TagSociety

Chronic Fatigue Century

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a blanket term for a number of debilitating medical conditions that leave people exhausted all the time for no apparent reason. It’s not tied to any particular exertion. Rest doesn’t make it better. Patients are just left crushingly tired, often unable to get out of bed, and we don’t really know why.

Science is finally making some progress towards diagnosing and understanding at least some forms of the syndrome as an immune system disorder. But because it has historically been so hard to properly diagnose — and because people are dicks — it’s been dismissed as a purely psychological issue, as if that would make it any less serious. According to Wikipedia “many patients and advocacy groups, as well as some experts, believe the name trivializes the medical condition and they promote a name change.”

A new name would be clarifying. Then perhaps we can repurpose the term, because “chronic fatigue” seems to perfectly describe our epoch.

Unlike medical chronic fatigue syndrome, our societal fatigue does stem from exertion. But we can’t get the rest that we need. About 73 percent of Americans sleep less than eight hours a night. Not only do we take fewer vacations than the rest of the industrialized world, but we are taking fewer and fewer as the years grind on. It’s not much better if you’re un or underemployed. Poverty is exhausting. We’re willing to work but too tired to hustle.

To compensate, we’ve gone from coffee to Red Bull to Five Hour Energy to modafinil. As soon as DARPA perfects its sleepless serum we’ll move on to that.

We’ve got Kickstarter fatigue, social media stream fatigue, outrage fatigue, crisis fatigue, donor fatigue, future fatigue… fuck, I think I’ve probably got fatigue fatigue at this point.

Maybe it started with 9/11. Maybe it was the financial crisis. Or maybe it was earlier, with Y2K. All I know is that I’m bone tired, and I don’t see any rest on the horizon and that just about everyone I know feels the same way.

But maybe that’s how we start to get better. First we admit that we have a problem. Then maybe we can find a way to collectively pull the plug on this treadmill.

Data-driven Introspection and Surveillance Culture with Eleanor Saitta

Latest Mindful Cyborgs:

Eleanor Saitta works professionally as a computer security expert, but more generally she “looks at how systems break” – computer, social, infrastructural, legal, and more. She comes on the show today to share a unique perspective on surveillance / security culture that we have found ourselves enmeshed in. Don’t miss this one (or part 2!).

Download and Show Notes: Mindful Cyborgs: Data-driven Introspection and Surveillance Culture with Eleanor Saitta

Is Child Porn On Darknets Actually A Sign Of A Healthy Society?

I just covered Cryptosphere, a forthcoming darknet, for TechCrunch. Here’s a bit from the end. On the Hacker News thread about Cryptosphere, one commenter laments the fact that darknets end up being used for child porn, pointing out that religious heretics of the past could really have used such a system. Another commenter responds:

Child pornography producers and consumers are similarly persecuted, though clearly with much more sound reasons.

At least in western countries, there aren’t a lot of instances of repressed communication that need to be conducted across a channel like this — especially few legitimate ones. This is not to say that such a system isn’t useful; just that I believe the fact they’re so full of child pornography and the like is actually, in a roundabout way, an indicator of a healthy society.

The Psychology of Punditry

Juian Sanchez speculates that that our contemporary mediasphere has become hyperpolarized not just because of the “filter bubble” problem, but also as a result of the coping mechanisms adopted by pundits who are constantly assaulted by a barrage of uncivil criticism:

The nice way to say this is that selects for pundits who have a thick skin—or forces them to quickly develop one. The less nice way to say it is that it forces you to stop giving a shit what other people think. Maybe not universally——you’ll pick out a domain of people whose criticisms are allowed to slip through the armor—but by default.

Probably it always took a healthy ego to presume to hold forth on a wide array of public issues, confident that your thoguhts are relevant and interesting to the general populace, or at least the audience for political commentary. But in a media space this dense, it probably takes a good deal more.

If the type and volume of criticism we find online were experienced in person, we’d probably think we were witnessing some kind of est/Maoist reeducation session designed to break down the psyche so it could be rebuilt from scratch. The only way not to find this overwhelming and demoralized over any protracted period of time is to adopt a reflexive attitude that these are not real people whose opinions matter in any way. Which, indeed, seems to be a pretty widespread attitude.

Julian Sanchez: The Psychological Prerequisites of Punditry

(Thanks Skilluminati)

It makes sense. Busy blogs and forums can get toxic fast. I got a lot of vitriolic comments while covering enterprise tech at ReadWriteWeb, and can only imagine what someone blogging on more popular topics at a bigger blog would experience (especially if I were a women). It can be tough to keep going. It makes sense that only a certain type of personality is going to keep blogging in public, and that you’d get worse at taking any sort of criticism from outside your own circle at all.

