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Welcome back.

Winter is coming: a cold, northern, long and suspenseful season. Six months from now the world will be more pessimistic, tired of the overwhelming sentiment of defeat against the unreasonable forces of tyranny, and their destructive international alliance. Many of us are certain this will happen. Many others subscribe to a different version: by March 2021 the world will believe in Spring again, health recovery figures and righteous economic structural adjustments will finally be in the foreground of what seems like an increasingly undeniable break from the bad news. Who can tell?
Our inability to predict the near future with accuracy is only matched by a growing refusal to seriously try. Future fatigue is when you acknowledge, accept and rejoice in the might of true randomness as the decider of how events unfold. Bad weather reports with no credibility play on mute, and you're reminded of old color patterns. It's when you can't decide which past decade you want to wear tonight. The business of anticipating the mood and the look of what's coming is no longer hip, no longer it. All we want is the past, and real time.

The Blind Machine is brought to you by the good people at chumbo

Listen to our weekly playlist on Spotify, a careful selection of old & new futures.

Thank you for being here.

Amazon launches new Luxury Stores shopping experience with Oscar de la Renta

on Sep 15, 2020 04:39 pm

Amazon (AMZN) is entering the world of high fashion. The company announced on Tuesday that it is launching new Luxury Stores on its site that will give users access to shopping experiences from big-name and up-and-coming fashion houses. The service will only be available to U.S.

The service will allow the brands to build out their own storefronts on the e-commerce giant’s main site, giving customers the ability to shop for everything from handbags and perfume to jewelry and kids clothes.

Available in the Amazon app by invitation only, Luxury Stores combines the convenience customers have come to know and love from Amazon with innovative technology like “View in 360.” This interactive feature will begin rolling out with select garments at launch, allowing customers to explore styles in 360-degree detail to better visualize fit, and making shopping for luxury easier and more engaging. With collections sold directly from the participating brands as a ‘store within a store’ experience, brands independently make decisions regarding their inventory, selection, and pricing – and Amazon offers the merchandising tools for brands to create and personalize content in each of their unique brand voices. By seamlessly tying content and commerce together, both fashion and beauty brands can engage and entertain customers through immersive storytelling, including enhanced, auto-play imagery and in-motion graphics.

“We are always listening to and learning from our customers, and we are inspired by feedback from Prime members who want the ability to shop their favorite luxury brands in Amazon’s store,” said Christine Beauchamp, President of Amazon Fashion. “We are excited to offer luxury brands the services and technology to build an inspiring, elevated customer experience. It’s still Day One, and we look forward to growing Luxury Stores, innovating on behalf of our customers, and opening a new door for designers all over the world to access existing and new luxury customers.”

Prime Gouging

on Sep 14, 2020 10:39 pm

Amazon set prices of products during the COVID-19 pandemic to levels that would be considered violations of price gouging laws in many states. Amazon has misled the public, law enforcement, and policymakers about price increases during the pandemic.

As the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic took hold in the United States in late February / early March 2020, reports of product shortages, hoarding, and massive price increases soon arose. And once the pandemic response moved from emergency declarations to stay-at-home orders, the public increasingly turned to online shopping and delivery. Amazon, which is by far the biggest online seller in the world, experienced a dramatic increase in revenue.[1] But prices also spiked on Amazon, leading to accusations of price gouging on its online marketplace. Amazon responded by blaming the skyrocketing prices on unscrupulous third-parties that sell on its website. By taking a public stance against price gouging, Amazon portrayed itself as an unwitting victim.

But we have uncovered a pattern of significant price increases on essential products sold directly by Amazon, as well as price gouging by third-party sellers.

This report details 15 essential products that have been sold by Amazon during that COVID-19 pandemic with markups over the recent price on or other national retailers ranging from 76% to more than 1,000%, and 10 products sold on Amazon by third-party sellers during the same period with markups ranging from 225% to 941%. Notably, some state price gouging laws prohibit price increases of as little as 10%.[2]

Modernity + Coloniality

on Sep 13, 2020 05:39 am

Screenshot 2020-09-14 183756

A free online summer seminar on coloniality and decoloniality

Course Instructor: Ahmed Ansari

Dates & Times: Every Saturday, 2pm to 3:30pm EST. There are 300 seats in the Zoom session, and it is first come, first serve. The link will be up every Friday before class below the readings for the session.

“Many words are walked in the world. Many worlds are made. Many worlds make us. There are words and worlds that are lies and injustices. There are words and worlds that are truthful and true. In the world of the powerful there is room only for the big and their helpers. In the world we want, everybody fits. The world we want is a world in which many worlds fit.”
– Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, “The Fourth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle”

This course will be run as a reading seminar and survey course looking into the constitution, scale, and many dimensions of the modern\colonial world-system. The texts here are merely a tiny fraction of the work done by non-Anglo-European, non-white scholars and activists in articulating the origins, development, and hegemony of the modern world-system, and yet my hope is that these will act as sparks for curious minds and a place within which to situate oneself and start from. This course was created keeping design students in mind, so, yes, we will have a few choice readings connecting coloniality to technology, but really, anyone can and should take this!

