After I wrote about what "I'm on your side" means in the context of friendships, I realized that there is another part to the story. That phrase is often on my mind as we work on the next phase of Uncommon. What does it mean for technology to be on your side?
Uncommon in Common came out of a sense that there was something missing online. There was a hope that a community could form around a desire for meaning and reflection, sharing the best part of ourselves and the world around us.
There was also a frustration that many of the existing sites and social networks have business models predicated on behavior that is expressly harmful; their success achievable only by people spending more time and clicking more links and watching more videos and scrolling just a little further down the page.
We have tried to imagine what it might look like if a site was on the side of the community it served. If there was a place that knew just how valuable our time, attention, and cognitive resources are and decided that it is better to defend them rather than sell them.
When the screens and streams become too much, we make valiant efforts to escape, everything from temporarily blocking Internet access to weekend detox and month-long sabbaticals. These are refreshing and rewarding (and necessary), but the result is often short-lived. We blame our lack of willpower, but the companies who create these products and services are responsible as well. Some are actively harmful, while others can credibly claim to be neutral; rewarding in moderation, harmful if abused.
We shouldn't settle for neutrality, though, not when addiction feeds the bottom line and competitors race to reverse-engineer each new formula for success. It should be possible for our online experiences to be healthy and nourishing, rather than alternating between feast and famine.
We hope the Uncommon site will be a wonderful example of what it means for technology to be on your side. We won't know until we experience it, of course. What I do know is that it's worth finding out, and I'm glad we get to find out together.
Last week's dispatch asked, Do you have a favorite line from a film?
"I'm a loner, Dottie. A rebel." — Pee-wee's Big Adventure
"Go, and never darken my towels again!" is an insult hurled at the Sylvanian ambassador Trentino (Louis Calhern) by Freedonian president/dictator Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx) in the film Duck Soup (1933). It's a somewhat absurd line from a deceptively absurd comedy that's held up well for 80 years.
"My mother grabbed me once... once." What film and character? Watch it.
My favorite lines have to be from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which completely blew my mind the first time I saw it, as I'm sure it did for many in their late teens and early twenties. It is so unbelievable, but also just real enough that it completely gets caught in your mind.
I watched it with my first love, who I thought was the man I would marry, and when we split up (as inevitably happens) I felt like I completely understood why someone would want to erase the happy memories from their mind, because they are simultaneously blissful and excruciating. Kate Winslet is so wonderful as Clementine; she became my impulsive, unpredictable heroine and had plenty of lines I'd take on as my mantra.
My favorites are: "constantly talking isn't necessarily communicating", or "too many guys think I'm a concept or I complete them, or I'm gonna make them alive, but I'm just a f'd up girl looking for my own peace of mind", or "I don't need nice, I don't need me to be it and I don't need anybody else to be it at me". All three have resonated with me a different points in my life.
"Only the meek get pinched. The bold survive." — Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Princess Leia: "I love you." Han Solo: I know. (Note: And it was ad-libbed!) — Star Wars Episode Five: The Empire Strikes Back
"Coffee is for closers" — Glengarry Glen Ross
“I want a Cobra camera head!” — Roseanne Bar, Look Who's Talking Too
My favorite line would be from a Jolly Easy comedy called The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. "Everything will be all right in the end... if it's not all right then it's not yet the end."
A single favorite line? Hahaha! I can narrow it down to a couple of films, maybe: The Big Lebowski or Ghostbusters. "Coffee?" "Yes. Have some." "That was your plan, Ray? 'Get her'?!?" "When someone asks you if you're a god you say... YES!" "Hey, man, there's... a beverage here!" "It really tied the room together." "This is our concern, Dude." "In the parlance of our times." "Hang on to your butts."
That... last one may or may not have been from a third movie.
Reading to Have Read by Ian Bogost:
In today’s attention economy, reading materials (we call it “content” now) have ceased to be created and disseminated for understanding. Instead, they exist first (and primarily) for mere encounter. This condition doesn’t necessarily signal the degradation of reading; it also arises from the surplus of content we are invited and even expected to read.
The Problem with Easy Technology by Tim Wu:
The problem is that, as every individual task becomes easier, we demand much more of both ourselves and others. Instead of fewer difficult tasks (writing several long letters) we are left with a larger volume of small tasks (writing hundreds of e-mails). We have become plagued by a tyranny of tiny tasks, individually simple but collectively oppressive. And, when every task in life is easy, there remains just one profession left: multitasking.
Drowning in Light by Dirk Hanson:
Sea turtles trundle mistakenly toward seaside condos, fireflies fail to find mates, and two thirds of Americans in 2008 and 90 percent of the world’s population could no longer see the Milky Way with the naked eye. How much light can we take?
What is your favorite time of day?