disenchanted with the medium. But I enjoyed what I read of Zero, The Private Eye, and Prophet. But the big highlight of the year for me was Stray Bullets Uber Alles Edition. Reading that is keeping me from giving up on comics altogether.

Listening

It was sort of a disappointing year for music. My favorite release was probably White Lung’s Deep Fantasy. Runners up: the new Bruxa and Nolon Ashley albums.

Podcasts

Podcasts of the year (besides Mindful Cyborgs, of course): Gin and Innovation and Weird Shift Radio.

Playing

I’m not much of a gamer, and didn’t really play any other games this year, but I think A Dark Room deserves a mention, even though I think it was released in 2013.

I still haven’t played Technoccult the game (no relation to me or this blog), but thought it worthy of note as well.

Top Technoccult Posts of the Year

Grinding: Post magnet installation

In terms of pageviews, these were the top five hits of the year:

On Race and Sexual Violence in the Works of Alan Moore

New Age for Nihilists

The Baffler on Neoreactionaries

Why Google’s New Open Source Crypto Tool Might Not Be Such a Good Thing

Grinders: Tomorrow’s Cyberpunks are Here Today

Favorite Things I Wrote Elsewhere

pieter-levels

I think my favorite thing I wrote this year was this thing on bullshit jobs and Silicon Valley.

My top nine other favorite things I wrote this year, in chronological order:

Forget Mega-Corporations, Here’s The Mega-Network

This Farmbot Makes Growing Food as Easy as Playing Farmville

Raise Your Own Edible Insects With This Free Kit

How to Build a Kinder Web for the Transgender Community

Google Renews Battle With the NSA by Open Sourcing Email Encryption Tool

The Internet of Things Could Drown Our Environment in Gadgets

Online Security Is a Total Pain, But That May Soon Change

Why Everyone Is Obsessed With E-Mail Newsletters Right Now

College Hacker

Report: Solar Power Will Soon be as Cheap or Cheaper Than Conventional Electricity

Bloomberg on a Deutsche Bank report on solar energy prices:

Even if the tax credit drops to 10 percent, solar will soon reach price parity with conventional electricity in well over half the nation: 36 states. Gone are the days when solar panels were an exotic plaything of Earth-loving rich people. Solar is becoming mainstream, and prices will continue to drop as the technology improves and financing becomes more affordable, according to the report.

Full Story: Bloomberg: While You Were Getting Worked Up Over Oil Prices, This Just Happened to Solar

Given the current grid’s struggles to keep up with demand, this can’t happen soon enough.

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