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.
Interaction designer Dan Hill, who you may know from the excellent City of Sound blog, brings a refreshing take to product reviews in his look at the Nokia N9. Weaving in a bit of Barthes, discussion of materials and physical construction, and deep analysis of Apple and Nokia's approach to design, Hill prompts us to more deeply understand these "everyday portable cathedrals of communication."
domus: Dan Hill - Portable Cathedrals
In his speech at Copenhagen Design Week, Ahtisaari suggested that dominant models of phone-based interaction have "monopolised our imagination". Indeed, for the iPhone user contemplating a 'conversion', it's slightly disquieting to experience the uncanny muscle memory of the thumb moving to the (missing) iPhone 'home' button at base of the phone. The body as well as the imagination has been altered.
On Star Wars
As 'Star Wars: The Old Republic' launched this week, the plug was pulled from the Star Wars Galaxies' universe, and David Radd follows the promises and missteps of the first MMO set "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away."
Industry Gamers: David Radd - Star Wars Galaxies – Reflections on a Flawed Game
Then there was the fact that there were numerous player created cities and no invisible walls on the rather spacious worlds that had been created – while some balked at the lack of direct goals, the void was filled with thousands of eager players who wanted a Star Wars open world experience to play around in.
On Cow Clicker
When Ian Bogost initially created his 'Cow Clicker' game to critique the mindless gamification (e.g. using leaderboards and badges to "ensnare" gamers) spreading through wildly popular social games like 'Farmville,' he didn't expect it to be a success. The game took off with gamers in on the joke and many more unaware, and Wired steps it up with a 'Cow Clicker' of its own. Is clicking a cow ironically to receive points really any better than an honest click?
Wired Magazine: Jason Tanz - The Curse of Cow Clicker: How a Cheeky Satire Became a Videogame Hit
So it’s ironic that Bogost’s breakout hit—the game that has made him a celebrity within his industry, attracted tens of thousands of players, and even earned him a bit of money—is a cynical trifle he whipped up in a matter of days. It’s a Facebook game called Cow Clicker, and it’s unlike anything Bogost ever made before, a borderline-evil piece of work that was intended to embody the worst aspects of the modern gaming industry.
Warren Toomey traces the history and development of the 40-year-old Unix operating system.
ieee spectrum: Warren Toomey - The Strange Birth and Long Life of Unix
So what did the first edition of Unix offer that made it so great? For one thing, the system provided a hierarchical file system, which allowed something we all now take for granted: Files could be placed in directories—or equivalently, folders—that in turn could be put within other directories. Each file could contain no more than 64 kilobytes, and its name could be no more than six characters long. These restrictions seem awkwardly limiting now, but at the time they appeared perfectly adequate.
After re-watching Michel Gondry's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, photographer and writer Cheri Lucas considers Facebook Timeline's call for you to curate your personal history. Thanks, Alexis Madrigal.
Writing Through the Fog: Cheri Lucas - On Eternal Sunshine, Erasing Memories, and Facebook Timeline
I can see how some people will find inputting missing details of their lives to be fun. But I sense a forced organization of things that can’t—or shouldn’t—be compartmentalized. And further digitization of my memories.