meshedsociety weekly #219

Here is a new issue of meshedsociety weekly, loaded with interesting analyses and essays, significant yet under-reported information bits as well as thoughtful opinion pieces from the digital and technology world.

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  • I miss blind, dumb enthusiasm for new tech (, 5 minutes)
    It’s been 10 years since Google unveiled Google Wave (the older ones among you might remember). Martin Bryant expresses how he misses those days when the tech (blogger/journalist) crowd got enthusiastic about the latest thing to try out, instead of immediately pondering how a new product or service might make the world worse (which often is today’s default mode). I sometimes miss those times too. But reality has caught up. Back then, we very stupid and too naive. This only could last so long. In 2019, for better or worse, everything is political. Particularly tech. And therefore, it is being treated accordingly. A lot has changed in tech and the world since 2009.
  • Google Can’t Figure Out What YouTube Is (, 7 minutes)
    YouTube is a different thing for different people, and it tries to cater to all of them, which means that maybe it cannot excel at anything.
  • How Phonies and self-promoters came to rule the world (, 22 minutes)
    Our obsession with money and susceptibility to charisma, over-confidence and surface gloss have propelled us into an age where sham, spin, trickery and twaddle have become the new norms, writes Shelley Gare. This part from her piece is really crushing: “Each day, just by absorbing the news headlines, or turning on our devices and opening our email or hopping onto Facebook, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram, we find ourselves navigating a shifting landscape of spin, sham, fake news, false claims, phishing, pretense, exaggeration, obfuscation, contradiction, empty promises, extravagant PR and outright lies, scams and fraud. And that’s before we head into work.”
  • Fintech startup Transferwise has turned employees into millionaires (, 4 minutes)
    Talking about money… When you join a startup and accept the often less-than-stellar working conditions, then this is really what you would hope for: The London-based fintech Transferwise has minted 33 new millionaires, bringing the total number of employees or investors with six-figure holdings in the payments company to more than 150.
  • Crowds (, 6 minutes)
    Once crowds discover a formerly unexploited opportunity and throw money and technology at it – whether on Mount Everest, in investing, in podcasting, music festivals or craft beers – the very opportunity (at least in its original meaning) is gone.
  • There Is Too Much Stuff (, 6 minutes)
    When you type “hangers” into Amazon’s search box, the mega-retailer delivers “over 200,000” options.
  • Blockchains and the “Intelligent Machine” Economy (, 9 minutes)
    What blockchain technology actually is good for beyond utopian fantasies still remains an open question. Tory Green has one of the more compelling suggestions: The blockchain will act as the “glue” that holds the emerging “intelligent machine” economy – consisting of hundreds of billions of connected devices – together and will facilitate transactions in these decentralized networks.
  • A City Is Not a Computer (, 18 minutes)
    Tech firms want to reinvent the city, and optimizing it following the ideology and principles that worked for the computer and the web. But is that desirable for the future of cities? Shannon Mattern doesn’ think so, and she outlines why she rejects the metaphor of cities as computers.
  • The potentially seedy side of the hotel bed jumping community (, 7 minutes)
    From the “weird things social media brought us” department.
  • What Airbnb’s New Fee Structure Means for Travelers (, 9 minutes)
    Airbnb is one of the few sites for accommodations that charges travelers guest fees, which are being added during the final booking step. In order to better compete with hotel chains and online travel agencies, that is about to change, with implications for hosts and guests alike.
  • The Serene Pleasure of Watching People Cook in the Chinese Countryside (, 4 minutes)
    Good stuff. I’m getting hungry. Here are some clips.
  • The end of mobile (, 4 minutes)
    About 5 billion people own a mobile phone, of which 4 billion own a smartphone. It’s the end of the story of the rise of the mobile phone (and smartphone). Now, what’s next?
  • Google’s Chrome Becomes Web ‘Gatekeeper’ and Rivals Complain (, 7 minutes)
    Talk about domination: Chrome is the clear leader in the browser market, so it controls how the standards are set. Most other major browsers are now built on the Chromium software code base that Google maintains. 
  • Shut down social media platforms, ex-Facebook adviser urges (, 3 minutes)
    Roger McNamee, Mark Zuckerberg’s former mentor and an early investor in Facebook, who lately turned into one of the company’s biggest critics, suggests that countries should shut down Facebook, at least temporarily, in order to protect citizens’ privacy online and curb the spread of disinformation.
  • The iPod of VR is here, and you should try it (, 5 minutes)
    Apparently, the new VR headset Quest by Facebook-owned Oculus is pretty good (although here is a critical take on the pricing of the device and games). Too bad for me. Moving forward, I personally will not let another Facebook-owned product into my life. There is no trust left.
  • Mass Appropriation, Radical Remixing, and the Democratization of AI Art (, 13 minutes)
    The upcoming democratization of artificial intelligence for artists and designers will drive a revolution in aesthetics and art, writes Jason Bailey.
  • An Interview With A Man Who Eats Leftover Food From Strangers’ Plates In Restaurants (, 11 minutes)
    This was probably my favorite read this week. Like so often, if you closely inspect a social norm, it starts to look pretty strange.
  • Why are we rich but hopeless (, 8 minutes)
    Astute observation by Paras Chopra: “As we collectively pursue progress, what we become angry about is the loss that we’re incapable of anticipating at the time of conceiving our progressive visions”.

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