Cam Pegg Pocket Articles

While I don’t read as many books of the physical, dead-tree variety as I probably should, I do have a fairly well-stocked RSS reader, so I tend to read quite a lot of stuff online, and have a correspondingly long list of things to read that (mostly) get saved in Pocket. The articles below are ones that I a) have actually found the time to read, and b) think are worth sharing.

March 8, 2021

How to poison the data that Big Tech uses to surveil you

Every day, your life leaves a trail of digital breadcrumbs that tech giants use to track you. You send an email, order some food, stream a show. They get back valuable packets of data to build up their understanding of your preferences.

MIT Technology Review • 1,007 words • 5 minute read

March 7, 2021

You’re Doing It Wrong: Notes on Criticism and Technology Hype

Maybe more people are writing about the real and potential problems of technology today than ever before. That is mostly a good thing. The list of books and articles from the last few years that have nuanced and illuminating perspectives on the contemporary technological situation is rich and long.

Lee Vinsel • 4,584 words • 21 minute read

February 24, 2021

Defending Against ‘Predatory Listening’

It felt like stepping on the wrong end of a rake. My relative had asked for my opinion, but when I gave it, he launched into what sounded like a well-rehearsed argument, taking issue with each thing I had said and critiquing my character. I felt like I’d walked into a trap.

Ten Percent Happier • 845 words • 4 minute read

February 22, 2021

Against Performative Positivity

I am considered a pessimist—the ‘Daria’ of design—whose standards are too high and too critical. Designers, I would argue, are afraid to embrace dissent because it disrupts the positivity bubble. I would describe designers as the very embodiment of the motivational posters in bad typefaces that we constantly critique. We are performing optimism. And I am anti optimism. So why am I against optimism?

Futuress • 2,792 words • 13 minute read

February 21, 2021

Touching the future

The future is not a destination. We build it every day in the present. This is, perhaps, a wild paraphrasing of the acclaimed author and futurist William Gibson who, when asked what a distant future might hold, replied that the future was already here, it was just unevenly distributed. I often ponder this Gibson provocation, wondering where around me the future might be lurking. Catching glimpses of the future in the present would be helpful.

Griffith Review • 4,661 words • 21 minute read

February 18, 2021

The Fantasy of Opting Out

Consider a day in the life of a fairly ordinary person in a large city in a stable, democratically governed country. She is not in prison or institutionalized, nor is she a dissident or an enemy of the state, yet she lives in a condition of permanent and total surveillance unprecedented in its precision and intimacy.

The MIT Press Reader • 1,387 words • 6 minute read

February 16, 2021

“User Engagement” Is Code For “Addiction”

There is something about social media that human beings are not psychologically prepared for. It is a perverse and unnatural abstraction of human social community to which our brain does not react well. As a facsimile of genuine humanity, it plunges into something resembling The Uncanny Valley for social interactions.

Craig • 1,296 words • 6 minute read

February 15, 2021

How To Put Faith in UX Design

Anglerfish are famous for the glowing lure they dangle from their heads that they use to catch small fish. But this is not the most interesting thing about them. Their most fascinating trait is how they mate. Males of the species, who are much smaller, lack a functioning digestive system. To survive they must combine, or fuse-mate, with the females.

Scott Berkun • 2,418 words • 11 minute read

February 14, 2021

We Need A New Work Culture

The discourse about a more enlightened future of work that hinges on the enlightenment of business owners and managers is basically a surrender, like handing over your wallet to a thief and asking him to please, at least, give back your driver’s license.

Work Futures • 832 words • 4 minute read

February 7, 2021

The Future Encyclopedia of Luddism

A glimpse of an alternative economic and industrial history and future, in which the Luddites were successful in their battle against alienating technology. The Luddites did not hate technology; they only channeled their anger toward machine-breaking because it had nowhere else to go.

The MIT Press Reader • 3,586 words • 16 minute read

February 5, 2021

Studio Ghibli: Everything You Need To Know About Legendary Japanese Animation House

For fans of anime, there’s nothing quite like the works of Studio Ghibli. The small team of animators spends years lovingly crafting each amazing story, bringing to life tales of adventure, love, and friendship through countless hand-drawn frames. From My Neighbor Totoro to Howl's Moving Castle, each captivating film allows viewers to immerse themselves in magical fantasy worlds.

