What happens when the town hall goes digital?
Let no one fault local governments for hiding from the networked era. Nearly every official and government agency in a major metro area uses Facebook and Twitter, and some cities have hosted app development contests to get their citizens coming up with ways to use public data for good. Local electeds can even establish their popular bona fides simply through the assiduous use of social media. READ MORE >>
The awkward art of writing about sex
Since my fiction is usually about people, and I consider sex one of the more important and emotionally fascinating activities people undertake, sometimes I must run the gauntlet of writing a sex scene. The results vary, though I try to make a habit of not publishing the many occasions when things don't work. "Don't worry," I console myself, stroking my arm. "It happens." READ MORE >>
Do low fertility rates spell economic collapse?
Forget the debt ceiling. Forget the fiscal cliff,” wrote Jonathan Last, “The root cause of most of our problems is our declining fertility rate.” This view, as recently expressed in The Wall Street Journal and at greater length in Last’s new book, What to Expect When No One’s Expecting, holds that a decline in fertility rates (the average number of children born per woman) means nothing less than the end of civilization as we know it. READ MORE >>
In the current issue of The New Republic, Evgeny Morozov offers a critical take on Steven Johnson's Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked Age, lamenting the “quasi-religion” of “Internet-centrism.” In his response below, Johnson says his book "actually goes out of its way to avoid that kind of naive techno-determinism." And Morozov, in a rebuttal, concludes that "Johnson doesn't understand the substance of my critique." READ MORE >>
Closure, for Sam Lipsyte, is generally a sign that things have hit rock bottom. READ MORE >>
There are two ways to be wrong about the Internet. One is to embrace cyber-utopianism and treat the Internet as inherently democratizing. Just leave it alone, the argument goes, and the Internet will destroy dictatorships, undermine religious fundamentalism, and make up for failures of institutions.1 READ MORE >>
The shocking news that Goldman Sachs is greedy
Twenty five years ago I quit a job on Wall Street to write a book about Wall Street. Since then, every year or so, UPS has delivered to me a book more or less like my own, written by some Wall Street insider and promising to blow the lid off the place, and reveal its inner workings, and so on. By now, you might think, this game should be over. READ MORE >>
What the reviled chain did for literary culture
Allow me a moment to sing the praises of Waldenbooks—yes, Waldenbooks, the Borders subsidiary that privileged grab-and-go buying ahead of casual browsing. It was the kind of place you went when you needed to buy a book but didn’t particularly care for bookstores. READ MORE >>
How an eccentric photographer invented modern visual culture
The coin of the realm in today’s techno-visual culture is the GIF, a file that supports brief animations repeating endlessly. GIFs had a moment of particular resonance last summer, when extraordinary displays of athleticism from the Olympics were converted from full video into short loops, recurring endlessly, devoid of meaning aside from the aesthetic. READ MORE >>
Andy Carvin tweeted the Arab Spring. He still missed something by not being there.
During the most heated days of the Tahrir Square protests, Andy Carvin sent more than 1,000 tweets per day. He kept at it for 18 hours at a time, aggregating and crowdsourcing information from activists, freedom fighters, and (citizen) journalists. He submitted to sleep only as a biological necessity. READ MORE >>