What I Read This Week - 15th July

Rainy English July. Perfect weather for curling up and reading (and, er, watching five straight episodes of Friday Night Lights, maybe). - Once Upon a Place: Telling Stories With Maps (Suzanne Fischer at The Atlantic)

"My curiosity is often deeply localized to a certain artifact (or document, or set of concepts) as encountered in a certain time, at a certain place -- and the closer you look at it, the more the edges of that certainty become the interesting thing. You get provoked to tell a story, or better yet, to figure out what kind of story it's possible for you to tell."

- To Make America Great Again, We Need to Leave the Country (Elliot Gerson at The Atlantic)

Young Americans who see this country from different shores can't help but conclude that something is awry in a political culture that denies what they plainly see elsewhere: health care systems that provide better outcomes at lower cost and for everyone; better airports, faster trains, more extensive urban public transportation--and even, amazingly, better highways; more upward mobility (yes, the American dream is now more real in many other countries than it is here); more sustainable energy policies; elections that work more quickly and inexpensively, with more rational discourse and greater citizen participation. The list is long.

- Size (Leanne Shapton at The Paris Review)

A thing I used to do when I was little: I’d line up a handful of Honey Nut Cheerios in a row and eat them, one by one, in order of ugly to pretty. Finally there would be one left: the winner of the Honey Nut Cheerios beauty contest. I’d admire it— the winner was usually two stuck together with honey-nut coating, or one whose middle was filled in with a thin sugary pane. Then I’d eat it.

- Time, Transience, and Documentation (Sarah Wanenchak at Cyborgology)

I think it’s worth considering what the phenomenon of ambient documentation does to our experience of process — of our lives as ongoing, fluid, moving realities rather than as a series of events captured or subject to capture through forms of technological documentation.

- Unsolving the City: An Interview with China Miéville (BLDGBLOG)

BLDGBLOG: In an interview with Ballardian, Iain Sinclair once joked that psychogeography, as a term, has effectively lost all meaning. Now, literally any act of walking through the city—walking to work in the morning, walking around your neighborhood, walking out to get a bagel—is referred to as “psychogeography.” It’s as if the experience of being a pedestrian in the city has become so unfamiliar to so many people, that they now think the very act of walking around makes them a kind of psychogeographic avant-garde.

Miéville: It’s no coincidence, presumably, that Sinclair started wandering out of the city and off into fields.

- Notes on Past Selves & My Abandoned Digital Spaces (Cheri Lucas)

It’s interesting to think how updating a profile with my new name permits the present to continue flowing through it, while not updating my name on another profile instantly dates it: places it on a timeline, transforms it into a snapshot of a past moment. It will become, as Wanenchak writes, “a place in which the future has simply never happened.”

- What Would Thoreau Do? (Michael Sacasas)

But what if your aims are different? What if you’re seeking only to listen and not to speak? What if your goal is not to be inspired toward yet another act of self-expression? We may carry technology with us into nature, in fact, we may carry it within us. But this does not mean that we ought always to answer to its prerogatives. Nor does it mean that we should always assume the posture toward reality that technology enables and the frame of mind that it encourages. And, of course, different technologies enable and encourage differently. It is the difference between the pencil and the telegraph and the smartphone.