141 / Progress based on compassion, not convenience

The illiterate of the twenty-first century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.

– Alvin Toffler

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Featured artist: Tania Tania

Dense Discovery
Dense Discovery

Welcome to Issue 141!

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If you look through the last ten years of Offscreen issues, you’ll notice that my perspective on technology has changed a lot. The naïve optimism for tech – the notion of ‘technology equals progress’ – has been replaced by a deep-felt scepticism about fixing social problems with technological solutions.

There is little left of that excitement that technology instilled in the adolescent version of me – back when the frontpage of WIRED magazine talked about democratising knowledge and ‘Don’t Be Evil’ mottos graced company About pages.

Today, it feels like the old system has swallowed the new one. The tech underdogs of the early aughts have morphed into omnipotent monopolies that, instead of trying to fix the flaws of the pre-internet world, have learned to exploit them. It’s not all bad, of course, but it’s difficult to tell whether the rampant techno-solutionism we practiced in the last two decades has resulted in a net positive.

When it comes to mitigating climate change, I worry that we’re on the same credulous path, thinking that if we just put enough money, trust and power in technology, ‘innovation’ will sort it out. Our confidence in the free-market system to fix it for us seems undeterred.

“What’s extraordinary about capitalism is that it produces ecological breakdown and then tries to sell itself as the only reasonable solution to ecological breakdown.”Jason Hickel

We talk about change a lot, but never about changing ourselves. The academic Marc Hudson recently stumbled upon a paper from 1972 (!) that studied the pollution of industrial societies. It argued that...

“...pollution is basically a social and economic problem, rooted in the present irrational organisation of society, and that therefore all attempts to find a technological solution are doomed to failure because they deal with effects rather than causes. Only by creating a society which governs its actions by social, instead of private, economic rationality, can Mankind hope to live in an affluent and non-polluting culture.”

A sustainable future therefore depends on a social paradigm shift based around justice. Real progress requires social, economic, racial, and environmental equity. Unless we learn to care about each other and the role every living thing plays in our survival, technological fixes will – at best – delay breakdown.

After twenty-four issues and hundreds of interviews about innovation, progress, the future and technology, my opening remarks in the latest Offscreen try to bring home that same point (excuse the self-quote):

“What all of our interviewees ... have in common is that their most hopeful vision of the future is centred around compassion not convenience, emotional not artificial intelligence. The path towards this vision seems to require little technical innovation; it demands simply that people care about people – an idea so laughably naïve, yet so radically transformative.”Kai

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Apps & Sites

Geneva

Hangout for groups

Geneva combines different forms of communication (chat, posts, call, livestream) in one easy app. This could be a great tool for keeping in touch with different groups of friends where Slack is too much and Whatsapp too little. As always, my only concern is that it’s venture capital-funded, so who knows what will happen with your data in the future.

Hoverify

Developer tools extension

The browser extension Hoverify adds convenient developer inspection tools to your browser. Once activated, you can inspect elements by hovering over them, pick up colour values, fetch assets, take screenshots and more.

Historico

This day in history

This free iPhone app shows you historical events that happened on this day in the past, using Wikipedia’s API. It offers a handy little widget that puts that data right on your home screen – available in six different languages.

Extraordinary Facility

Visualising CO2

“What if we could see carbon dioxide in the atmosphere?” An experiment that blends data visualisation, teaching tools and game worlds to give us a better understanding of the scale associated with carbon dioxide emissions.


Worthy Five: Cliff Washington

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Five recommendations by brand strategist, creative consultant and beat maker Cliff Washington

A book worth reading:

When Past is Present by David Richo is one of the best books I’ve read on self-awareness and healing past trauma. Dr. Richo explains how we can be mindful when addressing moments of transference (the feelings and beliefs from our past emerging in present relationships) in our lives. Trust me, this is beyond the normal hokey self-help books.

A video worth watching:

Where Are The Black Designers? by Maurice Cherry is a great breakdown on the reasons for low representation of black graphic designers across the creative industry. He also gives concrete ways to fix this inequity.

A question worth asking:

‘What feeds your energy and what depletes it?’ Understanding what affects your energy levels brings you a step closer to wholeness in your personal and professional life.

An Instagram account worth following:

Artist Caitlyn Grabenstein aka Cult.Class is a collage artist that brings juxtaposition, surrealism and imagination to her work. She occasionally critiques the toxic nature of attention-seeking on social media through her art.

A podcast worth listening to:

2 Bobs by creative entrepreneurs Blair Enns and David C. Baker gives away all the secrets on how to provide value as a principal, consultant or even as a freelancer. Their knowledge has been instrumental in my growth as a leader and ‘creativepreneur’.


