Much has recently been made of a resurgent sense of nationalism and tribalism and the undercurrent of conflict and violence that seethes underneath. In the cover story to Issue 4 of our print edition, Howard Wetzel uses the insights of Marshall and Eric McLuhan to explain how these trends relate directly to the rapid explosion of electronic media; its deconstruction of slower, more private print culture is having a powerful and disorienting effect on identity.
Elsewhere in Issue 4, Elizabeth Brunner uses the ongoing demonstrations in Hong Kong as a backdrop to explore the strategies of protest under surveillance and censorship. Chinese citizens have come up with creative workarounds to sidestep censors and effect change in one of the most repressive countries in the world, suggesting strategies for us as we fall deeper under the thumb of mass surveillance here in the US.
Carolyn Stewart takes a superficial new trend—the selfie mural—and contextualizes it persuasively as part of a reorienting of public space towards both individualism, and ironically, a milquetoast conformity. And David Reynolds, in a piece previewed here on our website, examines how the mythology of “the cloud” obscures the Internet’s very real and rapidly growing physical infrastructure. The print version, as usual, has better imagery.
I offer summaries of nine favorite books, both classic and current, that offer insightful histories or critiques at the intersection of tech and society. And finally, Art Keller conducts a fascinating interview with Katherine Birbalsingh, headmistress of a UK secondary school known for its strict rules and exceptional outcomes in an impoverished neighborhood—thanks in part to her vigilant rejection of the smartphone.
As usual, most of these stories are available only in our print edition. To receive a copy, you can subscribe here. Or find us on newsstands at many Barnes & Noble locations and a select group of independent bookstores (a list can be found here). We hope you enjoy Issue 4!