Without Instructions

Congratulations. You Know How To Read an Email.

Another Monday, Another Naive Weekly - Curated stories on Technology and Internet Culture.

Every two-three years during my childhood Yo-Yo’s would become the thing. In a matter of months the classroom would go from zero Yo-Yo’s to literally every single child flexing their tricks.

On the Internet one of the circular patterns that seems to come back again and again is the rather simple question: What could you give a 40 minute presentation on with absolutely no preparation? I’ve seen modification of this question blossom on every single social media platform, multiple times.

The answers are often related to work. Not too surprisingly given that work is what we spend most of our waking time on.

I was thinking about the question again the other week when we were spending a weekend in the small Italian town Urbino. Our home felt basic: simple furniture, gas-stove, few electricity plugs, no central heating and no wifi.

Living in that place I suddenly felt foreign. I hesitated before making coffee and never fully understood how the warm shower worked. I looked at the furniture and realized that although it was made very simple, I’d not be able to make anything like it without watching instruction videos on Youtube.

It might be cool that I can jump on a panel about trust in technology (thanks for the invite Nicholas), curate a series of talks on the next social web (thanks for the opportunity Cecilia) or facilitate a workshop on community centers (thanks for the trust Lukas). But I am not sure whether it is cool that I don’t know how to build and maintain a home, grow food for a family and work without breaking down.

What can you do without instructions? And more importantly, what do you do without being instructed to do so?

The Internet Black Hole

  • Everything Is Getting Louder
    I grew up with church bells reminding me of the progress of the day. I remember finding it funny when two newcomers complained about the noise of the church. After all the church had been there for 900 years. Today our world is getting louder. It is no longer ambient bell sounds, but rapidly expanding data centers and technology making the background noise. This long-read is about the very real health issues of our world getting louder.

  • Time Is Broken
    It is the turn of a year and the turn of a decade. One of the things that changed in the 2010s is that the Internet is no longer a place we go onto, it is a place that is constantly here. News no longer happens daily, but every single minute. This excellent article argues we have lost the sense of time in our always on algorithmic feeds.

  • 10 Years Ago
    This week I came across this blogpost about smartphone sales from 10 years ago. Back then the total global smartphone market was less than 50m. I think we can only underestimate the political, cultural, social and economic impact of this change. Meanwhile, I agree with Farhad Manjoo and find it hard to see what technologies besides the smartphone changed our lives in the 2010s.

  • How To Steal a Billion
    Adam Neumann, the founder of WeWork, made an exit package with his main investor providing him with roughly USD 1 billion. Not a bad deal considering he basically destroyed the company. In fact it is so good that Ali Griswold calls him a genius in her latest newsletter, more than any other person in the world, Adam figured out how to play the hyper-growth startup game.

Too Short

Congrats to Uber who managed to increase revenue to $969 million by spending $1.2 billion, impressive. I really dig the billionaire tax calculator Elizabeth Warren launched so the rich can see how much they’d have to pay if she was to rule. Meanwhile it still worries good old Bill Gates who apparently find it hard to live from only $7 billion.

Facebook announced their new branding and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey was quick to mock the Facebook by Facebook logic. On Twitter one lead product manager teased new potential features for next year and Airbnb’s CEO (and head of community, lol) Brian Chesky promised that all listings should be verified by end of next year following the murder of five people during Halloween. When the two YouTubers KSI and Logan Paul had their second boxing match with millions of viewers I was sound asleep.

Reader’s Corner

I really enjoy how the conversation on horizon continues to spark thoughts. This week Antal shared his appreciation for Emily’s comments a few weeks ago.

“I read this newsletter the week when it came out but Emily's message really struck me - and since then I started taking more walks with my phone put away wondering with my eyes on the horizon, let that be objects at a distance, or buildings across the street or the sky.


Really felt uplifting and relaxing on my eyes to not constantly keep my focus short-sighted. Eye exercise is something I neglected lately and this was a good wake up call.”

Ps. happy birthday to Emily who turned older yesterday!

Naive Weekly

Hi, I’m Kristoffer and you have just read Naive Weekly - Curated stories on Technology and Internet Culture.

It has been a couple of months since the last new paying subscriber, but Saturday evening I got an email from Substack saying that a new person decided to pay for my weekly ramblings. This time it is a person I don’t know, so you’ll have to wait to be introduced to the latest naive friend until I know more. Until then, thank you. It really touches me deeply and I still really don’t get why you decide to pay.

