I really like how J. Hillis Miller captured this. he argued that we have an obligation to write. He suggested that reading and teaching are completed by writing, that it is a core element to our transaction with language. As he stated:
As we read we compose, without thinking about it, a kind of running commentary or marginal jotting that adds more words to the words on the page. There is always already writing as the accompaniment to reading.
Another example of this might come in the form of “desire paths,” or as they tend to be called after major snowstorms, “sneckdowns.” This is an urban planning term of sorts—basically, the creation of a path where there wasn’t one initially, guided only by human preference, rather than existing rules. Technically, you’re breaking the rules by walking in a path that isn’t actually a sidewalk, but in a way, there was a natural tendency to break those rules anyway.
This is something that I have.
One of his first columns for the magazine, written in 1990 under the name “The Micro Mephisto,” is surprisingly relevant today. Jillette made a case for taking your computer and making it your own by heavily customizing, or “trashing,” it. A passage from that column:
No matter how you got your computer, you will never sell it. Why the hell would you sell it? Six months after you bought it, it wasn’t worth spit. How the hell could you sell it, it would be easier to unload used 8-track and beta tapes. Whatever you got on your desk or lap right now—there’s a faster and sexier one with more memory and a better display featured right here in this magazine.
So, tell me this, why the hell is that thang still beige? And if it’s not beige, why the hell is it still tan? And if it’s sleek, high-tech black … well, we know they saw you coming. I’ll tell you why it’s that same boring factory color—because you’re a coward. You’re afraid if you mess with it—someone is going to yell at you. That’s just wrong thinking. No one’s going to yell at you because no one gives a good goddamn. Other people have their own problems. Have you seen these other people on the street? They’re all miserable, look at them. They don’t care about you or your computer. You could erase your entire hard disk including the unera utility, by mistake, while showing off for a cute babe and the people on the street wouldn’t even blink. They’re busy making their own stupid mistakes. And that gives you a great deal of freedom.
So here’s what I say and here’s what I do. Make that computer yours. Make it belong to you. Make it look right to you. Dominate it. Rule it. Violate it. Posses it. Trash the mother. I’m not going to tell you exactly what to do with it, I’ve already stuck my nose too far into your business. I don’t care if you put on backstage stickers to Lou Reed and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. You could peel the warning sticker off your 2 Live Crew CD and decoupage it right above the screen and change your prompt to
(C:\) Oh, me so horny>, put on scuba stickers and pretend you aren’t just a nerd like the rest of us. Or—be practical—no one can remember those WP commands so why not take a Sharpie and write “Just Kidding” right above the F1 key and “where the hell am I?” above F3. I haven’t tried a wood-burning tool or a soldering iron (they’re the same tool with different packaging, right?) But I bet it would look boss. Make it so if your computer was coming down the airline luggage carousel you wouldn’t have to look at the claim check number to tell it was yours. “Many computers do look alike”—and that’s a bad thing.
How we keep screwing over yesterday’s technology due to an intent focus on what we’re doing today. The problem of planned obsolescence is getting worse.
Five social networks that offer ripe opportunities for a “reunion tour” of your own
- Flickr. Owned and acquired, and later sold in a fashion very similar to Tumblr itself, the photo-sharing service (now owned by SmugMug) has moved to a pay model, but it could still be a great tool for folks that are looking for a more low-key version of photo sharing.
- DeviantArt. Going back to a vintage site doesn’t necessarily mean that the site will look like it did 15 years ago—something that can definitely be said of DeviantArt, which just released an ambitious redesign that was so out of character for the old-school platform that it recently trended on Twitter. It’s an opportunity to go back just after a snazzy renovation.
- LiveJournal/Dreamwidth. Technically, the old-school LiveJournal is still around, and the one you definitely don’t feel like sharing might still be online. But its ownership has changed dramatically over the years, in keeping in tune with its Russian user base, and it has led to moves that you might not be cool with. Fortunately, there’s an alternative in the form of DreamWidth, a fork of the original LiveJournal that’s been around for a decade.
- Internet Relay Chat or Usenet. If you’re a bit older, you may have gotten your first taste of a social internet through either of these digital protocols. They’re still around, though their focuses have changed dramatically, and you may find yourself most at home if you’re a developer. (IRC will be easier to get back into, just an FYI.)
- Blogging. As I wrote at the beginning of the year, the blogosphere is a culture worth defending, and if you can add something to it, you should! If you’re looking for the most retro-seeming blogging experience possible, Blogger is a good choice because Google hasn’t updated it in years.
Today in Tedium: If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years as a writer, it’s that when someone doesn’t like something enough to email about it, they start their message out with “I read with great interest …” before diving into their gripe. With that in mind, I read with great interest Tumblr’s announcement about censoring adult content on its platform, which saddened me as a longtime Tumblr user—not because I was looking for that content, but because a creative outlet I once greatly appreciated was losing much of its freedom. The filter is terrible, of course, and its terribleness reminded me of the bad old days of early web filtering, when the internet was new and its capabilities poorly understood. And as the conversation about the European Union’s Article 11 and Article 13—the latter of which would effectively require pervasive filters for copyright on many platforms—now’s a good time to look into that history. I love you, Tumblr, but today’s Tedium is talking filters. — Ernie @ Tedium
To put it in modern terms: Walt Disney was a startup guy, and he followed the Elon Musk zero-sleep model of productivity. He was a busy innovator, willing to experiment on a wide number of business endeavors before he found his true calling as the co-creator of Mickey Mouse.