‘Ralphing’ and Compass Memes

Last week I talked a bit about compass memes on my newsletter. It was something came out of nowhere but the more I think about it, I feel like there is more to think and talk about it.

Jay, who introduced me to the compasses, also recently wrote about it on his blog. Including a good amount of reading and some connections to ‘Ralphing.’

One of the things I think is clear about this form of compass media object is that they rapidly open up new cognitive territory. But they also seize and claim the new territory the moment that you realise that it has formed in your brain. Like laying tarot cards of a kind you have never seen before on the table, and before you can read the spread shouting SNAP and pulling them back.

In the meme theory back channels I frequent this is known as “Ralphing”.

095 :: Half formed thoughts On ‘Ralphing’ and Compass Memes

If this whole conversation sounds interesting, you should read the whole thing. And then start writing your own thoughts or making your own compasses.

Common ground: Holly Herndon in conversation with James Bridle

Our desire for control is precisely the problem. We are never going to understand the world more broadly. We’re not going to be able to talk to trees in the way that we talk to one another. But we need to be able to live meaningfully, equitably with them and with all other natural systems.

James Bridle

This conversation between two artists whose works I admire has it all. Both Holly Herndon and James Bridle’s perspectives on technology and how they’re using that perspective in their works is inspiring. When they both came together, it turns into a conversation you want to quote most of it.

For the first timers, you should definitely listen Holly’s latest album PROTO and read James’s book New Dark Age. Maybe do it both at the same time.

Revisiting “The Manfred Macx Media Diet”

Just like books or movies, I also have a list of blog posts which I regularly reread and think about it. I think Warren Ellis’ “The Manfred Macx Media Diet” is at the top of my list. Not sure how many times I’ve read that post.

One thing that makes this post special for me is the fact that every time I read it, it gives me a new perspective about how I’m dealing with the information I’m taking in and what I can do better or different. I also have to admit that since my first read of Accelerando, I secretly aspired to be like Manfred Macx. Of course Spider Jerusalem is “the idol” but for me Manfred and especially his relationship with information was something to be admired. Yes, I know, it’s very problematic and probably tells a lot but I’m not gonna deny it.

Plus comparing what Warren and Charles said years ago to the day I’m reading it also a fun experiment. I have to remind you that Accelerando was written between 1999-2004 and Warren Ellis’ post was written in 2012.

Let’s read it together this time.

He glances up and grabs a pigeon, crops the shot, and squirts it at his weblog to show he’s arrived.

He’s doing that with, essentially, Google Glasses and some wearable computers to beef up their utility.  It’s what I’d do today with a smartphone.  In fact, I last did it on Thursday.  Macx’s kit is based around the glasses.

(Italicized quotes are from the book, rest is from the post.)

I know even reading the words “Google Glasses” made some of you nostalgic. Remember the time when we were talking about the possible privacy issues around the glasses? Now we have mics open and connected 7/24 and doorbells which can make video recordings and give it to the police.

But think about this quote with the stories we use on social media. Snapchat started it and Facebook stole from them and put it everywhere. (Seriously, you can even post stories in WhatsApp.) What we’re doing with stories are basically the same thing what Macx does, except we have more filters to have fun with.

Being a pronoiac meme-broker is a constant burn of future shock – he has to assimilate more than a megabyte of text and several gigs of AV content every day just to stay current.

Do you think is there a way to count how much information we’re dealing with everyday in sense of gigabytes? Plus, does advertisements we see in almost everywhere counts in it?

his glasses remind him that he’s six hours behind the moment and urgently needs to catch up.

Do you ever feel like that upon waking?  Six hours behind the moment.  Sleeping took you off the road to the future.

This is one of the parts that gets me thinking a lot. Being behind the moment and feeling the urgency of catching up. Call it FOMO if you will. Our glasses may not remind us like Manfred but isn’t the piled notifications in our phones plays a similar role? Every notification you’re leaving behind is basically adding more minutes between yourself and the moment.

But this urgency is self-imposed in Manfred’s case through what he’s doing, or at least how I’m reading it. Just like the way most freelance writers and journalists like me having it. But not sure how much of it self-imposed and how much is forced to us through other means. And especially if you’re always acting info-hungry like me, it can easily turn into a downward spiral.

