Aeon: Quite probably, you are surrounded by many things of which you know next to nothing – among them, the device on which you are reading these words. Most of us live in a state of general ignorance about our physical surroundings. It’s not our fault; centuries of technological sophistication and global commerce have distanced most of us from making physical things, and even from seeing or knowing how they are made. But the slow and pervasive separation of people from knowledge of the material world brings with it a serious problem.
Edward Snowden attempts to explain “blockchain” to me, despite my best efforts to cling to my own ignorance.
Digital privacy has come a long way since June 2013. In the five years since documents provided by Edward Snowden became the basis for a series of revelations that tore away a veil of secrecy around broad surveillance programs run by the National Security Agency, there have been shifts in both technology and policy that have changed the center of gravity for personal electronic privacy in the United States and around the world. Sadly, not all of the changes have been positive. And Snowden’s true legacy is a lot more complicated than his admirers (or his critics) will admit.
Our representative form of government divides us but installing ordinary people at the heart of power would be transformative.
Excerpt: I’ve been reading the German social theorist Byung-Chul Han’s critique of digital culture with interest since I first stumbled upon his arresting concept of the Transparency Society, of which he is not a fan. I wrote about the Transparency Society here, but to briefly recap, the term refers to a culture of digital disclosure and mutual voyeurism that embraces openness and connectedness as intrinsic goods. In Han’s analysis, this leads to a devaluation of true intimacy and connection, which require an interplay of disclosure and concealment.
People have long used media to see reflections of themselves. Long before mobile phones or even photography, diaries were kept as a way to understand oneself and the world one inhabits.
Global Village Coffeehouse, or ‘GVC,’ is the name for a network of related aesthetics that emerged in the late 1980s and peaked in the mid 1990s, fading out of the collective consciousness sometime in the early 2000s. It’s that earth-toned woodcut spiral, kokopelli figure, tribal-themed coffee shop style that never seemed to have a name, but was omnipresent nonetheless.
“The tendency of any medium is to attract to itself types of content which are consistent with its limits. In the long run, as people get the government they deserve, so the medium gets the content it deserves.” — Marshall McLuhan
This piece was originally written by Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive, along with Frances Sawyer, in January 2018. Are.na is republishing this text in anticipation of the Internet Archive’s Decentralized Web Summit, which will be held from July 31 to August 2 in San Francisco.