This page is for pieces related to internet happenings, simulation theory, digital culture, technology, and all that. Some are reviews; some are short essays.
During the weeks of March when the Syrian refugee crisis dominated headlines, I had a run of nightmares about drowning. I had read a glut of awful reports about the sabotage of refugee boats, shot at and sunk by coastguards unwilling to accept the victims of war. My brain interpreted this overwhelming horror as an opportunity to drop me in the middle of the ocean at night, to thrash about in the abyss. I woke up out of breath, and for the rest of the day remembered the pity and grief and despair and rage I felt in the water, in powerful, blinding bursts.
In the absence of a friend’s body, his voice and gestures, I have to bring all the faculties of my imagination to bear, to conjure his presence, intention, and feeling. I have to imagine him, feel empathy and not lose sight of him as a human with his own struggles and disappointments in another part of the world. I have to think on my friend, meditate on her, on what makes her, her, to understand the visions she is proposing.
Dear Person of Interest, Advanced Bayesian, Future Guard: Imagine a machinic mind with unlimited cognitive power. With near infinite memory and processing ability. With access to, and understanding of, all the information about anything that has ever happened, is happening and might ever happen. A near limitless capacity to extract and form meaning from the trillions upon trillions of events and beings and interactions in the known world.
Issue One is downloadable as a .PDF, where you can see how stunning it is in print.
Giancarlo Sandoval was incredible and translated my essay along with others in Issue One into Spanish.
The print version of After Us is available through Bleep.
After Us has a few homes online, with this as the main hub.
Wealth is monolithic: it refutes argument, pointed criticism, direct gaze. The architecture of today’s wealth is monolithic, as well: a crucial expression of modern oligarchies’ centralized power. Where the estate once served as a neat symbol of riches, our edifices are more diverse and inventive. They are built heavy and tall, as rebuff. They have to symbolize abstract figures, tens of billions of dollars on paper.
The M.E.S.H. aesthetic might be described as an effort to reconcile competing modes of thought and activity. James Whipple tries to find focus and meaning in an intentionally created constellation of inimical processes, divergent histories and seemingly irreconcilable imagery.
Acclaimed writer and games critic Jenn Frank is widely known for her excruciatingly intimate memoir essays, in which she often probes her family history and girlhood nostalgia to illuminate why games have been vital for her personally and, by extension, for many others. Her work also explores how players engage with, and imagine themselves, in relation to systems, to the sets of rules established by a game world.
Karen, my life coach, was supposed to teach me about changing my attitude towards relationships. Over the past ten days, she has mostly taught me about how not to be caught up in one. I’ve watched her get wine-blind with Dave, her lecherous roommate. I’ve seen her wallow in her pajamas over the man who got away. She doesn’t practice radical self-love. She is reductive, aimless, even pathetic, but I don’t have the heart to fire her.
I can’t always articulate what it is like to be a worker, writhing in muted panic in the net of late capitalism. But I have found a fine outlet in Business Fish, a surreal family of sticker sets on Facebook Messenger, which I use to illustrate many of my exchanges.
The digital life is material and submerged, as much as it is immaterial and in the cloud. It is the navy and gold submarine cables set into the ocean bed. Digital life is the germanium and indium, the arsenid, silicon, tin, cobalt and silver needed to sustain it.
Take a look at a cross-section of a submarine cable: polyethylene wraps around mylar, encasing steel, then aluminum, then polycarbonate, copper and petroleum jelly, in a series of concentric casings around optical fibers at the cable’s core.