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.
First, a primer on the New Aesthetic, James Bridle's "investigation / project / tumblr looking at technologically-enabled novelty in the world." On Monday, writer Bruce Sterling posted an essay responding to the New Aesthetic panel at SXSW several weeks ago, exploring this perceived new way of seeing, or documenting, how the digital bleeds into physical. It kicked off a wave of discussion, but don't miss responses from author Simon Reynolds, Joel Johnson, Tom Armitage, and more over at The Creators Project.
Wired: beyond the beyond: Bruce Sterling - An Essay on the New Aesthetic
We’re not going to be able to gloss over this gaping vacuity by "making the machines our friends." Because they’re not our friends. Machines are never our friends, even if they’re intimates in our purses and pockets eighteen hours a day. They may very well be our algorithmic investors, but they’re certainly not our art critics, because at that, they suck even worse than they do at running our economy.
Felix Gillette profiles RIM CEO Thorsten Heins and his efforts to revitalize the BlackBerry maker.
Businessweek: Felix Gillette - Thorsten Heins: Into RIM's Ring of Fire
"So you have that realism there. But also, you have to get them excited about the future of BlackBerry." Then Heins leans forward in his chair, peers over the top of his glasses. "I don’t like to be dictatorial, but if I have to, I can be," he adds. "Right now at RIM, I’m a bit dictatorial."
Rob Dubbin interviews legendary game designer Al Lowe (who you may know from Leisure Suit Larry, King's Quest I-IV, Police Quest, and more) about his history at Sierra and his take on the modern gaming industry.
Kill Screen: Rob Dubbin - Lowebrow
Of course, there were also films that were built by committee, where you would kind of go, "Yeah, I guess it was all right," but it wasn’t very focused. You don’t get that real intimate sense that you’ve entered someone’s mind and been part of that person for a while. And that’s what I think we’ve lost in the videogame business. Because the teams now are so massive, and it takes so many people to do a product, that you end up with this more-or-less corporate game that has to be safe, and can’t really be that different from what sold well last year.
Sam Anderson explores 'stupid games' since the era of Tetris, and meets with game designer Zach Gage, the mind behind Drop7.
The New York Times Magazine: Sam Anderson - Just One More Game ...
"Having just built this, I’m seeing how much I hate the Internet," Gage told me. "I mean, I really like the Internet and what it’s done for games — it’s been amazing. But in so many ways it’s just terrible. Arcade cabinets did a lot of things that were really smart that we never gave them credit for. There’s a lot of social psychology embedded in that structure."
Harry McCracken takes a look back at the rise and fall of the OS-2 operating system, co-developed by IBM and Microsoft, that while mostly invisible, is still running New York City's MetroCard subway payment system. Don't miss the 1993 Computer Chronicles segment on the OS.
Time: Techland: Harry McCracken - 25 Years of IBM’s OS/2: The Strange Days and Surprising Afterlife of a Legendary Operating System
And the new hardware was accompanied by a next-generation operating system, OS/2. Co-developed by IBM and Microsoft, it was intended to replace DOS, the aging software that then powered most of the planet’s microcomputers. It never did.
It's worth revisiting James Fallows's 1982 The Atlantic article on living, writing, and working with a personal computer. The computing landscape has obviously changed dramatically in the past thirty years, and this is a fascinating, personal take on an early moment in computing history.
The Atlantic: James Fallows - Living With a Computer
Computers cause another, more insidious problem, by forever distorting your sense of time. When I first saw the system in the back room at Optek, I was so dazzled by the instantaneous deletion of sentences and movement of paragraphs that I thought I could never want anything more. When the scientists at Optek warned me about certain bottlenecks, I had to stifle my laughter. In particular, they warned me that I might grow impatient with tape recorders as a way to store data.
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