Open Thinkering


Month: March 2024

Weeknote 13/2024

Black and white photograph showing corner of laptop screen in focus with chair, door, and window out of focus in background

The author, walker, and mountaineer Robert Macfarlane tells of keeping books of poetry by his bedside. As a reader of, and also listener to his work, it’s evident that this habit influences the lyrical quality of his own writing. I’m re-experiencing The Old Ways at the moment, first having been gifted the audiobook version by my friend Bryan Mathers a few years ago, and then having it bought for me in paperback by my wife.

I find it good to revisit things, particularly those I enjoy. There’s a quality to rediscovering half-remembered stories and turns of phrase that can be quite different to encountering something for the first time. Turning them over in my mind a second (or a third, or a fourth time) I realise that they’ve become part of how I understand the world.

Finally succumbing to a Spring cold this week, I’ve been reading instead of exercising. I picked up Tiziana Terranova’s After the Internet: Digital Networks between Capital and the Common which someone recommended recently. It’s an excellent example of how experience can be reconceptualised by theory. Unable to highlight a book that has been printed on a dead tree without indelibly marking it, I resorted to taking photographs of the pages.

Here, for example, is the first page of the introduction:

Before the 2020s brought the world to a (temporary) sudden halt with the first taste of a truly planetary epidemic right before it reignited the fuse of a potential nuclear world war, there were the 2010s — the accelerationalist years. The second decade of the 21st century witness the precipitous crystallization of a massive worldwide infrastructure — one that has brought together technologies of communication and computation, connection and calculation in unprecedented ways. The infrastructure which today constitutes the dominant manifestation of digital connectivity does not seem to be quite what previous decades called “the internet,” rather, it appears as a complex of privately owned online services that call themselves “platforms”.

It takes a while to reflect on the significance of events both in one’s own life and in the history of the world. After the Internet is a series of essays written between 2009 and 2020, but the introduction is worth the price of admission alone: a masterpiece of reframing by an academic and activist. I highly recommend it.

Barring unexpected events, I will compose Weeknote 16/2024 from our new abode. This is later than we wanted, but earlier than the vendor initially offered. The move will come at the end of three weeks I’m taking off work in April, a time in which I must turn in the End of Module Assessment for my first MSc Systems Thinking module.

Sitting here, typing this before everyone else rises, three weeks seems like an eternity of opportunity. I want to cram it full of walking and camping; visiting places I have and have not yet had the pleasure of experiencing. I want to make decisions about and plan my new home office. I want to get all of the extraneous things cluttering my current office sold on eBay.

But I am still ill. A vessel for a temporary malady that Laura tells me Germans call frühjahrsmüdigkeit, or “spring sickness”. Despite my best efforts to keep fit and strong, events both on the world stage and closer to home have worn me out. I must rest.

There are not many things I will miss about this rental property when we move out. Built in 1661 as a coaching inn, the property is Grade II listed. Somehow, presumably because of the materials with which it was built and the secondary glazing, it manages to boast both stiflingly-low air circulation and poor heat retention. And yet, it does have some redeeming qualities. The thickness of the walls means that I can creep out of bed and make my way downstairs unheard, carving out a slice of early morning to read, and think, and write. It also has a cavernous cellar, which was originally where the coach and horses would be kept. I may come to miss the view looking south-west over the river, an ever-changing, weather-dependent treat when emerging from the bathroom with the blinds drawn and my contact lenses newly installed.

There is not much else to report from the front lines. Work has wound-down for me while my wife’s new role has ramped up from a standing start. My son has found himself a part-time job and, in typical fashion, committed to virtually all of the days of his Easter holidays. My daughter was involved in a football match for the under-15s East Northumberland team, a school lockdown, and a futsal tournament. Both received excellent academic reports.

Next week, I’ll be up at St Andrews University for the open day, that institution currently being top of my son’s list of future destinations. I’m hoping to be back to exercise before we make the trip, perhaps even spending a night under canvas. Over and out, then, for another week.

Photograph taken while finishing off this post using Lento

Weeknote 12/2024

Let’s get the whinging out of the way first: this week I’ve been tired and my shoulder has been hurting. This has meant I have done less exercise and eaten more. In turn, this has made me feel worse. Also, it’s been cold.

With that over and done with, let’s talk about what I’ve been up to. On the work front, it’s the current four client projects I’m working on: MIT’s DCC, CSUDH‘s Toro Impact community, ORE, and some user research for Participate. I’d like some more projects to work on, but also I’m taking the first three weeks of April off, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I’ve been doing some MSc work this week in preparation for my End of Module Assessment. I’m hoping to get it done before we move house next month, because I don’t want that hanging over me while packing and unpacking boxes.

I published several things on Thought Shrapnel for which I’ve been using generative AI to illustrate the posts. I’ve had complaints, so perhaps I won’t do that any more.

WAO sponsored Matt Jukes’ Internet of Public Service Jobs newsletter this week. Never having had a conventional approach to business development, we simply linked to an free email course providing an introduction to organisational strategy and architecture called How to Unf*ck Your Organisation. It seems to have worked, though, as quite a few people have signed up already.

Next week is a four-day work week due to Good Friday. I’m hoping to get back to lifting weights at the gym. I’m also going to start posting a bit more to both my personal and the new co-op Bluesky accounts.

Image: taken by me on Friday near a school in my home town.