When I’m asked – often – "isn’t Eigg a long way away?", I reply "from where?" Everywhere is a long way from somewhere, and with digital technology bridging the gaps between creation and consumption, between ideas and the market, who is a long way from whom?
The Isle of Eigg, 12 miles off the northwest coast of Scotland, is remarkable in many ways. Eigg is community-owned, generates its own off-grid electricity from renewable sources, has a population of just less than 100, and a vibrant creative hub of island-based businesses and visiting artists.
"It's true. I read it on the Internet". This line is regularly spun by people as a humorous, throwaway comment. But, years after it was first coined, British media regulator Ofcom has reported that for 1 in 5 teenagers, it remains true.
Well that was vile, wasn’t it? Let’s accept that there’s little or nothing edifying I can say about Paris and associated issues and move on - except that I was watching Question Time last night and a few things struck me which I will share in passing:
You know what? I don’t know enough about any of this to have a cast-iron position on airstrikes, the Middle East, Islam or any of the rest of it, and neither do you (unless you have access to Cabinet-level intelligence, perhaps,or your an expert in the millennial sh1tstorm that is the whole region). Just bear this in mind.
There was someone, I forget who, on Question Time last night, who got annoyed with someone for ‘muddying the waters’ by bringing up the wider Middle East in the context of this. Leaving aside the bare-bones idiocy of that position, these are waters that are filthy with blood and oil and money; you can’t muddy them, because they are fcuking murky already.
I read someone writing on Twitter somewhere that ‘this is weather now; you can’t stop weather, you just mitigate against it’. That struck me as depressingly accurate.
Anyway, noone needs or wants this, so by way of light relief let me share with you a brief vignette from my life last weekend which may amuse.
I was on the Tube going into town, when I spotted a crumpled flyer on the seat across from me. Being well into found oddities (I own several editions of this, for example, which is EXCELLENT), I picked it up. Here it is:
Odd, eh? I mean, I’m not into spanking (too much information, I know, but I feel it’s important to clarify these things at the outset), but it’s sort of curious, right? Even curioser - on the reverse were the name and bank details of one Ishmael Skyes, who I obviously Googled later that evening when drunk and discovered was the doyenne and coordinator of a certain London spanking and CP (Corporal Punishment, apparently, with a tendency towards school uniforms and very British discipline) community, which was holding a spanking party in South London that very Sunday, tickets to which were £20. Not only this, but the party was being held under the aegis of a certain insitution, active since the mid-80s, specialising in this sort of school-themed fetishism. The institution’s name?
You know when sometimes it just feels like the universe is speaking to you? I mean WHAT ARE THE CHANCES that I would find a flyer on the tube for some weird S&M fetish club based around a school of punishment and domination bearing my actual name? I have been properly weirded out by this all week, and have avoided speaking to my Dad in case there’s some sort of dark family history I’ve never been told about. Christ knows what the universe is saying, in any case. It's probably telling me I need punishing, which is pretty accurate as it happens.
Anyway, that was something non-atrocity related which happened this week, and which I hope has somewhat lightened your mood in what has been, in no uncertain terms, a pig of a week. Without any further ado, let’s plunge headlong into the lost property cupboard of the internet - remember, you’re going to have to put SOMETHING on or you’re doing games in your pants. THIS IS WEB CURIOS!
It’s a long-held dystopian idea that robots will take over the world and humans will become slaves to them. It’s an idea that Ray Kurzweil describes in his book, The Singularity is Near.
Some say, the way that humans are in constant eye contact with screens – often our relationship with our smartphone – we have already reached a point where we are slaves to technology. However, this isn’t what Kurzweil was describing; he was talking about technological intelligence.
#OpParis, the Anonymous campaign to down the Internet presence of ISIS, has been bolstered by the publication of a guide for people wanting to get involved. However, ISIS has been on the attack, launching a site in the dark web to an ever-increasing audience.
Airbnb, Dropbox and Reddit are all companies that emerged out of tech accelerators. These incubators of talent have been a crucial component in turning tech start-ups into businesses that can stand on their own two feet. As well as giving needy new companies financial support and office space, they play an important role in helping them develop through mentoring.
So it’s good news that the number of accelerator programmes is set to increase in the UK, to support what is one of the world’s most dynamic start-up clusters and the most prominent start-up ecosystem in Europe. But, as this takes place, there’s a huge need to address the industry’s gender imbalance. My research into tech accelerator programmes has found many (often unwittingly) cater for men over women.
So this morning I unaccountably woke up 75 minutes late (not unaccountably at all, I just forgot to turn on my alarm) which means that I had even less time than normal to write all this crap and which crap, as a result, is a little shorter and more pared back than normal. Sorry about that.
Although I don’t know why I’m apologising - I know it’s too long, and that that’s an ISSUE. Which is why (note the SEAMLESS SEGUE here) the clever man that is Shardcore has built THE WEB CURIOS BOT! Yes, as of this week, if you follow Imperica on Twitter you will receive, each hour, a link from the previous week’s Curios, with a screencap of the accompanying sparkling prose, so you can ‘enjoy’ it all in bite-sized chunks. I mean, I would say this, but it is SO USEFUL; do let us know what you think of it as a development. Oh, and if you think there would be value in a separate bot doing the same thing for the whole Curios archive (many THOUSANDS of links) do let us know and we will try and sort it (or lock Shardcore in a basement until he’s done it; either/or).
Anyway, I am spaffing on and I can’t afford to waste the time. Let’s MOVE, people, weaving through the thick linkforest, trying not to get snagged on the bark, and perhaps stopping a little too often to taste the assorted berries and fruits - they’re probably not poisonous, though don’t quote me on that. This, as ever, is WEB CURIOS!
Yang Yu of Tencent's Xuanwu Lab has demonstrated a rather gaping hole in the design of the airline boarding pass: you can put anything into the barcode, and thus use it to take over the scanner's computer.
Street art – as well as its artistic forebear graffiti – are often thought of as radical, rebellious aesthetic practices. Both the artists and their works are portrayed as the very definition of “edgy”; dangerous and dissident, but also creative and avant-garde. Yet within the last five years or so, street art (and I use this term here in distinction to graffiti) has been commandeered by the corporate interests of the “creative city”.
The Christmas campaign for British supermarket chain Asda has gone down very well this year. Eschewing the dewy-eyed wistfulness of the ubiquitous John Lewis ad for something a little more playful, it's good fun. However, there's something small in the campaign's TV ad which caught our attention.