Books & Accessories CONSUME RESPONSIBLY

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The Day the World Stops Shopping

Is an end to consumerism possible?

Any book about reconsidering our consumption habits gets my attention. In this just-released title, author J.B. MacKinnon “investigates how living with less would change our planet, our society, and ourselves. Along the way, he reveals just how much we stand to gain: An investment in our physical and emotional wellness. The pleasure of caring for our possessions. Closer relationships with our natural world and one another.”

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Better Allies

A guide for inclusive workplaces

Last week’s issue mentioned the podcast, today I want to specifically highlight the book that gave the podcast its name: in Better Allies “you’ll learn to spot situations where you can create a more inclusive culture, along with straightforward steps to take.” A practical, everyday guide about being an ally in the workplace, even if you don’t have ‘diversity’ or ‘inclusion’ in your job title.


Overheard on Twitter

Unpopular opinion: I don’t think your life has to have a purpose, or you a grand ambition; I think it’s okay to just wander through life finding interesting things until you die.

@ambernoelle


Food for Thought

Why user-centred design struggles with ethics

Read

One of my favourite futurists/ethicists, Cennydd Bowles (don’t miss our excellent interview in Offscreen 22) with a great piece on why our user-centred design approach needs a more planet-centric, ethics-driven overhaul. “User-centred thinking has become an almost analgesic way of thinking, numbing us to the deeper impacts of innovation, both positive and negative. The current ethical crisis in technology is just a teaser of what lies ahead: we could argue that design’s most important role now is to help humans not flourish, but even just to *survive* the 21st century. So it’s time for design to abandon the pretence of neutrality and all its regressive connotations. We should recognise the responsibilities and powers we hold, and actively imbue our work with the values we want to see in the world.”

The Internet of Landlords Makes Renters of Us All

Read

I like the analogy used in this essay: digital platforms are the new landlords and users are the new tenants, constantly at the mercy of those who own and control more and more things around us. “All of this raises the question of who really has ownership in our economy? Who claims the lion’s share of value generated by productive work and captured from essential infrastructure? Increasingly, the answer is not people, but platforms. Not users, but landlords.”

How to help your kids be responsible digital citizens, from a tech exec (and mom)

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A good, practical piece for parents who are unsure how to introduce their kids to the online world in a thoughtful, responsible way. “Zhu Scott’s kids agree to point #7 which reads, ‘I understand that my behaviour on my phone can impact my future reputation – even in ways that I am not able to predict or see.’ She hammered this point home by showing her kids photos of themselves in diapers from a decade ago. ‘They were like, “Oh gross, that’s really embarrassing,”’ she said.”


Aesthetically Pleasing

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Architecture photography often looks sterile and bland, and this case is no different. Still, I’m a sucker for coherently used, simple materials that give small, run-down spaces a new lease on life. This apartment reno in Sydney is a great example. And what a view! Don’t miss this lovely video about the project.

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London-based artist Mark Powell uses a bic ballpoint pen to draw intricate portraits on antique ephemera.

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Indian photographer Harmeet Singh captures the everyday beauty of the people and landscapes of Delhi and beyond.

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Pure elegance in a typeface: “Flora is a high-contrast serif that serves to create a crisp, feminine spirit with an essence of grace and sharp modernity.”


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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.


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Older messages

140 / Ubuntu: ‘I am because we are.’

Monday, May 31, 2021

Make improvements, not excuses. Seek respect, not attention. – Roy T. Bennett Featured artist: Ray Dak Lam Dense Discovery Dense Discovery Welcome to Issue 140! View/share online → One thing I love

139 / On mental reorganising (and offsetting 40 tons of carbon)

Monday, May 24, 2021

The secret of joy is the mastery of pain. – Anaïs Nin Featured artist: Bryndon Díaz Dense Discovery Dense Discovery Welcome to Issue 139! View/share online → As I'm reaching the forty-year mark

138 / Work morals vs. home morals

Monday, May 17, 2021

Creativity is based on the belief that there's no particular virtue in doing things the way they've always been done. – Rudolf Flesch Featured artist: Lucas Wakamatsu Dense Discovery Dense

137 / The time loop of periodical publishing

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

It is not that I'm so smart. But I stay with the questions much longer. – Albert Einstein Featured artist: Negar Kian Dense Discovery Dense Discovery Welcome to Issue 137! View/share online →

136 / The mirage of ‘corporate care’

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

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 Featured artist: Maggie Chiang

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