Predatory business practices

 The government’s lawsuit against Adobe shows deceptive design is good for business—until it’s not by Hunter Schwarz (Fast Company)

Get em FTC! 👏 (I mean I wish you’d stopped them from purchasing every viable competitor for the past thirty-odd years but that ship has sailed.)

See also: Scale requires deskilling

Internet era life skills

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500,000 Books Have Been Deleted From The Internet Archive’s Lending Library by Mike Masnick (techdirt)

If you found out that 500,000 books had been removed from your local public library, at the demands of big publishers who refused to let them buy and lend new copies, and were further suing the library for damages, wouldn’t you think that would be a major news story?

The Internet Archive really screwed up by allowing limitless lending during the pandemic, but their regular lending shouldn’t be destroyed because of that mistake 🫤

But it needs to be clearly communicated that this lawsuit is 100% about killing the very concept of libraries.

And, why? Because copyright and DRM systems allow publishers to massively overcharge for eBooks. This is what’s really the underlying factor here. Libraries in the past could pay the regular price for a book and then lend it out. But with eBook licensing, they are able to charge exorbitant monopoly rents, while artificially limiting how many books libraries can even buy.

See also: Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free

The vision of libraries

When “ambiguity is a feature, not a bug” (and comment)

Tracy Durnell

22 Jun 2024 at 20:42

Weeknotes: June 15-21, 2024

 
picnic spread at a grassy lakeside park on a sunny day
Solstice picnic dinner on the lake!

Highlight of the week: I went to a (virtual) listening party for a new album from my favorite band Islands — kinda fun to listen along with a bunch of other people who love them as much as I do 😄

Looking forward to: going on an excursion with a friend this weekend

Stuff I did:

  • 3.5 hours consulting
  • 6 hours on consulting website
  • 5 hours writing
  • Baked lemon olive oil cake with freeze dried strawberry glaze from Snacking Cakes 👍
  • Dentist appointment + one virtual appointment
  • Took Juneteenth off of work
  • Played games with my sister
  • Picnic date night at the park for solstice
  • Walked with a couple friends

Dinners:

  • Lebanese cauliflower wrap + fries with toum
  • Sloppy joes with fake meat
  • Box mac and cheese + broccoli + peas + tuna
  • Chickpeas and carrots with pita bread (from River Cottage Veg)
  • Indian takeout – kathi rolls with potato and paneer + juice
  • Picnic snacks
  • Thai takeout – eggplant + rice + fresh wraps + lemonade

Reading:

  • Read Emergent Properties by Aimee Ogden, Welcome to St. Hell by Lewis Hancox, Unknown Pleasures by Tomer Hanuka, and Queen of Dust by H.E. Dare
  • Continued reading Doppelganger by Naomi Klein
  • Started reading House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds
  • DNF’d Daniel Cabot Puts Down Roots by Cat Sebastian

Words I looked up / concepts I learned:

Pretty stuff I saw:

New music I listened to:

Website changes:

  • updated my Index page to manually sort categories into themes
  • updated my robots.txt to block Apple’s AI training agent Applebot-Extended — I’ve been updating my original post from last July every time I block a new AI user agent and I have to say, it’s getting out of hand

Nature notes:

  • watched a flicker repeatedly running its beak under some peeling bark on a dead alder in the backyard, probably going for bugs
  • heard coyote pups yipping after a siren went by on the freeway!
  • spotted (3!) kildeer on my walk — I thought they were coastal birds but I guess the ditch next to the trail is nice enough now they planted some native plants in it 🤔
Tracy Durnell

22 Jun 2024 at 04:11

Dystopian architecture as memorial

 
Bookmarked The Aesthetics of Dystopia by Zain Mankani (The Anarchitect)
Dystopia is not just a reflection of oppression and injustice, it is about conserving the memory of that oppression and injustice, and of adapting to the new realities that have emerged out of that injustice. It is about keeping alive the memory of social injustice and transferring that memory in concrete form to the future generations, who must be prepared to react to similar injustices.

