The Fringe


The Rest of the Best Tech Writing of 2011


What better use of the forums than as a way to offer even more to read? While the following didn't make the top 15 cut, they were just too good to leave out, so here's the overflow. Have any favorites of your own? Share 'em below.

Paris Review: David Wallace-Wells - William Gibson, The Art of Fiction No. 211

It’s harder to imagine the past that went away than it is to imagine the future. What we were prior to our latest batch of technology is, in a way, unknowable. It would be harder to accurately imagine what New York City was like the day before the advent of broadcast television than to imagine what it will be like after life-size broadcast holography comes online. But actually the New York without the television is more mysterious, because we’ve already been there and nobody paid any attention. That world is gone.

New York Magazine: Paul Ford - Facebook and the Epiphanator: An End to Endings?

Social media has no understanding of anything aside from the connections between individuals and the ceaseless flow of time: No beginnings, and no endings. These disparate threads of human existence alternately fascinate and horrify that part of the media world that grew up on topic sentences and strong conclusions. This world of old media is like a giant steampunk machine that organizes time into stories. I call it the Epiphanator, and it has always known the value of a meaningful conclusion.

The Awl: Maria Bustillos - Wikipedia and the Death of the Expert

Experts, geniuses, authorities, "authors"—we were taught to believe that these should be questioned, but until now have not often been given a way to do so, to seek out and test for ourselves the exact means by which they reached their conclusions. So long as we believe that there is such a thing as an expert rather than a fellow-investigator, then that person's views just by magic will be worth more than our own, no matter how much or how often actual events have shown this not to be the case.

and the followup:

LA Review of Books: Sven Birkerts - The Room and the Elephant

There is also the vital and vexing question: are collaborative, collectivized ways of living entirely at odds with subjectivized ones? Doesn’t it make sense to imagine a world where we use systems and circuits to do what they do best and indulge our clamoring selfhood in our ever-more-abundant spare time? It sounds good: The Jetsons meets Abraham Maslow. But, alas, it also sounds like a version of the old "it’s just a tool" argument. Maybe things could work that way if our electronic living were not the saturation that it is fast becoming. But if we grant McLuhan’s point, that we "take our technology into the deepest recesses of our souls," and that our "view of reality, our structures of meaning, our sense of identity — all are touched and transformed …" then we cannot find easy comfort in the both/and perspective.

Wired Magazine: Andrew Keen - Your Life Torn Open, essay 1: Sharing is a trap

Zuckerberg's ideas on "sharing" could have been invented by Kafka. Just as Josef K unwittingly shared all his known and unknown information with the authorities, so we are now all sharing our most intimate spiritual, economic and medical information with all the myriad "free" social-media services, products and platforms. And, given that the dominant business model of all this social-media economy is advertising sales, it is inevitable that all this data will end up in the hands of our corporate advertising "friends".

Pinboard blog: Maciej Ceglowski - The social graph is neither

You might almost think that the whole scheme had been cooked up by a bunch of hyperintelligent but hopelessly socially naive people, and you would not be wrong. Asking computer nerds to design social software is a little bit like hiring a Mormon bartender. Our industry abounds in people for whom social interaction has always been more of a puzzle to be reverse-engineered than a good time to be had, and the result is these vaguely Martian protocols. Jason Kottke - How to beat Apple

Apple doesn't do social well on a large scale. Ping? Game Center? Please. Social applications don't seem to be in Apple's DNA...their best applications are still single-player or 2/3/4-player. Someone should figure out how to leverage Facebook's social graph to make the phone/app/gaming/music/video experience significantly better than on the iPhone/iPad and then partner exclusively with Facebook to make it happen. The Facebook Fone would be a massive hit if done right.

The Atlantic: Alexis Madrigal - Atoms vs. Bits: Your Phone in the Eyes of the Law

"Now, there is no strongbox of money, but my iPhone does have a permanent connection to Wells Fargo. My medicine and health records are not sitting in my home but I do have a Providence Health app. My email is my correspondence. As the technology has progressed, it has enabled us to shrink the home and carry it around in our pocket. The capability of our technology to miniaturize cannot therefore also minimize constitutional protections."