TuneOut Radio — The Dumb-ening

Back in May of this year, I mentioned that several Internet radio stations were in the process of being ejected from TuneIn Radio’s directory. At the end of that post, I mused as to what other stations might get culled.

Last night I got the answer. Opening the TuneIn Radio app for the first time in a while on my iPad, I was greeted by a request to allow ‘personalization’, which is code for tracking plus additional adverts shoved in my ears. Needless to say, I clicked ‘no, thanks’ to that. Proceeding to my list of presets, I was annoyed to discover that all the internet-only stations were marked as ‘not available in your region’.

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Cutting The Cruft

This afternoon, I deleted a load of apps from my iPad Mini 4.

One of them — Good Sudoku — was becoming a time-sink as well as a source of annoyance at its occasional freezes.

Another was the WordPress app, which has never really proven that much use to me other than a source of additional notifications.

Most of the rest were apps that I’ve not opened in ages, if at all, and am unlikely to do so anytime soon.

I might add a few of them back at some point. Then again, maybe not.

I have come to the realization that, while my iPad can and does perform many useful functions for me, it doesn’t need to do everything.

“We need new paradigms, not more new tech.”

Big Tech uses our roads, our airports, our post offices — and rather than help prop up the system to work in the interest of all, the industry eschews responsibility and creates housing and employment crises by relying on gig-workers and contractors, effectively reducing the number of workers in the tech workforce eligible for employer-based healthcare. Big Tech fails to hire African Americans in high-paying jobs, and it actively suppresses wages for women and other people of color, especially Black women, who continue to make significantly less than men. It benefits from talent nurtured in public school systems and cherry-picks researchers favorable to its interests, without investing in the public infrastructure that enables those skills to develop. What we get back is an ecosystem of workers who can’t afford to live or pay rent, or experience homelessness, in wealthy tech corridors.

In short, instead of being partners in building the public good, Big Tech continues to profit from its erosion. Rather than contribute to the public coffers so that we can fund the public institutions we so desperately need to support, the titans of Big Tech are trying to come to the rescue through philanthropy and expressions of personal goodwill, making private donations at a tiny fraction of their personal wealth into the charitable and non-governmental organizations of their choosing. But these kinds of private drops into the desperately under-funded public pool, in exchange for eschewing the kind of tax responsibilities that working-people face, further erodes coordination and fair distributions of power and resources.

Source: The Loss Of Public Goods To Big Tech – NOEMA by Safiya Noble

Software as Betrayal of Service

Chuck Jordan, discussing deleting his Instagram account:

But Instagram’s decision to shove suggested posts into my feed was the culmination of around 15 years of tech companies working to develop a new business model: software as betrayal of service. The model disrupts the traditional contract between a business and its customers with a simple four-step process:

1. Promise a straightforward and inessential-but-still-fun service (e.g,. a platform for sharing snapshots with a group of people of your choosing)

2. Attract enough users with this service to achieve either an IPO or acquisition by a larger tech company

3. Profit

4. Gradually dismantle everything that attracted users to the platform in the first place

This is applicable to so many sites and services from the last couple of decades.

It’s not just algorithms to blame. It’s the conscious decisions made by those in charge to screw with the users.

Because step 3 of that process above then becomes the overriding goal. Anything that increases profits is pursued, and to hell with the consequences.

Thoughts On Creativity

To be creative, Chinese philosophy teaches us to abandon ‘originality’

Julianne Chung, writing for Psyche:

The Zhuangzi (莊子), a classical Chinese philosophical and literary text, provides a different perspective. On one interpretation, creativity isn’t conceived as aiming at novelty or originality, but rather integration. Instead of aiming at something new, it aims at something that combines well with the situation of which it’s a part.

