Filtered for weekend reads

13.32, Sunday 18 Jan 2015


I mentioned the women’s movement classic The Tyranny of Structurelessness the other day, on the dangers of refusing to admit power… informal structures have no obligation to be responsible to the group at large. Their power was not given to them; it cannot be taken away. Their influence is not based on what they do for the group; therefore they cannot be directly influenced by the group.

Here’s a critical response by Cathy Devine, The tyranny of tyranny, which raises the counter-risk of roles in organisations standing in the way individuality:

What we definitely don’t need is more structures and rules, providing us with easy answers, pre-fab alternatives and no room in which to create our own way of life.


we are reacting against bureaucracy because it deprives us of control, like the rest of this society; and instead of recognising the folly of our ways by returning to the structured fold, we who are rebelling against bureaucracy should be creating an alternative to bureaucratic organisation. … it is more than a reaction; the small group is a solution.

Touches on a few topics I’m super curious about right now… small groups, informality, a trust in the irreducible human element.


Genevieve Bell and Paul Dourish’s 2006 paper Yesterday’s tomorrows: notes on ubiquitous computing’s dominant vision which makes the compelling argument that the habit of researching ubiquitous computing (now called Internet of Things) as something science-fictional or in the future prevents us from applying those learnings to the ubiquitous computing already here today.

the centrality of ubiquitous computing’s “proximate future” continually places its achievements out of reach, while simultaneously blinding us to current practice. By focusing on the future just around the corner, ubiquitous computing renders contemporary practice (at outside of research sites and “living labs”), by definition, irrelevant or at the very least already outmoded. Arguably, though, ubiquitous computing is already here; it simply has not taken the form that we originally envisaged and continue to conjure in our visions of tomorrow.

I worry about this with the Internet of Things. There’s a lot of research and good thinking… a ton of understanding. But without a deliberate effort to draw that research into the present, will present-day IOT - like connected products in Kickstarter and city-wide transit swipe cards - be able to learn?

And what I really mean is, given research and products come from groups of individuals, do these people hang out and have a common language?


Pulp’s Big Moment, the New Yorker on the origin of mass-market paperbacks in the 1930s… The key to Lane’s and de Graff’s innovation was not the format. It was the method of distribution.

Train stations! Wire racks! Putting books where books weren’t usually sold!

Instead of relying on book wholesalers … de Graff worked through magazine distributors. They handled paperbacks the same way they handled magazines: every so often, they emptied the racks and installed a fresh supply.

Plus the usual high-brow/low-brow scuffle.

Speaking of which, readers absorb less on Kindles than on paper, study finds. Interesting if true, but I’m suspicious of high-brow snobbery.


The New York Times on a series of 36 questions that makes any couple fall in love (you’re also required to do 4 minutes of silent continuous eye contact).

From before: the similarities between dating and variable-interval operant conditioning.

And OF COURSE somebody on Hacker News went and turned the 36 questions into a website… Want to fall in love? Play The Love Game (TM).

Hacking intimacy.

Is there a serious difference between this and Jeff Bezos’s acclaimed method to introduce “Service-Oriented Architecture” at Amazon by imposing the two-pizza rule? any team should be small enough that it could be fed with two pizzas.

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