My Modern Met • 1,517 words • 8 minute read

February 2, 2021

Is Van Gogh hiding at the back of this Toulouse-Lautrec drawing?

Although we know Van Gogh so well from his 36 painted self-portraits, depictions of him by other artists are rare. We can now add another—from no less a hand than his friend Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, the lover of Montmartre nightlife.

The Art Newspaper • 1,588 words • 8 minute read

February 2, 2021

If You've Been Working from Home, Please Wait for Your Vaccine

To me, it’s simple. If you, like me, are not medically compromised and have been working from home over the past year while drawing your full salary, you have two options. You can sit patiently until some institution calls you to get vaccinated. Or, you can proactively organize with other people to make sure your government is distributing vaccines equitably to people who need them the most.

Scientific American • 2,769 words • 12 minute read

February 1, 2021

The Cult of Best Practice

Best practices are, despite the name, not universally good. Many best practices in programming don’t meet the definition. They spread not based on merit or evidence but thanks to authority bias and social utility. As they spread, they lose nuance. As they lose nuance, they become easier to evangelise. Combined with lack of experience, they can lead to cult-like behaviour.

Dominik Krejcik • 1,469 words • 7 minute read

January 31, 2021

Future Schlock — Real Life

The “thought leaders” in Silicon Valley don’t talk much about techno-utopianism anymore. Once, ideologues like Ray Kurzweil would hold court by discoursing on the inevitable “singularity” that would bring forth an immortal race of posthumans who ascend to godhood through biotech, nanotech, and robotics. An entrepreneur like Byron Reese could extol the virtues of “infinite progress” and comfortably predict that “the internet and technology” would finally solve such intractable problems as “ignorance, disease, poverty, hunger, and war.”

Real Life • 2,831 words • 13 minute read

January 28, 2021

Lunik: Inside the CIA’s audacious plot to steal a Soviet satellite

In late October 1959, a Mexican spy named Eduardo Diaz Silveti slipped into the US Embassy in Mexico City. Tall and well-spoken with slicked-back hair, Silveti, 30, descended from a family of bullfighters. He had learned spycraft at the Federal Security Directorate, or DFS, Mexico’s secret police. During the Cold War, the capital had become so overrun by Communist spies that the CIA had enlisted the help of the Mexican secret services in their fight against the Soviet Union.

MIT Technology Review • 5,256 words • 24 minute read

January 25, 2021

Newsletters; or, an enormous rant about writing on the web that doesn’t really go anywhere and that’s okay with me

Newsletters give me permission to fall in love with someone I'll never meet. Someone very far away. And over the past few years I’ve fallen in love with so many writers through newsletters! On all sorts of subjects! There are dazzling newsletters; those of grand adventures and epic mysteries and newsletters about complex systems, showing us how the world is put together. Not to forget smaller newsletters, too. Break-ups! Coffee beans! Clocks! Northumberland flower gardens!

Robin Rendle • 1,717 words • 9 minute read

January 25, 2021

The Soul-Killing, Wallet-Emptying Struggle to Buy a Video Card During a Pandemic

It was the day before Christmas, and I was in a large electronics store looking to buy a video card for a computer I was assembling. The card was two generations old, the salesman warned me, not exactly cutting-edge. There was a note of parental concern in his voice, as if in addition to his commission my entire digital future depended on my choice.

Slate • 1,499 words • 7 minute read

January 17, 2021

Make Way for the ‘One-Minute City’

In 2020, as pandemic lockdowns forced billions of people around the world to become intimately familiar with their neighborhoods, one of the hottest ideas in urban planning was the “15-minute city.” A vision for a decentralized urban area that allows residents to meet their daily needs within a quarter-hour walk or bike from their homes, the concept has been pursued as a means of cutting greenhouse emissions and boosting livability in a host of global cities — especially Paris, where Mayor Anne Hidalgo has embraced the model as a blueprint for the French capital’s post-Covid recovery.

Bloomberg • 1,711 words • 8 minute read

January 17, 2021

Camera Obscura: Beyond the lens of user-centered design

It’s 2020 and our systems are failing us. We are increasingly reliant on technology that automates bias. We are celebrating “essential workers” while they are underpaid and their work is precarious. We are protesting in the streets because of policing systems that put black and brown people at risk every day. We use apps for travel, shopping, and transportation that productize exploitative labor practices. The list goes on and on.

Alexis Lloyd • 4,870 words • 22 minute read