Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.

– Anne Frank


Featured artist: Gundersons

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 178!

View/share online

In a recent call with my almost inconsolable mum back in Germany, I tried to explain to her (again) the problems with having constant access to gloom-ridden news. She doesn’t seem to appreciate the mental health implications of carrying around this phone-shaped news ticker, notifying her every few minutes of all the horrors in the world.

To persuade her to delete the news apps from her phone, I was searching for a good article about balancing news and mental health, when I came across James Greig’s essay ‘Stop making the Ukraine war about you’. Greig offers a compelling counter-argument to the popular self-care advice, suggesting that a victim mentality simply prioritises our own entitlement not to feel troubled:

“The invasion of Ukraine is not something that is happening to us, and I don’t think claiming to be traumatised secondhand by it is suggestive of real empathy. It is, in fact, a corrosive impulse to make yourself the victim of a tragedy which is happening to other people, to hear about their suffering and prioritise your own self-care.” (...)

“Wry, world-weary apocalypticism has become the most viscerally annoying genre of internet humour. Apart from anything, it’s just boring, trite, and unfunny to be tweeting about ‘living through the literal end of days’, when you’re sitting cosy in your flat, ordering Deliveroo and watching Netflix. It’s an expression of real anxieties, I think, but there’s something smug about it. It’s gallows humour for people who aren’t really on the gallows.”

Greig touches on a nerve here. His perspective will sit uncomfortably with those who have been repeatedly told to prioritise self-care. I think Greig makes some great points, even though it’s an incomplete argument. The recent focus on mental health and self-care is a response to the accumulative effects of many interlinked issues: our media/tech addiction, the sickening dynamics of the ‘attention economy’, the general precarity of the future – to name a few.

Taking a break from news media is important, if only to develop a better understanding of our emotional response to it. The mindless doom-scrolling is neither good for our mental health, nor for our ability to experience real empathy. Instead of trying to avoid ‘negative feelings’ (the currency of the news business), we should be more concerned about how we can make our attention count. – 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 design, technology, sustainability and culture, read by over 36,000 subscribers. Do you have a product or service to promote? Sponsor an issue or book a classified.


Let’s Create a Product TogetherSPONSOR


Pathfinder Studios →

A product studio like nothing on Earth

Building an app is complex. Sometimes getting there can feel like charting a course to Mars. So we reimagined the product studio. One where we exclusively build joyful interfaces, partner for the long haul, and share our economics with you because it’s the right thing to do.


Apps & Sites

Focusmate →

Virtual co-working

‘Ambient’ virtual co-working works like this: you set a time, then get coupled with a vetted co-worker via video call, then you both get to work on your own thing. Since I first mentioned it here (DD32), it has grown into a lively community of co-workers. For this issue of DD, Focusmate created a special DD group where – if enough readers are online – you might be coupled with a DD subscriber. Friends of DD also enjoy 20% off for 3 months. Become a Friend to access specials like this.

Bitwarden →

Free, open-source password manager

I used to send people not willing to pay for a password manager to Lastpass. Today, there are more (and better?) options out there. Bitwarden is one of them: it’s free and open source, and received good reviews from sites like Wirecutter. If you’re using Bitwarden, share your experience in the comments! I’m contemplating moving away from 1Password.

Make →

Task automation

Make is an alternative to Zapier, with a more visual, no-code task builder that lets you automate steps from a growing range of apps. I’d be curious to know how much they paid for that domain name!

Pricing Psychology →

A list of pricing techniques

A well-presented list of psychological principles applied to the pricing of products. Not only useful for people selling products, but also for people trying to better understand how these techniques are used to persuade them to purchase things.


Worthy Five: Morgan Lee Cataldo


Five recommendations by community design and engagement innovator Morgan Lee Cataldo

A concept worth understanding:

Systemic trauma. There’s a lot of individualising of the effects of trauma and what individual people should do about it, without a broader understanding of how ongoing systemic trauma affects communities as a whole. Trauma is an ‘all of us’ problem, not a ‘those broken people over there’ problem. We are all complicit.

A question worth asking:

“How do you deal with things you believe, live them not as theory, not even as emotion, but right on the line of action and effect and change?” by Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich, 1979. People seem to spend an awful lot of time talking and ‘ideating’ and although that has a place, I want to know how people are actioning and living what they believe. Theory is important, but an obsession with theory at the cost of praxis moves us towards further inaction.

A book worth reading:

Conflict is Not Abuse by Sarah Schulman. We’ve really got to get better at conflict, especially generative conflict and accountability practices. If we want systems to do better, then we have to get better at how we are in relationship with each other because people make up systems.

A piece of advice worth passing on:

“Watch for the system reproducing itself through our efforts.” by Nora Bateson. There’s a lot of people doing a lot of stuff but the stuff isn’t necessarily what communities want or need. Without critical reflection and a commitment to ‘unlearning’ or ‘sense-un-making’ (nod to Dare Sohei) and getting uncomfortable, we continue to reproduce and deepen the same dynamics that got us here in the first place.

A quote worth repeating:

“If you have come to help me you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” by Lilla Watson and Aboriginal Activists Group, in Queensland in the ’70s. Nobody is free until we’re all free. Solidarity over saviourism and charity. Observe how the dynamics over ‘power over’ and domination continue to sit at the very core of ‘doing good’.


