We all know the feeling. You're sleepless in the sad hours of the night or stumbling around early on a hazy weekend morning in need of something to read, and that pile of unread books just isn't cutting it. Why not take a break from the fire hose of Twitter and RSS and check out our weekly roundup of essential writing from around the web about technology, culture, media, and the future? Sure, it's one more thing you can feel guilty about sitting in your Instapaper queue, but it's better than pulling in vain on your Twitter list again.
On "digital rituals"
Dan Hill has been observing how humans interact with digital technology for years, and describes some common emergent gestures (the Google Map Smear, Security Pass Hip Bump, the Wi-Fi Dowser) that appear around networks.
City of Sound: Dan Hill - Essay: 21st Century Gestures Clip Art Collection
Fig. 8 Wi-Fi Dowser
In order to achieve maximum throughput over a wifi network, user meanders around a space, holding tablet or laptop out in front of them, occasionally watching the signal strength indicator, until opti-mum compromise of signal and space is located.
Author Philip Roth has some trouble with Wikipedia.
The New Yorker: Philip Roth - An Open Letter to Wikipedia About Anatole Broyard and "The Human Stain"
Yet when, through an official interlocutor, I recently petitioned Wikipedia to delete this misstatement, along with two others, my interlocutor was told by the "English Wikipedia Administrator"—in a letter dated August 25th and addressed to my interlocutor—that I, Roth, was not a credible source: "I understand your point that the author is the greatest authority on their own work," writes the Wikipedia Administrator—"but we require secondary sources." Thus was created the occasion for this open letter. After failing to get a change made through the usual channels, I don’t know how else to proceed.
On Google Maps
Alexis Madrigal peeks behind the Google Maps curtain to find how Google is driving a massive shift in geographic intelligence.
The Atlantic: Alexis Madrigal - How Google Builds Its Maps—and What It Means for the Future of Everything
Let's step back a tiny bit to recall with wonderment the idea that a single company decided to drive cars with custom cameras over every road they could access. Google is up to five million miles driven now. Each drive generates two kinds of really useful data for mapping. One is the actual tracks the cars have taken; these are proof-positive that certain routes can be taken. The other are all the photos. And what's significant about the photographs in Street View is that Google can run algorithms that extract the traffic signs and can even paste them onto the deep map within their Atlas tool.
Stephen Totilo digs into the archival efforts to trace a video game guy named Mario's legacy on a single timeline.
Kotaku: Stephen Totilo - The Extraordinary Quest to Put All the Super Mario Games On One Timeline
If you're making a Mario timeline, where do you put Mario's tennis games? And his kart-racing games? Did Mario really have time to become a doctor, referee Mike Tyson's Punch-Out and teach typing? The Mario timeline-makers don't shrink from questions like these. What they do is tend to bundle a lot of that together in a phase of Mario's life when they say he was dabbling with various careers. Dr. Mario, however, can't fit there, so they assume that Mario may have learned medicine then but didn't practice it until later.
Dan Duray interviews Dr. David Morrison, who describes his duties running NASA's Ask an Astrobiologist column that is flooded by doomsday emails.
The Awl: Dan Duray - The NASA Scientist Who Answers Your 2012 Apocalypse Emails
The proactive approach has not gone terribly well. Sometimes he wonders if, by hanging out his rhetorical shingle, his public responses have only fueled a debate that shouldn’t even exist. He's made YouTube videos that painstakingly explain why the world will not end in 2012 only to see the NASA logo at the beginning of the film chopped off and the footage added to other response videos with titles like "NASA CONFIRMS THE EXISTENCE OF NIBIRU." And then there are the comments.
Have any favorites that you'd like to see included in next week's edition? Send them along to @thomashouston or share in the comments below.