214 / The thankless task of representing others

We must live with the ambiguity of partial freedom, partial power, and partial knowledge. All important decisions must be made on the basis of insufficient data. Yet we are responsible for everything we do.

– Sheldon Kopp


Featured artist: Dương Nguyễn

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 214!

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I recently emailed one of my local councillors and my state government representative, in part to express my gratitude about seeing progress on some issues but also to ask them to push harder on others. Both replied surprisingly quickly and elaborately. Their responses not only made me appreciate the complexity of the issues more; their genuine appreciation of my praise reminded me of my responsibility in humanising public servants.

There is a great word in German called Politikverdrossenheit which describes the general disenchantment and apathy felt towards politics and politicians. ‘They are all crooks!’ has become a default expression for our distrust of people in power.

This description is not entirely undeserved. There are people misusing and abusing their political positions. (Although one could argue that they are just ‘working the system’ as it was designed.) We’ve normalised expressing our frustration about the shortcomings of this system by dehumanising the people in it. We assume that anyone willing to participate in the shaping of said system has a secret agenda guided purely by lust for money and power.

One of the best ways to stop reinforcing this notion is to talk to local public servants. Take your local councillor for example: many of them have become involved in politics because of their own frustration with ‘the system’ as it works (or doesn’t) on the local level. Councillors are expected to participate in regular council and committee meetings with lengthy administrative (read: boring) agendas; review jargon-filled strategy and planning papers; attend community events to listen to a broad range of views; be knowledgeable of all sorts of council-related affairs; tend to emails, social media and other media requests… and all that while working in a ‘real job’ that actually pays the bills.

If you dare to look through some of the comments on social media or listen to the ‘feedback’ hurled at them at a public forum, you’d wonder who in their right mind would ever want to take on a job like this.

Representing others can be a thankless task. Those who feel sufficiently represented just go about their days, while those who do not, criticise, accuse or even abuse those representing them. From the day public servants begin their work, they don’t just represent others, they also represent ‘the system’ and automatically become another face of its many shortcomings. Sure, that’s the nature of this democratic system of ours, but at the end of the day, somebody still needs to step up, do the work and be ok with becoming a public target.

I think if more of us made an effort to seek out a well-intentioned dialogue starting with our local public servants, our Politikverdrossenheit may wane. We may gain an appreciation for the difficult, complex, unenviable task of representing others. And we may discover a surprisingly human interpretation of ‘democracy in action’. – Kai

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Apps & Sites


Search engine for all activities

In theory, I really like the idea behind this: an app that records and indexes everything I do on my computer (websites I browser, emails I read, places I search, etc.) and then lets me search all that activity in one unified interface. Of course, it’s also a Pandora’s box for potential privacy issues. While the app says the data is stored locally, the company also just got a $10m investment from Andreessen Horowitz, and with such a data hungry product that always worries me.


Open-source photo sharing

Pixelfed offers a photo-sharing experience without tracking, ads or any of the usual caveats of commercial social networks. You can join a free fediverse server or (for the technically savvy) install the tool on your own server.


Fade macOS background windows

macOS’ interface can quickly become cluttered with too many windows. HazeOver adds a semi-transparent layer over all inactive windows to highlight the active one and fade out the background noise.


Global eSIMs

Frequent travellers to different countries may appreciate this: through the Airola mobile app you can quickly add local eSIMs (digital SIM cards) to your phone that allow you to tap into the local network for mobile data coverage.

Worthy Five: Darshan Gajara


Five recommendations by designer and maker Darshan Gajara

An activity worth doing:

Take a screenshot of praise or kind messages you receive about your work. Store them somewhere you can find them easily in moments of self-doubt for a quick confidence boost.

A concept worth understanding:

The ‘Holiday Party Tactic’ for team management: while brainstorming, ask your team to visualise the holiday party for the upcoming year, then ask ‘What are you celebrating?’ It forces your team to work backward under the assumption that you’ve already won.

A piece of advice worth passing on:

Be real and useful. We live in a world full of noise and filters. Things could be easier if we stayed true to our emotions and helped one another. Ask for help when you’re stuck, then pay it forward for the collective good of the community.

A question worth asking:

‘What is my enough?’ We constantly chase growth without questioning the reason behind it. Taking a moment to reflect upon our actions can help us find ‘our enough’ and live a more balanced life.

A quote worth repeating:

‘Consistency outplays talent.’ Talent can only give us a head start but it’s consistency that helps us grow and stand out from the crowd. I’ve abided by this adage since I started working. You can’t go wrong with being consistent.