Books & Accessories


Tracking Wonder →

Cultivating creativity & curiosity

If you enjoyed Helen De Cruz’ recent article on the transformative power of wonder (DD175), this book offers more practical insights and guidance on how to rekindle a sense of curiosity about the world. The author Jeffrey Davis “invites us to discover how wonder dissolves our rigid ways of seeing and thinking, allowing us to glimpse anew what is true, beautiful, and possible – and how to then bring our insights to fruition.”


Patriarchy Blues →

Reflections on manhood

An internet friend of mine got a preview copy of this book (official release in May) and found it to be an inspiring contribution to the discussion about ‘manliness’ in the 21st century. “In this thought-provoking collection of essays, poems, and short reflections, Frederick Joseph contemplates these questions and more as he explores issues of masculinity and patriarchy from both a personal and cultural standpoint. From fatherhood, and ‘manning up’ to abuse and therapy, he fearlessly and thoughtfully tackles the complex realities of men’s lives today and their significance for society, lending his insights as a Black man.”


Overheard on Twitter

They’re only ‘oligarchs’ if they come from the Oligarch region of Russia. Otherwise they’re just sparkling job creators.



Food for Thought

The Internet Is Just Investment Banking Now →


Ian Bogost with an excellent piece about the financialisation of not just the internet, but also our immediate, real-world environment. Viewed through this lens of financialisation, Web3 sees investment assets everywhere: whether it’s songs, parks, stars or even colours. “First the internet made it easy for people to conduct their lives online. Then it made it possible to monetize the attention generated by that online life. Now the digital exhaust of all that life online is poised to become an asset class for speculative investment, like stocks and commodities and mortgages. ... It is, in a way, the most honest turn of the internet epoch. From the start, online businesses have presented themselves as making culture, even as they really aimed to build financial value. Now, at last, the wealth seeking is printed on the tin.” (Possible soft paywall)

Stop making the Ukraine war about you →


James Greig makes a compelling argument to stop talking about our trauma as witnesses of what’s happening in Ukraine. “If you live in the UK and have loved ones in any conflict-affected area, then to be troubled by what’s happening in the news is simply a fact of life. It’s rarely the case that you are offered the same sympathy being afforded now to random people who spend too much time on Twitter. While presenting itself as progressive, the expectation that the invasion of Ukraine ought to be uniquely harrowing for us to hear about reproduces the same hierarchy of suffering as the commentators arguing that the situation is particularly bad because it’s happening to ‘civilised’ Europeans, people with ‘blonde hair and blue eyes’; people who ‘watch Netflix and have Instagram accounts.’”

Is the ‘Future of Food’ the Future We Want? →


At the Food on Demand conference in Las Vegas, writer Jaya Saxena tries to understand the future visions of entrepreneurs and innovators in the food and restaurant space. Unsurprisingly, what she finds is a vision of tech-driven convenience, powered by drones, ghost kitchens and overworked staff. “...consumers have basically always had their restaurant meals subsidized by poverty wages, and so far, the entire delivery industry has been set up so that the consumers are shielded from how much this convenience truly costs. That disconnect has become more pressing as delivery has become all but a necessity for many restaurants. Restaurant owner Andrew Ding told Eater’s Land of the Giants podcast that delivery apps have ‘morphed into ... basically modern-day mafia,’ insisting restaurants need them or they’ll perish.”


Aesthetically Pleasing

❏ ❏

In his stunning photo series Daily Bread, Gregg Segal visualises the impact of globalisation on diets around the world. Don’t miss his other series, Un-Daily Bread, that brings awareness to the crisis of refugees fleeing Venezuela, showing the mothers and their kids who aren’t getting enough to eat.

❏ ❏

Melbourne-based Bianco House is an extension of an existing Edwardian-era home that tucks a second level neatly behind its original silhouette. I really like the minimal and restrained palette that works with light and texture to highlight the natural beauty of the materials used.

❏ ❏

The Inspiring Engineering Instagram channel collects interesting engineering challenges and industrial design case studies, some of which are really quite astounding.

❏ ❏

The acute triangular terminals of the Noe type family add a certain fierceness to the usual elegance of high-contrast serif type. Noe contains three sub-families: Display, Standard and Text.


Did You Know?

‘Pot-valor’ is the courage induced by the consumption of alcohol.

Also known as ‘liquid courage’ or ‘Dutch courage’, the word ‘pot-valor’ (also ‘pot-valiant’) describes the boldness and courage that one feels after consuming alcohol. The word is a combination of pot (alluding to a drinking pot) and the Latin valor, meaning ‘worth’.



Bored Horse is not about NFTs or horses. It’s a site and newsletter about the intersection of tech and culture. So, sure, that could involve NFTs or horses, but probably not!

Ready to clear your mind? Clear your home first. The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Home is infused with minimalist and mindfulness principles, so you can be less overwhelmed.

Get the free IdeaEconomy newsletter - a weekly curation of the best content for the Creator Economy. Build your audience. Grow your business.

VCs from top funds like Sequoia, Greylock, and Bessemer read John Gannon’s VC Newsletter. Subscribe to learn what the smartest VCs & Angel Investors are thinking and saying.

Classifieds are paid ads that support DD and are seen by our 36,000 subscribers each week.

Book yours →


The Week in a GIF


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