The Constant Consumer


We have become an active consumer all through the day thanks to technology.

In light of Amazon’s all-encompassing ambitions, the strategy behind several of the company’s most important product initiatives — Alexa, Amazon Prime, physical retail stores (including Amazon Go and Whole Foods), and Amazon Key — becomes clearer. These products seek to redefine what being a customer means by immersing us more completely within the Amazon universe. Formerly, being a customer was a role one assumed upon physically entering a store or ordering something from a company. Amazon promises to create a newer type of environment, a hybrid of the digital and the physical, that lets us permanently inhabit that role: the world as Everything Store, which we’re always inside.

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Drew Austin — Real Life

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We humans have a tendency to measure everything. For example, what matters for Business is profits and humans are worth only how productive they are, whatever that means.

The ad’s gimmick plays not only to the fantasy that our life force can be captured in some simple unidimensional measure and actively managed but also to the broader, more insidious notion that people should function like phones. The expectations we have for our devices saturate our expectations of others (whether they are friends, family, service workers, or robots) and ultimately ourselves. We should be capable of handling any task we’re hired for, moving seamlessly from one interface to the next, from one application to another, for as long as required. If we can’t, we need to “recharge” ourselves: to find the right drug combination or exercise regimen, or else to sit ourselves out for precisely as long as we need to get back to 100 percent. The idea that we are anything other than self-sufficient and energy independent is suspended for a fantasy of instrumental control.

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Real Life

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Having slow phones may come to be seen as a form of disability


With the slower phone, I felt the same sense of personal failure and frustration as I do when, at my library job, I have to get down on my knees to shelve a book that someone else could replace with a glance and a slight lean. Except with the slower phone, I could fix the problem, for a price I could afford.

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Olivia Rosane — Real Life

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How real should representations of suicide be?


A serious reflection on suicide. A tough topic to read about, but nevertheless an important one.

Thinking of my family’s predicament, I am reminded of what Siddhartha Mukherjee, a Bengali man like me, wrote for the New Yorker in March in his gorgeous frankenstein of personal essay and scientific reportage, “Runs in the Family”: “Madness has been among the Mukherjees for generations … and at least part of my father’s reluctance to accept [his nephew’s] diagnosis lies in a grim suspicion that something of the illness may be buried, like toxic waste, in himself.”

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Mayukh Sen — Real Life

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