As always a big thanks to the eleven Naive Friends who chip in every month or year to support me making time to write this newsletter: NikolajAntal, SørenDriesMikkelTina, Aydo, Lukas, Hans, mystery person & Angela!

<3

Kristoffer

Don't Read

Another Monday, Another Naive Weekly - Curated stories on Technology and Internet Culture.

Every week I enter your inbox. Adding a new unread email to your stream of incoming messages, each single email asking to be opened by you, each single one demanding your time. And while you control when - or if - you open this newsletter, I decide when it reaches your inbox.

Responding to last week’s newsletter, Alice wrote that she regrets she rarely reads my newsletter. It is bittersweet for me to read such a reply. Sweet because I am happy Alice values the newsletter, bitter because I’d prefer not to cultivate any guilt feeling by sharing my thoughts with you.

On average 40-50% of you open the newsletter. It used to bother me that this number was not higher, but now I’ve come to think that it is probably too high. What are the odds that every single week is a good week for you to read what I am writing? You shouldn’t read this newsletter when you are on holiday, too busy at work, hanging out with friends, sick or basically whenever you don’t feel like.

I’ve started to read good old physical books much more again. I truly enjoy being transferred into another world by a capable writer. I’ve also discovered that non-fiction books almost work like a real-world cheat-sheet. In The Sims you would enter your cheat code after pushing Shift+Ctrl+C, in the real world all you have to do is sit down with a cup of coffee and a book on whatever topic where you need more knowledge.

But starting to read frequently again has also been slightly stressing for me. Whenever I’d read one book, there are at least two other books I’d want to read. Like the expansion of the universe, it is a race I’d never be able to win: the list of books I want to read will always grow exponentially faster than the list of books that I can read.

The forest is abundant of trees. Humans are abundant of wisdom. Your inbox is abundant of emails. Please don’t ever feel that you have to read this newsletter. Just click delete or archive when the time doesn’t fit you. And make sure to unsubscribe when you want to. I’ll be writing this newsletter anyway. I’ll be writing because I write to myself, so please never feel any guilt for not reading what I am writing.

The Internet Black Hole

  • Delivery Trucks Are Slowing Traffic
    One-click ordering is extremely convenient. We add to our basket, check-out and within a few days our package arrives to our doorstep. However, as this really good article in The New York Times shows, our cities are not made for the scale of online shopping we see today. And with consequences from prolonged commute times and increased pollution, it seems like a problem worth tackling.

  • Airbnb Is Ruining Edinburgh
    It is not only our online shopping habits that are challenging the livelihood of cities. To the long list of cities having a problem with Airbnb we can now add Edinburgh. Regulation seems to be the only answer.

  • Tangible Internet
    If we were to take cloud-computing too literally, it was a good reminder when O’Reilly went offline last week following a wildfire in California that caused their servers to break down. The Internet is physical. The Internet is influenced by our climate crisis. See also Kris De Decker’s solar-powered magazine.

  • Work Cult-ure
    In the 30s people worked an average of 40-50 hours per week. To reach the same output as people back then we would need to work only 7-10 hours per week today. This article in aeon hits the spot when it comes to our current obsession with work. See also Existential Comics’ tweet on capitalism.

  • Goodbye Robots
    In Japan one hotel has fired half of its robots after complaints from guests and staff. The robots would wake up guest when they were snoring and similar mistakes. The actions of the robots caused the human staff to work over hours to repair the mistakes - and the broken robots. See also this Op-Ed From the Future on a fully automated Amazon warehouse.

  • OK BOOMER
    If you ever came across “OK BOOMER”, this article by Taylor Lorenz explains what it means. And if you haven’t come across it yet, I am sure you will.

  • Gender Neutral Emoji
    I’m happy that we now get gender neutral emoji with the release of iOS 13.2. It would’ve been natural to introduce these before the gendered emoji, but OK. I’m also happy with the accessibility focused emoji. The Internet is rather blind for blindness.

Reader’s Corner

This week Aydo continues the conversation around horizons.

“fun fact re horizons. i have been told that part of the reason for an increasing number of people in need of glasses is the problem that we rarely focus on things at a distance anymore. our eyes are these super cool things but we only use them to look at stuff right infront of us, possibly some meters away or whatever. but when was the last time you were squeezing ur eyes to focus on something a couple of hundred of metres away? or more specifically, how regularly are u doing that? every chance i get, i try to focus in on stuff at the horizon. it’s practice for ze muscle.”

Naive Weekly

Hi, I’m Kristoffer and you have just read Naive Weekly - Curated stories on Technology and Internet Culture.

