Newsletter No.14 — Dec 03, 2017

Sentiers No.14

Heads up: For a couple of reasons related to early writing methods, the first forty-five issues archived here are “pre last review” and haven’t been fully re-reviewed yet. Please forgive typos and miscellaneous mistakes if you see them! They are also less structured than more recent issues and thus haven’t been split into multiple notes. (Yet?)

This issue, randomly, ended up as more focused on physical and/or the past, with great threads of historical topics, a Media section, and a Print section with books and bookstores. It’s also a bit shorter, do hit reply and tell me what you think.

MUJI’s design philosophy is emptiness, not minimalism

Ku is not a poverty or absence of ideas or materials. Indeed, it’s a much richer concept than the Western understanding of “emptiness.” It’s a stance—a readiness to receive inspiration from outside. “To offer an empty vessel is to pose a single question and to be wholly ready to accept the huge variety of answers, emptiness is itself a possibility of being filled.”

Twitter Threads About History
A great thread with multiple illustrations explains “one of the strangest and most elaborate rituals practised in ancient Mesopotamia, and one that occasionally went terribly wrong: the ritual of ‘The Substitute King’.”

Also links to (first time I see this), a thread of threads, each with some more Assyrian history. (This guy should get a blog!!)

And finally, another great thread by the same Paul Cooper, this one about that time when botanist Richard Deakin examined Rome’s Colosseum in the 1850s, he found 420 species of plant growing in the ruins: cypresses & ilex, pea plants & over 50 types of grass.

The Network
The Radicalization of Utopian Dreams
danah boyd, speaking in front of progressives at a platform co-op conference, reminds us that the same ideals, the same ‘raging against the machine,’ was also there a decade ago but was corrupted and didn’t plan for how it could be corrupted. We should do better this time around.

Don’t simply focus on what would be ideal or critique the status quo. Genuinely examine how what you’re seeking could also be corrupted and abused. I believe, more than anything, that deep empathy and self-reflection is critical for us to build a healthier future.

Directly related: John Naughton on How a half-educated tech elite delivered us into evil. (Maths and engineering with no social sciences.)

++ 😍 This project: Ignored By Big Telecom, Detroit’s Marginalized Communities Are Building Their Own Internet

’tis the season for ‘best of’ lists and Kottke has a list of lists for The best books of 2017.

++ How Independent Bookstores Have Thrived in Spite of
I quite like this part: The “3 C’s” of independent bookselling’s resurgence: ::community, curation, and convening::.

++ Afrofuturism and the Need for More Inclusive Science Fiction. Super quick intro to the form, also linked here for Nnedi Okorafor’s TED talk embedded in the article.

++ My friends at HOLO have a look back on their year since shipping issue 2. Stats, links, interviews, updates.

Why 2017 Feels Like a Media Apocalypse
TL;DR: Too many publishers and not enough ad money, media companies accepted VC money, the (US) president is the media equivalent of a toxic herbicide. ::Time to pivot to readers::.

Doom is coming for companies that relied on an unlimited supply of VC money floating them until they cracked a nonexistent code to advertising. Something far less than doom is coming for companies that balanced cost and revenue while experimenting with various forms of direct advertising, events, subscriptions, and memberships.

++ Pivot from Video
M.G. Siegler on tv advertising, sports, and many medias’ pivot to video. Notable for the distinction between live and ‘non-live’ in the quote below and for his mention of brand sponsorship and in-show product placement, like in the 50s. Note that indy magazines, like Offscreen, have already been doing this for years.

Yes, traditionally the advertising has paid for that content (and as such, our time), but the world is changing. Advertisers might be able to buy our “live” time, but our “non-live” time is increasingly not for sale. There’s simply too much else to do.

The Churn
This Slaughterbots fiction video is quite well made and not that far fetched, most of the tech used in this vision of future autonomous weapons is already there or within a few years from actual existence. Also see the Ban Lethal Autonomous Weapons website which produced the video.

From’s always excellent “More widely known” series, this by Joi Ito on neurodiversity. (Included in this section for the CRISPR implications.)

Clearly some children born with autism are in states that require intervention and have debilitating issues. However, our attempts to “cure” autism, either through remediation or eventually through genetic engineering, could result in the eradication of a neurological diversity that drives scholarship, innovation, arts and many of the essential elements of a healthy society.

++ Comcast deleted net neutrality pledge the same day FCC announced repeal
++ The Internet Is Dying. Repealing Net Neutrality Hastens That Death.
++ Chinese bike share graveyard a monument to industry’s ‘arrogance’ | World news