- The aesthetics of anarchy: an April Fool's experiment on reddit that granted users the ability to contribute (one pixel at a time) to a big blank canvas quickly transformed into a collaborative, competitive work, flickering in and out of visual cohesion. The article maps out a chronology of activity and how trends from various factions played out over the course of the experiment. It's probably unwise to draw any big conclusions about our collective prospects as a species based on a digital mural from an internet forum, but it has some positive indications for our ability to work collectively with great agility to make something from nothing. With reddit's periodic reputation for hosting hate speech and doxxing campaigns it's also a glimmer of hope that the final version of the canvas contained no racist/hate symbols (this is according to the article, we haven't scoured the totality of it ourselves to confirm). On the other hand it's disappointing that given a blank slate, mostly people pulled together to recreate brands, videogame characters, flags, and sports logos rather than producing original concepts. From a speed to organization perspective reproducing well-known imagery is certainly a lower bar to clear for aligning efforts. It also speaks to why people respond so strongly to the 21st century readymade of the internet meme: a set of sights, sounds and words that speak to what we already believe to be true, rather than challenging us to dive deeper, think critically and invent for ourselves. We'll be thinking about this experiment for awhile.
- A concise analysis of how aggressive ad placements and newsletter signups are turning activity in browsers into a nuisance-laden chore, making the web less legible.
- Harvard Business Review on how augmented reality devices are giving a significant boost to worker productivity in healthcare and service technician roles. An aspect of these 'augmented workforce' practices that will need studying in coming years is how stepping in and out of these altered contexts could affect health in terms of mood, sleep, or fatigue. While there's no reason to automatically suspect occupational AR systems are detrimental, spending extended amounts of time in a sort of overclocked cognition seems worth understanding better before we all plug-in for productivity's sake.
- We said back in July that Taser was on an aggressive campaign to gain market dominance in the category of police body cameras, and they just made their biggest move yet: rebranding to Axon and offering free cameras and services (for one year) to any police departments in the U.S. that wants them.
- E-commerce continues to hammer away at brick-and-mortar retailers. A Credit Suisse analyst is predicting 9,000 or so store closings this year in the U.S.(worse than during the 2008 housing collapse and recession). The shift from jobs dealing in the local and tangible, to the digital and distributed is a trend that is going to keep reshaping communities and industries for the foreseeable future, despite political efforts to reinforce old notions of borders.
- The unique problems and solutions of large, ambitious organizations: how Google built their own processing chips so they wouldn't need to build as many new data centers.
- Looking at the psychology of self via Tough Mudder to understand why so many people are willing to pay for the opportunity to experience discomfort, pain and injury. In short, modern humans feel disconnected from regular awareness of their bodies and clouded by a hundred tiny anxieties. Pain can bring hyper-focused flow states for the brain, and a grounded sensation in our flesh and bones.
- Lenders in China are studying large swaths of smartphone user data to determine risk and set terms for loans. According to their analytics, iPhone users are more reliable than Android users, and people who let their phones linger at low battery levels are more prone to repayment issues.