- Gilbert Baker, the artist/activist behind the design of the iconic rainbow flag representing the LGBTQ community has passed away. As far as visual culture and politics go, it's difficult to overstate the impact that this particular flag has had in uniting people under a common physical and philosophical banner.
- Now that your Internet Service Provider can sell your search data, tools like Noizy (a plugin that spends its time creating garbage data to obscure real activities) are becoming more popular. Add such traffic to the deep hum of autonomous, inhuman noise of the 21st century internet: bots crawling, scanning, tweeting, and emailing to no one in particular.
- Using encryption is important for privacy and security but it also leads to some frustrating complications. Quinn Norton, writing for Backchannel recounts how the development of a romantic relationship via encrypted channels made the usual way of proving the relationship for immigration purposes via documents impossible.
- A company in Sweden has a program for microchipping workers (it's opt in). The company is a "startup hub" hosting more than 100 companies- so far 150 people (out of 2,000 or so at the facility) have taken part in the program and can use the implanted chip as a keycard to gain access to secured parts of the complex. While this program is voluntary, it's not hard to imagine companies or government agencies that have an interest in detailed data on the comings and goings of staff making something like this a requisite part of their employment contracts. Microchipping humans seems extra-creepy due the the bodily aspect, but perhaps we should be more concerned about the less visible but similarly invasive surveillance technologies like facial recognition or data-brokering. Whether it's vice clauses, non-competes or non-disclosure agreements, employers have enjoyed a fairly expansive set of powers and legal controls over worker freedoms in and outside the workplace. If automation fears pan out, and it does lead to intensifying job scarcity there's little reason to think some employers would pass up the opportunity to police the lives of laborers even more as their bargaining power is reduced.
- Research into how we see color and the development of novel lens arrangements can give us the ability to see a more complete and true spectrum of color. This seems like a pretty great little superpower to have, we're sure Pantone is excited about the possibilities.
- Demand for lithium has skyrocketed as more devices and machines rely on the element for energy storage, increasing exploration and mining efforts globally. In the U.S. those activities are taking place in Nevada, altering the landscape and fortunes of 21st century prospectors.
- In markets where property values have been climbing rapidly (Boston, Manhattan, San Francisco, etc.) there's a different variety of neighborhood blight: strings of vacant properties that occur when landlords drastically increase rents while holding out for tenants willing to pay that premium. When the economics are such that this waiting game is more lucrative than renting the properties at recent rates, the other properties, residences and businesses in those neighborhoods suffer. Some cities have proposed having rental deadlines under penalty of fines to encourage would-be property hoarders to find tenants in the here and now.
- Heatmapping noise levels across cities and towns shows the impact of major highways and airports. While noise seems like it begins and ends as an inconvenience, studies show that it may have deeper impacts: affecting learning and overall health.
- The founder of Roland Corporation, Ikutaro Kakehashi, has died. While most obituaries of the man only mentioned his achievements in creating and advancing electronic music technology, his company was/is one of those quintessential Japanese organizations that took on an incredible breadth of product categories (milling machines, vinyl cutters, dental tools and 3D printers) and executed on them exceptionally well, over and over again across decades. That said, it's fair that his contributions to electronics for music are noted as his principal legacy. Some of the devices he was responsible for, like the TR-808, led to fundamental changes in the sound of electronic music the world over and music overall. If you listen to hip-hop, EDM, or pop music - many of those sounds can be traced back directly to innovations from Roland and Ikutaro Kakehashi. Technology that can put such a deep and lasting ripple into the waters of culture, birthing new genres and subcultures is something rare.