Supervert on Mark Dery’s New Book I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts

Supervert, author of Extraterrestrial Sex Fetish and webmaster of the definitive William S. Burroughs site Reality Studio, reviews Mark Dery’s new book I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts:

How is it that Dery is able to produce this uncanny feeling of identification? You get the sense that, while the rest of us were living the zeitgeist, Dery was holding a stethoscope to its heart. His essays are EKGs showing that our pulse goes haywire in the presence of extremes — perversion, violence, satanism. In an introduction, Dery declares that it is “the writer’s job” to “think bad thoughts”: “to wander footloose through the mind’s labyrinth, following the thread of any idea that reels you in, no matter how arcane or depraved, obscene or blasphemous, untouchably controversial, irreducibly complex, or preposterous on its face.” All of us take in these abominations as they play across our flatscreens and iPhones, but Dery’s distinction is to really think about them — reflect on them, contextualize them, pursue their logic to sometimes unpalatable consequences. “The writer’s job,” he means to say, “is to transform ‘bad thoughts’ into good ones — insights and observations — through a process of examination.”

Supervert: I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts

See also: Mark Dery: How the Cephalopod Became Our Zeitgeist Mascot

Fashion is a Feminist Issue

(photo by Toru Kogure)

Greta Christina writes:

Fashion is one of the very few forms of expression in which women have more freedom than men.

And I don’t think it’s an accident that it’s typically seen as shallow, trivial, and vain.

It is the height of irony that women are valued for our looks, encouraged to make ourselves beautiful and ornamental… and are then derided as shallow and vain for doing so. And it’s a subtle but definite form of sexism to take one of the few forms of expression where women have more freedom, and treat it as a form of expression that’s inherently superficial and trivial. Like it or not, fashion and style are primarily a women’s art form. And I think it gets treated as trivial because women get treated as trivial. […]

If you don’t personally care about fashion and style, that’s fine. We don’t all have to care about the same art forms: I could care less about grand opera, and it’s unlikely that I’m ever going to. I do think people should be aware that what they wear communicates something to other people — something about who they are and how they feel about the world and their place in it — and I think many people would be better off if they made that communication intentionally instead of un-. But again, we all don’t have to care about the same forms of communication. If what you want to say about yourself through your clothing is, “I wear clothes so I won’t be naked,” that is entirely your prerogative, and none of my business.

But if you think other people — especially other women — who do care about fashion and style are shallow, trivial, or vain for doing so?

That is my business.

Greta Christina: Fashion is a Feminist Issue

(via eecummingscapitalized)

Great post, though some might dispute the conflation of “fashion” and “style.”

Documentary on Russian Criminal Tattoos Now Available Free Online

Mark of Cain, a documentary by Alix Lambert about the culture of Russian criminal tattoos, is now available for free online under a creative commons license. This documentary served as a reference for the David Cronenberg film Eastern Promises.

You can also buy it on DVD from Amazon.com. You might also be interested in Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopedia.

(via Brain Pickings)

Bruce Sterling: Network Culture Is Incompatible with Representative Democracy

TechCrunch TV interviews Bruce Sterling on Hacktivism at SXSW:

The Importance of Solitude

Fortress of Solitude

“There’s so much cultural anxiety about isolation in our country that we often fail to appreciate the benefits of solitude,” said Eric Klinenberg, a sociologist at New York University whose book “Alone in America,” in which he argues for a reevaluation of solitude, will be published next year. “There is something very liberating for people about being on their own. They’re able to establish some control over the way they spend their time. They’re able to decompress at the end of a busy day in a city…and experience a feeling of freedom.” […]

With his graduate adviser and a researcher from the Forest Service at his side, Long identified a number of different ways a person might experience solitude and undertook a series of studies to measure how common they were and how much people valued them. A 2003 survey of 320 UMass undergraduates led Long and his coauthors to conclude that people felt good about being alone more often than they felt bad about it, and that psychology’s conventional approach to solitude — an “almost exclusive emphasis on loneliness” — represented an artificially narrow view of what being alone was all about.

“Aloneness doesn’t have to be bad,” Long said by phone recently from Ouachita Baptist University, where he is an assistant professor. “There’s all this research on solitary confinement and sensory deprivation and astronauts and people in Antarctica — and we wanted to say, look, it’s not just about loneliness!”

Boston Globe: The power of lonely

(via Andrew McAfee)

Douglas Coupland’s Pessimistic Guide to the Next 10 Years

Douglas Coupland - the future is now

1) It’s going to get worse
2) The future isn’t going to feel futuristic
3) The future is going to happen no matter what we do. The future will feel even faster than it does now
4)Move to Vancouver, San Diego, Shannon or Liverpool
5) You’ll spend a lot of your time feeling like a dog leashed to a pole outside the grocery store – separation anxiety will become your permanent state
6) The middle class is over. It’s not coming back
7) Retail will start to resemble Mexican drugstores
8) Try to live near a subway entrance
9) The suburbs are doomed, especially thoseE.T. , California-style suburbs
10) In the same way you can never go backward to a slower computer, you can never go backward to a lessened state of connectedness
11) Old people won’t be quite so clueless
12) Expect less
13) Enjoy lettuce while you still can
14) Something smarter than us is going to emerge
15) Make sure you’ve got someone to change your diaper

Globe and Mail: A radical pessimist’s guide to the next 10 years

That’s just the first 15 – there are 45 total, most with some elaboration.

If that’s too pessimistic for you, check out A Happy Mutants Guide to the Near Future.

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