As always a big thanks to the ten Naive Friends who chip in every month or year to support me making time to write this newsletter: NikolajAntal, SørenDriesMikkelTina, Aydo, Lukas, HansAngela!

<3

Kristoffer

This Is An Intervention

When We Have to Disconnect to Connect We Might Want to Switch On Airplane Mode.

Another Monday, Another Naive Weekly - Curated stories on Technology and Internet Culture.

Today marks one year where I have sent this newsletter every single week. It blows my mind. Next to sleeping, showering and eating there are very few activities I do every single week of the year. Therefore, I am extremely proud to be including writing to my list of exclusive weekly activities.

Back when the days were getting longer I was reading about permaculture. It was part fascination, part searching for answers to living in a less extractive, more holistic way that got me started reading about the interwoven systems of nature. As with any good search, it was not the treasure at the end of the rainbow that I took with me, rather a new language to observe myself.

Observation is key in permaculture. In one book about transforming your garden into a permaculture garden, the author emphasized the importance of closely observing the garden for a whole year before making any permanent interventions. Only when you have seen the life of the garden evolve through all of the four seasons you could claim to have reached the minimum bar of knowledge to start interfering with the natural system. Any interventions made before going through the full cycle is seen as premature, ignorant and dangerous, as you are likely to harm the complex balance of nature unfolded throughout the entire year.

Looking through my past year of writing this newsletter it is hard for me to ignore my growing skepsis of technology. Today I am constantly connected to the Internet and answering emails is one of those very few activities I do weekly. Wherever I go, people can reach me. Whatever the watch says, people can reach me.

It is convenient to scan my boarding pas, coordinate arrival time with my host and reply to the email I didn’t get to, but it has never in my life been more difficult to take an evening off, enjoy the weekend or leave work behind while being on holiday.

I’m slowly starting to interfere with this status quo. Technology promised us liberation from bureaucracies and outdated norms, but today I need to switch on the airplane mode to take control of my thoughts. I’m not sure if the answer is as simple as reversing the airplane mode, but the goal seems simple: to realign my mind and body with the time and space where I find myself in.

Thank you for reading. I’ll aim for another year!

The Internet Black Hole

  • How Silicon Valley Broke the Economy
    Usually I’d never share a book review, but Adrian Chen’s review of Margaret O'Mara's "The Code” is more than a review: it manages to tell the strength of Mara’s historical description of how Silicon Valley rose to power and doesn’t shy away from highlighting what is missing. Impressive.

  • Reasons Not To Use Facebook
    Rather impressive list of reasons not to use Facebook, or as Richard Stallman would say: reasons not to be used by Facebook.

  • What to Do With a Day Off
    Thanks to Sarper who shared this article with me I got to learn that people only send 40% emails on holiday Mondays compared with regular Mondays. The article also offers a few tips on to fight this trend.

  • Four Eras of Digital Media
    This week Instagram hosted an event in New York City about what’s next on the platform. Kerry Flynn did a pretty good thread with the main insights. The observation by an old, white, male media scholar on the phases of digital media caught my eyes. From browsing we went to search, social and now entering the age of direct.

  • TikTok Clubs
    Taylor Lorenz just switched employee from The Atlantic to the New York Times. Still covering Internet culture she didn’t need much more than one week at NYT before one of her stories made it to the front page. Read it to learn about how high-school students and teachers are welcoming TikTok in the midst of a general tech backlash.

  • What Does PewDiePie Believe?
    I appreciate the effort by Kevin Roose in this long feature article about PewDiePie (Felix Kjellberg), his world view and the surrounding controversies. Read it to understand the meaning of bro-fists and oopsies, and then tell me what you think about Felix.

  • Ryan’s World
    While Felix is stuff for the New York Times, Ryan is an 8-year old kid with an YouTube channel where he reviews toys. This week Ryan announced to his 22M subscribers that he is changing the name from Ryan ToysReview to Ryan’s World. This is our world…

Reader’s Corner

Emily made my day when she wrote a reply to last week’s introduction. I can’t agree more with her conclusion, here’s to more nature trips!

I had this conversation with R last year when we were talking on Templehofer Feld. The reason I love it there so much is because I can see for a really long way, and that's why I am so mesmerised by the ocean. I could sit for hours gazing out at the horizon watching the waves rise and fall. I try to force myself to take screen breaks to stare at the sky or trees, but in the city it's not always "worth" doing (ie, your view is very uninspired). Here's to more nature trips!

Naive Weekly

Hi, I’m Kristoffer and you have just read Naive Weekly - Curated stories on Technology and Internet Culture.

