The best writing of the week, January 6

Your Sunday reading


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.

Grab all of these as a Readlist.

On infinities

In a week usually given over to thoughts of the year before and the future ahead, Natalie Angier considers the infinities beyond.

The New York Times: Natalie Angier - The Life of Pi, and Other Infinities

Then again, a very different sort of infinity may well be freewheeling you. Based on recent studies of the cosmic microwave afterglow of the Big Bang, with which our known universe began 13.7 billion years ago, many cosmologists now believe that this observable universe is just a tiny, if relentlessly expanding, patch of space-time embedded in a greater universal fabric that is, in a profound sense, infinite. It may be an infinitely large monoverse, or it may be an infinite bubble bath of infinitely budding and inflating multiverses, but infinite it is, and the implications of that infinity are appropriately huge.

On Andrew Sullivan

David Carr interviews blogger Andrew Sullivan after his announcement of leaving The Daily Beast to go it alone, touching on Sullivan's mastery of Angry Birds, the outpouring of support, and the "messy, leaky" mix of payments that he sees supporting the future of media.

The New York Times: David Carr - Andrew Sullivan on new media's new Darwinism

There’s nothing tawdry about offering your wares on the street. It’s how magazines and newspapers started. It is a model where the people decide and no one is in charge of the velvet rope deciding who gets to write or who gets the big writing contract or not. In some ways we’re breaking up cartels and creating a true kind of journalistic capitalism. Those sites that readers really want to stay in existence will have to earn that.

On David Karp

Jeff Bercovici offers the latest look at Tumblr's efforts at monetizing, and observers the spartan lifestyle of its motorcycle maintaining CEO David Karp.

Forbes: Jeff Bercovici - Tumblr: David Karp's $800 Million Art Project

The same tools that make Tumblr a favored medium for creative types make it the ultimate blank canvas for marketers. What brands pay for isn’t the ability to create content — that’s free for anyone — but the ability to promote it in two modules central to the Tumblr user experience: Spotlight (an accounts-to-follow suggestion) and the Radar (editors’ picks). Together these two venues generate more than 120 million impressions per day.

On online dating

Alexis Madrigal writes about the mess technologically determinist arguments can get you in in response to a piece from this month's Atlantic.

The Atlantic: Alexis Madrigal - There's No Evidence Online Dating Is Threatening Commitment or Marriage

So, you can say, in some sense, that a technology "wants" certain outcomes. Jacob from the story might say that online dating wants him to keep browsing and not commit. The electrical grid wants you to plug in. Or, the owners of Facebook want you to post more photographs, so they design tools — technical and statistical — to make you more likely to do so.

On Dish

Caleb Hannan profiles Dish Network and its abrasive workplace where few company presidents were ever able to last more than four years before leaving.

Business Week: Caleb Hannan - Dish Network, the Meanest Company in America

Ergen, leaving court during the trial, was chased by a New York Post photographer. Instead of disappearing into a waiting limo or calling a cab, Ergen, a former walk-on basketball player at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, spent five minutes sprinting around a New York City promenade, ducking behind cars, and running up and down subway stairs in an attempt to evade the photographer’s lens.

On smart parking

Nathan Jurgenson wonders whether the logic behind smart parking apps will result in more people to attempting to find parking, flaw similar to developer Robert Moses' notorious highway development projects that often made traffic even worse.

Cyborgology: Nathan Jurgenson - "Smart Parking" and the Robert Moses Mistake

Indeed, what defeated Moses was the defeat of his underlying logic: that traffic congestion can be alleviated by adding more lanes of highway and more bridges. It seems intuitive enough: when sitting in a traffic jam you might wish for the addition of another lane. But this logic only holds if the number of cars stays the same. Instead, throughout Moses’ long power grip/trip, new roads didn’t reduce traffic; instead, the jams got worse, commutes got longer, more tolls were introduced, and drivers became more frustrated. In response, Moses built more, collected more tolls, and became more powerful. Traffic got worse. He built more.

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.

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