Televising the climate crisis

Those articles earlier in the week about climate science misconceptions were published by The Conversation as part of the Covering Climate Now initiative.

A new commitment to covering the climate story
Co-founded by The Nation and the Columbia Journalism Review, in partnership with The Guardian, Covering Climate Now aims to convene and inform a conversation among journalists about how all news outlets—big and small, digital and print, TV and radio, US-based and abroad—can do justice to the defining story of our time.

This issue is not going to go away, however intangible it may still feel.

Nature documentaries need to get real about climate change
Climate change is often visualised in the same way, says Thomas-Walters, with the image of a polar bear on melting ice being a classic example. “Having things which show the impact on humans tend to be more effective.” This could include the depiction of severe weather events such as hurricanes and floods as they affect both humans and wildlife.

And now the weather.

How TV weathercasters became the unsung heroes of the climate crisis
Local TV weather forecasters have become foot soldiers in the war against climate misinformation. Over the past decade, a growing number of meteorologists and weathercasters have begun addressing the climate crisis either as part of their weather forecasts, or in separate, independent news reports to help their viewers understand what is happening and why it is important.

And the reports are having an impact.

Elisa Raffa: ‘I love learning about how weather and climate impact everything we do’

Playing hardball

An interesting discussion with movie prop designers that just had to include this iconic figure.

The hardest props I ever made
It was very strange because I approached representatives of the company [Wilson Sporting Goods], and they were not interested at all. It just didn’t matter to them. I told them, “You know, we have Tom Hanks here. We have Robert Zemeckis, who did Back to the Future. We have this venue for this ball of yours that is incredible. And it’s named Wilson.” They were very polite, but not interested. I told them, “We’re depicting your product. It’s a wonderful character in this movie, and it saves this man’s life.”

At some point, I called back and got some kind of great sales rep. And she got it. She understood exactly what this was. She said, “Let me see what I can do.”

And the rest is history. So much so, that you can now buy your very own Wilson, as well as a variety of other movie-themed balls Tom Hanks might recognise.

load-of-balls

Feeling drained?

Battery icons shape perceptions of time and space and define user identities
“People no longer think about their destination being 10 km away or 10 stops on the tube. They think about it being 50 per cent of their battery away,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Thomas Robinson.

[…]

One of the study’s respondents described the experience of watching their battery icon throughout the day: “Full would be ‘Yeah, ok great’, good to go for the day’; 50 per cent I’d be a bit ‘Oh God, I had better stop it from updating itself all the time in the background’ … then it would be at 30 per cent and I would be like: ‘Now I’m not having fun anymore’,” the respondent said.

Do we know what’s really going on?

It seems there are three kinds of people in the world: fools that believe in ludicrous conspiracy theories; bullies that want to persuade us that established facts are conspiracy theories when they’re plainly not; and us, stuck in this post-truth world, trying to get to the bottom of it all.

What you think you know about the climate is probably wrong – new UK poll
But our lack of understanding of the scale of the issues doesn’t mean we’re not worried. In fact, recent polling of Britons by Ipsos MORI measured record-breaking levels of concern. Our new polling also shows that two-thirds of Britons reject Donald Trump’s assertion that global warming is an “expensive hoax” – and instead two-thirds agree with the recent UK Parliament declaration that we are facing a “climate change emergency, with the threat of irreversible destruction of our environment in our lifetime”.

Things are confusing enough without all these concerted efforts to massage the truth.

Five climate change science misconceptions – debunked
This organised and orchestrated climate change science denial has contributed to the lack of progress in reducing global green house gas (GHG) emissions – to the point that we are facing a global climate emergency. And when climate change deniers use certain myths – at best fake news and at worse straight lies – to undermine the science of climate change, ordinary people can find it hard to see through the fog.

It’s not just the climate crisis, of course. Remember that damned bus?

Citizens need to know numbers
The message on the bus had a strong emotional resonance with millions of people, even though it was essentially misinformation. The episode demonstrates both the power and weakness of statistics: they can be used to amplify an entire worldview, and yet they often do not stand up to scrutiny. This is why statistical literacy is so important – in an age in which data plays an ever-more prominent role in society, the ability to spot ways in which numbers can be misused, and to be able to deconstruct claims based on statistics, should be a standard civic skill.

Art down the pan

What I will always think of as ‘almost Trump’s toilet‘ has made the news again.