Am I the only one feeling mercury retrograde approaching?

As always a big thanks to the ten Naive Friends who chip in every month or year to support me making time to write this newsletter: NikolajAntal, SørenDriesMikkelTina, Aydo, Lukas, HansAngela!

<3

Kristoffer

Internet Escape

The suffix -scape comes from ship and shape. Ex means out. Cape means cloak. Let's get out, hidden by the cloak and shape the endless horizon.

Another Monday, Another Naive Weekly - Curated stories on Technology and Internet Culture.

Copenhagen, October 20

Unlike most of my family I was born in Copenhagen. Copenhagen is not a big city when you compare it to what the rest of the world has to offer, but it is the largest in Denmark and radical larger compared to Sunds and Lemvig, the hometowns of my parents.

Lemvig is a small fisher village in the Northern part of the Jutland peninsula. Every summer I’d spend a couple of weeks in the childhood house of my dad, spending the days unsuccessfully trying to sell stones I found on the beaches and run around barefoot to improve the strength of my foot sole.

The past years I have had a growing desire to spend more time in nature. I romantize spending slow weeks in Lemvig, visiting the long sand beaches stretching along the North Sea. I don’t think it as much childhood nostalgia as it is a desire to reconnect with endless horizons.

Today my dad and his siblings have all left Lemvig and live in Copenhagen. The desire I feel for spending time in Lemvig is strong, but compared to what the older generation express it is barely existing. Whenever we talk about Lemvig the look in their eyes changes: They start to stare, but in no particular direction.

My aunt once described her longing for Lemvig as a longing for the sky. At first I found it rather odd given that the sky is omnipresent, it is here and there. But recently I was sitting on a train out of Copenhagen and as we left the final suburbs and were rolling through the fields of the North Zealand I suddenly understood what she meant.

In the city our view of the horizon and the sky is always blocked by cars and buildings. When I am walking around on the pavement my eyes can’t travel much further than the next block. Only when I go to the roof of a tall building can I have an unspoiled view of the horizon. Contrary to the city, on the countryside the limit of the sky is in my eyes.

I write these words starring into my screen. You read these words starring at your screen. Every single day we go to work starring at our screens and return home to watch movies starring at our screens. When I understood what my aunt meant with Copenhagen missing the sky I started to think of the horizon of the Internet. Is it just me, or does it appear extremely flat?

The Internet Black Hole

  • Job Interview With Algorithms
    In the UK, Unilever has started using artificial intelligence to screen job applicants. The algorithm measures the applicant against some 25,000 different data points, from facial expressions to language. Based on the track record of previous successful applicants, the algorithm then gives a score for each applicant. Sounds bulletproof (irony).

  • Flawed Face Scanning
    Also in the UK it came out that the government introduced a passport photo checker that it knew had problems recognizing dark skin. Imagine having your lips recognized as an open mouth resulting in the machine rejecting to scan you. This is the reality we are building.

  • Algorithms Punishing the Poor
    Rounding of the stories on algorithmic justice, I enjoyed Ed Pilkington’s write-up in The Guardian about how algorithms punish the poor. In our pursuit of efficiency and automation it often seems we forget (or ignore?) that machines glitches, and when that happens I am sure we all agree that it would be nice that there is someone who recognizes us as humans, not as a string of numbers.

  • Planned Maintenance
    Fortnite made waves on the Internet when it closed down the game for a few days. In a world where everything happens all the time, it seems like a brave (publicity?) move to shut down a service. When the game was back online, it was introduced as chapter two of the game, including new gameplay features and an entire new map. I’m impressed.

  • Radical Urbanist
    Paris Marx writes one of the best newsletters on the Internet. If you are remotely interested in urbanization, mobility and climate crisis I am sure you’ll enjoy receiving his weekly updates. Last week’s issue might have been the best yet.

  • Internet Garden
    My fondness for Are.na keeps growing. My latest crush is a book project where Internet users draw a community garden. It reminds me of the Internet I fell in love with when I browse the plant submissions. It also reminds me of Aaron Koblin’s sheep market work.

  • Native Ads
    I am still trying to understand this short video showing Tencent’s plans to add extra advertisements into existing videos. Imagine your favourite movie suddenly providing an offer to McDelivery. Or even worse, imagine highly tailored ads that reflects your inner concerns in every single video you watch.

