- Debbie Chachra on how Twitter's design has served to empower marginalized voices but also give rise to terrible patterns of chronic harassment.
- A brief look back at the now-departed AOL Instant Messenger, and the ways in which it prefigured later, greater, social network mechanisms.
- Snap Inc, perhaps the social media company that has been most aware of how visual culture and media technologies merged with our modes of communication, is developing a new feature that aims to continue those trends while performing an end run around Google's text (and voice) search business. They're calling the new feature Context Cards, an image/video first sort of search that surfaces information based on, well, context. This effort, along with Snap Spectacles and Snap Maps, is very much about connecting cameras to the world in more of a moment-to-moment sense, rather than the capture, share, and wait for the likes to roll in style of Facebook and Instagram (notorious themselves for quickly cloning many of Snap's visual innovations). More and more Facebook feels like a shoebox of nostalgia, a somewhat insular cul-de-sac of things you already know about people you already know. Snap is attempting to, if not always succeeding, build a social network that is more exploratory and amorphous. The business model may not be as clear as it is with Facebook and Google, but they have shown serious commitment to a deep strategy that is playing out over years, a lifetime by software startup standards.
Humanity Intersecting Technology:
- New research that suggests the development of online dating is fairly dramatically changing how we find love and who we find it with. As writer Alexis Avedisian has wryly put it: "we met through an algorithm."
- As income inequality grows larger and seemingly more intractable in the U.S., private market "solutions" spring up to (profitably) deal with the realities on the ground. From Reagonomics era to the post-NAFTA years of atrophying labor power, the de facto provider for working-poor consumer enablement was Wal-Mart, the behemoth everything store. But times have changed and the overhead costs of maintaining massive brick-and-mortar business doesn't work as well in the less populous pockets of rural America. Instead, a smaller, scrappier retailer has been on a growth spurt around the country. Dollar General, with more U.S. stores than Starbucks, has taken up the mantle of chief discounted goods purveryor, with fewer offerings but shorter distances between the struggling worker and the stocked shelf. The article details a value-proposition that is societally pessimistic: that for the foreseeable future there will be a large contingent of half-desperate shoppers struggling to make it between paychecks, looking to stretch a dollar to its breaking point.
- Almost a decade later, the global economy is still dealing with ripples of the 2008 economic crisis, born of many hubris-filled moments, with the largest and most egregious ones focused on housing. Today, how best to deal with space, place, and the difficulty of putting down roots in a tumultuous labor market is still very much an open question. Pacific Standard has an interesting bit of reporting around the growing trend of "Workampers" or workforces that self-deploy to active areas in fleets of RVs. Amazon has a program called CamperForce to specifically engage with (or take advantage of) this great unmooring of labor from place. While migrant or itinerant labor forces are not unique to the 21st century, this particular incarnation is different, in scope and in context.
- On how some 'lifestyle minimalists' have turned their less-stuff philosophy into a near self-help system, appealing to anxious careerists left unfulfilled by keeping up with the Joneses and aspirational consumers beaten down by mountains of credit card debt and clutter. In hyper-consumer societies, where the goods you keep are as much to construct and reconstruct one's identity for yourself and others, any rejection of stuff can feel radical. What's interesting about the consumer-economy flavor of minimalism is that it often still requires the consumption steps: it is a anti-materialistic practice based in gorging and purging, rather than avoiding it in the first place, a born-again approach to living with less. If socially, personally, or environmentally we are to reap the benefits of curtailing rampant consumption, it must be more proactive and complete rather than reactive.