We all know the feeling. You're sleepless in the sad hours of the night or stumbling around early on a hazy weekend morning in need of something to read, and that pile of unread books just isn't cutting it. Why not take a break from the fire hose of Twitter and RSS and check out our weekly roundup of essential writing from around the web about technology, culture, media, and the future? Sure, it's one more thing you can feel guilty about sitting in your Instapaper queue, but it's better than pulling in vain on your Twitter list again.
Writer Simon Reynolds, who you may know from his recent Retromania, profiles Laurie Spiegel, the groundbreaking electronic musician who pushed the edge of computer music in the '70s and '80s.
Pitchfork: Simon Reynolds - Resident Visitor: Laurie Spiegel's Machine Music
"In a low information lifestyle, the ratio between incoming stuff and time spent processing inputs was completely different to how it is today. When I was a kid, I didn't watch much TV. For a long while, until I saved up and bought myself a transistor, I didn't have control of a radio. So I spent a lot of time thinking. Now we get very little time to synthesize and process relative to the amount of information coming in to us. That's a major cognitive change in terms of how people experience life."
After being diagnosed with diabetes, Dan Hon dove into the world of FitBits, FuelBands, and Withings to improve his blood sugar levels, documenting the experiences, interfaces, and devices along the way.
domus: Dan Hon - Fitness by design
But I saw that I was faced with a body that was in bad shape because of the "software" that was running on its brain. There is a movement — at the moment a weak signal among "alpha geeks" predisposed to obsessive tendencies — preoccupied with measuring and quantifying the self. The idea itself isn't new: notice and measure things about your "software" and your "hardware" and then try to affect them. But as ever, technology trickles down to the consumer and makes what used to be difficult easy, and what was once obscure accessible.
Anthony Paletta offers an introduction to the otherworldly architecture of the Eastern Bloc.
The Awl: Anthony Paletta - The Sublime Sci-Fi Buildings That Communism Built
"Anyone's first trip to New York always comes with a feeling of déjà vu, as if one were walking onto the set of a movie seen a hundred times. In contrast, there are vestiges of the Soviet Union that seem like backdrops to movies that never hit the screen, because they were never made." This, if it seems possible, decidedly understates the visual impact of the architectural legacy of the later decades of the Soviet Union and associated states. Eastern Sci-Fi cinema, as superb as its product and settings often were, clearly neglected the treasures in its own backyard.
Rob Fishman writes about the early days of RSS, the birth of Google Reader, and the rise and fall of the community that built up around it, trashed "with a few keystrokes" with the rise of Google+
FWD: Rob Fishman - Google's Lost Social Network
Someone hung a sign in the Reader offices that said "DAYS SINCE LAST THREAT OF CANCELLATION." The number was almost always zero. At the same time, user growth — while small next to Gmail’s hundreds of millions — more than doubled under Shih’s tenure. But the "senior types," as Bilotta remembers, "would look at absolute user numbers. They wouldn’t look at market saturation. So Reader was constantly on the chopping block."
Finally online in full, Janet Reitman describes how the FBI tracked down and nabbed Anonymous member, hacker, and anarchist Jeremy Hammond.
Rolling Stone: Janet Reitman - The Rise and Fall of Jeremy Hammond: Enemy of the State
From an early age, Jeremy was consumed by projects in which he could lose himself. In Little League, he created a virtually unhittable pitch, and by the time he was nine, he was finding innovative ways to make computers do what they weren't supposed to do – the essence of hacking. At 16, he hacked the computers at a local Apple store, projecting their financial data on every screen, after which he proceeded to explain to the experts at the Genius Bar how to better protect their information. "The look on their faces was priceless," his father recalls.
Carl Swanson profiles 29-year-old Chris Hughes, the Facebook co-founder and millionaire who is trying to revitalize The New Republic.
New York: Author - Chris Hughes Is About to Turn 100
"I look at Twitter once a day, maybe twice," he says. "I look at Facebook quite a bit, because for me there’s more stuff happening. But Twitter—so many people have TweetDeck in the background," he motions around his newsroom overlooking Madison Square Park. "I realize that I purposely want to keep a distance between me and that." He is always trying to schedule time for reflection. The New Republic "means not just producing a magazine," he says. "We have to be convening conversations."
Quartz: Zachary M. Seward - The history of AOL as told through New York Times crossword clues
And finally, here's a pithy, surprisingly varied history of AOL as seen through the lens of the Times' crossword.
Have any favorites that you'd like to see included in next week's edition? Send them along to @thomashouston or share in the comments below.
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