Tracy Durnell

21 Jun 2024 at 08:08

Good idea?

Quoted Ethical Non-Monotony by Rusty Foster (Today on Trail)
I don’t think anyone can know if an idea is good without writing it down.

The power of blogging! 🦾Trying to explain it to someone else is also a good way to quickly purge bad ideas! Many a time I have realized midway through explanation that it is silly or rooted in unjustified anxieties.

Tracy Durnell

20 Jun 2024 at 07:37

The overwhelming loudness of performance

 “Mad Max is Sidelined in His Own Movie,” and Why Patently Wrong Ideas Never Die by Freddie deBoer

I think ideas become memes because a lot of people are afraid to have their own ideas. I think people say this sort of thing because the internet has taught them that the only thing that matters in life is appearing clever and so they say stuff other people have already preapproved of as clever ideas.

At its worst: Templatized responses. Pre-processed emotions. Signaling rather than engagement.

I both think there’s some truth to this… and that it is an ultimately negative reading of others, where I am trying to follow the philosophy of reparative readings. Culture derives from shared values, so the easiest way to signal those values is to use pre-ordained material. If there is a social reward to being seen as clever, people will try to show that they are clever, even if that is through curation of just the right meme or pithy tweet.

Also, people learn through practice and mimicry, so it only makes sense that they would pattern their thinking after those they find clever as well. Helping spread ideas that you believe in or relate to has value. Riffing is a form of play and acknowledgment. This shared valuing of ideas goes back to the pre-Internet understanding of memes. Dismissing this behavior entirely presupposes that only uniqueness and novelty is of value; as a fiction writer, I’ve come to learn that uniqueness of ideas is overrated. (Ideas themselves are overvalued.) People don’t have to contribute new ideas to have value in the conversation. Recombination and curation of ideas are good too.

What I do find true from the quote is that this is the safest way to interact and maintain status. Copying others means you don’t risk listening to “the wrong” people and “contaminating yourself” with ideas that are lower status. If mimicry feels like a constraint, that’s a bad sign, but I can hardly fault people for seeking any form of comfort or safety in our current world. (Except where they assert their comfort and safety requires constraining those not like them.) The dangers of misspeaking on social media or suffering attacks through context collapse are all too real.

+

You Gotta Have Taste by John Warner (The Biblioracle)

Over time, we lose touch with our sense of taste, or in extreme examples that taste matters at all.

Our taste is ultimately rooted in our beliefs, or even deeper in our values. The process of exploring one’s taste is part of knowing one’s self.

This is not easy work in today’s world. As Klein says in the podcast, “the algorithmic world privileges sameness.” To avoid the influence of the algorithm requires a conscious effort of resistance.

This is a better reading, IMO: there is so much material that all our time is spent keeping up. Clarifying our own tastes within an aesthetic or subculture requires that we step back and process and form opinions. Our culture resists introspection, and even when people seek meaning, it’s often using the lens of others’ wisdom without sharing their context*. It’s a challenge to escape the noise, and pausing could mean falling out of step with the people shaping the subculture within which we seek status, because culture moves so fast today.

Further reading: Culture is an Ecosystem: A Manifesto Towards a New Cultural Criticism (3) by W. David Marx

(I’ve been slowly reading his book Status and Culture and appreciating it.)

+

Outfit of the Days by Reimena Yee

2. Shoppers are starting to lose their ability to discern how clothes look and feel good because of (1) and online shopping… and the current trend cycle.

3. Trends are cycling so fast and they are so many micro-trends that if you want to be trendy (as in, you follow the trend, not set it) you have to shortcut thinking and treat your clothes as not something you wear for a long time, but as accessories. ALL OF IT.

4…Anyway, what this shortcutting does is that people don’t spend enough time wearing their clothes to develop an opinion on their style.

