Illustration by Tara Jacoby

(Online Research)


It’s OK to Be a Luddite

“Technology will save us! Technology sucks! Where today’s techno-utopians cheer, our modern-day Luddites, from survivalists to iPhone skeptics to that couple that dresses in Victorian clothing and winds its own clock, grumble.

Understanding the former urge is pretty easy: It’s a fantasy of a perfect world. The Luddite impulse, however, isn’t so clear—and we shouldn’t automatically dismiss it as one that scapegoats technology for society’s ills or pines for a simpler past free of irritating gadgets. Rather, today’s Luddites are scared that technology will reveal that humans are no different from technology—that it will eliminate what it means to be human. And frankly, I don’t blame them. Humanity has had such a particular and privileged conception of itself for so long that altering it, as technology must inevitably do, will indeed change the very nature of who we are.”

#authentic at all costs

“A vintage coffee mug cradled by a disembodied white hand. A pair of rustic boots propped up next to a crackling beach fire. A wooden shelf of squat succulents languishing in Mason jars. A handmade Mexican blanket strewn over a driftwood log. All photos posted on the photo-sharing site Instagram, all of them marked #liveauthentic.

The sparse, wholesome #liveauthentic aesthetic is dominating commodity culture in fashion and design. Ironically, though, the hashtag renders the images in its feed indistinguishable from one another. Our search for the “real thing” has led to an aesthetic assembly line that spits out interchangeable items of privilege.

The call to #liveauthentic yields to nostalgia, exclusion, and colonial erasure, and the marketplace is cashing in.

[…] In “Postmodernism is Dead,” Edward Docx identifies a “growing desire for authenticity” among today’s consumers. In response, brands “are trying to hold on to, or take up, an interest in ethics,” and in our “growing reverence and appreciation” for “hand-crafted” goods. Think artisanal pottery, hand-embroidered linen napkins, the resurgence and popularity of haberdashers, cobblers, microbrewers, and beekeepers – operations geared toward both utilitarian and ornamental domestic use, and marketed as a relief from products like computers, video games, televisions, and cars. The Luddite rejection of new media and technology in favour of handmade goods is in this sense motivated not by ethics but by aesthetics. It is not a protest of capitalism, per se; after all, consumers wilfully play their part, provided the commodities don’t look like commodities.”

This Crazy New Instrument Uses 2000 Marbles To Make Music

“Ever looked at a marble and thought “Hey, I could make music with those things!” No? Well, me neither, but Martin Molin of Swedish band Wintergatan did, and we’re seriously glad about that, because what he’s invented is nothing short of genius.

Taking two years to complete, The fantastically complex Wintergatan Marble Machine is comprised of 3000 internal parts and uses 2000 marbles to make music. The instrument is built largely from wood and is operated by a perplexing array of manually-operated pulleys, gears and levers. It even uses LEGO Technic parts! Check out the pictures below to see this amazing machine for yourself.

Words can’t really do justice to the beautiful music created by this unique instrument so you’re just going to have to watch the video. I’m sure you’ll agree that Molin’s hard work has certainly paid off. That’s what we call using your marbles!”


Burn It All Down: A Guide to Neo-Luddism

“Despite what you see in numerous daily tweets and hear in everyday conversation, luddism is not wasn’t a passive refusal to adapt to technology and join with to modern world. The real historical Luddites sought to understand technology, even as they attempted to resist it.

Luddism by definition is nebulous: It has only ever existed as a form of resistance, named for its fictional leader Ned Ludd, who criticized the machines that threatened to strip the livelihood of workers during the industrial revolution. The original Luddites hold a certain romance, as underdogs and prescient technophobes. But today, their cause has evolved into a diverse and fractured medium through which to resist not only technology, but government surveillance, capitalist hierarchies and modernity itself.”

Inimigos do Futuro

INIMIGOS DO FUTURO — A GUERRA DOS LUDITAS CONTRA A REVOLUÇÃO INDUSTRIAL E O DESEMPREGO: LIÇÕES PARA O PRESENTE é o trabalho de um pesquisador cuidadoso, mas também a excitante história de pessoas cuja resistência à tecnologia foi tão dramática que seu nome entrou em nossos dicionários. Hoje em dia, o termo ludita se refere a qualquer pessoa que tenha aversão a computadores e celulares. Este livro nos lembra que os luditas eram, de fato, pessoas reais, trabalhadores ingleses que viram suas vidas e casas, suas comunidades e suas terras destruídas pelo avanço do capitalismo industrial.

Durante poucos meses, entre 1811 e 1812, os trabalhadores da indústria têxtil engendraram uma rebelião armada contra a iminente reengenharia provocada pelas tecnologias subitamente introduzidas por interesses econômicos — novas idéias radicais, incluindo a da própria indústria, uma estrutura centralizada construída para dar lugar às máquinas, nas quais o ritmo e a natureza de todo o trabalho não são mais gerados pela cadência e pelas necessidades das pessoas, mas pelo movimento dos motores.