He speed reads a new pop-philosophy tome while he brushes his teeth, then blogs his web throughput to a public annotation server; he’s still too enervated to finish his pre-breakfast routine by posting a morning rant on his storyboard site.

Kick that one around.  It contains the point that he’s not just taking in information, but processing it and excreting more information.  Also, extruding it out on to a public space where people can fiddle with it.

This can be the one of the parts which started the admiration. Being able to take in and put out information like this and make a living out of it. No wonder I have a strange career plans for myself. This is what happens when you make career plans based on your favorite cyberpunk characters.

The point is crucial.  If we’re not doing something with the information we’re taking in, then we’re just pigs at the media trough.

What is also happening here, of course, is that he’s doing the work of a public intellectual.  “Critical creativity,” as I think Umberto Eco once put it.  Only without the requirement of space in a newspaper or magazine, of course, which is what the internet brought us.  And, as the net trends towards microblogs and status updates, it is also what we’re taking away from the internet now.

“Critical creativity.” I think we need to use this phrase more often. Warren said it in 2012 but now it’s obvious that we gave up something really important on the internet with microblogging and other types of social media sharing. Instead of putting out something more in depth, doesn’t matter if it’s not fully baked, we decided to spitting out short rants would be better. And look at where we are now.

But I think we’re learning our lesson. Isles of Blogging and Republic of Newsletters are still here and more people are returning to this. Especially the people who can really do this critical creativity job well. This is a good sign for me and something to be encouraged more. I really want to add more feeds from smart people to my RSS reader. (Feel free to drop yours below.)

Lying on a bench seat staring up at bridges, he’s got it together enough to file for a couple of new patents, write a diary rant, and digestify chunks of the permanent floating slashdot party for his public site. Fragments of his weblog go to a private subscriber list – the people, corporates, collectives, and bots he currently favors.

I’m reminded of Bruce again, here, and the fact that his Twitter account is locked.  20,000 people are allowed to follow his account – in actual fact, the people, corporates, collectives, and bots he currently favours.

Since then, filters and being able to control who do you want to connect with was an important part of how we use internet. But social media somehow managed to turn it upside down. Not being public or having locked accounts was seen unusual. People thought “Why are you here if you don’t want everyone else’s attention?” But being able to control who can see what is something we should be more comfortable. We don’t need to go viral or use social media to make ourselves open to everyone else’s gaze. Bruce allowed 15,000 more people to follow his Twitter account but still keeps it locked down. And every time I see his tweets, he seems okay with the experience he has.

I saw how having that control makes things better from my Instagram experience. Since I locked my account over there, I’m having a much better experience. Unlike Twitter, I’m not dealing with the voice at the back of my head saying “if you share this, some random dude with no idea can start some shit.” Nope, it’s just me and people I favour.

Interesting enough, I think blogs and newsletters are creating a similar filter. You don’t need it to be locked down but instead, people have to actively want to receive those words you’re putting out. This makes it harder to go viral but easier to reach people who you really want to reach.

He sits in a chair, gin and tonic at hand, absorbing the latest market news and grazing his multichannel feeds in parallel. His reputation is up two percent for no obvious reason today, he notices: Odd, that.

Aah, when we thought there’d be a trackable reputation economy.  Cory, what damage you wrought on the poor innocent heads of the socially optimistic.  Charlie himself ended up taking down Klout last year.

In other senses, of course, this does exist.  Checking Likes, Instagram and Tumblr hearts and even +1s.  Your reputation’s only as good as the last piece of content you gave to a social network.  How much time do we spend assimilating content and spitting the tastiest bits back out into the world in order to gain reputation as a gifted regurgitator?  Where we’re adding no more to each piece of information than the identifying DNA in the smear of saliva we leave on it?

Don’t have anything to add here. Just wanted to remind us how it was in 2012 and how we have it right now.

The metacortex – a distributed cloud of software agents that surrounds him in netspace, borrowing CPU cycles from convenient processors (such as his robot pet) – is as much a part of Manfred as the society of mind that occupies his skull; his thoughts migrate into it, spawning new agents to research new experiences, and at night, they return to roost and share their knowledge.

