Articles in the Essays Category

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October 18th, 2014 | Comments Off | Category: Essays, Headline
Bedlam and Then Some: This is not the Future

One of the many methods used in futures studies is what is called environmental scanning. “All futurists do environmental scanning,” write Theodore J. Gordon and Jerome C. Glenn, “some are more organized and systematic, all try to distinguish among what is constant, what changes, and what constantly changes” (p. 3). The process, which includes several distant early warning techniques (e.g., expert panels, literature reviews, internet searches, conference monitoring, etc.), helps inform the pursuits of issues management and strategic planning. According to William Renfro, President of the Issues Management Association, issues …

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October 12th, 2014 | No Comment | Category: Essays, Reviews
Contested Boundaries and Saturated Selves

In her book The Social Machine (MIT Press, 2014), Judith Donath outlines designs for living online. Echoing George Lakoff and Mark Johnson (1980), she writes, “We are embodied beings, who have evolved in the physical world; our thoughts and imagination are rooted in the sensory experience of our physical surroundings. Online, there is no body; there is only information. We comprehend abstract ideas by reframing them in metaphoric terms that ultimately derive from physical experience” (p. 9). One needn’t look any further that a computer’s desktop to see this in …

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August 19th, 2014 | No Comment | Category: Essays, Reviews
Writing Women: Don’t Care If You Like It

Sometime in the year since reading Lauren Beukes’ The Shining Girls, I noticed that I’d been reading a lot of books written by women. It wasn’t a conscious decision, but looking back, it struck me as notable. But just as there are two kinds of racism, there are two kinds of sexism: noting the difference when it doesn’t matter and not noting it when it does. I love the writing of Rebecca Solnit, Chris Kraus, and Lauren Beukes regardless of their gender. I aspire to write like them because they …

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May 29th, 2014 | No Comment | Category: Essays, Reviews
Slayer: Building Bridges With Fire

Opinions often vary widely on the most important bands and records of any era, but only a few dare dispute the reign of Slayer and their thrash watermark Reign in Blood (Def Jam, 1986). There has always been a weird rift between punk and metal, but thrash was the first sub-genre to draw heavily from both. The two major movements have since spawned such tributaries as grindcore, metalcore, murdercore, power violence, and various strains of post-metal. “What do you think would get a bigger reaction: a Minor Threat cover or …

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May 16th, 2014 | No Comment | Category: Essays, Reviews
Is Anyone There? On <i>her</i> and <i>Transcendence</i>

Cinema is our most viable and enduring form of design fiction. More than any other medium, it lets us peer into possible futures projected from the raw materials of the recent past, simulate scenes based on new visions via science and technology, gauge our reactions, and adjust our plans accordingly. These visions are equipment for living in a future heretofore unseen. As video artist Bill Viola (1995) puts it,
The implied goal of many of our efforts, including technological development, is the eradication of signal-to-noise ratio, which in the end is …

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March 26th, 2014 | No Comment | Category: Essays, Reviews
Mixed Metonymies: Mechanization and Culture

Meanings are malleable. Words bend and break under the stress of unintended use, abuse, or overuse. Like machine parts pushed past their limits, cogs stripped bare of their teeth, the language we use wears out, weakening the culture that carries it and our knowledge thereof.

Aldous Huxley (1970) writes, “In the days before machinery men and women who wanted to amuse themselves were compelled, in their humble way, to be artists. Now they sit still and permit professionals to entertain them by the aid of machinery” (p. 11). We use metaphors …

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March 20th, 2014 | No Comment | Category: Essays
Cool by Committee: Cultural Capital and Art

“Nobody wants to be uncool,” writes Chris Kraus in her book Video Green (Semiotext(e), 2004, p. 24). She’s writing about the trials of graduate school, specifically MFA programs and the inherent ambiguity in determining the value of art. The rigor of graduate work is part of the gatekeeping and cultural encoding that make the art world go ’round, that make cool art cool. Kraus continues,
…this two-year hazing process is essential to the development of value in the by-nature-elusive parameters of neoconceptual art. Without it, who would know which cibachrome photos …

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March 08th, 2014 | No Comment | Category: Essays
Social Media Fatigue

The closer we get to each other, the less likely we are to have things in common. The more we know about each other, the more likely we are to fundamentally disagree on how the world should work. The more intimate the details we share, the more likely one of us has done something unforgivable in the eyes of the other. Dig deep enough inside anyone and you’re going to find something you don’t like. As my friend Lucas Molandes puts it, the only reason you’re with the person you’re …

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January 27th, 2014 | No Comment | Category: Essays, Reviews
Dispatches from Digital Dystopia

David Hoffman once summarized George Orwell’s 1984, writing that “during times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” Aaron Swartz, Chelsea (née Bradley) Manning, Adrian Lamo, Aaron Barr, and Edward Snowden have all been pawns and prisoners of information warfare. As the surveillance has expanded from mounted cameras to wireless taps, hackers have evolved from phone phreaking to secret leaking. It’s a ratcheting up of tactics and attacks on both sides. Andy Greenberg quotes Hunter S. Thompson, saying that the weird are turning pro. It’s a thought that evokes the …

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January 06th, 2014 | No Comment | Category: Essays
It Toggles the Mind

Twenty years ago, Arthur Kroker described the predominant spirit of the times as a “spasm” (1993). What Bruce Sterling (1998) describes as “that violently oscillating 1990s state when you feel totally hyper and nauseatingly bored. That gnawing sense that we’re on the road to nowhere at a million miles an hour.” The feeling has expanded to the point where detached irony is our default emotional setting. David Foster Wallace called it “Total Noise” (quoted in Gleick, 2011, p. 403): An all-consuming cultural state that “tends to level everything out into …