July 19 - July 23: A rollercoaster week. Again.

A bit of an up-and-down week, to be honest. I’ve been doing a lot of organising and thinking about how I am going to focus on work and personal life over the coming years. Rather like last week, I have had a number of ups and downs, which seems to be par for the course for me.

My writing of the paper has come along a little with my thoughts and plan more crystallised. I hope to spend a bit more time breaking the back of the writing this week. It’ll be dreadful, but like Hemingway said, “The first draft of anything is shit”.

I’ve been accepted on (yet) another training course. This time it is about trade statistics and is a complementary course to the one I have already completed. Whilst these courses are not always 100% aligned with what I’m doing day-to-day, they provide me with a broader view of how the economy functions. That is valuable when considering how technology affects business and the broader economy.

An opinion piece was published in The Register, “Social media is too much for most of us to handle”, discussing Dunbar’s number and the possible limit on social interactions. I’ve written about it before here. I talked about how small-scale community hubs and social clubs dotted the landscape in the 70s and 80s without explaining what I meant.

These loosely organised clubs and groups provided a social interaction for small groups to share interests and a little time together. Mothers would lug along their kids, who would play together, and chat/do things with other mothers in similar situations. They would exchange ideas, tips, gossip, and even trade items like clothing, etc. These groups never got unmanageable, even if they could get “out of hand” now and again from strong personality clashes. But even during those times of crisis, because they were small and the interaction was face-to-face, they never got so out of hand as to become dangerous.

Social media is the opposite of this. It is cramming as many people in the same room, ignoring fundamental human limits, and ignoring any purpose. Eyeballs mean ads. That’s it. There’s nothing altruistic or “town square” about any of it. It is simply a wealth transfer from anyone to their pockets. One day we’ll wake up, I guess 🤷‍♂️.

I do want to see the end of social media as it exists in its current form, and I’d like it to be as painful as possible for the enablers of genocide, harassment, and suicides, just to name a few negative impacts. Mastodon’s idea of small groups looks like a good idea on the surface, but in reality, people flock to one instance, and the same cycle of enshittification will begin.

I’ve been marking papers for the end-of-year tests for my students. I’m always surprised how, on the face of it, simple instructions can be interpreted and misinterpreted. Each student can develop a completely different idea based on the question. Although to be fair, I tend to set open-ended questions to make the students think a little and not just repeat what was discussed in class or on the course notes. I’m not a severe marker, preferring to give encouragement rather than reprimand. I have one set left to mark and will do that this Monday.


I have continued reading A World Transformed, and I am finding it quite eye-opening. Again, I can’t stress enough that if you have even a cursory interest in the subject, you should pick up this book and read it. It might make you uncomfortable and probably, as in my case, make you quite angry, particularly when you hear some of the absolutely abject and vile things being said by the likes of DeSantis. (I refuse to link to it, this gives it extra steam).

I’d started, and let slip, a book about the birth of the modern internet. It’s from Brian McCullough, of Techmeme Ride Home podcast fame. It’s a good read, and I’m looking forward to finishing it in a week or so.

I’m piling through lots of papers on web3, Web 3.0 and tourism, all in the name of finishing the CIRVATH paper. I should probably stop now, as I’m pretty sure I have amassed enough stuff.

I’ve just started to read this open-access book on media use in life. Entitled Media Use in Digital Everyday Life, the book asks how we navigate media after the mass adoption of smartphones, social media and other technologies. I’m looking forward to it.

Of note

Threads is still not available in the EU. Plenty has been discussed about this, mainly from those used to being invaded with personal data stealing ads, not understanding how Europeans think about privacy. I think it is a blessing in disguise, personally, but then again, I’m pretty much against anything coming out of Menlo Park. Interestingly, user numbers have fallen off a cliff, despite a couple of rushed updates to improve the user experience. Circling down the toilet would be better, but out of 4.5 billion internet-connected people, there’s still plenty of gullibility, sadly!

Matthew Cowen @matthewcowen