Adventures With Technology: Hide and Track

The Atlantic Technology Channel's latest call for pitches
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Flickr/Paul Stainthorp

Last month, we made our first official call for pitches and it was a tremendous success. So many great ideas came across the transom. We commissioned 25 and we loved every single one. 

We learned about the lost levels of Sonic the Hedgehog. And Gregg shorthand. And Eveleth, Minnesota. We remembered that Prodigy was a thing. And so were the New Kids on the Block. There was grief and solace, small heroism, big questions. This was one hell of a collection.

Now it's time for a new batch of your stories.

Let me remind you what we're looking for. We want adventures with technology. We want exciting stories—the kind that warrant telling your friends—about what it's like living with technology these days. We want you to be able to execute quickly, on a scale measured in days. You don't have to be at the center of the story, but someone should be.

(You can read the whole rationale and theoretical framework we're using here. Short version: These calls were inspired by Ann Friedman, David Edgerton, Rookie Mag, and a bunch of great radio shows.)

The new theme is Hide and Track, stories about slipping away from data, or taking control of it.

In "Hide and Seek," everyone hides and one person searches. Online, though, everyone's searching—and everyone's hiding. The default is increasingly that everything gets recorded. 

There is the dark side. An unannounced engagement revealed by canny web ads. A website archived forever on the Wayback Machine, accessible only by a URL you know. Lying to your fitness tracking app. Secret profiles, insurance problems. You can't check the weather without a few dozen companies harvesting your IP address and trying to sell you something. We live without oversight only when we can throw the data hounds off the scent.

But the new state of affairs is not entirely dystopian. There's power in people choosing to aggregate their data. We can know the bacteria in our guts or the number of white blood cells in our bodies. We can track our steps and our calories. We can see precisely where our children are or how their caretakers are treating them. We can save or make money by making ourselves accessible and legible to the machines. 

(I write this looking out on the northern California coast line, fog coming and going to hide or reveal an ocean. Maybe it is climactic, but there is a sense you can lay low out here, keep to yourself: live a full life but stay unfound, not universally public. Is there a place like this online?)

As always, pitches go to the absolutely fabulous Adrienne LaFrance (adrienne.lafrance [at] gmail.com). We're only going to take 20 pitches, and we suggest you get them in early. Based on the response from last time, we'll have met our quota of stories by the end of the week.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. 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 website 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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