On the New Yorker’s Elements blog, our own Mark O’Connell writes about Cloak, a new app which lets you avoid people you don’t want to bump into by accident. Despite the fact that Mark can see himself using the app, he finds it “ultimately troubling,” in large part because it strikes him as “such a lonely thing to have achieved through technological control of our social environments.” (Speaking of apps, have you read Mark’s epic e-book?)
When did Twitter turn into a place of public shame, outrage, and apology? Alexander Chee examines the changing culture in an essay for Dame Magazine. “Oh, Internet, place of the ultimate writerly paradox, where things you write quickly for little or no money last forever.” Our own Mark O’Connell explored something similar in his New Yorker essay on the public humiliation of regrettable tweets.
When did Samuel Beckett’s “fail better” become the motto of Silicon Valley? At Slate, our own Mark O’Connell traces the history of the phrase. “Fail Better, with its TEDishly counterintuitive feel, is the literary takeaway par excellence; it’s usefully suggestive, too, of the corporate propaganda of productivity, with its appeals to ‘think different’ or ‘work smarter’ or ‘just do it.’”
"The Hatchet Job Award appeals, in its depressingly calculated way, to the basest and most self-serving of journalistic instincts, and seems to arise out of, and perpetuate, a misunderstanding of what criticism actually is." At Slate, our own Mark O’Connell criticizes the award for promoting the same bad criticism it claims to detest.
What would happen if you had a clock to countdown the exact number of days until you died? Our own Mark O’Connell discovers the paranoia of having the Days of Life app measure his mortality at The New Yorker. “Days of Life functions like a reductio ad absurdum of the logic of personal productivity. The pie chart becomes a special way of being afraid: an image of the self as a micro-economy of numbered days.” For a more uplifting version of O’Connell, check out his 2013 Year in Reading post.
The thing, I suppose, is that I’ve never been very good at knowing my own mind. As a child I drove my parents half-crazy with my endless deferring of decisions about the least consequential of matters. Would I have a cornetto or a choc-ice? Would I even have an ice cream at all, actually? Or would my interests in fact be better served at this point by some kind of biscuit-based snack?