Abolish Silicon Valley, doorbells and Sleaford Mods

A review of Wendy Liu's new book and some thoughts on the Amazon Ring surveillance system and the music of the Sleaford Mods.

A few years ago I wrote a defence of book reviewing. It made the case for book reviews as being a communal act that pushes against the individualisation of knowledge. At the moment, I’m also thinking of reviewing as a form of dialogue: which is very welcome where distancing is making debate and discussion more difficult to find. With closed libraries and limited resources being available, reviewing is quite practical at the moment too (as you only really need access to the one thing that is being reviewed). The other nice thing about reviews is that you can use them to draw attention to other people’s work, so they feel more like sharing ideas and curating than other forms of writing. I wanted to use this newsletter to highlight two reviews I've written along with a short piece on Amazon doorbells. To close, I’ve included some interesting books and podcasts.

Can we really change the tech sector? I’ve written a review of Wendy Liu’s new book Abolish Silicon Valley. Liu’s book is really readable and revealing. It tracks her experiences of working in the tech sector and how those experiences led her to the realisation that change was needed for the tech sector to produce anything close to common goods. In the review I try to capture her approach and respond to the arguments the book makes for changing the relations between technology and capitalism. If you are interest, you can read the review in Open Democracy here.

I’ve also written about Sleaford Mods as representing a kind of ready-made music for Berfrois magazine. I’ve had their newly released retrospective album All That Glue on my turntable whilst working. I describe the music a bit in the article and reflect on the vision of alienation it offers. That piece is available here.

The last proper thing I wrote before lockdown was published last month in Prospect. That was a piece about the new networked surveillance doorbell systems that are now on the market. I took this as an example of just how far surveillance capitalism has sunken into the fabric of everyday life. If something as mundane as the doorbell gets this sort of treatment, then what does that tell us about the broader use of data and surveillance. You can read that Prospect piece here.

And here are some other things that might be of interest:

Louise Amoore’s new book Cloud Ethics: Algorithms and the Attributes of Ourselves and Others is out now with Duke University Press.

Elinor Carmi’s new book Media Distortions is available open access.

Rowland Atkinson’s Alpha City is out with Verso.

Simon Lindgren’s book Data Theory is out soon with Polity.

The musician Nadine Shah has turned the tables and has been interviewing music journalists about their work. You can find the ‘Payback’ interviews on her Youtube channel. There are four interviews available so far (I think a fifth is about to be uploaded).

The music magazine Loud And Quiet have a podcast series where they interviewed different figures in the music industry about their roles. It includes interviews with publicists, managers, agents, label bosses, and song writers.

Finally, here is Will Davies talking to Carl Miller about his last book Nervous States.