This week, start here:
Quinn Norton has written one of the best things we’ve read this year, a provocation to view your world through the eyes of networks. In it, she makes a compelling case that we can navigate the new normal when we begin to understand the role that each of plays in networks as far-flung as those that connect our legal, waste and electrical systems — and that this perspective reduces the anxiety we feel about this networked world. To wit:

In fact, most of the surveillance networks in the world weren’t built to surveil at all, but to make things work at a fundamental level, and to bill people. Surveillance and intrusion are opportunistically inserted into good infrastructure.

It’s a tremendous read as a whole. If you don’t have the twelve minutes required to read it now, why not bookmark it for later? You’ll be glad that you did.


For those who enjoyed last week’s history of #this — and as referenced above, many of you did — we present Lauren Archer’s well-researched history of X-to-close buttons. If nothing else, it’ll reinforce your nerd cred at pourover coffee tastings.

In a slightly-more-applicable context, Cameron Tonkinwise wrote a fascinating piece on ‘transition design’, in which the things we make for people exist in a constantly-evolving and shifting context. It’s really smart stuff, particularly this gem:

Design as deliberative decision-making is being replaced by almost-randomized A-B testing; data makes Theory redundant and Design Studies is just ‘nonsense.’

Meanwhile, from podcast land comes this 2011 documentary on sound design in sports broadcasts — the art of making event coverage sound like we expect our sports to be rather than as they are.

In further-out design, a strange and lovely piece from anthropologist Uzma Rizvi on the development of roundabouts (traffic circles) in the Middle East, and the unexpected ways in which they shape and respond to the culture there.

Sacha Grief chimed in with some smart investigative journalism on precisely where a $5 logo comes from.

If you’re not yet up to speed on ‘Don’t Peggy Olson Me’, anthropologist Grant McCracken’s piece on it is the definitive story of a birth of a meme involving musician in music Neko Case, Playboy’s Twitter account and a Mad Men character. What’s particularly compelling about it is the idea of human tripwires for emerging themes that don’t register on Google Trends. There is a lot of gold in this piece.

We’ve written about the misleading nature of ‘the sharing economy’ before, but Nicholas Carr puts a much finer point on it in this piece on Uber’s inevitable march toward driverless cars:

there’s a deep current of cynicism running just under the surface of the sharing economy. The companies that operate the clearinghouses, and skim the lion’s share of the profits from the aggregate transactions, present a very different face to the folks driving the cars and renting out the rooms than they do to their investors and entrepreneurial peers.

Speaking of driverless cars, London Strategy Unit had a great post on the human morals that will shape the code that is used to program autonomous machines, and the question of precisely whose mores they’ll be based upon.

It’s one thing to have the Swedish Chef lip-synch over ‘So Watcha’ Want’, and yet another to completely reassemble the source samples from the legendary Beastie Boys album Paul’s Boutique into something entirely new. We’re partial to the latter. Remix culture FTW.

John Willshire is doing some really interesting thinking around culture, organizations and space — and while his Relativity Matrix isn’t fully-formed, we suspect it’s headed somewhere particularly interesting.

Speaking of organizational change, Forrester analyst Samuel Stern just published a report on firms that are experts at accelerating organizational change within client organizations. What do you know — Almighty is one of them.

Rob Campbell pointed us this week toward organizational lessons to be gleaned from Belgian national football team technical advisor Michel Sablon, whose transformation of a traditional doormat into a globally competitive side is a remarkable story worth extracting ideas from.

Farnam Street’s excerpts from the letters of physicist Richard Feynman on which problems to solve is a gem of a piece, and a good one to circulate internally. This, especially:

The worthwhile problems are the ones you can really solve or help solve, the ones you can really contribute something to. Seems obvious. In our experience, it’s not quite so easy to live by.

If you require more context for the ways in which visual content is eclipsing text content, Percolate has a smart blog post with charts and graphs detailing it.

We get really excited about tools like Mapbox, that allow you to build beautiful custom maps from your own data and export them for use pretty much anywhere and everywhere.

We also get excited about tools like Hyperlapse — a Microsoft Research project that uses code to smooth out shaky time-lapse videos from GoPros and other heads-up displays, so that watching a friend’s kiteboarding video is a little less tedious.

Clay Jones has a smart overview of banks’ new competitors, noting critically that, as cited in an Economist piece, they can’t simply ‘get more digital’ as a path to relevance. In it, he also poses this critical question:

how come transactions are SO BORING?

Amen, Clay.


Just mash it all up together, folks: when culture collapses upon itself, you end up with an amazing gallery of drone selfies.