Incidents from the past 24 hours, as evidence for a digital future strongly shaped by powerful stacks:
A friend shares a BBC story about a new UNESCO report concerning learning. The document sounds fascinating and important. But there is no link to the report itself. (This was in a Facebook group) . Recall that the BBC has long been focused on digital experiments, trying to maximize the web for itself. This wasn’t a slip.
I shared them on Facebook. This should have elicited some attention. After all, Blade Runner is one of the most famous films of all time, and the new movie has won a lot of buzz. Hundreds of people follow me on Facebook. Sixteen hours after sharing these clips only one (1) person responded. A friend who runs a hilarious YouTube series (Ask H.P. Lovecraft) tells me Facebook has decremented his work in a big way.
Naturally Facebook runs its own video service, and really wants you to use it as producer and consumer.
Speaking of video, daughter Gwynneth and I spend a pleasant couple of hours watching One-Punch Man, a fairly insane Japanese superhero parody series. This was on Netflix, so we couldn’t share screengrabs or clips.
Meanwhile, I’m continuing to read Kim Stanley Robinson’s latest novel, New York 2140. It’s excellent so far. I’m reading the Kindle version, so it’s downloaded from that walled garden, then only accessible from the Kindle app. I’ve been annotating it extensively, and those notes live entirely in that space.
My son is experiencing the first semester at university. He likes to tell me (over GChat) about class problems, not good things (he’s often like this; perhaps my critical stance has influenced him too much). When I ask him to share class documents or discussion with me, he can’t do this easily, since he’s learning how Blackboard works, and that LMS isn’t keen on sharing.
This morning I caught a story about how Google suddenly prohibited YouTube videos from playing on Amazon’s Alexa.
If you ask the smart speaker to show you a YouTube video, it fails and Alexa just say this: “Currently, Google is not supporting Youtube on Echo Show.”
Naturally Google has Google Home, a competing product for the emergent home speaker-display-shopping/IOT market.
This disaggregation, disintegration of the digital world isn’t new or news. It’s just deepening as a business practice and as a way to shape our lives.
In January Bruce Sterling observed, in his characteristically pithy way:
During the past three or four years, I’ve been going on and on about “surveillance capitalism” and the unprecedented power of the dominant industries of the Twenty-Teens, Google Amazon Facebook Apple Microsoft. “The Stacks,” for short.
And, in theory, the Stacks oughta be on top of their game in 2017. They should be launching a deft and spectacular Internet-of-Things land grab that hustles all of physical reality into their grip. Any effective resistance from the earlier industrial order has ceased. The digital imperative has taken command. [emphases added]
The excellent Naked Capitalism blog refers to those giant stacks as the “Five Horsemen of the Techpocalypse”.
This is one way for our digital future to unfold. We increasingly live in vertical stacks, media and experiences separated accordingly.
And yet. Still there remain ways to cross between and around these stacks. I learned about the Blade Runner clips from this post on MetaFilter, a web community blog that anyone can read. Every post, every comment, every tag is a persistent URL.
Maybe books are especially hopeful on this score. To go back to my science fiction reading example, as soon as I finish the book, and maybe a little before, I will share my thoughts about New York 2140 on Amazon-owned Goodreads, which Google indexes, and anyone can read. I found a passage to share with a friend, and was able to email the text to him pretty easily, even through Gmail. I’ll probably blog about the reading as well.
Speaking of blogs, Joe Biden, recently vice president of the United States and potentially a presidential candidate in 2020, decided to share his views on current politics through a blog post. Politico semi-sneers that this “proves two things: Blogging isn’t dead and neither is Biden’s political career”, but does show that blogging lives, despite repeated and interested pronouncements to the contrary.
The excellent George Station takes a different but related tack, suggesting the emergence of semi-illicit services:
For a third perspective, this summer Gordon Lockhart argued for us to maintain discussions across venues, making a practice of bypassing the desires of stacks. And I continue to press for us to go back to glorious RSS.
So, once more, we see two scenarios for the future of technology, including technology and education. One is built around increasingly separated stacks. The other pushes us away from and around and in between those vertical enclosures. What will the balance between these become?