Before anybody throws himself off a bridge over things written on the Internet, let's clear a few things up regarding Tom Scocca's essay, "On Smarm," which was the occasion of a grand hullaballoo last week. I love this essay: it crystallizes so many things, so elegantly and so hilariously. Its central premise is a little blurry, however, in a way that has sown confusion and grief in certain quarters. Freddie DeBoer, contributor to The New Inquiry, lost his muffin in its entirety; unable to confine himself to writing one zillion comments on the article itself, he wrote a blog post about it too. DeBoer claims that smarm vs. [...]
The event wasn’t supposed to be some run of the mill afternoon of discourse. It was anticipated like an Ali-Frazier bout of verbal sparring, and it featured two thinkers with polarized views about my favorite subject: whether technology is good for the culture.
In one corner of this New Yorker festival production was best-selling novelist and maybe-lovable curmudgeon Jonathan Franzen. He was there to represent a starchy, Luddite view. Franzen is the author of million-selling The Corrections and Freedom (and two other novels!) but others know him best as the man who defied Oprah. In the other corner was media and technology theorist Clay Shirky. Shirky is the only [...]
Déjà vu is very confusing because it makes you feel like you can see the future but only after you have experienced the future in the present. Scientist Anne Cleary is also confused by déjà vu and sorted through her various déjà vu theories with The Sims: Using the life simulation game The Sims, Cleary and her team built two scenes, different in their features but identical in their layout. The first was a courtyard setting featuring a potted tree in the center, encircled by various plants, and hanging plant baskets on the walls. The second was a museum setting that swapped the tree for a large statue, the [...]