2. August 2021

032021: At the Bottom of Everything

Photo of me with just my eyes, my forehead and the sky visible

After the weather has been indecisive for the whole weekend, the rain finally comes down on this Sunday evening. I am sitting here, in my sparsely lit living room, on the couch, in summer shorts, sipping ice tea. Apparently, these 20 degrees Celsius are what makes our summer this year, and whatever, I’m fine with it.

This dispatch has been on a little break. After the last letters, I felt that my writing had become too whiny, and I wasn’t sure whether I actually have anything of relevance to tell. And, reflecting on the media landscape of the past years, I believe: If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything. We need a slower, calmer internet; we need to be more selective in what we ingest — and as artists, writers and publishers, I think we can be more precise and selective in what we publish and share, as well. I know that all the social media experts will tell you that you’d need to publish one post, three instagram stories and a newsletter each and every day, but honestly: No. You don’t need to. No one needs to read or see it, either. The world won’t spin faster from the noise that we make – it will just cause nausea.

During the past months, one line kept coming back into my head. Donald E. Knuth, professor emeritus at Stanford University, writes: “Email is a wonderful thing for people whose role in life is to be on top of things. But not for me; my role is to be on the bottom of things.” I think this goes for all social media that came after e-mail, too, and it’s exactly where I want to be: At the bottom of things. Here on my sofa, with the rain outside, reading weblogs and making little websites and delving through the vast amount of printed magazines I buy but never get to read.

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A brief note on goings-on in my life and ministry: A couple of months ago (the last dispatch was sent out in April!), I seemed to have unlearned to say the word “No”, and by now I’m wading through piles of unfinished work. Some of it has just been completed though: I designed an innovation report on Synthetic Media for the German broadcaster WDR (read it here; in German), and I wrote another episode of my technology column for form magazine, about screen savers (buy it here). More is to come, and I’m excited to tell you about that soon. Until then, here is a collection of things I enjoyed online:

Seen on TV: My twitter bubble is already full of praise, but I want to stress it yet again: Ted Lasso on Apple TV is a great show, probably the best I’ve seen this year. I have zero interest in soccer, but the show is just a great mixture of fun and emotions, with a refreshing take on male characters.

Thoughts from the home office: How can work environments change once people are required to go back to their cubicles? Will it be required at all? What’s needed to achieve sustainable remote work, asks Cal Newport in the New Yorker.

Reading poetry: The ­ magazine is an inspiring take on digital and interactive poems. The issue Mistaking Glass For Skin and Hannah Schraven’s poem forever dolphin love II are definitely worth your time.

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Maybe I will find a way back to writing this letter more regularly. Or maybe I will stick to the rule to only publish when I feel something is worth publishing. Until then, I will try to stay at the bottom of things. I hope you can find a way to manage the noise, too.

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