The week in quotes (2019W36)

Sebastian Greger

Arvind Narayanan’s Twitter thread on targeted ads describes targeted ads as merely the symptom of a deeply unethical industry:

A big reason for the ad tech backlash is retargeting—the creepy ads that follow you around. The irony is that retargeting is just about the least worrying thing about the surveillance economy. We notice it because it’s in our faces. But by being so obvious, it’s a mere annoyance.

The truly harmful targeted ads aren’t the ones trying to sell us something we’ve already searched for. It’s the ones that undermine our autonomy by covertly manipulating us into new desires and behaviors, molding our consumption patterns to maximize long-term revenue extraction.

A thorough discussion of the “perfect user” bias underlying the “humane tech” movement:

Although the humane tech movement’s attempts to reconfigure a “better” user-subject may be well-intentioned, we also need to acknowledge the political and ideological assumptions underpinning it. This may help to avoid a situation in which a relatively small group of Silicon Valley tech entrepreneurs, developers, and designers are reforming humanity according to a privileged set of values and ideals.

Grace Dent’s op-ed on the right to turn off your devices, log off everything and just do whatever without being reach- or traceable:

Sometimes I go missing. It is my right as a human being, and those close to me have grown tolerant of it. I will be uncontactable and my whereabouts unaccountable. Without warning, I delete all the noisy, nagging apps entirely, let voicemails mount up for days and let my inbox grow like Japanese knotweed. I do not explain. I literally vanish.

The journal’s “Mobile Media and Communication” current special issue introduces an exciting perspective on widening mobile media research far beyond phones:

[…] we argue for an expanded focus in mobile media and communication studies (MMCS) that accounts for the many types of mobile media that affect our lives. We begin by pointing out that mobile phone/smartphone research has dominated MMCS as a field. That focus makes sense, but it runs the risk of MMCS essentially turning into “smartphone studies,” which we argue would limit our impact. To make that case, we identify a few examples of the types of oft-ignored technologies that could add to the depth and breadth of MMCS research (e.g., RFID [radio frequency identification] tags, the Walkman, barcodes).

German Sea-Watch captain Carola Rackete on the privilege and responsibility of living in Europe:

Climate breakdown exacerbates the reasons people already have for needing to migrate, such as desperate socioeconomic conditions or political oppression. […] People living in the most disadvantaged places on Earth – who have contributed the least to the climate crisis – are also the first to face its effects. […] More and more people will have to move just in order to survive.


Of course, not all migration is linked to climate breakdown, but the climate emergency will make any “migrant crisis” we have now look like a tea party.

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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