Reader’s Corner

Last week I asked whether phones appear in your dreams. To this Aydo shared this short story of sunshine.

i’ve had this recurring scene in dreams with phones connected to false awakenings. it goes something like this: i’m lying in my bed, waking up, reaching for my phone to check the time, but when i try to pick it up my hands just go right through. as if it’s made out of air, i just can’t grasp it. i quickly realize that i must still be dreaming. sometimes then i wake up for real, and sometimes i have another false awakening.

Naive Weekly

Hi, I’m Kristoffer and you have just read Naive Weekly - Curated stories on Technology and Internet Culture.

By next week I have written this newsletter every single week for a year. Without exaggerating, it really touches me that you are welcoming this to your inbox. Thank you for being here, for reading, commenting and sharing links.

As always a big thanks to the ten Naive Friends who chip in every month or year to support me making time to write this newsletter: NikolajAntal, SørenDriesMikkelTina, Aydo, Lukas, HansAngela!

<3

Kristoffer

Intergenerational Internet

If We Can't Forget We Can't Learn. If We Can't Learn We Can't Forget.

Another Monday, Another Naive Weekly - Curated stories on Technology and Internet Culture.

Copenhagen, 13/10/19

On Facebook my dad shared a link to a 20 question quiz. Usually I would not do anyone the favour of clicking on a Facebook link, but the topic intrigued me, so not only did I click on the link, I even took the test.

After providing my answers to the 20 multiple choice questions I got my test score: 12 correct answers. While not impressive, I found some comfort in the accompanying text saying that people my age had an average of 8 correct answers. With 12 correct answers I belonged to the age group of people above 60.

The test was about our knowledge of the Danish nature, covering plants, birds and related topics. Not many generations ago most of these questions would be common sense, but today the knowledge of our immediate nature is in sharp decline.

Growing up with the Internet I often had more knowledge about writing an email and was closer connected to the trends and collective knowledge of the "blogosphere” than my teachers. The Internet became a competitive advantage that grew with me from my studies into my worklife where I usually would end up in any meeting concerning anything digital.

It was my parents who introduced me to computers and the Internet, but it didn’t take long before I didn’t need their help using the mouse and keyboard. Browsing the Internet became second nature and the people I’d learn from were primarily peers in the same age group as myself.

The test about our knowledge of nature challenges the common belief that knowledge is linear progressing. While it is true that my great-grandmother couldn’t teach me anything about sending an email, she could surely teach me a thing or two about living more than 80 years on the Earth without leaving a negative carbon footprint.

I asked my dad for his score in the test. He was embarrassed of his 18 correct answers because my stepmom had managed to get 19 questions right. I think I still have a thing or two to learn from my parents, and possibly the Internet does too.

The Internet Black Hole

  • Instagram is Removing the Following Tab
    On Twitter one of my favorite past-time activities to check the likes of other people. I often find that what the person like is more interesting than what the person is tweeting and it is a feature I’d love to build into a research tool if I had the skills. Therefore I’d be sad if Twitter was to follow Instagram that is about to remove the following tab.

  • A Like Can’t Go Anywhere
    Frank Chimero wrote a wonderful short post about how product design influences the mood of a platform. Where you have to write a comment to leave a negative reply to an Instagram post or tweet, you can express appreciation by clicking like. The problem is that the like take less space than the negative comments — even when there are thousands of likes and only one negative comment. This leads Frank to conclude that many social networks have become places where we count good things, but experience bad things.

  • Faux Headphone Air Piece
    In case you don’t want to spend $150 on a pair of wearable earphones with a battery life of one year and a dubious recycling plan, but still really want to look rich, then you should consider this great deal on ASOS.

  • Phone in Dreams
    Just a quick show of hands, who has dreams containing phones?

  • Books on Instagram
    I’d love to be hating on this project by the New York Public Library where they make classic novelles available in full-length as Instagram Stories. However, it is a pretty nice project that is also well executed from the illustrations to the font. Instead of hating I hope it’ll inspire more people to try to read a physical book, maybe even in a public library.

  • Sillicon Valley Wants to Earn Money
    I wonder if it is in preparation for an upcoming recession that the Silicon Valley investors seem to re-value the aspect of building a company that involves making a profit. In any case it is a development I welcome. Let’s garden for Zebras and Snow leopards, not unicorns.

Naive Weekly

Hi, I’m Kristoffer and you have just read Naive Weekly - Curated stories on Technology and Internet Culture.

As always a big thanks to the ten Naive Friends who chip in every month or year to support me making time to write this newsletter: NikolajAntal, SørenDriesMikkelTina, Aydo, Lukas, HansAngela!

<3

Kristoffer

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