From Phil’s weeknotes:

Last night I came across a Lime e-bike, dead on its side in a disabled car-parking space. I set about rescuing it, thinking that its conventional home, annoyingly littering the pavement, would be less bad.

As soon as I picked it up it started beeping, loudly. Then a computery woman’s voice began saying, “Please unlock me to ride me or I’ll call the police!”

I set the bike upright on its stand but the beeping and the verbal warning repeatedly alternated. I continued walking home, quickly, while the once quiet street was filled with the alarming noise, which slowly faded as I turned a corner. Maybe it’s still going.

First Person Things. Genuine People Personalities. The age of Surveillance Capitalism. The “Smart City”. Alexa-as-cop. Join the dots, write your own blogpost.

Somewhere deep at the intersection of “everything is tech” (tech, the all-consuming industry, rather than technology), “everything is a service” (and thus somebody else’s property you pay to rent), and “everything is increasingly awful in order to service a minority” (in this case: the owners of the bike, frankly, who are interested in preserving their property whilst acquiring new customers).

We joked that the future was rubbish because we still don’t have a jetpack; it is, in fact, more rubbish (and made up of more rubbish) than we perhaps could have imagined. We are all Joe Chip.

  • "So much of design culture is occupied by people that take themselves so very seriously. When thinking about our conversations in the Newsbar about magical realism and surrealism, it became apparent to me that the level of imaginative freedom allowed in the world of experimental fiction, would struggle to exist in contemporary design culture (and academia) because there’d be some form of backlash about how it wasn’t ‘real’… that the work didn’t address the world’s real issues or problems… that it would never succeed in the ‘real world’. We are a discipline that is reliant on our creativity and imagination, but have become terrified of the imaginary."
  • Nice write-up of this show from Denise – I greatly enjoyed it, and agree with most of what she wrote. I particularly enjoyed examples of the SLS (3D printing technique) process, notably, the case showing what emerges from the printer – and how much material is brushed away by hand to reveal the object thereafter. Many of the exhibits they showed were magical, and yet they worked hard to remove the magic from the _processes_, and I really think they pulled that off.
  • "I mention Knuth because, of all the Old Masters of computer science, he is the one most interested in the relationship between computer programs and texts. Could we even suggest that a program is a text? It is, after all, a written expression of creativity. Certainly, when running, a computer game can be an artistic experience in the same way that a film, or a play can. But my concern here is not whether the program is art when it runs. I’m talking about whether its source code is a text. We could go down a bit of a rabbit-hole here about playful literary theories. Umberto Eco once reviewed a new Italian banknote as a work of art, describing it as a numbered, limited edition of engravings. But let’s concede that a functional document like a shopping list or a spreadsheet of student names is not a literary text. On the other hand, a recipe by a literary cook like Elizabeth David might be art, even though it also has function. Perhaps the relevant question is: can we experience a program as a text? Can we, in the fullest sense of the word, read it?

    A cynical answer might be that if program source codes are texts, why can’t you buy them in a bookshop?" Graham Nelson on a potted history of Inform, and then its future. The second half may be less interesting to you, but the first half is a fantastic piece of writing on literate programming, source-code-as-art, and the nature of languages. I loved this.