Toward a machine learning model that can reason about everyday actions

on Sep 13, 2020 05:39 am


Researchers train a model to reach human-level performance at recognizing abstract concepts in video.

The ability to reason abstractly about events as they unfold is a defining feature of human intelligence. We know instinctively that crying and writing are means of communicating, and that a panda falling from a tree and a plane landing are variations on descending.

A computer vision model developed by researchers at MIT, IBM, and Columbia University can compare and contrast dynamic events captured on video to tease out the high-level concepts connecting them. In a set of experiments, the model picked out the video in each vertical-column set that conceptually didn’t belong. Highlighted in red, the odd-one-out videos show a woman folding a blanket, a dog barking, a man chopping greens, and a man offering grass to a llama.

‘Sit, Eat, Wait for Death’: Life in the Shenzhen Sticks

on Sep 13, 2020 05:39 am

The migrant workers at the Sanhe job markets have a motto: “Work for a day, party for three.” As romantic as it sounds, the reality is many would rather be almost anywhere else.

Around 5 a.m. each day, the quiet streets of Sanhe burst to life as the young migrants sleeping outside the labor market awaken to a quick calculation: Do they have enough cash to make it through the day? If they do, they’ll roll over and slip back into sleep.

The lives of young migrants to Sanhe, located in the southern megacity of Shenzhen, first attracted public attention around three years ago. Contrary to the conventional image of migrant workers as dreary automatons trapped on factory lines, the so-called Sanhe youth have little interest in formal work. Accustomed to low-quality and low-cost living, their mantra is simple: “Work for a day, party for three.” The most extreme among them, known for their abilities to tolerate near-absolute poverty, are referred as “Sanhe legends.”

Da Roménia para Bissau, por amor

on Sep 13, 2020 03:54 am

Durante a Guerra Fria, estudantes guineenses levaram a sua cultura aos países do bloco de leste.

Desse encontro nasceram relações que enfrentaram regimes e preconceitos. Não se sabe ao certo quantas mulheres acompanharam o regresso dos estudantes à Guiné-Bissau, mas foram poucas as que ficaram. Passados 30 anos da queda do Muro de Berlim, Gabi, Mariana e Maria contam como o cinema e o amor valeram um bilhete de ida para a terra a que hoje chamam casa.

The Tyranny of Terrazzo

on Sep 12, 2020 05:39 pm

All that pink. All those plants. All that white. It’s so clean! Everything’s fun, but not too much fun. And there, in the round mirror above the couch: It’s you. You know where you are. Or do you?

Ever since modernism brought industry into design, tastes have cycled between embracing and rejecting what it wrought. A forward-looking, high-tech style obsessed with mass commercial appeal will give way to one that’s backward-looking, handmade, authenticity-obsessed — which will then give way to some new variation on tech-forward mass style. (Furniture dealers joke that “brown” goes in and out with every generation.) It’s a logic that gets filtered through the reliable desire for the world the way it looked when we were young, and lately this has meant looking back 30 or so years to the Memphis-inflected pastel pop of the ’80s and ’90s.

We might call the latest iteration of the cycle the “millennial aesthetic” — not to say that it was embraced by all millennials, just that it came to prominence alongside them and will one day be a recognizable artifact of their era.

Coronavirus Killed the Modern Aspiration Economy. Here is What Comes Next.

on Sep 12, 2020 05:39 pm

Coronavirus is perhaps a fitting crisis for the modern aspiration economy. With uncanny precision, it targets all its tenets: travel, tourism, dining, experiences, leisure, art and culture, and the luxury industry. In less than a fortnight, it exposed the vulnerabilities of trading in social, cultural, and environmental capital. “Access over ownership” and “experiences over possessions” make great sense if there is access and experiences to be had. Once the NYC galleries, theater, restaurants and fitness and nightclubs closed, and all the rich fled to the Hamptons, the city’s social, cultural, and environmental capital went to zero. Having a spacious apartment and a nice furniture counts in the days of Zoom more.

Along with intangibles like access, experiences, and knowledge, the modern aspiration economy also created a cultural class unto its own. Oriented towards wellness and self-perfecting, this class of self-proclaimed “creatives” (regardless of what they actually do) defies the hierarchy that socially bound previous generations to their economic standing, and lives the lifestyle of the affluent without actually owning the assets to underpin it (home, a savings account). This consumer class also created a signature aesthetic genre, a number of taste regimes, and an entire DTC economy of lifestyle add-ons.

