October 20, 2018 fkirschner

weeks go by incredibly quickly when you

1.) are waiting for your very first Commodore 64 computer from eBay

2.) realize that it’s broken beyond repair

3.) order a new one that works


4.) finally write your first BASIC program in 20 years.

Back in June, Walter Kirn wrote about contemporary large scale conspiracy theories as a new form of participatory storytelling in Harper Magazine.

One night this spring, in northwest Arkansas, Matthew and I stayed up past midnight interpreting several recent posts from Q that trembled on the verge of clarity, seeming to offer highly privileged insights into a crisis rumored to be forthcoming. I sat on the couch. He paced. We thought out loud, competing to crack the message and setting different values for different variables. We argued our cases as the night slid by; we raved away in an ecstasy of guesswork. Q was being good to us. Q was delivering everything we craved.

On medium.com Jay Owens describes the evolution of storytelling in less experimental forms. He argues full post-cyberpunk, and introduces a bunch of non-anglo-centric sci-fi genres.

So I punted a question out on Twitter, asking the fans, authors, and futurists I know to share what they saw going on in speculative writing around the world and (often) outside the Anglosphere. These visions are, ultimately, reflections of where people believe the world is headed now, and cyberpunk is not the only vision the world has to offer — indeed, it was never the only one.

Remember the 90s? Apparently, there was post-cyberpunk back then too. On floppy disks. Before html.

We saw in HyperCard the opportunity to create a compendium of all this cybercultural output. We wanted to map the territory, but to do so in a way that allowed the user to explore her own links and interests. We tried to cram in as much material as we could, covering everthing from high-brow crit theory to sci-fi lit and films to the wired worlds of hackers/crackers and the zine publishing scene which was starting to move into cyberspace. The result was a 5.5 megabyte "connect-the-dots" cyber-manifesto. In 1993, we followed up the first BCP stack with a one-disk update.

Just to round things out in the “new forms of storytelling department”, let’s link to an all time favorite: Twitch plays Pokemon from Alex Hern in the Guardian.

TPP has generated a fanatical community, which has taken its devotion to almost-religious levels.Typically, that would be hyperbole, but in this case it’s accurate. On the second day of the game, players received the Helix Fossil, an item with no practical use. But because it was at the top of the item list, it ended up being selected – often repeatedly – in the heat of battle. The community interpreted this as “turning to the Helix Fossil for guidance”, and so the meme of the blessed Helix Fossil was born.

and this and this and this (links also in the original article). By the way, that last one is also a project from most bestest new media artist Lauren McCarthy.

This week was also the week of teaching media theory and sociology. I’d love to have much more time teaching and discussing either, but I am thankful for fantastic essays like this one in the guardian explaining a lot of the squishy bits that we can’t talk about enough in class. Like meritocracy.

He explained how it would happen in a 1958 satire, his second best-seller, entitled The Rise of the Meritocracy. Like so many phenomena, meritocracy was named by an enemy. Young’s book was ostensibly an analysis written in 2033 by a historian looking back at the development over the decades of a new British society. In that distant future, riches and rule were earned, not inherited. The new ruling class was determined, the author wrote, by the formula “IQ + effort = merit”. Democracy would give way to rule by the cleverest – “not an aristocracy of birth, not a plutocracy of wealth, but a true meritocracy of talent.” This is the first published appearance of the word “meritocracy”, and the book aimed to show what a society governed on this principle would look like.Young’s vision was decidedly dystopian. As wealth increasingly reflects the innate distribution of natural talent, and the wealthy increasingly marry one another, society sorts into two main classes, in which everyone accepts that they have more or less what they deserve.