Picture: visibility by Jae Aquino from the Noun Project

The more frantic we become about the wickedness and power of the platforms, the more we confirm that power. The more action we demand of police and legislators, the more we confirm their exceptional status, their transcendence.

The standard position now —in the mainstream anyway — is that the social media platforms ‘wield too much power’, that they operate vital infrastructure recklessly, endangering democracy, threatening free speech, exposing our kids to harm, silencing the righteous and platforming the wicked and that they’re impossible to do without.

The premise is that the platforms are so very very important, that they’ve come to fill a vital, irreplacable public role. That they’re ‘the new public square’ — our agora —but also that they’ve evolved into a hideous, out-of-control threat to liberty, happiness and democracy.

(there are places where the platforms…

We built the wrong internet — instead of a democratic, participatory playground we built something predatory and exploitive. The solution is awkwardness, friction — Bluetooth!

(Listen, do not @ me about this. I know everything evil about the current internet could ultimately be reproduced in a more constrained environment, I know Bluetooth is probably not the actual model for a post-predatory internet (are there other models? Name them in a comment) and I know Bluetooth sucks in all sorts of ways. Humour me).

Here’s the problem, back then (I’m talking about the early 90s — but the period of internet hopefulness goes back much further than that and really started before the net even existed, to the 1950s and 60s), when we had the choice…

I learn that Photoshop is thirty. The small revelation that goes with this information is that I’ve been using Photoshop for thirty years.

A screenshot from an early Photoshop demo

That’s more than half of my life so far. I began using it in my twenties, at the other end of the 1990s, under Margaret Thatcher, under George H.W. Bush, before the first Gulf War, before the Internet had escaped from the Universities (before the web had escaped from that cave under Geneva).

The other revelation, the bigger one tbh, is that it’s possible for a person to spend three decades using a tool fairly regularly without ever acquiring more than the most elementary competence. I’m still a total amateur. I have no idea how to do any but the…

It’s a disaster. There’s no point messing around. Let’s kill it now.

(note: I wrote this quite a long time ago so some of the facts, and possibly some of the opinions, are out of date).

Bitcoin (and its many mutations and outgrowths) is a planetary-scale mistake, a whiny tech-bro fantasy and an environmental catastrophe that’s already happening. A sane world would pass a UN resolution, add a Bitcoin annexe to the Paris agreement, reclassify the Blockchain as an illegal weapon and pull the plug on the whole cryptocurrency disaster.

The problem is Proof of Work, the admittedly ingenious technology that underlies Bitcoin and substitutes the deliberate expenditure of energy for old-fashioned…

InstaPope is our Sistine Chapel

Popes are active in the culture. They’re not above it or off to one side. That’s obvious. The current Pope, Francis, is on two of the big social media platforms — Twitter and Instagram . Not Facebook, surprisingly, and not Snapchat. Although there was a very popular Snapchat Pope filter when he visited the US in 2015. And he’s not on the big non-US platforms either (in China, the Catholic Church now recognises the Government-appointed bishops, so maybe they’ll let him have a Weibo account some time).

Picture by Gauthier Delecroix

Update, 9 February 2019. In this post, written last year, I predicted that the glorious chaos of podcasting would begin to consolidate and that one big corporation would try to do a Netflix and begin to build a big library of exclusive audio. I may have got the name of that corporation wrong — in fact I relegated them to an appendix in the original post— but Spotify just made their move and it looks like the consolidation has actually begun…

If podcasting is going to become a real business it’s going to have to leave the commercial dark ages…

My Facebook friends obviously skew a bit metropolitan, a bit Nowhere, but I don’t think I was expecting exactly this level of Euro-melancholy when I asked them to recommend Brexit books. Not books about Brexit, but books that might provide some history, context, back-story— from anywhere on the spectrum really. There are some lovely books here, intriguing choices (and some flippant ones too, obvs). But you’ll notice that pretty much all of them are from the worldly, rootless, Eurostar end of things — and with the emphasis on Europe and not on Britain… Is that interesting? Of does it just…

This is not about the 90% of podcasts that are still three people at a table talking about something. Nor is it about all those podcasts that are basically a byproduct of radio production. It’s about the new stuff — the bigger, glossier, narrative formats that are going to change audio and storytelling for good. This is part one of a two-part series. Part two is about the platform battle

Podcasting is evolving fast. There’s a strong sense that we’ve passed some kind of tipping point, that this is how we’re going to consume audio (the stuff that isn’t live…

Is any of it still true?

(I think it was for Fraser Lewry at the late, lamented Word Magazine)

DIARY PRODUCTS Where have all the bloggers gone?

Bloggers have inherited the role of the essayist, of the sceptical observer taking aim from the outside, a hugely influential part of contemporary media

Remember the blogs? Online journals kept by web media pioneers in the old days. Five years ago, they were going to change the world. They were going to overturn the bloated, unaccountable media hierarchy and replace it with a vigorous publishing grassroots — a kind of distributed fourth estate with none of the baggage of the old one.

By now we were all…

(Warning: this starts trivial and then gets sad pretty quickly. Sorry.)

I‘ve been on Twitter for twelve years.

That’s one fifth of my life and 46,000 tweets. At one minute each, that’s a month of continuous tweeting. At eight hours per day and with two days off per week that’s getting on for six months of writing. If I’d been paid for all that work I’d be… Actually, why would I go there? So here’s a souvenir of that first month, learning my way around this new world. My first 49 tweets, in order (and with some extra context).

Tweet number 1 — 10 February 2007

Steve Bowbrick

I’m a trustee at the amazing Poppy Academy Trust, a social media editor in radio, a poet and a volunteer at Watford Refugees.

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