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The best writing of the week, January 20

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Your Sunday reading

read lead 1020
read lead 1020

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 the entire collection as a Readlist.

On Graph Search

Steven Levy has the inside story on Facebook's brand new Graph Search, an extremely powerful social search tool despite its beta (and barely available) status.

Wired: Steven Levy - Facebook’s Bold, Compelling and Scary Engine of Discovery: The Inside Story of Graph Search

Stocky then tried a dating query — "single women who live near me." A group of young women appeared onscreen, with snippets of personal information and a way to friend or message them. "You can then add whatever you want, let’s say those who like a certain type of music," Stocky said. The set of results were even age-appropriate for the person posing the query. "We’re trying to facilitate good things," Stocky said.

On Google's search

Meanwhile, Nicholas Carr writes about Google's turn inwards with its search products as it turns from the outward world to the inward user.

Rough Type: Nicholas Carr - The searchers

Google searches have always been more cut and dried, keyed as they are to particular words or phrases. But in its original conception, the Google search engine did transport us into a messy and confusing world—the world of the web—with the intent of helping us make some sense of it. It pushed us outward, away from ourselves. It was a means of exploration. That’s much less the case now. Google’s conception of searching has changed markedly since those early days, and that means our own idea of what it means to search is changing as well.

On unboxing

Before buying an iPad, Mark O'Connell got hooked on unboxing videos, and writes about the odd rituals and appeal of filming devices being unpackaged.

the Dublin Review: Mark O'Connell - Every Man His Own Shopping Channel

I saw every conceivable consumer durable unsheathed and admired, I saw the broken labyrinth of the Internet itself, and I saw the face of the free market, saw my face and my viscera reflected back in it, saw your face, and I felt dizzy. Mostly, though, I just saw a lot of Apple products and Sony games consoles being taken out of their boxes and exhaustively talked about by young American men.

On photography

Joerg Colbert considers photography and how it's changing in a connected age.

Conscientious Extended: Joerg Colbert - Meditations on Photographs: A Car on Fire at the Mall

We photograph because that’s what one does - sometimes for the sake of having the photograph, of having something we look at later or of having something we can display so other people can look at it later, but oftentimes simply to have photographed. There are billions and billions of photographs on Facebook and on other websites now that will never be looked at again. This makes no sense - unless the photographs themselves are not what matter here.

On interactivity

And finally, The Onion nails it.

the Onion: Internet Users Demand Less Interactivity

"Nobody needs to get my immediate take on everything I see online," said Atlanta printing consultant Deirdre Levinson, questioning the merits of any site that, without knowing her level of intelligence or expertise in a particular topic, would deem her worthy enough to engage in a discussion. "And they’re sorely mistaken if they believe I could actually add something of value to the conversation. At best I’m just going to parrot back some loose approximation of what I’ve heard before, which will just prove that I never should have weighed in in the first place."

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.