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On the Social Network

Our existing social networks turn out to be antisocial: they all represent ways of avoiding—rather than participating in—the struggle for recognition.


Hell: The New Strategy for Dealing with Damnation
[Meghan O’Gieblyn]

It goes without saying that pastors who are trying to “sell” God won’t mention hell any more than a Gap ad will call attention to child labor. Under the new business model, hell became the meatpacking plant, the sweatshop, the behind-the-scenes horror the consumer doesn’t want to know about. Once I became aware of what was missing, it was almost a game to watch the ministers try to maneuver around the elephant in the room.

Putin and the West: The Politics of Eurasianism
[Brickey LeQuire]

Perhaps Putin is a megalomaniac myopically succumbing to his lust for power. But a more plausible explanation for Putin’s recent decisions is that he is neither economically illiterate nor libidinously violent, but motivated instead by political commitments that we do not fully understand. In recent years, an anti-liberal, anti-Western political doctrine known as Eurasianism, or neo-Eurasianism, has gained popularity not only with Russian voters but also among some regime officials.

The Exile’s Game: Duchamp, Modernism and the Art of Chess
[Thomas Chatterton Williams]

In a letter back home to France from New York, where he lived after the War, Duchamp acknowledged that “the only thing that could interest me now is a potion that would make me play chess divinely.”

Foes of God: Don DeLillo’s Cosmopolis
[Ben Jeffery]

From a certain angle, DeLillo’s story might look like a cynical parody of protest art, or else some oblique argument to the effect that authentic anti-capitalism is impossible. But it would be better to say that Cosmopolis is using anti-capitalism to ask a question: What’s it like to live in a society where we can’t imagine any convincing alternative?

The Tragic Diet: Food and Finitude
[S. G. Belknap]

A few years ago I stopped being a vegetarian, started eating a lot of meat, and lost about fifteen pounds … And after years and years of my own vegetarianism, I caught myself sneering at vegetarians, annoyed whenever I had to accommodate them. I was a man obsessed. The thing about obsession, however, is that it tends to wear off. As time went by, the old concerns found their way into my consciousness bit by bit. And then one day I destroyed a mouse with a hammer.

SYMPOSIUM: What is privacy for?

Into the Cave
[Dawn Herrera-Helphand]

The body has a sense of fear or safety, precognitive and wholly prior to our rationalizations. To feel vulnerable to the eyes of others, to their designs or interventions, is to want to maintain some semblance of control. The illusion of sovereignty that we cultivate in public is precious, not easily relinquished. The ambition to maintain it is antithetical to the necessary labor of childbirth.

Private Lives
[Thomas Meaney]

Pussy Riot was at least partly effective in passing off political critique as spontaneous art. But to think that dissent flows naturally from creative expression, or always overlaps with it, is to miss what is actually being threatened by developments such as the President’s Surveillance Program.

Being Known
[Lowry Pressly]

It’s not the transgression of the bounds of consent that is at issue here; rather, it is something deeper, something that more directly affects who we are. The multitudes that you contain, to paraphrase Whitman, have decreased in number as a result of your being known.

The Social Filter
[Rob Horning]

Having established itself as a kind of all-purpose connective tissue in the social lives of over a billion people, Facebook is now using its monopoly position to exercise opaque control over the shape of social interaction, manipulating the flow of information in ways users don’t understand and can’t interrupt.

The Genetic Self
[Nathaniel Comfort]

For a hundred dollars you can spit in a test tube, mail it off, and in a few weeks receive a detailed profile of your genes. “Welcome to you,” proclaims the cheerful kit that arrives from 23andMe.


Back in the Day
[Jesse McCarthy]

In our generation you had a choice: it was Suprême NTM or Daft Punk. And the choice felt deeply existential. Certain people would never be friends because of it.

Watch Dogs
[Steven Poole]

Watch Dogs stands as a critique of modern urbanism’s ideal of the “smart city,” in which infrastructure is controlled by and reports to networked information technology. The “smarter” the city gets in this sense, the more vulnerable it becomes to the geek with a grudge.

Distant Reading
[Scott Esposito]

Data, Moretti believed, could end longstanding arguments or upset orthodoxies. It might reveal a new history of the novel, a whole new geography of literature.

[Tim Peters]

Spiegelman’s Faustian deal with academia and the art world may bode very poorly for the future of comics. A lack of pretension, a sense of humor, a lightness of step: these are not things one associates with universities or art museums. The more you insist that comics belong there, as fodder for scholars, the more you’ll have to rewrite the history and the future of the medium so that it looks appropriately “sophisticated.”


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