(Did you know? Friends of DD can respond to and engage with guest contributors like Darshan Gajara in one click.)

Books & Accessories


The Good Enough Job

Reclaiming life from work

Another book that questions the role work plays in our lives, examining why we attach so much meaning and happiness to labour. “Through provocative critique and deep reporting, Stolzoff punctures the myths that keep us chained to our jobs. By exposing the lies we – and our employers – tell about the value of our labor, The Good Enough Job makes the urgent case for reclaiming our lives in a world centered around work.”


Girl Online

Experiences in identity seeking

A personal narrative of one woman negotiating the internet between her identities as girl, mother, writer, and commodified online persona: “Invited to self-construct as ‘girls online’, vloggers, bloggers and influencers sign a devil’s bargain: a platform on the condition they commodify themselves, eternally youthful, cute and responsibility-free, hiding offline domestic, professional and emotional labour while paying for their online presence with ‘accounts’ of personal ‘experience’. Can a Girl Online use these platforms not only to escape meatspace oppressions, but as spaces for survival, creativity and resistance?”

Overheard on Twitter

No more emails. If you want something from me you must approach me slowly and calmly with a piece of apple or carrot in your palm with your fingers flat and extended so I do not bite them.


Food for Thought

Vehicles of Extraction


Electric vehicles (EVs) are a necessary step towards carbon neutrality, but more importantly, they present a massive opportunity for the stupendously powerful car industry to be seen in a greener, cooler light. Don’t think for a second that EVs are good for the environment – or other road users, for that matter. “When politicians and corporate leaders talk about EVs, it’s common for them to refer to the vehicles as ‘zero-emissions’, making them seem like the obvious solution to the climate impact of automobiles. But this conflates the lack of tailpipe emissions with an overall absence of emissions. The language is intentionally designed to mislead the public about the bargain we’re signing up for, leaving us in the dark about how little will really be solved by electrifying the vehicle fleet.”

The Most Precious Resource is Agency


Simon Sarris writes about the lack of perceived agency in children/young adults and how that contributes to a feeling that their current education and preparation for the future is rather futile. “By confining meaningful work to an adult-only activity, it is little wonder that adolescence is a period of great depression. It would be surprising if it was not. Even for smart children, education endlessly ushers them towards an often far and always abstract future, so far and abstract that some children seem to apprise the opposite of agency, they take on a learned helplessness, and downplay that the future is a reality at all.”

How colours affect the way you think


An interesting overview of what current research tells us about the psychological impact of different colours. “Put simply, they found that red was always the third colour term to evolve in the almost 100 languages they studied, after white and black. The longer a word for a colour was in use, the greater the number of associations, meanings and nuances it can acquire. In this way, the colour itself gains more impact.”

Aesthetically Pleasing

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My favourite internet find of the week: Urbex (short for urban exploration) is all about finding forgotten places of the man-made environment. Urbex.nl is a thriving photo community where people share their favourite explorations from around the world.

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I’m really enjoying these oil paintings by James Roper, titled Metanoia“a word derived from Greek meaning ‘changing one’s mind’. This mental shift is explored in the work through the use of semi-abstraction which encourages the viewer to enter into a visual state of limbo, where the brain attempts to pull the image together, to make sense of the recognizable parts, but instead is left with an unreliable shifting surface of altering states and metamorphic structures.” Friends of DD enjoy a 10% discount on prints in his shop. Become a Friend to access specials like this.

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Tobias Gremmler is a ‘media scenographer’ using “technological visualisations and apparatuses, moving across various art settings – from exhibition and installations, to performance, and further on towards theatre and dance productions.” His work triggers interesting emotions, from creepy to seductive but always mesmerising.

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“With its dramatic sloping (24 degrees), very high contrast between strokes, and sharp and expressive lettershapes,” Rapidissima is the italic-only display companion to the serif type family Rapida.

Notable Numbers


Developing and emerging countries will need $2 trillion per year by 2030 to cope with climate breakdown, a UN-backed report warns.


The International Energy Agency estimates that the demand for minerals used in batteries will soar by 2040, including by up to 1,900% for nickel, 2,100% for cobalt, and 4,200% for lithium.


Even as the pandemic has waned, more than 15% of full-time employees in the US remain fully remote and an additional 30% work in hybrid arrangements, leading to more time spent on leisure activities and sleeping.


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The Week in a GIF


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