Busted flush: Man arrested over theft of solid gold toilet in England
Det Insp Jess Milne said: “The piece of art that has been stolen is a high value toilet made out of gold that was on display at the palace. The artwork has not been recovered at this time, but we are conducting a thorough investigation to find it and bring those responsible to justice.”

That headline-grabbing golden loo was only one of Maurizio Cattelan‘s many not-so-subtle provocations at Blenheim Palace.

Maurizio Cattelan at Blenheim Palace: blisteringly good and as subtle as a solid gold toilet
In his new exhibition featuring a praying Hitler and a felled Pope the artist plays to his strengths: spectacle, scale, shock, subversion.

Hitler in Churchill’s birthplace more shocking than the golden toilet – Maurizio Cattelan review
The Italian art prankster redecorates Churchill’s birthplace with an 18-carat loo, hideous union jacks and Hitler himself. What a fitting show for a country unravelling into madness.

art-down-the-pan-1

Update 16/09/2019

The Art Newspaper have updated their report of the story with photos showing the damage caused by the theft.

‘I wish it was a prank’: Maurizio Cattelan on the surreal theft of his golden toilet
The burglars caused “significant damage and flooding” after removing the toilet, which was plumbed in, at around 4.50am this morning. A 66-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the incident. Thames Valley Police say that a group of offenders used two vehicles during the theft. Commentators on social media fear however that the work may be melted down.

art-down-the-pan-3

art-down-the-pan-4

Close encounters with a comet

In keeping with the harsh aesthetic of that Black Rain video from earlier, here’s another look at what’s above us.

The Comet
In 2016 an exciting mission was ended. The Rosetta spacecraft made its final manoeuvre. A controlled hard-landing on the comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67p). Before that Rosetta accompanied the Comet for more than 2 years. It researched valuable scientific data, brought a lander on to the comet’s surface and took a vast number of pictures.

2017 Esa released over 400,000 images from Rosetta’s comet mission. Based on these material Motion Designer Christian Stangl and Composer Wolfgang Stangl worked together to create this short film. The sequences are digitally enhanced real-footage from the probe.

Here’s more footage from the same comet.

A stunning animation created from photos of a heavy snowstorm falling on Comet 67P in 2016
“As the spacecraft moves around the comet we see the landscape change, but you can also see stars moving in the background, and flakes of ice and dust much closer to the spacecraft flying around! It’s like something from an old movie, *but it’s real*.”

More musical glass

Not that one, but something much jazzier — men, machines, music, all combined perfectly.

Glas, Bert Haanstra‘s Oscar-winning documentary short film (1959)
A jazzy score, handmade craftsmanship, factories, machines, the 1950s, and glass; director Bert Haanstra‘s 1959 Oscar winning documentary short, Glas, is the perfect combination of so many fascinating subjects. Watch artisans at Royal Leerdam Glass Factory back-to-back with machines used in automated bottle making.

Bert Haanstra – Glas

And if you like that, you must check out his earlier film, the equally meditative though more meandering Spiegel Van Holland, or Mirror of Holland.

A day without Brexit news? Nope.

I thought I had found some interesting news about the government today.

No 10 request for user data from government website sparks alarm
While officials insist the move to share user data from the Gov.uk website is simply intended to improve the service and that no personal details are collected, campaigners raised concern about the urgency of the task, and the personal involvement of Boris Johnson and his chief adviser, Dominic Cummings.

But then something else caught my eye.

Brexit: Scottish judges rule Parliament suspension is unlawful
[T]he Court of Session judges were unanimous in finding that Mr Johnson was motivated by the “improper purpose of stymieing Parliament”, and he had effectively misled the Queen in advising her to suspend Parliament.

Scottish judges decide Boris Johnson misled the Queen
In effect, though not in express terms, the Scottish court has held that Mr Johnson lied to the Queen. Not only was the advice false, but it was known by the prime minister to be false. Mr Johnson acted in bad faith.

‘This is a huge thing’: Labour Brexit chief Keir Starmer reacts to parliament suspension being ruled unlawful after being told of news while live on stage
He told delegates: “It was obvious to everybody that not only was shutting down parliament at this crucial time obviously, the wrong thing to do, we should be sitting each and every day to resolve this crisis.

Brexit latest news: Downing Street criticised for calling into question impartiality of Scottish judges

I wonder if this turn of events has been considered in these already mind-boggling charts.

These Brexit flowcharts show just how messy UK politics is
Overall, these Brexit charts range from professional-looking diagrams by media outlets and commentators, to, in some cases, non-linear cosmoses that move in a mystifying range of directions.

