- A brief, well annotated article on how people anthropomorphize objects, and the impacts of extending the relationship between artifact and person beyond the utilitarian.
- On the airbrushed t-shirt as wearable memorial.
An short interview with Natan Linder of Tulip Interfaces, talking about how technology can augment the factory assembly line worker. There are some good quotes and points within the conversation that underscore the creativity of the human mind and its continued value even in a highly automated era. To a large degree, the public (and media) perception of factory workers is of a workforce composed of undereducated drones, completing rote task after rote task. While this may be the case in some plants, the best manufacturers understand the value of front line workers to solve complex problems, regardless of what their formal education is. In many factories around the world, line workers regularly invent new product features and contribute intellectual property. The notion of shifting as much of the cognitive load of rote work to computerized systems to increase capacity for human ingenuity is a good one, if not part of the standard narrative.
- Furniture & home goods maker Williams-Sonoma (which contains the brands Pottery Barn, West Elm, Mark & Graham, and others) has purchased an augmented reality startup for $112 MM. This, along with IKEA's acquisition of TaskRabbit, demonstrate that old-school retailers are taking the threat posed by e-commerce first companies like Amazon and Wayfair seriously, devising ways to propel more purchases through digital enablement, whether it's advanced visualization or on-demand assembly labor.
- Despite the multitude of virtual reality projects aimed at expanding empathy, there's little to no evidence that those experiences have any sticking power. W. Sebastian Kamau examines the practice of putting racial realities into virtual ones, and outlines the ways in which those projects are deeply flawed.
Just A Game:
A profile of people making a living from Twitch, the livestreaming service primarily used for watching other people play videogames. While it’s a uniquely 21st century way to earn a living, it shares a Horatio Alger lineage with the past: the notion that through enough grueling hours, one can crack through the dark tunnel of labor and bask in the fresh air and warm light of grand success. And like those better-life-through miserable toil stories of the last century, this one too requires immensely unhealthy practices. One of the now successful Twitch-celebrities states that in the beginning he needed to stream eighteen hours or more every day to grow his fledgling following, a routine so sedentary that it swelled his ankles and brought his weight to over four hundred pounds. It seems odd that watching someone else play a game for hours on end would hold appeal for so many. Some speculate that the value is similar to seeing an athlete or musician perform at their peak abilities: a vicarious delight in experiencing another human do something, anything, exceptionally well. The subtext here is that the precarity of work in the 21st century requires endless novelty and reinvention, and such reinvention reduces the likelihood of anyone ever truly gaining mastery over a subject, skill, or tool. There's a sense that to watch someone excel, even in an unreal world, is as close as we may get to deep practice ourselves.
Machines for Moving:
- Autonomous cars may become another object-symbol turned political war zone, with boosters fantasizing about less stressful commutes, greater leisure time, and limited car accidents, while skeptics express concern that autonomous vehicles will become mandated, erasing a particularly form of independence granted by a fast car careening down an open road.
- Studying how gendered expectations of discourse shape workplace communications within the messaging app Slack. At the heart of the issue is how rigid ideas behavior are put onto people from our earliest days, socializing individuals for very different norms and mores depending on gender. Our apps may not be helping to disrupt those imposed boxes, but the root of the problem comes earlier, and across many domains.