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Author Archives: Connor Tomas O'Brien


The Web as an Empathy Machine

Ad hoc Twitter projects like #RaceSwapExp neatly draw together all that is terrific and all that is terrible about the web as a system. Depending on how it is used, the web can either allow us to retreat into callousness, cliques, and fixed ways of thinking or it can function as the world’s most sophisticated and effective empathy machine. Read more »

‘Fooled’ by technology

As I browsed the web last Tuesday, something struck me: tech companies can no longer pull off compelling April Fools’ Day hoaxes because there’s no longer even the thinnest line delineating sincerity from spoof. Read more »

Flight 370 and gaps in the internet

On Twitter the other day, sandwiched between a slew of links to articles about the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, somebody tweeted a link to the website for Tile, a Bluetooth-enabled device that can be attached to physical objects, enabling them to be located within a 150-foot range. Read more »

Clipped: What would Susan Sontag say about always-on cameras?

As I write this, a tiny camera clipped to my shirt collar is silently taking a picture every thirty seconds. At the end of the day, I will plug my Narrative Clip into my MacBook, and it will upload half a gigabyte of images to the Cloud. … Read more »

Online festivals and diversity in the digital space

  Earlier this year, Lisa Dempster, the director of the Melbourne Writers Festival, tweeted: ‘So I think ‪@pausefest looks AMAZING… BUT I have to ask: is digital culture just for dudes? 2/31 speakers are women.’ Pause Fest is an annual real-world festival dedicated to digital culture. I’ve … Read more »

Peak sharing and sustainable ‘Likes’

Sometime around 1970, oil production peaked in the continental United States. This was perhaps a little surprising, as over the preceding few years, production had continued to increase at a relatively steady rate. The peak wasn’t followed by a sudden decline in production, either. Rather, as it … Read more »

#firstworldproblems: life in chindōgu culture

‘You can see the first five words of an email!’ the guy at the Christmas party enthused, stroking the chunky plastic rectangle wrapped around his wrist. ‘Send one to me!’ We exchanged addresses, and I sent him a message, and he was right. On the tiny e-ink … Read more »

Making and taking: striking a balance between consumption and creation

Perhaps I’m just particularly neurotic, but whenever I’m writing I feel a niggling guilt that tells me I really should be reading, and whenever I’m reading I feel a niggling guilt that tells me I really should be writing. When I write, I feel as though I’m … Read more »

One foot in, one foot out: why the best critics are all tangled up in what they’re criticising

Last month, The Guardian published ‘What’s Wrong With the Modern World’, an excerpt from Jonathan Franzen’s upcoming The Kraus Project. Because we’re on the internet, and because we tweet and share and create our own little echo chambers, we’ve all read it. If you haven’t, well, it’s … Read more »

A very quiet battle: librarians, publishers, and the Pirate Bay

Recently, novelist Ursula Le Guin suggested that publishers are ‘terrified by the idea of letting public libraries have their e-books.’ Publishers, she suggested, have jacked up the price of ebook licenses and set up draconian DRM systems to make it basically untenable for public libraries to freely … Read more »