Most of the luxuries and many of the so-called comforts of life are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.

– Henry David Thoreau

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Featured artist: Maggie Chiang

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery
 

Welcome to Issue 136!

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I’m hesitant to wade into the ‘politics at work’ discussion because it feels like all the possible opinions have already been expressed, and most DD readers can probably guess where I stand.

What I find interesting is that so many people – folks who don’t work at or even use Basecamp – felt a sense of disillusionment over it all, in part because it collides with the progressive workplace culture evangelism that Basecamp stands for. Through their books and media presence, Fried and DHH continuously promote an exciting new alternative to the corporate grind.

Basecamp is a popular, often-cited example, but all over the tech industry companies have worked hard to portray themselves as a kind of ‘haven’ where work isn’t really work, but the by-product of people being creative and having fun. Chef-cooked free lunches, meditation lounges, generous allowances for education or parenting – many tech companies outdo themselves to keep their workforce happy (or acquiescent, a cynic may say).

Deep down we know it isn’t benevolence but skill shortages and employee retention that motivates companies to ‘look after’ their employees. Still, we become emotionally invested in our workplace. We can’t help but buy into the good feels and, just as intended, forget that a company’s goal isn’t fun times but maximum profit.

This isn’t about calling out Basecamp – not more than any other company, anyway. The current debate should make us more level-headed when it comes to our relationship with work. It should give us cause to reflect on how much we allow our identity to be tied to corporate constructs that don’t have our best interest at heart – not to the extent we like to believe they do. It should make us stop idolising corporate ‘thought leaders’ for anything other than their opinions on maximising profit – certainly not for their guidance on social or moral issues. – Kai

 

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Apps & Sites

Wakelet →

Visual bookmarking

Wakelet isn’t just a place to save your articles, videos, blogs, tweets, songs, etc. You can also share those collections in customisable layouts or collaborate with others to build a shared collection.

FigJam →

Collaborative whiteboard

On offspring of popular design app Figma, FigJam is a snappy whiteboarding software that makes collaborating on ideas with others online easy and fun. I love the many interactive features, such as quick expression emojis, cursor chats and ‘stamps of approval’.

Google Earth →

Updated with timelapse

The marvel that is Google Earth has just been updated with a timelapse feature that allows you to observe planetary changes over decades – fascinating and unnerving in equal measures.

Drive & Listen →

Global car radio

Take a drive through different cities around the world while listening to their local radio stations. (Makes we wonder if radio as a medium would change if we made cities less car-dependent.)

 

Worthy Five: Yosuke Ushigome

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Five recommendations by creative technologist Yosuke Ushigome

An activity worth doing:

Forest bathing (called shinrin-yoku in Japanese): Go to the nearest forest and lie down with your eyes closed for ten minutes.

A book worth reading:

Beatriz Colomina and Mark Wigley’s Are We Human? explores the complicated relationship between the human and design.

A Twitter account worth following:

Japanese designer Okazaki Tomohiro posts playful animations exploring... matches. Somehow his work commands attention in an unexpected way.

A concept worth understanding:

You may have heard of the ‘Fifteen-Minute City’ but a project in Stockholm is taking it a step further: the One-Minute City offers participatory and tactical ways for citizens to engage with their immediate neighbourhood.

A question worth asking:

‘Who are we listening to during the design process and, importantly, who is being ignored?’ Designers too often make implicit assumptions about the people and the environment their design aims to serve, and harm them as a result.

 

Books & Accessories CONSUME RESPONSIBLY

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Essentialism →

Doing the right things, better

I’m naturally wary of dogmatic minimalist approaches or productivity worshipping. The idea behind Essentialism sounds appealing though: “The Way of the Essentialist isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s not about getting less done. It’s about getting only the right things done. It’s about challenging the core assumption of ‘we can have it all’ and ‘I have to do everything’ and replacing it with the pursuit of ‘the right thing, in the right way, at the right time’. It’s about regaining control of our own choices about where to spend our time and energies instead of giving others implicit permission to choose for us.”

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Your Computer Is on Fire  →

The end of techno-utopianism

A new collection of essays that “interrogate how our human and computational infrastructures overlap, showing why technologies that centralise power tend to weaken democracy”. This book dives into a lot of the same issues we’re trying to highlight in Offscreen, especially in the upcoming issue 24. “After decades of being lulled into complacency by narratives of technological utopianism and neutrality, people are waking up to the large-scale consequences of Silicon Valley–led technophilia.”

 

Overheard on Twitter

Bill Gates defending IP when tens of thousands are dying globally while we sit on vaccine patents is exactly what will happen if we rely on tech to solve the climate crisis.

@jmijincha

 

Food for Thought

‘Success Addicts’ Choose Being Special Over Being Happy →

Read

Some fascinating research results and insights into success as an addiction and why chasing it won’t make us any happier. “Unfortunately, success is Sisyphean (to mix my Greek myths). The goal can’t be satisfied; most people never feel ‘successful enough’. The high only lasts a day or two, and then it’s on to the next goal. Psychologists call this the hedonic treadmill, in which satisfaction wears off almost immediately and we must run on to the next reward to avoid the feeling of falling behind. This is why so many studies show that successful people are almost invariably jealous of people who are more successful.”

Embrace the Grind →

Read

This is something I regularly experience in my work: anything worthwhile usually involves a huge amount of mundane, tedious ‘grind’ work that’s not part of the ‘success stories’ we keep telling each other. “I often have people newer to the tech industry ask me for secrets to success. There aren’t many, really, but this secret – being willing to do something so terrifically tedious that it appears to be magic – works in tech too.”

Tech keeps trying to ‘fix’ recipe sites. Food bloggers wish they’d stop. →

Read

Most of us hate visiting recipe websites – even some of the authors who publish them. It’s an interesting sub-section of online publishing that is stuck in the world of SEO-dependent algorithmic advertising. “The classic industry in-joke – that a food blogger could confess to murder and not get caught because nobody reads the posts – feels a little more true every day. But you know who cares about the life story? Devoted readers, certainly; every food blog has followers who actually do care about the writer’s life and children and favorite musicals. But that’s not really why the life stories are there. They’re there because SEO, Pinterest and advertisers all demand it. They’re a business decision, plain and simple, just like practically everything else on a given food blog.”

Cycling is ten times more important than electric cars for reaching net-zero cities →

Read

We talk so much about electric cars. I get it, it’s a big deal and a massive undertaking. But a net-zero future of cities heavily relies on two wheels, and that means we need to talk more about rethinking our urban infrastructure, not just about replacing one type of car with another. “Tackling the climate and air pollution crises requires curbing all motorised transport, particularly private cars, as quickly as possible. Focusing solely on electric vehicles is slowing down the race to zero emissions.”

 

Aesthetically Pleasing

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Creepy! Israeli sculptor and installation artist Ronit Baranga creates “figurative art on the border between living and still life, dealing with emotional states and relationships”.

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My goodness! The projects and beautiful imagery of Out of the Valley are making me long for cabin life so hard.

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Someone in Japan is massively into street lights and is building up a huge collection of photos of different lanterns on Instagram.

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FH Oscar is a modern sans serif-grotesque typeface with over 450 OpenType glyph features. I love the round and pointy italic style.

 

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The Week in a GIF

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Reply or tweet at DD with your favourite GIF and it might get featured here in a future issue.