The week in quotes (2019W06)

Sebastian Greger

More great texts out there than I had time to read, but here are some quotes I took note of this past week:

Zeynep Tufekci argues how a solid micropayment infrastructure would solve many of today’s internet’s problems at once:

Right now, we’re stuck where the automobile industry was when cars were still “horseless carriages,” wagon-wheeled monstrosities with high centers of gravity and buggy seats. We’re still letting an older technology—credit cards, designed for in-­person transactions, with high fees and financial surveillance baked in—determine the shape of a new technological paradigm. As a result, that paradigm has become twisted and monopolized by its biggest players. This is one of the modern internet’s greatest errors; it’s past time that we encounter “402 Payment Required” for real.

Sam Biddle in his review of Shoshana Zuboff’s new book “Surveillance capitalism”:

The cliched refrain that if you’re “not paying for a product, you are the product”? Too weak, says Zuboff. You’re not technically the product, she explains over the course of several hundred tense pages, because you’re something even more degrading: an input for the real product, predictions about your future sold to the highest bidder so that this future can be altered. “Digital connection is now a means to others’ commercial ends,” writes Zuboff. “At its core, surveillance capitalism is parasitic and self-referential. It revives Karl Marx’s old image of capitalism as a vampire that feeds on labor, but with an unexpected turn. Instead of labor, surveillance capitalism feeds on every aspect of every human’s experience.”

On the Guardian, Siva Vaidhyanathan replies to a post in which Mark Zuckerberg celebrates Facebook’s 15 year anniversary:

You seem not to acknowledge how much power you have accumulated, nor the extent to which you represent a club of billionaires and companies that have steadily concentrated their power over the past 50 years, with a steady acceleration of that concentration over the past 15 years.

What we lament is the demonstrated anti-democratic, inhumane, hateful, and violent forces hijacking your service and doing great damage to the world. The problem is Facebook, not “the internet”. By turning the focus away from Facebook to “the internet” you try to fool us into conflating the two. The fact is that the structure and function of Facebook is antithetic to the ideology of the internet.

Julie Beck on “vestigial friendships”, a form of social bonds that only came to exist because of technology-mediation:

The site has created an entirely new category of relationship, one that simply couldn’t have existed for most of human history—the vestigial friendship. It’s the one you’ve evolved out of, the one that would normally have faded out of your life, but which, thanks to Facebook, is instead still hanging around.

This is the bargain of drinking Facebook’s unicorn blood. It will give you powers heretofore unwielded by man—a council of everyone you’ve ever met who can be summoned to advise on matters of great and small import with the click of a button. But in return, you must watch the hollow shells of those relationships limping along every time you log on.

Accused of alarmism by some, David Wallace-Wells justifies in an interview why the climate change story needs to be told based on fear, not “hope”:

When I learned the astonishing fact that more than half of the carbon we have emitted into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels was emitted in the past 25 years, that really shocked me. This means we have burned more fossil fuels since the UN established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) than in all of the centuries before – so we have done more damage knowingly than we ever managed in ignorance. That is a horrifying fact. It also means we are engineering our own devastation practically in real time.

A (more or less) weekly collection of inspiring, surprising or otherwise noteworthy texts, talks and podcasts. Usually around my core topics of usability, ethics, and digital society. Previous issues in the archive.

I'm Sebastian, Sociologist and Interaction Designer. This journal is mostly about bringing toge­ther social science and design for inclusive, privacy-focused, and sustainable "human-first" digital strategies. I also tend to a "digital garden" with carefully curated resources.

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