I love to hate Anthropologie furniture. In particular, the way they stage it for their website. There’s this gross fantasy they’ve created of an art student who can afford to spend thousands of dollars on a paint-splattered flea market find. It’s like all their customers are aspiring to be Charlotte in Tiny Furniture (a loft-dwelling trust fund dilettante).
They’ve gone off the deep end with the juxtaposition. You know those fashion editorials every fall where models lasagned in Prada swing around street signs in Red Hook? It’s like that, but on acid. The settings are more deteriorated and the designs are more design-y. It’s like shopping from deep within Fuck Your Noguchi Coffee Table.
If you choose to purchase a piece of Anthropologie furniture, it will only really look right in one of three settings:
1. An alternative gallery space six weeks from opening
2. An urban cabin with faulty electrical wiring
3. A crumbling Southern plantation (soon to be deemed “the new loft” by the NYTimes)
Let’s take a stroll through the Anthropologie furniture section together. What’s for sale today?
Photo: A section of Lake Oroville is seen nearly dry in Oroville, Calif., on Aug. 19, 2014 (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)
While homelessness is rampant worldwide, the production of empty spaces is a regular feature of contemporary society. When buildings sit empty for a long time while homelessness persists, it is clear that in these cases markets and states fail to fulfill their expected role as effective allocators of space.
Miguel Martínez, Gianni Piazza and Hans Pruijt - 'Introduction'
to ‘Squatting in Europe: Radical Spaces, Urban Stuggles’ by Squatting Europe Kollective
It’s a new day in the neighbourhood all across the Western world. More than 30 per cent of Canadians now say they feel disconnected from their neighbours, while half of Americans admit they don’t know the names of theirs. An Australian sociologist investigating community responses in the wake of the 2011 floods in Queensland found relations in “a precarious balance”; neighbours were hesitant to intrude even in emergencies—leading the scholar to conclude that “we are less likely than ever to know” our neighbours. Quite right, too: A recent poll of 2,000 Britons found a third declaring they couldn’t pick their near neighbours out of a police lineup.
Yet it’s hardly surprising, given how lengthy working days, long commutes and having both parents in the labour force have combined with the way we raise our children to create suburban neighbourhoods that are empty more than half the day, with scarcely a neighbour to encounter, let alone recognize, trust or befriend. But, however powerful the economic and social forces behind the disappearing neighbour—and however positive many of its results—according to reams of new research, the transformation is also poisoning our politics and, quite literally, killing us.
The great success which attends reason in its mathematical employment quite naturally gives rise to the expectation that it, or at any rate its method, will have the same success in other fields as in that of quantity. For this method has the advantage of being able to realize all its concepts in intuitions, which it can provide a priori, and by which it becomes, so to speak, master of nature; whereas pure philosophy is all at sea when it seeks through a priori discursive concepts to obtain insight in regard to the natural world, being unable to intuit a priori (and thereby to confirm) their reality. Nor does there seem to be, on the part of the experts in mathematics, any lack of self-confidence as to this procedure — or on the part of the vulgar of great expectations from their skill — should they apply themselves to carry out their project. For, since they have hardly ever attempted to philosophize in regard to their mathematics (a hard task! ), the specific difference between the two employments of reason has never so much as occurred to them. Current, empirical rules, which they borrow from ordinary consciousness, they treat as being axiomatic. In the question as to the source of the concepts of space and time they are not in the least interested, although it is precisely with these concepts (as the only original quanta) that they are themselves occupied. Similarly, they think it unnecessary to investigate the origin of the pure concepts of understanding and in so doing to determine the extent of their validity; they care only to make use of them. In all this they are entirely in the right, provided only they do not overstep the proper limits, that is, the limits of the natural world. But, unconsciously, they pass from the field of sensibility to the precarious ground of pure and even transcendental concepts, a ground (instabilis tellus, innabilis unda) that permits them neither to stand nor to swim, and where their hasty tracks are soon obliterated. In mathematics, on the other hand, their passage gives rise to a broad highway, which the latest posterity may still tread with confidence.
The idea of programming a robot to have a specific personality might sound like science fiction; in a world where true artificial intelligence has yet to be achieved, a personality—an individual’s distinct mixture of emotional response, attitude, and motivation—seems even more subtle and complex. But for computer scientists interested in social robotics, it has become a surprisingly immediate goal. As machines become more sophisticated, and integrated in new ways into human society, researchers have begun to realize that their effectiveness depends on how easily we relate to them.
“With technology that is genuinely going to live with us in an embedded way…and is going to be interacting with us in complex ways, personality is extremely important, the same way it is when you’re dealing with people,” said computer scientist Peter McOwan, the coordinator of a major European research effort on social robotics that ran from 2008 until 2012.
What researchers are finding is that it’s not enough for a machine to have an agreeable personality—it needs the right personality. A robot designed to serve as a motivational exercise coach, for instance, might benefit from being more intense than a teacher-robot that plays chess with kids. A museum tour guide robot might need to be less indulgent than a personal assistant robot that’s supposed to help out around the house.
A growing body of research is starting to reveal what works and what doesn’t. And although building truly human-like robots will probably remain technologically impossible for a long time to come, researchers say that imbuing machines with personalities we can understand doesn’t require them to be “human-like” at all. To hear them describe the future is to imagine a world—one coming soon—in which we interact and even form long-term relationships with socially gifted devices that are designed to communicate with us on our terms. And what the ideal machine personalities turn out to be may expose needs and prejudices that we’re not even aware we have.
These annotations are not holy relics because they restore nothing. Rather, they are simply the fears and obsessions of a damaged soul laid naked on the page, pushed to the margins but hardly marginal. A close encounter does not provide more salvation.
No one ever talks about how identifying with something you read might not always be a good thing. Saying “that’s like me” is not always an affirmation — it can be terrifying and make you feel “more fucked-up and Unknown.”
Reading David Foster Wallace annotations like Howard Phillips Lovecraft’s Necronomicon
If all this sounds a bit strange, let me try to contextualize this: apart from one of his sweat-soaked bandanas or used chewing tobacco, David Foster Wallace’s annotations are probably about as sacred to his fans as a piece of the True Cross is to Christians. No Wallace fan could resist an opportunity, especially a subsidized opportunity, to touch the literary equivalent of a medieval holy relic.
If that analogy makes it sound like I consider myself a pilgrim, let me bring things back down to earth because the truth is far less lofty and noble: I am not a pilgrim, and my trip to Austin is no religious pilgrimage. I came to Austin as a stalker, the kind of person who ought to be the recipient of a restraining order, not a research fellowship. The fellowship faintly disguises the fact that I am here to invade David Foster Wallace’s privacy, and that I took advantage of the Mellon Foundation to satisfy my personal compulsion to get as close to the inside of Wallace’s literary head as I could possibly get. What I failed to anticipate during all my academic grifting was how much peering into the dark recesses of Wallace’s skull would give me the howling fantods. What I wanted, I learned, was much more than I bargained for.