This week, Catching Up is all about detox, health and poetry. Let’s go!
Goodbye Big Five is a six-part series which explores how journalist Kashmir Hill blocked the services of tech’s biggest giants from her life, first one after the other, and then all 5 simultaneously. This undertaking represents a real technical challenge, considering that the Big Five’s systems are capable of circumventing firewalls and blocking solutions. Experimenting with a tech-giant-free lifestyle reveals just how omnipresent these companies are on our devices, even when we take the smallest digital actions. But it also shows how difficult it is to do without them. The series not only highlights addiction to the tech giants, it also demonstrates how the Big Five’s strategies are aimed at selling us a better, easier, more attractive daily life: an illusion that has prevented us from really reflecting on the effects these monopolies have on our society, and which impairs our ability to establish real human relationships (vs. virtual ones) and appreciate their value. In another study published in the MIT Technology Review, researchers from Stanford compared the effects on users who withdrew from Facebook for one month. Most ended up spending more time with their friends and family. Their mood improved compared to those from the control group, who spent at least one hour per day on the app. What are we waiting for to be happy?!
The thief left it behind:Haiku by Ryōkan
at my window.
Fear of the void
Asian livestreamers sing, eat, and dance in front of their webcams to counter the loneliness of users who are eager for performance and often devoid of social lives. This photo essay by Jérôme Gence captures these internet idols during their live sequences, which range from the banal to the extreme and are consistently popular among Taiwanese and Chinese Internet users. Through these striking portraits, the photojournalist offers complete immersion in the reality of an industry that alienates its protagonists both in front of the screen and behind it. On the one hand, the performers are caught in a spiral that is virtual but essential to their survival. And on the other, we see individuals who seem to want to fill an emotional void that has itself been created by excessive digitisation and virtualisation. It is a portrait of a hyper-connected society in which social networks, pushed to the extreme, have almost completely wiped out human relationships in the name of business growth.
Quantity at any cost inevitably leads to “infobesity”. The oversupply and overuse of data are doubly problematic. They undermine the decision-making process and erode user trust. Our CEO draws an enlightening parallel with the agro-food industry and explains why we need a “data ecology”. An excerpt:
In the landscape of data-driven decisions, there’s no shortage of appealing interfaces, dynamic visualisations, and promises of quick and automated optimisation, but with what degree of certainty regarding data reliability and robustness? Data can be as toxic and harmful to your company as junk food is to your body.
Even though the Internet can be a world of falseness, loneliness and hatred, it can also encourage poetic expression. A case in point: the Instagram account Amours Solitaires. It’s a collection of poetic messages (in French) delivered via text message or WhatsApp. Poetry isn’t dead. It has simply found a new home.
Kjetil Golid has made a collection of open source algorithms available to all. They range from the serious to the not-so-serious, but all generate amazing visuals that are sometimes interactive. Here is half noisify, a soundscape generated from half of a photo. Good stuff for your wallpapers.
See you next time on the Internets!