The story of Wheelwright Pian, from a chapter of the Zhuangzi known as the Tian Dao (天道), meaning ‘Heaven’s Way’ or ‘The Way of Heaven’, effectively illustrates this perspective on creativity as it pertains to artists or artisans. In this short vignette, a wheelwright known as Pian (扁) tells a duke that the book of sages’ advice he’s reading is nothing but ‘chaff and dregs’. Angered, the duke demands an explanation. The wheelwright responds that, at least concerning his craft, he can create what he does only because he’s developed a ‘knack’ for it that can’t be wholly conveyed in words. If the blows of his mallet are too gentle, his chisel slides and won’t take hold. If they’re too hard, it bites in and won’t budge. ‘Not too gentle, not too hard – you can get it in your hand and feel it in your mind,’ he says. ‘So, I’ve gone along for 70 years and at my age I’m still chiselling wheels. When the men of old died, they took with them the things that couldn’t be handed down. So, what you are reading there must be nothing but the chaff and dregs of the men of old.’

Although he’s a ‘lowly’ craftsperson, the wheelwright has something important to teach the duke. He’s been creating wheels by hand for many years and has developed an ability to act and to execute his craft in an integrated manner that can’t be fully captured through an algorithmic list of instructions. He responds to precise particularities in the wood, his tools and his body to create what he wants – something he doesn’t accomplish by imposing a plan.

The sages’ advice for living well is therefore mere ‘dregs’ if it’s interpreted as instructions that one can simply read and then complete. Living well in general involves much more than this; namely, a spontaneous integration between contrasting types such as the hard and the soft, as well as the learned and the spontaneous, the active and the passive, and even the unproductive and the productive – all of which apply in the case of carving wheels, as well as elsewhere. In other words, living well involves creativity.

In the past, I’ve often beaten myself up over a perceived lack of creativity due to my lack of skill with physical art media, handwriting, and drawing what I see in my head.

Reading this article, it occurs to me that I’ve developed a lot of creative talent in other areas over the years. A couple that spring to mind:

  • Being able to optimize digital artwork for print by reducing complexity.
  • Creating presets and shortcuts to speed up my workflow.
  • The various blogs and other online writing outlets I’ve had over the last three decades.

I would add that, for the most part, I’ve developed these skills without much in the way of tuition or guidance — I just got stuck in and learned as I went along.

So, I’m a lot more creative than I’d previously imagined. 🙂

I have bought some self-help books, but I realize that most of those have ended up unread. I should go through all of them, note down anything useful, then give them away to one of the charity shops in town.

“No action Apple can take against the tracking industry is too strong”

John Gruber: Online Privacy Should Be Modeled on Real-World Privacy

Imagine if you were out shopping, went into a drug store, examined a few bottles of sunscreen, but left the store without purchasing anything. And then immediately a stranger approached you with an offer for sunscreen. Such an encounter would trigger a fight or flight reaction — the needle on your innate creepometer would shoot right into the red. (Not to mention that if real-world tracking were like online tracking, you’d get the same creepy offer to buy sunscreen even if you just bought some. Tracking-based offers are both creepy, and, at times, annoyingly stupid.)

Or imagine if you found out that public billboards were taking photos of people who glance at them, logging those photos to a database, and using facial recognition to match them with photos taken at point-of-sale terminals in retail stores. That way, if, say, you were photographed looking at an ad for a soft drink, and later — hours, days, weeks — purchased that same soft drink, the billboard advertisement you glanced at hours, days, or weeks before could get “credit” for your purchase.

We wouldn’t tolerate it. But that’s basically how online ad tracking works.

As Gruber notes, the tracking industry is up in arms about Apple’s forthcoming tightening of privacy in i(Pad)OS 14 for the simple reason that it exposes their tracking for what it is: unwanted.

Google News Radio? No, Thanks

This news story by Boone Ashworth in WIRED* makes me very glad that I’m mostly removed from the Google-sphere.

Most of us know how delightful it is to hear a computer-generated song playlist that feels entirely personal. Now, Google wants to create a similar type of bespoke audio experience—not with music, but with news.

The company is adding some new features to its existing news aggregation service called Your News Update, which gathers news clips from different outlets and plays them in one continuous audio feed. Think of it like a Feedly or Flipboard-type service for spoken stories from your preferred news publications.

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