5…Relatedly, these people don’t see individual pieces of clothes as individual pieces, but inseparable to their judgement of how that piece may be photographed to a specific outfit. What this means is that they can’t objectively evaluate whether or not a single piece of clothing looks good on its own…

We use our appearance to help others figure out how we fit in. If our aesthetic is ever-changing, does that mean we fit everywhere, or nowhere? Do we become limitless, or community-less?

Deeming a lack of personal aesthetics bad rests on the belief that individualized taste is more important than participatory taste and signalling. (I’m not saying either way.) I saw a bit silly but provocative article calling out how our culture may overvalue individualism and pointing out the value in being part of a group:

“But the computers know the truth. They see us as a group. We’re actually quite similar to each other. We have the same desires, ambitions, and fears. Computers spot this through correlations and patterns.

…In reality, the computers give great insight into the power of common identity between groups. No one’s using that. What’s sitting with the computers is a way of seeing new groups, new common identities between people.

— Adam Curtis

It calls to mind a Fleet Foxes song:

“I was raised up believing I was somehow unique / a snowflake, distinct among snowflakes, unique in each way you can see / but now after some thinking, I’d say I’d rather be / a functioning cog in some great machinery, serving something beyond me.”

If our beliefs shape our taste, how do our aesthetics connect with what we do, believe and value? Do the aesthetics we choose (or follow) influence our other choices? There’s an aesthetics of fascism — is there a paired aesthetics of progressiveness? (Or do the many fracturings of the Left make that impossible?)

+

Missed Signals by Kyle Raymond Fitzpatrick

We exist in a hall of mirrors, waving back and forth to catch someone’s attention only for the other person to copy the wave itself. This too has come to capture the “aesthetic” culture of the 2020s, where the gestures of fashion and culture are reduced down to a signal instead of a way of being (or “earned,” in that such an aesthetic ties to a lived experience)… I think Akili Moree put it best in a recent TikTok: “People fully take up hobbies now for the aesthetic of having that hobby or go to restaurants because of the aesthetic of being at that restaurant. It seems like right now, in the era that we are in in the world, our lives are more about how they can be captured and reproduced than how they actually feel to live that specific life.”

Performance for others is exhausting; what about performing for ourselves? I lean on aesthetics sometimes on the weekend: I want to be the kind of person who enjoys a leisurely brunch, so I’ll put on a dress that makes me feel good and play some Fleet Foxes and bake muffins. I’m chasing a vibe, picturing A Certain Type of Music and bougie-metropolitan-fusiony food — but it’s intentional and I’m cognizant of it so I’m ok with it 😂 It’s leaning on cliche to choose the flavor text of the morning. But if I do it, am I not living the life I wanted? Or is this like Death Cab calls it: “Let’s make believe that we are wealthy for just this once”?

Maybe I’m fooling myself that it’s for me because I often post a picture of what I made on micro.blog, sometimes even with the soundtrack. (No selfies though.) My intention with these posts is to celebrate actually doing the thing I wanted to, bookmark and make notes on the recipe, help others discover music — but is that just a justification? There’s no denying that it is posted in public, so it does serve as a signal.

See also: Performing yourself on social media

“Upsketch”; the veneered life of performance

Tracy Durnell

19 Jun 2024 at 21:39

The injustice embedded in our infrastructure

 I’ve been playing the game Satisfactory recently with my sister. In it, you are workers setting up mines and factories on a new planet. You don’t have the full list of everything you’re going to need to do upfront, so you build each thing as you need it… winding up with a convoluted mess once you reach a certain stage of production. Our setup had us constantly hurdling over mazes of conveyor belts (because we hadn’t realized yet it was possible to elevate them). In the game, it’s free to unbuild and rebuild more neatly and coherently; in real life, it’s not, so we’re stuck with cobbled together networks and systems that were assembled ad hoc. (Building from scratch sounds exciting but isn’t really realistic.)

