5 Intriguing Things: Monday, 12/22

All our data, Little Big Details, early Soviet techno music, an accent archive, and the best typefaces of the year.

1. So, so, so much data is being collected about each and every one of us. Now what?

"A Senate committee released a report this week that goes to great lengths to determine all of the things that data brokers, the companies that trade in consumer data, don’t want to talk about. The 35-page report describes some of the companies’ strategies for collecting and organizing data, but significant portions of the report discuss what the companies are unwilling to talk about: namely, where they get a lot of their data and where that data is going."

+ Take a look at some of the different groups you can target with data:

US Senate


2. Little Big Details, a tumblr that highlights small but interesting bits of UI design. E.g.:

"iOS7 - The clock icon shows the current time."


3. Soviet sound art, music technology, and "the spectacle as a tool for radical transformation."

"What they created was astonishing, not only in its novelty but in its quantity and scale. Many of their more outlandish ideas never saw fruition: an organ powered by an entire factory, an electro-acoustic orchestra mounted on a fleet of airplanes. But they successfully fashioned a great number of unprecedented devices, from synthesizers to proto-samplers, with technology that predated magnetic tape let alone the integrated circuit. Many of their conceptual developments—methods for synthesizing speech, models of the physics of musical instruments, theoretical descriptions of the idiosyncrasies of live performers—would have been at home in the technological landscape of the ’80s, ’90s, and ’00s.

But under Stalin their projects were shut down and denounced as 'undemocratic' and 'formalist.'"


4. The Speech Accent Archive contains 1873 samples of people saying this:

"Please call Stella.  Ask her to bring these things with her from the store:  Six spoons of fresh snow peas, five thick slabs of blue cheese, and maybe a snack for her brother Bob.  We also need a small plastic snake and a big toy frog for the kids.  She can scoop these things into three red bags, and we will go meet her Wednesday at the train station."


5. The best typefaces of 2013, with impressively succinct, but detailed descriptions. I can't help but read them as describing people.

"A [person] made of layers, taking as a basis a sans and a slab...

Vaud is a neutral, yet formally nuanced grotesk [person]...

Designed with one purpose in mind: compact all-capital headlines without crashing."


*** Thanks, Justin P, Dan C


Sadly, we won't have any usage tips from my 1957 book until Friday. (Because I forgot the book in Oakland and I'm on the road, if you must know.)

Instead, let me recommend some books. Up first: 

Fred Turner's latest, The Democratic Surround: Multimedia and American Liberalism from World War II to the Psychedelic SixtiesHe connects the anti-fascist impulses of the mid-century to trippy be-ins through multimedia technology. That's like a triple-axel, triple-lutz combo, I think. 


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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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