One of the most reliable signs that you need a holiday is the conviction that you cannot spare the time to take one.

– Bryan Magee


Featured artist: Mariah Barnaby-Norris

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 150!

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Yesterday, I sent out an update about Offscreen, letting readers know that the magazine is on hold without a clear schedule for its return. (The shop remains open, of course.) This possible farewell has been a long time coming. As I wrote in my post, I increasingly struggle to relate to the tech world and find it difficult to seek out stories I feel passionate about.

DD has become a refreshing alternative for connecting with you without making ‘tech’ the main focus. In fact, I feel quite excited about this newsletter broadening its scope to become even more so a tool for discovery of interesting and thought-provoking topics outside the tech realm.

With that in mind here are a few DD-related announcements:

First, you may have noticed there is a new logo in town. There was no ‘need’ to change it, I just felt like a refresh was due. The ‘tightness’ of the two letters alludes to the idea of a densely packed and curated email. As logos go, some will like it, others won’t.

Next, my little ‘survey’ about a possible printed DD zine showed strong support (77% yes from 1079 submissions). As usual, the ‘maybes’ and ‘nos’ raised some great points worth considering. I’ve decided to slow down with this endeavour and let the idea percolate some more before making a decision. More updates to come.

With Offscreen on hold and that income source drying up, I’d love to see more people join as a Friend of DD! I'll be putting more effort into making that membership worthwhile without penalising non-paying readers. Starting with this issue, in addition to access to the DD Index, Friends will see occasional discount codes pop up under some of the items featured in DD (see the Aesthetically Pleasing section below). Even from a purely bang-for-buck perspective, becoming a Friend is now good value for money.

Lastly, I want to spend a bit more time experimenting with new sections/features for DD that emphasise the notion of ‘discovery’ and make newsletters more fun and engaging. One of those ideas is a little quiz that I’m launching today – so keep scrolling all the way to the bottom!

I’m excited to see DD grow and evolve. As always, I welcome your feedback, as a public comment or privately via email. – Kai


Become a Friend of DD →

With a modest yearly contribution you’re not only helping keep Dense Discovery going, you also receive special discounts and get access to the DD Index, a searchable catalogue of past issues.


Dense Discovery is a weekly newsletter at the intersection of technology, design, ethics and sustainability read by over 42,000 subscribers. Do you have a product or service to promote? Sponsor an issue or book a classified.


Reimagine Online Fairness SPONSOR


Queue-it →

Control online traffic & treat visitors fairly

Deliver the user experience your customers expect, no matter the demand on your website or app. Queue-it’s virtual waiting room lets you control online traffic, delivering fairness and preventing crashes during high-traffic sales and registrations.


Apps & Sites

Reedsy →

Publishing apps & community

Reedsy is an interesting gathering place for people who write, edit, design, and publish books. The site includes a directory of freelancers who offer help with anything publishing-related. The Reedsy Editor app makes it easy to write and edit collaboratively in real time. It even automates the steps involved in creating ePub files.

Bookfeed →

Be notified of new books

This little tool (built on the Google Books API) creates a custom RSS feed that notifies you whenever your favourite authors publish a new book.

Ugly Email →

Stop email tracking

With this Chrome and Firefox extension you can disable the tracking pixels in emails from a growing list of email marketing services. (FYI: DD also tracks basic open/click rates. It’s actually a meaningful form of feedback for me.)

Music Box Fun →

A shareable DIY music box

Lovely gimmicks like this is what the internet was made for! Create your own music box song and share it with a friend. (Or pick and customise one from the library, like this GoT theme song.)


Worthy Five: Herbert Lui


Five recommendations by author Herbert Lui

A concept worth understanding:

Wu-wei (無為) – literally translated as ‘no trying’ or ‘no doing’, but best translated as ‘effortless action’ or ‘spontaneous action’. In the modern culture of trying harder, grinding, and strategising, wu-wei enables us to get out of our own way – which is often half the battle.

A newsletter worth subscribing to:

Dan Runcie’s Trapital is a joy to read. Through the lens of hip-hop, which is the main driving force of all contemporary pop music and culture, Trapital covers business and cultural trends. You’ll enjoy it if you love hip-hop like I do, but I actually think you might get even more out of it if you don’t.

A book worth reading:

Reading with Patrick by Michelle Kuo, in which the narrator teaches a former student, who is incarcerated, how to read again. It’s a great, real, story that explores identity and immigration, social mobility, and the neglected and invisible side of America.

