It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.

– Jiddu Krishnamurti


Featured artist: Cody Lee Muir

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 135!

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Quiz time: what do you see in this image? Have a look before reading any further.

That, my friends, is the material manifestation of reckless entrepreneurialism. What you see here are the remains of failed bike-sharing schemes (click for more images). It’s one of many such bike graveyards – this one outside the city of Shenyang, China.

Remember just a few years ago when ‘reinventing urban mobility’ was the hottest shit since sliced bread? The idea had venture capitalists drool uncontrollably, throwing cash at any startup that involved two wheels. Soon after, bikes and scooters started exploding into our cities like parasites.

(To be clear, bike sharing is a great idea: make cities less car-dependent and residents more healthy. Great! But instead of a properly researched city planning approach that involved communities, we did it the Silicon Valley way: a boardroom of tech bros decided what is good for us. Flashy colours and it comes with an app – it must be InNoVaTion!)

I have to admit that I’m obsessed with material graveyard images, like this aircraft boneyard. We rarely get to visualise the greed and wastefulness of capitalism in such a striking way. The next best thing to actually seeing photos of the devastating impact of our system is to put it into a context we can understand. Like in this recent piece about the planned obsolescence of our gadgets (possible soft paywall):

As you eye that upgraded tablet, consider that Apple shipped so many new iPads last year that if they were all laid flat and stacked, they would be about as tall as 862 Empire State Buildings.

Or how about this one from the Global E-Waste Monitor:

Last year’s e-waste weighed substantially more than all the adults in Europe, or as much as 350 cruise ships the size of the Queen Mary 2, enough to form a line 125 km long.

I often think about all the material skeletons my privileged life has left behind so far: from the toothpaste tube I chucked out last month to the stroller my parents pushed me around in – all of it still exists. Somewhere. – Kai


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Apps & Sites

Calendso →

Calendly alternative

Calendly has become the quasi-default for scheduling meetings. Calendso is an open source, white-label alternative. Install it on your own server for free or pay for the hosted version.

Font Brief →

Find fonts by personality

Serious or friendly? Loud or Discreet? A different way to explore typography: play with a range of character attributes to find typefaces that suit your project’s ‘feel’.

ToS;DR →

Terms of service rankings

This project feels very ‘meta’ but it’s a shame that it exists at all: ‘Terms of Service; Didn’t Read’ is an openly edited directory and rating platform that analyses the terms of services that users need to agree to when signing up to websites. ToS;DR simplifies these stupendous legal documents, then rates them in regards to their user friendliness. They also offer a browser extension that notifies you when the service you’re visiting is covered by ToS;DR.

Radiooooo →

Musical time machine

How did I miss this wonderful treasure trove of musical exploration! “Pick a country on the map of the world, pick a decade from the 1900s to today and just let yourself get carried away by the most beautiful musical collection on the planet, selected with love, by humans for humans.”


Worthy Five: Johannes Klingebiel


Five recommendations by designer and researcher Johannes Klingebiel

A book worth reading:

Dan Hill’s Dark Matter and Trojan Horses is the one book I wish I’d had on my desk on the first day of my job at the Süddeutsche Zeitung. It helped me understand the traps and pitfalls of complex organisations and how to work with, not against them.

An Instagram account worth following:

One of the weirder Instagram accounts I love following is @urban__rocks: a gallery of rocks of all sizes from kerbsides in Tokyo. Honestly, it’s great!

A phrase worth knowing:

‘A map is not the territory’ is a helpful phrase to remember whenever you’re confronted with studies, articles or... maps. Abstractions are useful but can also be misleading because there are always hidden details and nuances. And should map and terrain differ, always follow the terrain.

A podcast worth listening to:

I’ve been enjoying Paul Cooper’s Fall of Civilizations podcast immensely. Every episode is an empathetic retelling of a civilisation’s history and its end, often featuring poems or music from the culture in question. It makes for great, though at times sombre listening.

An activity worth doing:

Take a stroll, a long walk or a hike and carry a camera. Listen to a podcast or music, but don’t go online. Take time and take care.




Sand Talk →

Indigenous thinking to save the world

Another addition to my out-of-control reading list: researcher Tyson Yunkaporta looks at global systems from an Indigenous perspective. His book “provides a template for living. It’s about how lines and symbols and shapes can help us make sense of the world. It’s about how we learn and how we remember. It’s about talking to everybody and listening carefully. It’s about finding different ways to look at things.”


Power to the Public →

A case for Public Interest Technology

Our interview with Bruce Schneier in Offscreen #23 opened my eyes to the urgent need for a new technology sector called Public Interest Technology. This new book outlines many of the same themes from our interview: “A powerful new blueprint for how governments and nonprofits can harness the power of digital technology to help solve the most serious problems of the twenty-first century.” (Also love the cover design!)


Overheard on Twitter

I think it’s possible to be an ethical billionaire if you eat two other billionaires of equivalent wealth as a carbon offset.



Food for Thought

Consider the quasi-commune →


If my intro from last week made you think more deeply about individualism, this is a great supplementary read about the downsides of our anti-communal existence in the West. “The single family home, and the standards of living that accompanied it, were once rare – but because they incentivized more consumption, they became aspirational. The dream was to escape reliance on or proximity to other people. Now the single family home is ubiquitous, but the dream that accompanied it has soured. We unnecessarily duplicate so much labor: every household makes dinner, does dishes, does laundry. We struggle to find affordable childcare, or find coverage for each other in the case of catastrophe or illness. Our safety nets are tattered because, at least in the United States, our government has neglected them – but we, as individuals, have as well.”

Against meatposting →


I grew up in a German country town and remember how bragging about your meat consumption was one of the many repulsive ways to assert your masculinity. I’m so glad Emily Atkin gives it a name and calls it out. “In America, we’re taught from a young age that the coolest thing in the world is to be a big man with a big car who eats big meat. This is part of our deeply embedded culture of petromasculinity. It’s why people still get weirdly furious when you suggest eating carrot hot dogs instead of regular hot dogs on the Fourth of July.”

I Called Off My Wedding. The Internet Will Never Forget →


Lauren Goode prepared for a wedding but then decided to cancel it. She is happy with her decision. The internet, however, insists on her getting hitched. A great piece about the flawed logic of algorithmic advertising and recommendation engines. “If we already are part cyborg, as some technologists believe, there is a cyborg version of me, a digital ghost, that is still getting married. The real me would really like to move on now.”


Aesthetically Pleasing

❏ ❏

The remarkable artworks by Armenian painter Artush Voskanyan reveal a ‘hidden’ visual story told through carefully placed elements.

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Look at this dynamic, fun brand that design heavyweight Koto created for apprenticeship startup Multiverse.

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Under the label Visual Citizens former architects Shali and Adam Kelly show off their digital visualisation skills, mixing dreamy pastel colours and floral themes.

❏ ❏

Stellage is a compact, versatile geometric serif typeface with sharp, confident edges.



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