I kind of want to mention Weavrs here – I still have to find the time to train the one I spawned last year, but (with all respect to the developers) I doubt I’ll ever be able to make it do what I want.  Intelligent Agents are going to be a pipedream for a while longer, I suspect.  Which makes me sad.  But there’s something here – Weavrs and other software instances like Google Alerts can enact discovery, and bring us information we wouldn’t necessarily have the time or awareness to grab manually.

Seeing Weavrs always makes me feel a bit nostalgic. Intelligent agents was the idea that we can train our special algorithms to walk through the net and find something interesting for us. Really personalized algorithms. It was the dream for me. Letting loose couple of IAs and check what they’ve brought to you every now and then.

Instead we’re stuck with the personalization algorithms that either recommends you conspiracy theories or fills your timeline with the stuff you definitely don’t want instead of the posts you explicitly wanted to see (I’m looking at you, Twitter).

I still have couple of active Google Alerts on my RSS reader but thanks to all that SEO experts, it’s usually filled with junk. Unless it’s for a term that none of those experts heard of.

I don’t want to put all blame to them but it’s obvious that digital advertising killed something I really wanted back in the day. Now when I hear “personalized” online, all I can think of is the bots stalking me online to sell me stuff I don’t want.


Reading and analyzing this post and writing it was quite different than just reading and thinking about it. Writing down my half-baked thoughts also helped me think about some stuff I haven’t before. And writing a blog post this long was definitely an experience I’ve missed. Not having any limits or deadlines, or no need to cut down sentences to fit into a Twitter thread was nice. I should probably do this more often.

Letting the half-baked thoughts and ideas free in a place you can control but at the same time open to everyone who wants to engage with is something I (and we) should do more often. Social media doesn’t want that kind of stuff, so we’re left with spaces like here to do this.

Men. Abuse. Trauma. | Philosophy Tube

Olly from PhilosophyTube was one of my favorite YouTube channels for a while and especially does brilliant works for a while. This one I think is something really big for him and everyone who’s watching. Talking about trauma through his personal experience and philosophy is something hard to do. It probably gets much harder when you do it on video. But he pulls it out in a brilliant way. It’s a really powerful video in both philosophical and emotional sense.

This video and its power also reminded me something that always bothers me. When people think about doing philosophy or being a philosopher, they have that mental image about a man (it’s always a man) sitting in a room full of books just writing and solving every problem about the world from their desks. And I can tell you that this image is total bullshit. Most of those man, although they made some important contributions to philosophy, don’t know shit about the world they think they solved it.

That’s why when people like Oliver Thorn makes videos like this it gives me joy, even though the topics are really heavy, like this one. Because he takes philosophy out of that bullshit ivory tower and brings where it should be.

This is how philosophy should be done. Philosophy is not something you can do totally isolated and only based on your mindset. You have to bring everything into the equation, every perspective and possibility; not exclusive to the old white guys who thinks they understood the world from their university office. We should be doing philosophy through YouTube, newsletters, science fiction, comics, you name it. I believe this is the way to achieve what philosophy aims to.

Against the Pop Culture Nostalgia

I mean, the stuff that’s going on right now is insane, and we need people to be responding to it. If I can’t hear the present or the future in culture, I feel like we’re doomed to repeat the past forever. We’re not opening up that kind of mental space we need to move forward. It’s like that Mark Fisher idea of capitalism—it’s easier to imagine death than life after capitalism. That’s how I feel when I just see things like Stranger Things on repeat all the time. I get it, that stuff is fun to watch, and I also like ’80s movies, you know what I mean? There’s a time and a place for that. But when all of culture feels like that, it makes me nervous.

Holly Herndon – On collaborating with machines and humans

This from Holly Herndon is on point. Maybe I can’t fully get this because I was out of that loop in sense of both time and geography but similar things happening around here creates the same reactions from me too. Something about all this nostalgic stuff feels problematic to me and I think Holly clearly explains it why.

It feels escapist. Instead of dealing with what we have right now, all of this is an attempt to return so-called better times. Which, if you push it too hard, can easily turn into a mindset which wants to make stuff great again. And we all know nothing was ever great before and it’s just a shortcut for many reactionary stuff. We all know who are the poster boys of this pop culture reactionary movements *ahem Gamergate ahem* and what they actually want. And how far they can go for their desires to recreate those “great times.”