An activity worth doing:

Blogging. Writing and publishing ideas of any length and subject matter, without care for analytics, clout, or personal branding, at your own space on the internet. Like Matt Clifford writes here of journalling, not only is it a great way to live an examined life, but people will contribute to your perspective and understanding of things that actually matter to you.

A quote worth repeating:

“Do not look for a successful personality to duplicate.” – Bruce Lee, Striking Thoughts (p. 173). We wrestle with doubt and self-consciousness, largely because we’re taught through our adolescences not to trust our true selves. It’s easier to follow someone else’s advice through interviews – say, the billionaire du jour – but it’s much more difficult, and rewarding, to understand and listen to your real personality.


Books & Accessories


Life is in the Transitions →

Getting ready for the nonlinear life

With discontinuity a major theme of the coming decades, being able to prepare for and navigate the many changes will be an important life skill. Life is in the Transitions “introduces the fresh, pressing vision of the nonlinear life, in which personal disruptions and lifequakes are becoming more plentiful, and nontraditional life shapes are becoming the norm.”


Entitled →

A new framework for understanding misogyny

A bold new book that explores privileged men’s sense entitlement in the age of Harvey Weinstein and Brett Kavanaugh: “In clear, lucid prose, Manne argues that male entitlement can explain a wide array of phenomena, from mansplaining and the undertreatment of women’s pain to mass shootings by incels and the seemingly intractable notion that women are ‘unelectable’. Moreover, Manne implicates each of us in toxic masculinity: It’s not just a product of a few bad actors; it’s something we all perpetuate, conditioned as we are by the social and cultural mores of our time.”


Overheard on Twitter

Passwords: every password must be completely unique, with fourteen characters all from different languages.
Signatures: the one you came up with when you were nine is fine.



Food for Thought

The Gospel of Consumption →


What a read. So, so much of our exhausting, inequitable modern lives has been strategically created by greedy, power-hungry lobbying groups. “By the late 1920s, America’s business and political elite had found a way to defuse the dual threat of stagnating economic growth and a radicalized working class in what one industrial consultant called ‘the gospel of consumption’ – the notion that people could be convinced that however much they have, it isn’t enough.”

The Simple Life of Humans →


A short, important read on why we need to find simplicity in our messaging that allows room for the acknowledgement of complexity. “Resisting such simple explanations for a complicated problem demands much more from us. It would force us to stop, zoom out of a situation, consider the level of complexity, and acknowledge the limits of our understanding – that’s scary. Accepting something as complicated is an act of humility in the recognition of the unknown.”

Minimal Maintenance →


This piece looks at the overlapping fields of maintenance and degrowth, and how both will become increasingly important disciplines in a furture of limited growth. “What will become of architecture and urban design after the world’s population, production, and GDP have plateaued, when consumption is stagnant and we are ‘forced to divert funds toward repair and adaptation in the face of climate breakdown’? ... Whether we reach such a turning point preemptively, by choice; or by necessity – because the economy and the environment demand it – architects and urbanists, like curators and librarians before them, will have to face the nature of their work outside the growth machine.”


Aesthetically Pleasing

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Paper artist Reina Takahashi twists, cuts and bends cardboard into beautiful shapes, letters and objects.

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The various photo series by Bangladeshi photographer Ashraful Arefin skillfully capture life in densely populated cities of the East. Captivating.

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Stuck in a suburban neighbourhood of Vancouver due to the pandemic, photographer Wesley Verhoeve went on 123 daily photo walks. He put the resulting work in a beautiful photobook that explores how the intentional slowing down of time can help us be more creative. The self-financed production is just about finished. Friends of DD enjoy a €10 discount. Become a Friend to access specials like this.

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What a dream job: creating the branding for the Snowy Valleys, a new rural municipality south of Sydney. “The identity is built around this idea of seasonality and time. The typeface draws inspiration from historical regional signage combined with the stencilling found on local produce crates. Imagery elevates out-of-license heritage illustrations that favour attention to detail and craft that can only be produced with ample time.”

❏ ❏

Geometric, round shapes with lots of stylistic alternatives: “MD Nichrome is a display typeface referencing the typography of paperback science fiction from the ’70s and early ’80s.”



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The Week in a GIF


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


It’s Quiz Time!

How long is a light-year – the distance light travels in a year?

Click on an option to find out.

781.76 million kilometres 9.46 trillion kilometres 19.33 billion kilometres