2012 was a funny year. The world didn’t end and the batshit insanity of the year before seemed to die down somewhat. It all just kept on turning, more of the same but with just enough fluctuation to keep us all interested for the sake of it. This book reflects that shift. I compiled the last one in the middle of everything kicking off everywhere, and it showed. The biggest story for last year was the New Aesthetic exploding everywhere online, and this book reflects that somewhat.
Instead of focussing on links that were retweeted ad nauseum, I’ve included more of a peripheral approach; after the dust had settled. There’s less of a focus on the nature of temporality and the lack of a contemporary historical record. This has been replaced with a fascination in seeing and image making: machine vision, photography in social media, the dark art of public relations, and the almighty gif. Couldn’t leave that one out. It was also the year in which a car sized robot with a nuclear heart landed on Mars and started drilling in search of life. Which, was a pretty big deal and still makes me giddy.
Focusing on 'Optics' Rob Walker
But optics sounds vaguely complicated, like some concrete thing to be analyzed, assessed, manipulated, controlled. It has a wonky, insider-ish, expert air to it. It sounds important, substantial, real. And it is used to signal that mediated visual culture is being taken seriously, when in fact the subject is being trivialized. Optics is a pseudo-idea, but it’s one that plays well.
Before the age of the digital zombies Jonathon Jones
It is also no surprise that in a culture infected by digital utopianism it was reported using words like “resurrected” and “returned from the dead” when in reality the new Tupac is a digital zombie manipulated by its creator, not an animate being, not “resurrected” at all. What is the future for such zombies of the famous? What is the future for Kurt Cobain?
Pictures and Vision Robin Sloan
It might, in fact, be pictures vs. vision. I’m saying it that way for effect, of course. In truth it’s pictures and vision. Facebook users will continue to upload a significant fraction of a billion photos every day. With luck, Google will get something going with Glass. These things can thrive side by side.
Landscapes by Remote Control Geoff Manaugh
Emotionally identifying with the Mars rovers not only leads to the use of anatomical metaphors, such as those present in the previous sentence; it also, Clancey argues, clouds the notion of what it means to do science at all.
Emotion, Reaction GIFs, George Orwell and the Feels Kenyatta Cheese
Anyway, back to the emotions — when these reaction gifs crossed over from image form to tag form, they were expressed as the tags #ijusthavealotoffeelings and #myemotions. This was later whittled down to the more efficient #allmyfeels and eventually reduced even further to a single word representing all emotion, #feels.
A Tiny Balloon Factory, Small Batch Whiskey and 3D Printing Sarah Rich and Alexis Madrigal
“Balloons are objects that no one really knows how they are made industrially, unlike furniture,” Smith says. As with their other products, Linder and Smith had to learn exactly how they were made, too, in order to replicate the process.
Instagram as an Island Economy Matt Webb
Like all good producers, the workers are also consumers. They immediately spend their entire wage, and their wages is only good in Instagram-town. What they buy is the likes and comments of the photos they produce (what? You think it’s free? Of course it’s not free, it feels good so you have to pay for it. And you did, by being a producer), and access to the public spaces of Instagram-town to communicate with other consumers
ROOMBA whirrs for thee Olivia Rosane
It is not only the surprising beauty of its whirrs and words that make us empathize with ROOMBA, however. ROOMBA’s plight is one imprinted in our literary DNA: the plight of consciousness confronted with absurd reality. This plight was perhaps best articulated in Albert Camus’ “Myth of Sisyphus,” his reflection on the Greek mythological character fated to push a boulder up a hill for all eternity, only to watch it roll back down again:
The new explorers, a slightly-overweight crew of mostly bearded white men plunked down behind LCD screens in a cube farm thoughtfully costumed to evoke visions of the old-style mission control, don’t reek of patriotism. They remind me acutely of early-90s laptop musicians performing in front of a dedicated core of fans; whether Aphex Twin is actually crafting his art or playing Minesweeper is, to a certain extent, anyone’s guess.
The Universal Texture Clement Valla
Nothing draws more attention to the temporality of these images than the simple observation that the clouds are disappearing from Google Earth. After all, clouds obscures the surface of the planet so photos with no clouds are privileged. The Universal Texture and its attendant database algorithms are trained on a few basic qualitative traits - no clouds, high contrast, shallow depth, daylight photos.
I am SEO and so can you Sean Gallagher
I recently got an advance look at the latest version of a tool that helps bring SEO to the masses. InboundWriter, a web-based software-as-a-service offering, coaches bloggers and other writers for the web on how to tweak their content based on best practices tuned to the user’s site strategy.
Cloud Mouse, Metro Mouse Venkatesh Rao
So the entire canvas of the town mouse/country mouse fable is being gradually emptied out. If there is a divide today, it is between two new species of mice: metro mice and cloud mice. Now that the digital divide is slowly fading into irrelevance in the developed world (Google will go door-to-door to finish the job if necessary), the cloud mouse/metro mouse divide is going to define the virtual and physical geographies of our time.
Designing for and against the Manufactured Normalcy Zone Greg Borenstein
When you are sitting on a typical modern jetliner, you are traveling at 500 mph in an aluminum tube that is actually capable of some pretty scary acrobatics. Including generating brief periods of zero-g. Yet a typical air traveler never experiences anything that one of our ancestors could not experience on a fast chariot or a boat.
The New Aesthetic needs to get weirder Ian Bogost
But computers and oil derricks and toaster pastries share our universe and our century, even if their experience of that time and place is unfathomably different than our own. The New Aesthetic stops short of becoming an object-oriented aesthetics partly by limiting itself to computational media, and partly by absconding with the lessons of object-aesthetics into the realm of human concern.