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Of all the Trollope novels I’ve read (and, God help me, I’ve read at least 20), The Vicar of Bullhampton (1869-70) is perhaps the oddest. Its story lines are very loosely tied together, with a murder investigation taking a backseat to the gripping legal drama over whether a dissenters’ chapel will be built too close to the vicar’s garden. The love story is highly undercooked, with the eventual groom barely a character — virtually nothing he says or does is more memorable than Trollope’s initial description of his elaborate mustache. We’re invited to root for his long-suffering rival, but he is exposed in the end as something of an entitled baby, his persistence less a mark of his character than his lack of it.

Marginal Utility, Trollope’s The Vicar of Bullhampton


In his essay for the Baffler about the disappointed expectations about flying cars and whatnot, David Graeber makes the often overlooked point that capitalism circumscribes technological development as much as it instigates it. In other words, technology can be developed to protect the status quo, not trasform it. When corporations and the governments that serve corporate interests look to fund technology, the criteria relate to whether the expected fruits will serve to reproduce the existing order of things — that is, whether the technology will strengthen capitalism. The criteria is not necessarily whether overall human life will be improved, obviously. (For example, Klout exists.)

Marginal Utility “Future Legends”

In his essay for the Baffler about the disappointed expectations about flying cars and whatnot, David Graeber makes the often overlooked point that capitalism circumscribes technological development as much as it instigates it. In other words, technology can be developed to protect the status quo, not trasform it. When corporations and the governments that serve corporate interests look to fund technology, the criteria relate to whether the expected fruits will serve to reproduce the existing order of things — that is, whether the technology will strengthen capitalism. The criteria is not necessarily whether overall human life will be improved, obviously. (For example, Klout exists.)

Marginal Utility “Future Legends”


Please forgive the amateur futurism I’m about to launch into here, but it’s easy to see how the ineffability of friendship will be banished for ordinary people, becoming the province and mark of the elite. Just as executives reserve the right to not be quantified at work, mystifying their work as an emanation of their personality, so will elites evade privacy-invading social media as a way to express and conserve their power. “I don’t need to be on Facebook; I’m important enough to be told individually about parties, which are too exclusive for such broadcasting anyway.” In a reversal of Facebook’s Ivy League-only origins, social life for elites will recede from social media and will seem like “elite behavior” to participants precisely because it is unmediated. For elites, the motto will be “pics and it never happened.”

Rob Horning on Pics or it didn’t happen.

Please forgive the amateur futurism I’m about to launch into here, but it’s easy to see how the ineffability of friendship will be banished for ordinary people, becoming the province and mark of the elite. Just as executives reserve the right to not be quantified at work, mystifying their work as an emanation of their personality, so will elites evade privacy-invading social media as a way to express and conserve their power. “I don’t need to be on Facebook; I’m important enough to be told individually about parties, which are too exclusive for such broadcasting anyway.” In a reversal of Facebook’s Ivy League-only origins, social life for elites will recede from social media and will seem like “elite behavior” to participants precisely because it is unmediated. For elites, the motto will be “pics and it never happened.”

Rob Horning on Pics or it didn’t happen.

Gamification is awful for many reasons, not least in the way it seeks to transform us into atomized laboratory rats, reduce us to the sum total of our incentivized behaviors. But it also increases the pressure to make all game playing occur within spaces subject to capture; it seeks to supply the incentives to make games not about relaxation and escape and social connection but about data generation. The networked mediation of games — in other words, playing them on your phone or through Facebook — undermines the function of games in organizing face-to-face social time, guaranteeing presence in an unobtrusive way. Instead we typically take our turn in mediated games on our time and play multiple games at once, to cater to our convenience and our desire to be winning at least one of them.
Rob Horning, Dummy Discards a Heart

Gamification is awful for many reasons, not least in the way it seeks to transform us into atomized laboratory rats, reduce us to the sum total of our incentivized behaviors. But it also increases the pressure to make all game playing occur within spaces subject to capture; it seeks to supply the incentives to make games not about relaxation and escape and social connection but about data generation. The networked mediation of games — in other words, playing them on your phone or through Facebook — undermines the function of games in organizing face-to-face social time, guaranteeing presence in an unobtrusive way. Instead we typically take our turn in mediated games on our time and play multiple games at once, to cater to our convenience and our desire to be winning at least one of them.

Rob Horning, Dummy Discards a Heart