• 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: 


Labor Pains: 


Material Culture: 

  • 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. 


More next week.