But for most of us, I think, this is all starting to get a little tedious.

Brexit: how the people are using ‘news avoidance’ to escape the post-truth world of politics
The term “news avoidance” suggests that these people are avoiding reality. The underlying principle of public journalism is that readers are also citizens whose actions in the real world are based on the reality they have come to know from the news. While acknowledging that this “reality” is put together by journalists, in line with the Frankfurt School’s concept of the “culture industry”, many academics accept that “not to know” is to retire from reality.

Yet this way of thinking about journalism and its role in society fails to address the recent experience of Harris’ interviewees and millions more. For them, journos and politicos have combined to produce the “unreal”, distant world of the “Westminster Village”, a world that many ordinary people feel disconnected from, the “post-truth” world. Seen from this perspective, avoiding the news may be an attempt to escape the unreality concocted exclusively by residents of that gated community.

Every day is another chance

A nice write-up in the New Yorker about Bullet Journalling, with an interview with its creator, Ryder Carroll.

Can Bullet Journaling save you?
In the next hour, he helped me set it up. “The Bullet Journal is designed to embrace the chaos that is life,” he said. We made a meta page with my intentions for the journal and a “brain dump” for anything on my mind. He had me draw bullet points instead of a checkboxes for tasks, because, he said, “Things aren’t binary; things begin, they pause, they resume, they get moved.” We talked about the BuJo practice of “a.m. and p.m. reflection,” when you look over the day’s notes. “For us, lists aren’t just stuff we have to do,” he said. “Each task is an experience waiting to be born.”

[…]

“Only add what serves you, and be patient with yourself, because it’s a new thing. You’re not doing it right, you’re not doing it wrong, you’re just figuring it out as you go along.” He paused. “It’s another reason why I love the notebook,” he said. “It’s like every day is another chance.”

The notebooks I use for work are based on this, a little. For all the bells and whistles that the million apps and online systems have, there’s something immediate and concrete about pen and paper that I prefer. As he says, things aren’t binary.

As with anything, some people can get carried away with it all, and spend hours creating wonderfully polished, Instagram-friendly pages that would take more time to produce than the actual tasks being listed. But that’s up to them, it’s not a requirement of the system. Thankfully, as my handwriting’s appalling.

Peak wellness

Another Monday has rolled around. We all feeling well?

We’ve reached peak wellness. Most of it is nonsense.
Nourishing these interrelated dimensions of health, however, does not require that you buy any lotions, potions, or pills. Wellness—the kind that actually works—is simple: it’s about committing to basic practices, day in and day out, as individuals and communities.

Unfortunately, these basics tend to get overlooked in favor of easy-to-market nonsense. That’s because, as many marketers (including in the self-help space) are fond of saying, “You can’t sell the basics.” I think that’s naive. We’d be much better off if we stopped obsessing over hacks and instead focused on evidence-based stuff that works.

Mindfulness has been reduced to a ‘hack’ these days.

The problem of mindfulness
A third line of attack can be summed up in the epithet ‘McMindfulness’. Critics such as the author David Forbes and the management professor Ronald Purser argue that, as mindfulness has moved from therapy to the mainstream, commodification and marketing have produced watered-down, corrupted versions – available via apps such as Headspace and Calm, and taught as courses in schools, universities and offices.

My own gripes with mindfulness are of a different, though related, order. In claiming to offer a multipurpose, multi-user remedy for all occasions, mindfulness oversimplifies the difficult business of understanding oneself. It fits oh-so-neatly into a culture of techno-fixes, easy answers and self-hacks, where we can all just tinker with the contents of our heads to solve problems, instead of probing why we’re so dissatisfied with our lives in the first place.

Maybe we just need to cheer up! Let’s put on a happy face and fake it till we make it.

Against cheerfulness
Whistling while you work might be worth defending, but forcing yourself to smile when you don’t feel like it amounts to lying to the people around you. ‘Fake it till you make it’ has brutal consequences when applied to the emotions. When conceived as the attempt to trick others into thinking that you feel cheery, cheerfulness is far from a virtue. It’s a vice.

[…]

Giving up a commitment to cheerfulness would mean risking judgment for being ordinary, human, mortal. If, however, we could learn to share in the misery of others without trying to cheer them up and send them packing, and if they could do the same for us, then we’d have a shot at true fraternity, the kind that Aristotle prescribed when he said we should live with our friends. … Profound human connection and communion – in other words, love – has no use for forced cheer, and is often sabotaged by false faces. If we want to love better and seek true happiness and friendship, it’s time to cultivate honesty instead of cheer.