I don’t know. Maybe I’m overthinking this and it’s all just simple fun. But, like Holly says above, when you start to see it everywhere something feels off.

The Average Reader

My standard for verisimilitude is simple and I came to it when I started to write prose narrative: fuck the average reader. I was always told to write for the average reader in my newspaper life. The average reader, as they meant it, was some suburban white subscriber with two-point-whatever kids and three-point-whatever cars and a dog and a cat and lawn furniture. He knows nothing and he needs everything explained to him right away, so that exposition becomes this incredible, story-killing burden. Fuck him. Fuck him to hell.

An Interview with David Simon – Nick Hornby

Warren Ellis shared this quote on his newsletter Orbital Operations, I think, couple weeks ago and it’s on my mind ever since. Wanted to post it here to save it as a reminder for myself.

Cogito 92 – Türkiyeli Kadın Felsefeciler

Sanırım Türkçe dergiler arasında en sevdiğim yayın Cogito. Ancak bir süredir takip edemediğim için “Türkiyeli Kadın Felsefeciler” sayısından yeni haberim oldu. Görür görmez de sipariş verdim. Böyle özel bir sayı çıkarttıkları için Cogito ekibine teşekkür ederim.

Sayının linki için sitelerine bakarken son birkaç sayının da tam benlik olduğunu fark etmek açıkcası hiç iyi olmadı. Bu kadar sevdiğim bir dergiyi böyle uzaktan takip etmemem lazım. Sonra böyle birikiyor hepsi bir anda.

Alan Moore’s Dodgem Logic

When I read Alan Moore is retiring from comics, first thing that popped into my mind was his experimental magazine Dodgem Logic. I accidentally found the first issue at a comic book store in İstanbul and bought every issue when it’s arrived.

I’m obsessed with magazines and I think Dodgem Logic is one of the main reasons of this, other being the recommendations Warren Ellis shared online through the years. I think magazines has a special potential for creativity. To me, magazines feel like an autonomous zone for the creator which they can do whatever they want. And Dodgem Logic is a great example of it.

Not sure if you can find the issues of it (I checked Amazon and someone was selling the first issue for $223 and another selling #8 for $465 😱) but if you can (within a reasonable price range), grab it without thinking.

Since Moore won’t be doing comics anymore, maybe he’ll restart Dodgem Logic?

Rethinking How I Use Internet: 4

This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Rethinking the Internet

Do you ever feel tired just by using internet, mostly the social media platforms?

Not sure when it started but I’m feeling tired every time I check social media in the way they designed. With algorithmic timeline, not filtered, filled with “personalized recommendations” and advertisement. Still not sure which part contributes that tiredness the most but when I check from the lists I’ve created or use my private accounts to see what people are up to, I can stay online more. In the first case, feeling of giving up everything related to internet comes fast.

I guess one of the main reason of this can be seen from this quote by Robin Sloan,

No reasonable human needs more than 10,000 other humans to read their words within twenty minutes of writing them.

Robin Sloan – platforms.fyi

Everything is too much on social media. Because that’s how they make money. You have to be bombarded with information you can’t really control all the time and you have to react to that information quickly. Otherwise no one will see you on these platforms. Algorithm starts to hate you and hides you under more and more ads. It doesn’t matter if your friend wants to hear from you, you have to please the algorithm first.

To please it, you have to be fast. You have to play by its rules and be prepared to react whatever it gives you. Otherwise, you’ll get buried.

And I think I want to be buried by the algorithm for a while. To rest and work slowly, not rushing to react all the stuff. Instead of feeling tired just because I want to hear from people I really want to, I prefer to be buried by it. Will be using those platforms lesser for a while, focusing my energy to the streams which I can control the speed of it. I’ll be watching and stopping by time to time, of course.

But if you really want to hear from me or talk to me, places like here or the secret channels will be your best shot.

Books of 14.06.2019

Most of my readings are happening on my Kindle because it makes easy for me to reach English books and saves me from dealing with the Turkish postal service. Plus English books are expensive in dead-tree, so ebooks helps me save money too, especially on the shipping.

But every once in a while, we need some Turkish books in the house and we buy dead tree books. Today was one of those days.