Category Archives: Thoughts

Thinking about the effects of cell phones

From an email I sent to Tristan Harris, somewhat in response to his article:

1) Turning off general push notifications for most apps, and particularly turning off badging on app icons for apps with inboxes that you never empty, has been the most helpful for me escaping the vortex of my phone thus far.

2) As a result of having an ever-present digital flow of communication and information at my disposal my ability to plan ahead has begun to atrophy. A certain amount of forethought and intentionality has been surrendered to the spontaneity that is encouraged by this portal of a million connections and options which we call a cell phone. My ability to commit begins to wane as well, as I slowly switch over from rich yet repercussive relationships, to lighter, less consequential ones. Something about the ability to make or change any decision on such short notice leaves me constantly micro-redirecting my life. Decisions are perpetually tentative. Even once Iv’e made one I’m unable to stop shopping for other options. I wonder if people used to plan more. I suspect they were better at keeping plans than we are. And perhaps there is some sort’ve collective short sightedness developing as a result of each moment containing such a multitude of possibilities. I’m constantly distracted from larger life decisions by inconsequential, digital ones. Our identities and relationships are perhaps less defined now because they are overly abundant.

3) My least favorite part of going on a first date with a girl is the part between initially receiving their phone number and actually sitting down together for the date. Firstly, upon receiving her number you are immediately faced with the pressure of communicating something witty and intelligent to her. (This endeavor is ultimately distracting, tiring, and unnecessary in the long run.) Once the texting begins you are on the clock, and every beat of the conversation is recorded in time, which becomes your primary concern. How long should you wait before responding, and how long did she: a meaningless activity you engage in. And maybe you also start negotiating with yourself how much you should ask her about herself before the date versus waiting until being with her in person. You wade through that for a while until finally deciding on a place and time for the date. Then begins the rescheduling. A few weeks ago I asked the hostess at Kin Khao if she would let me buy her a drink sometime. She said sure, and after we chatted for a bit she said I suppose I should give you my phone number. I asked her if instead of giving me her phone number she’d be willing to make a plan there and then. She agreed and we decided to meet at Whitechapel a few nights later. She showed up for the date and it was a fun experience all around. We planned a second date and proceeded without each others’ phone numbers.

I’m probably more concerned with the general effects of mobile communication and information, whereas your article was about the harmful agendas of unregulated tech products, but it seems to be all related in some way so I wanted to share. An experiment I hope to try in the near future is leaving my cell phone at home each day for 30 days so that I only use it in the mornings and evenings. I’d get by just fine despite a few minor inconveniences, and I think it’d be super interesting to see how small things might change.

I, Wikipedian

Wikipedia is amazing. I visit the site daily, if not more, as I’m sure most of you do. It’s the only non-profit I have consistently donated to because I truly feel like I owe something to Wikipedia. Additionally I enjoy the idea of protecting it from becoming a for-profit company. Although I had dabbled with minor experimental edits in high school, it wasn’t until Mike asked me to help him create his Wikipedia page that I really got my hands dirty. It took several intermittent days of unconcentrated effort to read the docs, learn the rules, become familiar with the authoring tools and markup, and to ultimately understand how Wikipedia worked on the inside so that I could make a valuable and respected contribution.

Aside from the technical stuff I learned a few awesome things:
1) Wikipedia is a true meritocracy, which is fucking sick and something I wish existed more often in the world
2) Wikipedians (aka editors) are extremely passionate about the service and are always willing to help you out
3) Wikipedia is more strict than I thought, which only made me respect it more
4) Wikipedia is an incredibly intelligent system of information (by which I mean there’s much more than meets the eye when you’re viewing single pages at a time)
5) I love it more than before

I am proud to announce my first Wikipedia article: Michael Avedon

Screen Shot 2014-01-19 at 9.42.28 PM

Curation Culture

Certain websites’ offerings have grown so extensive over the past several years that a relatively new, utilitarian type of service has emerged: picking a particular website with an enormous amount of content and creating a more attractive, curated display of the respective site. Of course the parent websites attempt to do this curation themselves by featuring or sizzling what they believe to be their best offerings, and/or introducing filtering metrics, however often times the third party services do it better than the sites themselves. Perhaps this is because the third party entities are not controlled by the same incentives, or in many cases simply because they don’t have to deal with legacy issues that make it difficult for the parent companies themselves to focus on this particular aspect of their service. Among my favorite examples are Canopy, a curation service of Amazon’s offerings, and The Best of Netflix (oh wait, that doesn’t exist yet).