The armchair traveller’s hero

Yay, Richard Ayoade’s made it into the New Yorker!

“Travel Man,” Richard Ayoade’s travel show for people who hate travel
His persona is warmly amused, broadly skeptical, and gently astringent—i.e., British. He’s not a joiner. His intros conclude with him saying, in that episode’s particular city and with that episode’s particular guest, “We’re here, but should we have come?” It’s a refreshing tone for a travel series—somewhere between jumping in with both feet and looking askance at everything on earth, including the notion of fun on a weekend getaway. Where Rick Steves adopts an attitude of agreeable derring-do—in Siena, while wearing a Drago contrada neckerchief at a Drago contrada feast before the inter-contrada horse race, Steves says, “Even if I don’t fully understand what’s happening, the excitement is contagious and the wine is delightful!”—Ayoade does things like approach a toboggan on a snowy Norwegian hillside while muttering, “Generally, anything that requires a helmet, I avoid.”

A new ‘modern’ art

I’m trying to resist signposting to simply everything on Colossal, as it’s all amazing, but I thought these recent posts work well together — paintings, but not as we know them.

Glitched paintings by Olan Ventura give a contemporary twist to 17th Century still lifes
Philippino artist Olan Ventura creates lavish acrylic paintings in the tradition of 17th century Dutch still lifes. Replicating the smallest details of iconic works such as Jan Davidsz de Heem’s Vase of Flowers (c. 1660), Ventura veers off course with striking glitches and drips that shoot off the canvas edges, seeming to pull grapes, lobsters, and roses from the past into the present.

new-modern-art-4

new-modern-art-5

Landscapes by Jason Anderson blend precise pixelation and hazy abstraction
U.K.-based artist Jason Anderson creates abstract urban landscapes using pixelated patches of pastel-toned oil paint. Each work on linen has a single focal point of bright yellow usually representing the rising or setting sun, though in the painting above the illumination comes from an approach train. Anderson balances the natural and manmade by primarily featuring infrastructure—ships, marinas, trains, buildings—that appears small and distant within each pastel haze.

new-modern-art-3

new-modern-art-2

And whilst these images aren’t strictly paintings, they strike me as following that same ‘glitchy-made-real’ feel.

Photographs of animals and architecture are sliced and rearranged into bizarre collages by Lola Dupre
Spain and Scotland-based collage artist Lola Dupre (previously) continues to surprise and delight with her unusual composite images. Rather than incorporating unique individual collage elements that contrast with each other, Dupre works with repetition and duplication to build bizarrely proportioned pets, buildings, and human figures. By layering and off-setting shards of the same photo in a sort of visual syncopation, Dupre stretches and bends otherwise familiar subjects into surreal images.

new-modern-art

Discordant ambitions

Seeing orchestral music played live is a marvellous thing. Years ago I wrote about how uplifting watching an orchestra can be, as opposed to just listening to a recording.

If only the same could be said for being in an orchestra. Here’s an impassioned account from Kate Wagner of the heartache and struggle you face when you come up against the “myth of meritocracy”.

Strike with the band
Classical music is cruel not because there are winners and losers, first chairs and second chairs, but because it lies about the fact that these winners and losers are chosen long before the first moment a young child picks up an instrument. It doesn’t matter if you study composition, devote years to an instrument, or simply have the desire to teach—either at the university level or in the public school system. If you come from a less-than-wealthy family, or from a place other than the wealthiest cities, the odds are stacked against you no matter how much you sacrifice, how hard you work, or, yes, how talented you are.

Please leave. All of you.

The weather’s decidedly autumnal, but the political atmosphere got a little hotter up here yesterday.

Boris Johnson politely told by man to ‘please leave my town’ in viral exchange during PM’s Yorkshire visit
The Prime Minister was setting the scene for a “people versus Parliament” election strategy during a visit to Leeds, where he was confronted on Thursday. In footage captured by the BBC, Mr Johnson was seen shaking hands with the member of the public before the PM was simply told: “please leave my town”. Mr Johnson promptly replied: “I will very soon”.

#PleaseLeaveMyTown: Johnson’s Yorkshire walkabout goes awry
On the same day, he was castigated by another member of the public, who was not appeased by the PM’s assurances that his government is seeking a deal. “You should be in Brussels, negotiating,” the man told him. Johnson replied that the government has “been negotiating” but the man, undeterred, shot back: “You are not. You are in Morley, in Leeds.”

