Shoshana Zuboff’s The Age Of Surveillance Capitalism sounds like it is worth adding to my TBR pile:

Capitalism has always been a fraught system. Capable of both tempering and magnifying human flaws, particularly the lust for power, it can expand human possibility or constrain it, liberate people or oppress them. (The same can be said of technology.) Under the Fordist model of mass production and consumption that prevailed for much of the 20th century, industrial capitalism achieved a relatively benign balance among the contending interests of business owners, workers, and consumers. Enlightened executives understood that good pay and decent working conditions would ensure a prosperous middle class eager to buy the goods and services their companies produced. It was the product itself — made by workers, sold by companies, bought by consumers — that tied the interests of capitalism’s participants together. Economic and social equilibrium was negotiated through the product.

By removing the tangible product from the center of commerce, surveillance capitalism upsets the equilibrium. Whenever we use free apps and online services, it’s often said, we become the products, our attention harvested and sold to advertisers. But, as Zuboff makes clear, this truism gets it wrong. Surveillance capitalism’s real products, vaporous but immensely valuable, are predictions about our future behavior — what we’ll look at, where we’ll go, what we’ll buy, what opinions we’ll hold — that internet companies derive from our personal data and sell to businesses, political operatives, and other bidders. Unlike financial derivatives, which they in some ways resemble, these new data derivatives draw their value, parasite-like, from human experience.

To the Googles and Facebooks of the world, we are neither the customer nor the product. We are the source of what Silicon Valley technologists call “data exhaust” — the informational by-products of online activity that become the inputs to prediction algorithms. In contrast to the businesses of the industrial era, whose interests were by necessity entangled with those of the public, internet companies operate in what Zuboff terms “extreme structural independence from people.” When databases displace goods as the engine of the economy, our own interests, as consumers but also as citizens, cease to be part of the negotiation. We are no longer one of the forces guiding the market’s invisible hand. We are the objects of surveillance and control.

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“The Pure American Banality of Donald Trump’s White House Fast-Food Banquet”:

One imagines those poor sandwiches steaming limply inside their cardboard boxes on the drive to the White House, and during the fuss over arranging them on their silver platters (with sauces sorted by type and piled high in silver gravy boats) and properly lighting the gilded candelabra. Then came the photo shoot: Trump, centered beneath a portrait of Abraham Lincoln, flinging his arms out behind this table of quick-serve abundance, in a gesture that’s equal parts ownership and invitation. There is a particular awfulness to McDonald’s or Burger King once it’s gone cold. By the time America’s greatest collegiate football players arrived, in their navy blazers and Sunday shoes, to pick up porcelain plates and work their way through this cardboard buffet, the French fries would have grown cold and mealy, the burger buns soggy, the precise half slice of American cheese on each Filet-o-Fish sandwich hardened to a tough, flavorless rectangle of yellow.

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Posting to my blog from my phone.

I’m fine with WordPress as my self-hosted platform, but their mobile app suckity-SUCKS.

I really like the idea of posting to my site directly from Drafts, but the action I use for that randomly fails about fifty percent of the time, and any post that involves media requires convoluted work-arounds.

I can also post from Ulysses, but see above, re: convoluted work-arounds.

What I really want is MarsEdit that runs on mobile.

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I should not be looking at typewriters on eBay.

I should not be looking at typewriters on eBay.

I should not be looking at typewriters on eBay.

Bags & Trane

How have I never listened to this album before? It’s fantastic.

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Analog tools and the clawing back of the tangible evidence of our labor

I was thinking yesterday about my growing preference for analog media over digital, and especially about how and why I have switched over almost entirely to using pen and paper for stuff like notes, planning, and to-do lists. Even at work, while I still send and receive a lot of email, use instant messaging pretty heavily, and rely on Trello boards for my team’s planning, all of my own meeting notes and daily/weekly planning takes place in a spiral-bound Kyokuto Expedient dot-grid notebook, and I am really happy with that process.

Part of it is that it allows me to indulge my penchant for fancy notebooks and fountain pens. However, I think the underlying reason that I prefer pen and paper for this sort of thing is that it helps make all of the intangible aspects “knowledge work” tangible.

That got me to thinking about Marx’s notion of our alienation from our own labor—the stuff we do to deliberately change the world around us, the essence of what makes us human. Knowledge work in general and digital/online tools more specifically abstract us even further from the work that we do. We spend all day composing emails, drafting documents, and dragging cards around on digital boards, and yet there is not a single physical trace of all that labor.

It is—by nature—dehumanizing.

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