What It Takes To Put Your Phone Away, Jia Tolentino for The New Yorker,
Student writers reap the relevance and urgency of this topic all the time; the product is often a neat self-dissection which kneads at our still-malleable attitudes towards Snapchat, and is confined to the fractious conflict between schoolwork and social media. And while that might be all we really need to hear, Tolentino is no high school student, sequestered in her own lunchtime chat-log drama or subject to mild, academics-induced myopia.
In this article, she delivers what we seldom have the audacity to address and never seem to see: analyses of the “attention economy”, technology’s smearing of the body politic, and digital minimalism, not as an exam-season dabble, but a lifelong philosophy.
(Because a phone screen is not only a window but a mirror, and in our teenage self-obsession we forget that the problem doesn’t just magically disappear at 23.)
Big Mood Machine, Liz Pelly for The Baffler
Ever wondered why Spotify is so keen on recommending you playlists based on your mood? Well, this is why.
Indeed, Spotify seeks not just to monitor and mine our mood, but also to manipulate future behavior. “What we’d ultimately like to do is be able to predict people’s behavior through music,” Les Hollander, the Global Head of Audio and Podcast Monetization, said in 2017. “We know that if you’re listening to your chill playlist in the morning, you may be doing yoga, you may be meditating . . . so we’d serve a contextually relevant ad with information and tonality and pace to that particular moment.”
In a data-driven listening environment, the commodity is no longer music. The commodity is listening. The commodity is users and their moods
In essence, music is fundamentally emotional and a part of our moods. So are we ok with small parts of our moods being for sale?
Ear Hustle, by the inmates of San Quentin State Prison and Radiotopia,
The peak of “you should start a podcast”, Ear Hustle is a professionally-produced podcast recorded from inside San Quentin State Prison. It’s not heavy duty true-crime type stuff. The show is about what life is like inside, and the experiences of different inmates. Hosted by Nigel Poor (who sounds exactly like Sarah Koenig from Serial), and Earlonne Woods, a San Quentin inmate who both serve as a tour guide into the world of prison life.
The show reminds us that people in prison are in fact people; with all their quirks, emotions, and anxieties — not just a statistic.
Recommended starter episode: The Big No No
Within the Wires, by Night Vale Presents,
A dramatic anthology fiction podcast in the style of epistolary fiction. In the first season, the listener, a medical inmate at a place called the Institute, receives guidance from the mysterious narrator of instructional relaxation cassettes
In the second season, an artist named Roimata Mangakāhia communicates with the listener through a series of museum audio guides. The third season, “a political thriller set in 1950s Chicago”, is narrated by the bureaucrat Michael Witten; listeners access letters and notes dictated to his secretary.
Fiction: Child 44
This is the first novel in a trilogy featuring former MGB Agent Leo Demidov, who investigates a series of gruesome child murders in Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union.
The Guardian: “The plot revolves around a murderer who can continue killing because the Soviet system cannot admit to having such capitalist social problems as murder or prostitution. Despite an omnipresent secret police force knowing everything about everyone, they are not equipped to handle a serial killer. Children are killed and mutilated across the country, but the local authorities dare not report them as murders, so there is no way the central authorities can register what is going on. The killings are treated as the acts of “deviants”, homosexuals or mentally retarded people, never of “normal” healthy Soviet citizens. In this and much else, Smith is elaborating on the case of Andrei Chikatilo, who murdered over 50 people in the 70s and 80s.”
Fiction: The Name of the Wind
A troupe, a city with roving sin and goodness, a legendary magic school in the whisper of an arcanist. He recalls, in the first night, only the beginning of this story.
“I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.
“My name is Kvothe. You may have heard of me.”