This headline from RT feels made up, but no, he actually said that.

Johnson says he’d rather be ‘dead in a ditch’ than ask EU for Brexit delay
It was not immediately clear how Johnson plans to deliver on his bold promise, given the string of defeats he has suffered, which resulted in the loss of the parliament majority and the adoption of a bill that actually obliges him to go and seek a new three-month extension to prolong the Brexit process.

At least there’s something good on the telly these days.

BBC Parliament: the ratings hit that’s Big Brother meets 24 – with added Bercow
True, there’s more than a whiff of disaster capitalism about BBC Parliament’s success – you can bet your bottom dollar that the figures would be much lower if the country hadn’t become a perpetual bin fire – but that isn’t to say that it isn’t extraordinarily entertaining.

Jacob Rees-Mogg’s slouch: how it compares to art’s great recliners
From Modigliani’s voluptuous nudes to Henry Moore’s laidback bronzes, Jacob Rees-Mogg’s now notorious slouch joins a long tradition of horizontal posing.

The beginning of the ‘end of books’

We’re very familiar with the assertion that printed books will soon be a thing of the past because we’ve moved away from that format. Well, that story began a long time ago.

Octave Uzanne’s “The End of Books” (1894)
The end of books has been declared many times. Over a century before the invention of the e-reader and the meteoric rise of the audiobook and podcast, ardent French bibliophile Octave Uzanne (1851–1931) wrote a story, inspired by rapid advances in phonographic technology, imagining how printed text might disappear.

[…]

One of these men — called the Bibliophile — is asked his opinion on the future of books. He replies as follows:

If by books you are to be understood as referring to our innumerable collections of paper, printed, sewed, and bound in a cover announcing the title of the work, I own to you frankly that I do not believe (and the progress of electricity and modern mechanism forbids me to believe) that Gutenberg’s invention can do otherwise than sooner or later fall into desuetude as a means of current interpretation of our mental products.

“Printing”, he continues, “is…threatened with death by the various devices for registering sound which have lately been invented, and which little by little will go on to perfection.”

Check out these marvellous illustrations or click through for more or to read this yourself from a digitised copy of Scribner’s Magazine.

beginning-end-books-1

beginning-end-books-2

beginning-end-books-4

beginning-end-books-5

Every restaurant-table will be provided with its phonographic collection; the public carriages, the waiting-rooms, the state-rooms of steamers, the halls and chambers of hotels will contain phonographotecks for the use of travellers. The railways will replace the parlor car by a sort of Pullman Circulating Library, which will cause travellers to forget the weariness of the way while leaving their eyes free to admire the landscapes through which they are passing.

Brainy people

After reading about Terry Gilliam’s views on one of his old gang, I came across this moving article from a couple of years ago about two others — Terry Jones and Michael Palin discussing dementia.

Terry Jones: ‘I’ve got dementia. My frontal lobe has absconded’
The pair still regularly have lunch together. “We chat – well, I chat,” added Palin. “But when the meal is over he makes it clear he has to move. He has to get to the next thing on his agenda and he just puts his head down and goes. I have never felt discomfited in his presence, however. There is no embarrassment. He doesn’t shout or show his bottom.”

Only taxis cause problems. “He always wants to give directions and he hates traffic,” said Sally. “That is nothing new in a sense. He always knew a better way and would always let the taxi driver know that very early on in the journey.” At this point, Jones nods vigorously.

I wonder what he’d make of this new restaurant.

The Restaurant of Mistaken Orders
The servers at The Restaurant of Mistaken Orders, a series of pop-up restaurants in Tokyo, are all living with dementia, which means that you might not receive what you ordered.

[…]

“It’s OK if my order was wrong. It tastes so good anyway.” We hope this feeling of openness and understanding will spread across Japan and through the world.

And then coincidentally I read this, about another hero to many in declining health — Linda Ronstadt on living with Parkinson’s.

Linda Ronstadt has found another voice
In the documentary, you say, “I can sing in my mind, but I can’t do it physically.” That sounds either comforting or excruciating.

Well, it’s a little frustrating when my family comes over from Arizona, because we would all sing together. That way we don’t have to talk about politics. It makes for harmonious—I don’t mean the pun—relations. But I can’t do that anymore, so I just invite the ones who are Democrats.

