I may have committed a serious sin this week: I pushed Ursula K Le Guin and The Left Hand Of Darkness back while I read something else. I had put a hold on Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, and as soon as I was about to start The Left Hand Of Darkness, my hold came up. So, I pushed Le Guin for Sloan.
It was, unfortunately, not a novel I really enjoyed. Well, maybe that’s inaccurate. It was quick (sub-200 pages) and fun, and I geniunely do like the way Robin writes, but I wasn’t very satisfied by this novel. I don’t want to be in the business of trashing people’s work, so I’ll leave it at that.
But now I have actually started The Left Hand Of Darkness. I’ll hold off on any impressions until I’m farther in, but this does not seem like the sort of book that leaves you unsatisfied (sorry Robin).
Oh, also! You know how I said I never felt right about using Goodreads? Well, it turns out they’re fucking owned by Amazon! My spidey-sense for corporations continues to serve me well. Still no real knock to Goodreads the platform itself (they honestly seem pretty independent from the Bezosverse), but I’ll take every opportunity I can to not funnel data into somebody like Amazon.
Speaking of our corporate data-lords: I’ve taken a new approach to Twitter. Every time I encounter a promoted tweet, no matter what it is, I mark it as “I’m not interested in this ad”, and Twitter removes it from my feed. And whenever Twitter recommends me a tweet from a topic, I tell them to stop recommending things from this topic. Essentially, whenever Twitter shows me something that’s not from somebody I follow, I deny/reject it from showing up again.
I like this approach for a couple of reasons. First, I like scrambling whatever image of me exists within their data. It’s valuable for them, so that they can target advertisements that are likely to make an impact, but it’s (at best) useless to me. Once I deny one of these suggested/promoted sources, the algorithm should attempt to refine that subject out the “me” that they’ve constructed out of data. And as long as I keep denying them, that representation of me should get less accurate. Best case scenario, they show me less ads. More likely, my ads will just get weirder and weirder, which honestly sounds like it could be fun.
But also, it helps me to be more present when scrolling through Twitter. I have to recognize when I’m seeing an ad to take the action; I don’t want any to slip past. And that requires more engagement from me, less mindless consumption. There have been multiple times where I’ve realized I wasn’t really paying attention to what I was reading on Twitter, and had to scroll back up to make sure I didn’t flit past any ads. I’m hoping this makes the entire experience more healthy.
This is one of the reasons I can’t do TikTok. That endless, unfiltered algorithmic content is just beamed into your skull until your eyes get tired. I can only imagine how easy it is to just turn your brain off and let the TikToks fill the space.
But the world of technology isn’t all doom and gloom! Yesterday I went to a virtual concert: Porter Robinson’s Secret Sky. It’s presented as a virtual event by Active Theory, right in your browser. You’re rendered as a small avatar among many others that can navigate around a 3d world, and the livestream of the artists performing is rendered on a huge wall in the world.
It’s an absolutely fascinating use of the browser, making use of what looks to be a canvas element and WebGL, and there was apparently really great support for voice chat and VR as well. I would love to dive and learn how to create experiences like this, but I know GL code is a whole other beast.
It was a lovely experience, and really beautiful to see technology used to bring people together. Not to mention the music! Porter Robinson’s new album Nuture is FANTASTIC.
Finally, something devastating and beautiful. We lost SOPHIE earlier this year, and her close friend and collaborator A.G. Cook (of PC Music) wrote a sort of a eulogy for her.
I didn’t understand how much SOPHIE meant to me until she was gone. Her experience is one that’s very far from mine, so I felt that I had a very outside, exterior appreciation of who she was and what she made. But I’ve realized that she brought me in– made me interior to all the things she felt– through her music. I still remember my first few days in Los Angeles, and driving past a billboard for OIL OF EVERY PERSON’S UN-INSIDES. I went home, fascinated, and listened to it all. I entered her whole new world then, and every time following when I put it on. In both the form and content of her art, she ripped down the walls of what we assume is certain. Why make dance music with snares and kick drums when we have the tools to conjure any sound? Why be a girl or a boy when your body can be so much more?
I still cry when I think about SOPHIE and her incredible life, and this eulogy brought all those feelings as well. It’s a beautiful memory of an icon taken from us too soon.