What I Read This Week – 20th January

These things are good. Maybe you want to read them too: - The Facebook Eye (Nathan Jurgenson at The Atlantic)

"Facebook fixates the present as always a future past...We have a different attachment to our present when we are not concerned with documenting."

- Stories to Live With (Philip Connors in Lapham's Quarterly)

"The ambiguity I preserved in the story of my brother’s life became the story of mine too: one minute attentive and the next minute distant, one day hungry for intimacy and the next day desperate for freedom, one week exalted by the energy of the city and the next week oppressed by the weight of all the longing played out in the towers and the streets, in the privacy of little rooms."

- In Search of Serendipity (Ian Leslie in More Intelligent Life)

"When the internet was new, its early enthusiasts hoped it would emulate the greatest serendipity machine ever invented: the city. The modern metropolis, as it arose in the 19th century, was also an attempt to organise an exponential increase, this one in population. Artists and writers saw it as a giant playground of discovery, teeming with surprise encounters. The flâneur was born: one who wanders the streets with purpose, but without a map.

Most city-dwellers aren’t flâneurs, however. In 1952 a French sociologist called Paul-Henry Chombart de Lauwe asked a student to keep a journal of her daily movements. When he mapped her paths onto a map of Paris he saw the emergence of a triangle, with vertices at her apartment, her university and the home of her piano teacher. Her movements, he said, illustrated “the narrowness of the real Paris in which each individual lives”.

- How Our Brains Navigate the City (Eric Jaffe at The Atlantic Cities)

"even though people had spent much more time navigating the city by memory than by map, their mental views of the city still seem drawn in a map style. It's almost as if people use their experience to situate themselves in a city, then consult the north-pointing map of that same city in their minds to find their way"

- Back To Work #46: Not Counting the Mezzanine (Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin)

"The problem is not that you're distracted by the internet, or you're distracted by this background, the problem is you don't care enough about the thing that you're doing to just overlook the fact that there's this other thing going on."

Strictly speaking I didn't read this, as it's a podcast, but it deserves a mention and a little listen (though be warned: the full thing is 1 hour and 20 minutes long, and if you don't know this already, Merlin Mann speaks at least four times faster than your average human being, so you kind of have to be paying attention. If you want to cheat, which is what I did, start at about 39 minutes in, where there's talk of minimalist porn, William Burroughs' laudanum, and some rather good stuff about Hemingway, masculinity and efficiency).