A impetuosidade sangrenta da luta dos luditas e a brutalidade com a qual foram esmagados por um governo comprometido com o industrialismo são o enredo deste livro. A partir dele, a intensidade desta batalha específica ilumina os importantes temas que Kirkpatrick Sale traz para nosso tempo, seguro de que havia mais em jogo em 1811 do que apenas milhares de empregos. A imposição da tecnologia, levada por uma nova crença industrial de lucros irrestritos e competição em larga escala, representou nada menos que uma nova definição da existência humana; a comunidade seria sacrificada pelas engrenagens de uma máquina chamada “economia”, e o futuro seria definido pelo industrialismo e imposto às pessoas. Os homens da era romântica se rebelaram contra este destino.

Quase dois séculos depois, a humanidade anestesiada pelo estresse, pela monotonia e pela degradação espiritual da vida industrial e corporativa mal percebe que as mudanças se sucedem na mesma proporção em que cresce o conformismo. Se a resistência existe hoje, este livro celebra os neoluditas, identificando os movimentos e perigos que os ligam aos primeiros rebeldes.

Kirkpatrick Sale é autor de sete livros, incluindo The Conquest of Paradise: Christopher Columbus and the Columbian Legacy e The Green Revolution. Ele faz parte do PEN American Center e da E.F. Schumacher Society.

Notes toward a Neo-Luddite Manifesto

“The current controversy over technology is reminiscent of that of the Luddite period. We too are being barraged by a new generation of technologies — two-way television, fiber optics, bio-technology, superconductivity, fusion energy, space weapons, supercomputers. We too are witnessing protest against the onslaught. A group of Berkeley students gathered in Sproul Plaza to kick and smash television sets as an act of “therapy for the victims of technology.” A Los Angeles businesswoman hiked onto Vandenberg Air Force Base and beat a weapons-related computer with a crowbar, bolt cutters, hammer, and cordless drill. Villagers in India resist the bulldozers cutting down their forests by wrapping their bodies around tree trunks. People living near the Narita airport in Japan sit on the tarmac to prevent airplanes from taking off and landing. West Germans climb up the smokestacks of factories to protest emissions that are causing acid rain, which is killing the Black Forest.”

The Violent Opt-out: The Neo-Luddites Attacking Drones And Google Glass

“One of the few mildly entertaining things in the tedious Johnny Virtual Depp vehicle Transcendence was its portrayal of anti-technology terrorists. Rather than swapping smartphones for yoga and mindfulness, the neo-Luddites wear all-black and heavy eyeliner, sport “UNPLUG” tattoos on forearms, and are set on derailing Siri from ever becoming Scarlett Johannson’s Her, seeking to destroy the people and research labs working on any Google GOOGL +0.15% X-like projects. The first half of the movie features feds trying to track the domestic terrorists down, but by the end, they’re allies fighting off Depp’s ghost-in-the-machine.

We’ve seen some less-radical attempts to destroy technology in the real world in recent months, mainly in the form of attacks on people wearing Glass or flying drones, or the drone on its own (by hockey fans who reportedly and incorrectly thought it belonged to the LAPD). As in the movie, the destroyers haven’t been identified or punished, with one exception: Andrea Mears, 23, was charged with third degree assault for attacking a teen boy, Austin Haughwout, 17, flying a drone on a Connecticut beach. She got probation this week, as noted by comprehensive drone chronicler Greg McNeal. It’s easy to call these people Luddites, after the British workers who set about destroying machines — and in some cases killing the people who owned them — in the late 1700s and early 1800s in a futile attempt to turn back the tide of mechanization. It led Britain to pass a law making machine-wrecking punishable by death. But the new machine destroyers’ motivations are different. The original Luddites were worried machines would take their jobs; the Neo-Luddites fear machines will steal their privacy.

The rise of the nostalgia industry

“Cross notes a generational shift in the way people consume nostalgia. Whereas the typical baby-boomer sought a return to the comforts of halcyon youth only after a substantial interim immersed in grown-up pursuits like working and starting a family, the Generation-Xer – who was young in the 1980s or ’90s – can indulge their infatuations alongside responsible adulthood without fear of social disapproval. Nostalgic latitude and real life play out not as discrete stages but in synthesis; it is either an eternal adolescence or a ludic utopia, depending on your take. The bearded patrons of Shoreditch’s much-maligned Cereal Killer café spring, inevitably, to mind.

So much for Generation X; what of their successors, the “millennials”? Might the cultural heterogeneity of the Web 2.0 era diminish the sense of a shared culture that is the very currency of the nostalgia industry? Perhaps, but the latter will still persist. It is bound up in something that transcends the vicissitudes of cultural production – an innate human impulse, poignantly futile, to try and stop time itself.”