I don’t know much about Linda, but I adore her singing on Philip Glass’s Songs From Liquid Days album. (She’s on ‘Freezing’, with words by Suzanne Vega, and ‘Forgetting’, with words by Laurie Anderson.) Her voice is so just strong and pure, it cuts right through you. I was looking for something for something on YouTube from that album, but all I could find was this clip. Remember Kenny Everett and Hot Gossip?

Anyway, where was I? Ah yes. They say that brains are the most complicated things in the universe. You’d never be able to do something as crass as grow one in a lab, right?

Cerebral organoids are becoming more brainlike
At what point does a mass of nerve cells growing in a laboratory Petri dish become a brain? That question was first raised seriously in 2013 by the work of Madeline Lancaster, a developmental biologist at the Medical Research Council’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology, in Cambridge, Britain. That year Dr Lancaster and her colleagues grew the first human-derived “cerebral organoid”.

[…]

Since then, Dr Lancaster’s work has advanced by leaps and bounds. In March, for example, she announced that her organoids, when they are connected to the spinal cord and back-muscle of a mouse, could make that muscle twitch.

All done in the best possible taste.

xkcd hackd

I’ve been a fan of the web comic xkcd for a while, so it was sad to read of their recent security troubles.

Hackers breach forum of popular webcomic ‘XKCD’
“The xkcd forums are currently offline. We’ve been alerted that portions of the PHPBB user table from our forums showed up in a leaked data collection. The data includes usernames, email addresses, salted, hashed passwords, and in some cases an IP address from the time of registration,” the forum administrators wrote.

It does give us the opportunity to share one of their comic strips again, though.

xkcd-hackd

Security advice

See also: password strengthsecurity question, morning news, right click, and of course the big hitters Earth temperature timeline and time.

The future of the 90s

Nothing wrong with indulging in a little nostalgia now and then, right?

Do you remember Suck.com, the web’s first and best snarky internet/pop-culture magazine? It owned the show in the 90s, and I was a huge fan. It stopped publishing in 2001, but for the last four years the “Suck, Again” project has been serialising its archives as a daily e-mail newsletter, each article sent out twenty years to the day since the original.

Gen Xers rejoice: Suck.com comes back as a daily newsletter
Launched in 1995 by Wired staffers Joey Anuff and Carl Steadman — the same year as Salon.com and a year before Slate — Suck offered a daily riff on early Web culture, politics, pop culture and dating. It was done with a characteristically Gen X flare: arch, wry, ironic and smart. It was massively influential.

It’s fascinating to see just how deeply the internet and the other new technologies have become embedded into our societies since then — and just how ‘on the money’ the Suck.com team were in highlighting the issues that we’re still grappling with today, two decades later.

Like this from April 1999 — fifteen years before Alexa first appeared, for example.

Bit Rot
In the December 1998 Wired, Negroponte – director of MIT’s Media Lab and sharp-dressed retailer of broader-bandwidth tomorrows to corporate America (and to the unwashed AOL millions in his best-selling book Being Digital) – announced that he was vacating his bully pulpit on the magazine’s end page. After six years there, the man, whose audio-animatronic prose is to literary style what the Parkinsonian tics of Disneyland’s Mr. Lincoln are to fluid human movement, had decided to step down.

Negroponte’s departure marks the end of an era when Magna Cartas for the Knowledge Age and Declarations of the Independence of Cyberspace were taken seriously, at least by the self- anointed “digital elite.” Oddly, Negroponte himself seems not to have noticed how retro his Jetsonian visions of digital butlers and supercomputing cufflinks seem in the politically turbulent, economically anxious late-’90s. At the end of a century that has witnessed acid rain and global warming, Bhopal and Chernobyl, he beckons us toward a future where technology never fails, corporations are always benign, and there’s a high-tech magic bullet for every social malady.

Here’s a more favourable piece on him for 21C magazine.

Net prophet
In his immaculate Italian suit, Nicholas Negroponte looks more like an international financier than one of the leading thinkers of the information age. His new book, Being Digital, may have propelled the head of MIT’s Media Lab into the spotlight, but is he a true visionary or just a well-connected hype merchant?

For all that I might now think that Nicholas Negroponte was a little wide of the mark politically, I’ve had his Being Digital book on my bookshelf since it was first published in 1995, just next to Douglas Coupland’s Microserfs. They’re still two of my favourites. 

(Featured image c/o Phil Gyford on Flickr)