I finished reading Hidden Systems last week and appreciated how it examines the need for justice (especially equal access) in our infrastructure and highlights how our infrastructure reinforces colonial and imperial patterns of injustice. Sometimes our current systems are rooted in decisions made by racist people or colonial powers generations ago, literally building injustice into our spaces. The example that stuck with me from the book was undersea cables for the internet. Britain laid the first telegraph cables to connect their empire; the internet cables that followed were often laid upon the same routes of colonization.

Addressing these types of wrongs takes gumption — and money. Recently I got an email from Real Rent, an organization in solidarity with the Duwamish Tribe, warning that due to budget shortfalls the City of Seattle was proposing go back on promises they’d made to fund projects selected through a community participatory budget process, projects specifically identified to support BIPOC needs. People raised enough of a fuss that the Councilmember who was proposing it walked it back. It’s not enough to acknowledge the historical harms of redlining and broken treaties; people today are living with the consequences of those laws and practices, and cities need to invest in righting the wrongs of the past.

It’s astonishing how much of our present landscape is dictated by the past — but also how much directly overwrites the past, hiding what’s been lost. Craig Mod just finished another long walk of a historic route in Japan. Over 18 days of walking, he observed the transformation of infrastructure in the landscape — and places by that infrastructure. Highways bisect cities, causing businesses open for generations to close. Wide roads with no shoulder or shade for walkers replace long portions of the original walking trail. Even the shorelines have been changed by people. When Mod told people where he’d started walking, it seemed unfathomable to many that he would make the journey, today, on footthe space has been turned over to cars and walking has become an oddity. Our spaces shape our lives and conceptions of possibility.

 

Further reading:

Dollars to Megabits, You May Be Paying 400 Times As Much As Your Neighbor for Internet Service by Leon Yin and Aaron Sankin (The Markup)

How to Escape From the Iron Age? by Kris De Decker (Low Tech Magazine)

 

See also:

Re-doing the Industrial Revolution

Rethinking utilities

True 15 minute cities require equity

Lake Washington’s original shoreline

Tracy Durnell

16 Jun 2024 at 23:55

Defining public goods

 

“Where the public good is neglected in order to create profits for individuals or companies, there we have corruption. Now, in the United States, we dealt with this very efficiently by denying that there is any such thing as a public good.”

–Amitav Ghosh

(via)

See also: The Dark Heart of Individualism by Anne Helen Petersen

+

If my brain believes my country will listen to me if I call my representatives, if I’m a “good” citizen, and then it doesn’t, that’s a huge mismatch.

[…]

Sliced bread is possible (even expected), but not a livable wage, affordable food, or time to cook. Here’s all the sliced bread you could ever want, but the killing of Palestinians continues.

Devin Kate Pope

See also: Paying a living wage won’t fuck the world. by Joan Westenberg

+

Cruel Luxuries by A. R. Moxon

First, we are assured that community funds were not used to acquire the MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicle). It was apparently acquired at “no cost to taxpayers” because it was “obtained through the Federal 1033 program which means it cost the town nothing.”  … Many of us might also notice that a federal program is not ever considered something that has “no cost to taxpayers” when it is doing something that sustains a community, like providing lunch to hungry schoolchildren, or helping unhoused people find shelter. In those cases, the expenses are actually seen as irresponsible government spending, as foolish luxuries and dangerous moral hazards, particularly among those who seem to think that cops are free no matter how much we pay for them, and absolutely necessary in order to keep us safe from the most threatened people in our community, including unhoused and hungry people.

See also: Public spending needs context

In the great struggle against human subjugation, many of us have learned to identify with the boot, and to hate the human face it stomps. We look at the tools of human suppression and think that it will never come for us, and so instead of paying a lower cost for a sustainable society, we pay a higher cost for a luxurious cruelty.

See also: Not your strongman

Tracy Durnell

16 Jun 2024 at 21:48



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