- "But the nature of style is to fade." Kyle Chayka on the history of the Four Seasons restaurant, it's aspirational style and its recent attempt at a redesign. Among the themes here is that the aesthetic-of-affluence flavor of modernism that once flowed from Manhattan to everywhere else became greatly Spartanized by minimalism, stripped of its more opulent touches. The once fresh, now aged Manhattan style synonymous with Madison Avenue advertising executives feels entirely too self-serious and aloof for our present moment. The looming threats of our era, combined the shrinking of the globe through intensified travel and trade have made such American modernist bluster seem oddly trivial and provincial.
- On building a design system within a fast-moving startup to align (and preserve) engineering and design efforts.
- Facebook's first major consumer hardware product is due to launch in early 2018, (a video chat device similar to Amazon's Echo Show) but there are rumors coming from the social media giant's product team that the general public doesn't feel so comfortable with the idea. Facebook's outsized impact on shaping new cultural norms of privacy in this 21st century has made them incredibly powerful, but it has also made them the symbol of all we fear about social networks, context collapse and surveillance-as-a-business model.
- The Outline with a good piece on the role of small, private group chats as a refuge from more public forms of social media, the news cycle, and as a place for people of color in particular to share the pains, humor, and experiences just with those people that really understand.
- Amazon and Google are feuding more openly than usual, with Google dropping YouTube streaming support for Amazon's products, leaving the e-commerce and web services giant with a significant hole in their offerings. As tech giants absorb smaller stars and form a new constellation of competitive monopoly powers, people are left with a choice between spotty service or costly but marginally more valuable redundancy, the same bad equation from older telecom and cable companies that tech firms were supposed to disrupt on behalf of customers.
- IKEA has acquired TaskRabbit, the sometimes controversial gig-economy labor on demand app company. While the article's headline claims it's some reflection of America's DIY spirit dying (really? do we consider IKEA furniture assembly as reflective of scrappy DIY ethic?) it's really just a classic business case study of finding an interesting and potentially undervalued organization that can add to vertical integration efforts. If many of TaskRabbit's customers were using the app for furniture assembly, why would IKEA not want to collect those extra dollars with some software engineering talent and troves of data to boot?
Material Culture :
- A strange and somehow quintessentially U.S. story of a man who had prepared for doomsday over the course of decades, only to lose his wife and his home, then going on to donate those hoarded goods to Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
- Bruck: what Scottish islanders call the scrap and detritus that ends up on their isolated lands, the trash you might talk in a bar, or the odds and ends that are basically useless but you haven't brought yourself to get rid of.
- It's well known that the smaller bits of human-made stuff litter the oceans, but less known that our plastic bits become tiny seafaring vessels for creatures, enabling even the fragile ones to make the long journey across the Pacific Ocean. Civilizations have always had a trash footprint, and our languages and cultures evolve ideas to capture that unwanted segment of progress we seem to be surrounded by. From junk drawers to doomsday vaults, we collect, re-arrange, discard, and restore objects large and small, trying to make sense of what kind of world we ought to be building, what kind of life we ought to be living. For better or worse those objects that surround us are a reflection of our sometimes composed, but mostly messy lives. May we have the wisdom to know what to give, what to give up on, and what it is we really need in the first place.