Carrier argued that gift wrap transforms something impersonal into something personal—ritually turning an anonymous commodity into an idiosyncratic gift. In today’s terms, for example, the iPhone anyone can buy becomes, when wrapped, the iPhone I got for you. Carrier pointed out that this is why homemade gifts, such as a jar of jam, don’t require full wrapping. A simple bow around the top will do.
So interesting to read things like this at the same time as enjoying The Circle by Dave Eggers.
Plus, a really good reminder to get my head around why I am tracking things and what to do about that.
So interesting to see this, not only as a piece of history but also as a personal reminder.
Back when the web was young and shiny, an otherwise extremely intelligent BBC television producer, a friend at the time, asked my help in understanding the promise of the new shinyness, especially in visual terms. I told him about the famous coffee pot web cam (and maybe, also, about the link to the Coke machine).
"Isn't that great," I said, "that you can see whether there's coffee in the pot without having to leave your computer."
"But you could just get up and look."
"Well yes, but the coffee pot could be anywhere in the world."
"What's the point of that? You can't go and get a cup of coffee there."
"True. But it doesn't have to be a coffee pot. It could be, oh, anything."
"I just don't see the point."
Of couse he went on to produce a highly acclaimed series, and much else besides.
The simplest way to describe the attitude of software engineers and companies to linguistic interfacing with their customers would be to say that they do not give a monkey's fart about such matters. Not only do they never have a linguist check the use of language in the programs they expect us to use (that'll be the day), they don't have anybody at all checking it.
If they program interfaces this carelessly, just how likely is it that robots are going to respect the Three Laws of Robotics?
Not just software engineers.
I suppose I'm just not enough of a herd-dweller to understand either why some people insist that RSS is dead or are surprised that it remains alive and well. Colin Walker, in one of his characteristically thoughtful pieces, has this to say:
When Google Reader closed people had to actively seek an alternative in order to continue consuming their RSS feeds. This pushed many towards simply using their social streams - they couldn’t be bothered to find an equivalent service and re-add all their feeds.
No such need would exist with something like webmentions. People may not be able to immediately interact with as many properties but things wouldn’t stop working for those not hosted on the major player’s platform.
Well, OK. But that's not how it went for me. I found Newsblur pretty quickly and have stuck with it, although I hear good things about lots of other readers. I never really took to the idea of any of the social silos being a substitute for a reader, and as they become more algorithmic they became less and less interesting on that score.
I do wish Newsblur would do more on the sharing front. For a while it allowed cross-posting to ADN and I can't imagine it would be that hard to allow more generalised cross-posting, but the developer just doesn't seem that interested.
The huge draw of RSS for me is that it costs nothing if a site lays dormant for months or even years. Just last week, a site I subscribe to sprang back into life after more than three years. I can't believe that would ever have made it into my timeline at a silo.