They now realize two things: the chances of perfecting oneself are much better when a person is not shut in 700 square feet; sharing lifestyle add-ons of the rich does not make one rich. Buying a coronavirus test, booking a COVID-19 service in a Switzerland, and having 3M N95 mask does.

You, Me and Everyone We Know: Ian Berry and Bieke Depoorter

on Sep 11, 2020 04:39 pm

When big changes hit, how can photographers document them? Do they have a responsibility to cover the news headlines, or are there other approaches? In the latest addition to an ongoing series bringing together two creatives of different generations to discuss capturing change, Diane Smyth talks with Magnum Photos’ Ian Berry and Bieke Depoorter

It’s a truism but currently we’re all experiencing it: change is the only constant. Societies and environments are continually evolving and occasionally erupt into era-defining shifts, and that’s something photographers Ian Berry and Bieke Depoorter have both experienced first-hand. Bieke was on the ground in Egypt in 2011 during the Arab Spring protests, for example, and Ian documented the massacre at Sharpeville, South Africa in 1960, in which the police shot and killed 69 peaceful protestors. It’s not the only thing they have in common – both are highly successful, both made their names while still in their early twenties, and both are members of the prestigious Magnum Photos agency. But in other ways they couldn’t be more different, with widely varying approaches to both photography and to documenting the world with it. Ian is motivated by a desire to “show people on one side of the world what was happening to people on the other side of the world,” he says; Bieke opts to focus on the small-scale and the intimate.

Mothers for QAnon

on Sep 11, 2020 03:39 pm

In the testosterone-filled world of Trump-adjacent online conspiracy, the newest theory stands out. Why are so many women falling for Q?

When I interviewed attendees, many talked about how they had come out of a sense of maternal duty to protect the innocent. Very few brought up QAnon’s connections with President Trump, Hillary Clinton or the anonymous 4chan account known as “Q” that started it all. They were here, they said, for the children.

Just who is a believer in the sprawling, muddled world of QAnon isn’t an easy thing to pin down; it’s not like following a conspiracy theory requires a registration form. But what seems clear — from the rally, from conversations I’ve had with other experts and my own research — is that there’s something about QAnon that makes it stand out in the world of Trump-adjacent online groups: Its ranks are populated by a noticeably high percentage of women.

“Women have always been part of QAnon since the early days,” said Travis View, a conspiracy theory researcher who is a co-host of the podcast “QAnon Anonymous” (which has documented the rise of the conspiracy theory, and which I’m affiliated with). “But I also think the ‘soft front’ of QAnon in the form of ‘Save the Children’ makes it easy for more women to get on board.”

Undressing for redress: the significance of Nigerian women’s naked protests

on Sep 09, 2020 08:39 am

Social media went abuzz on July 23, 2020, when hundreds of women – mostly naked – staged a protest in the northwestern state of Kaduna, Nigeria. Wailing and rolling on the ground, they protested at the killing of people in ongoing attacks on their community.

Nigerian women have historically employed naked protests to seek redress – with success. In my book chapter contribution on this subject, I documented numerous naked protests dating back to the colonial period. I drew the conclusion that through the spectacle of such protests, women have rewritten the script on their bodies and used nakedness as an instrument of power, rather than shame, in making their voices heard.

Historically, in western and non-western worlds, women have used their bodies to protest unacceptable treatment by those in power. In Africa, the nakedness of women, especially mothers and grandmothers, is a historical and symbolic “shaming” tactic. Women’s enacting nakedness on their own terms disrupts dominant notions that depict their bodies as passive, powerless, or as sexual objects for sale.

Auf wiedersehen, techno: Berlin’s banging Berghain club reborn as a gallery

on Sep 08, 2020 08:39 pm


With nightlife in limbo due to Covid-19, the legendary temple of techno has reinvented itself as art gallery.

If a new report by nightlife consultancy VibeLab is anything to go by, collaborations like these will have to be part of the new normal. Their “Global Nighttime Recovery Plan”, co-written by an international panel of night mayors, academics and music promoters, suggests more clubs need to perform “creative business model pivots” like Berghain in order to maintain revenue while the clubbing experience is impossible.

Knowing the challenge of trying to do anything productive during the lockdown is what lends many works on display in Berlin an intriguing edge. British artist Tacita Dean recalls the “feeling that I wasn’t marking the time in a way an artist was expected to”. She ended up bundling her frustrations into a limited-edition postcard she sent to friends across the globe: a woodcut of a 16th-century alchemical drawing that looks like a turd falling from the sky, scrawled with the words “Shite Zeit” and “anus horribilis”.

Inside a disused power station in east Berlin, a red-and-white buoy is bobbing mid-air, swooping six metres up and six metres down in rhythm to imaginary waves.


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