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.
Quinn Norton writes about the recent growth of a political consciousness — it's no longer just about the lulz — among Anonymous.
Wired: Quinn Norton - How Anonymous Picks Targets, Launches Attacks, and Takes Powerful Organizations Down
No, what Anonymous has become, in reality, is a culture, one with its own distinctive iconography (the Fawkes masks, the headless man in the business suit), its own self-referential memes, its own coarse sense of humor. And as Anonymous campaigns have spread around the world, so too has its culture, bringing its peculiar brand of cyber-rebellion to tech-savvy activists in Eastern Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. Like a plastic Fawkes mask, Anonymous is an identity that anyone can put on, whenever they want to join up with the invisible online horde.
On the FTC
A ProPublica and Wired report reveals an FTC that's understaffed and "shackled by security filters" that make day-to-day research and testing difficult at its D.C. headquarters.
ProPublica: Peter Maass - How a Lone Grad Student Scooped the Government and What It Means for Your Online Privacy
Earlier this year, the unit issued a highly publicized report on mobile apps for kids; its conclusion was reflected in the subtitle, "Current Privacy Disclosures Are Disappointing." It was a thin report, however. Rather than actually checking the personal data accessed by the report's sampling of 400 apps, the report just looked at whether the apps disclose, on the sites where they are sold, the types of personal data that would be accessed and what the data would be used for. The body of the report is just 17 pages. (The FTC says it will do deeper research in future reports.)
The iPhone turned five this year, and Joel Johnson takes a step back to review its impact.
Animal New York: Joel Johnson - iPhone Hands-on Review, five years later
...have a robotic voice remind you of household tasks when you walk through your front door, keep the birthdays and phone numbers of every person in your life, track your sleep patterns and be woken at exactly the right time in your REM cycle, take college courses from real universities for free, keep track of all your passwords, use email, tune your guitar, monitor police-band broadcasts, remix ambient audio into a living aural nightmare, have AAA send a tow truck, find free condoms, learn how to tie a knot, write a novel, control a flying robotic drone, mail a letterpress card, control your television with a remote control...
Nathan Jurgenson considers the obsessions with "logged-off real life," and prompts us to reconsider ideas of a "pure offline."
The New Inquiry: Nathan Jurgenson - The IRL Fetish
But this idea that we are trading the offline for the online, though it dominates how we think of the digital and the physical, is myopic. It fails to capture the plain fact that our lived reality is the result of the constant interpenetration of the online and offline. That is, we live in an augmented reality that exists at the intersection of materiality and information, physicality and digitality, bodies and technology, atoms and bits, the off and the online. It is wrong to say "IRL" to mean offline: Facebook is real life.
Cyrus Farivar tells the storied history of Winamp on its fifteenth birthday.
Ars Technica: Cyrus Farivar - Winamp's woes: how the greatest MP3 player undid itself
"When you think about what AOL had in early 2000," he told Ars, "the only thing that they were missing that [would be] essential to today’s media system is a hardware device. They had the number one software for playing [in Winamp], and in theory, although not in practice, the [Time Warner] content library that could have been a pioneer in streaming. And a radio service. It had all the elements. AOL could have been Spotify, it could have been Pandora."
And finally, a note to a certain subset of Instagram users.
McSweeney's: Katherine Markovich - An open letter to people who take pictures of food with Instagram.
"I think it’s best, especially in the interest of honesty and my mounting rage, to tell you that no, no, I really, truly, absolutely, do not care about you or your food. I don’t. Sorry. Take more pictures of your cat. That might keep me interested."
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.