A new member of this family is FOUND, a curated collection of photography from the National Geographic archives. Although the site is run by National Geographic it has an offsite existence and thus I’m lumping it into the category of sites I’ve discussed above. Enjoy.


NGS Picture ID:615194








More Than Enough

In this life a great many fortunes have been bestowed upon me. Through merit and hard work I have achieved success in my own right, however long before I consciously began to put effort forth there were many advantages lined up for me. This is undoubtedly a blessing, and it is something that will never be lost on me. However there is something inherently complicated about having more than enough that I’ve observed both actively though my own behaviors and thoughts, and passively through watching others.

Having more than enough, more often than not, seems to rather easily give way to a progressively looser understanding of what enough actually is. The emphasis ends up on the more part and we loose sight of enough. And it’s not only a superficial folly that simply matters intellectually, we actually have a great ability to get lost in a very real, never ending whirlwind of chasing the more. I used to think it boiled down to a sense of greed, and those who were not greedy would be content with enough and the others would be doomed. There is the image of climbing a mountain that you can never get to the top of, because the act of climbing actually perpetuates the height of the mountain itself. I hope to never end up like that however I catch myself surprisingly close to it more often than I’d like to admit.

In the spirt of a positive resolution – although I know this internal debate is far from ending – I’m curious to attempt to express what actually is enough (by which I mean enough in order to be happy in life). Here is what I’ve come up with tonight:

-Passion to keep one engaged and challenged (hobby/job/career)
-Companionship to keep one aware, humble, and excited (friends/lovers)
-Curiosity to keep one interested and confused (education)
-Health to keep one able
-Means to keep one satisfied (money)
-Moderation in all of these things to keep one from forgetting what enough actually is

I Don’t Get It

All too often I’ve been to museum exhibitions and gallery openings in New York and either thought to myself, or heard others remark: I don’t get it. I think this sentiment/frustration/feeling is indicative of a number of things; none of which I have the answer to but a few of which I’d like to briefly explore.

Chris Burden (New Museum, 2013)

1. Any given work of art, or group of works, is part of a larger whole, which is probably unfamiliar to the casual art viewer. Going to the latest Chris Burden exhibition at the New Museum and trying to understand what the hell is being presented to you is much like flipping to the middle of Charles Dickens novel, reading a few sentence fragments, and trying to resolve what the entire story is about. Perhaps you’ve read other Dickens novels, in which case you may be able to judge the fragments in some regard, but without a familiarity of the author, the time is was writing in, and of course a close reading of the entire text (among other things) there is no proper way to understand in the sense that we most often desire to. Sure, you can glean, you can grasp, you can even be inspired, but I do think that to the extent that viewing art in New York City has largely become an agenda to bolster ones Instagram feed, there is a growing negligence (and lack of respect) for the whole. Perhaps it’s the commodification, or the need to sell tickets that perpetuates this lack rather than fixing it. I’m not really sure.

2. I once read that bad art needs to be explained and good art doesn’t. It’s a catchy concept, and something about it inherently seems right. But if we are to think of an explanation as simply additional information regarding the thing we are aiming to understand, I don’t think the proverb really works any more. Perhaps it should be more like: good art can be made better with an explanation, bad art can’t.

3. Lastly I wonder: to what extent should we be able to understand art? Charles Burchfield asked the question “How is it possible to make people understand that artists are not interested in Art?” (1941). We as a culture have turned art into this thing with a capital A, and a whole bunch of money and scholars and buildings and what have you. But art is one of many forms of expression of passion, emotion, thought, whatever, much the same way music is. And we certainly have textbooks on music just the same, but they’re more focused on the history and the facts, rather than scrutinizing what this cord or that 808 means. Now I am as guilty, if not more so than anyone I know at being determined to understand art, however I just as often wonder if perhaps that’s the wrong line of inquiry all together.