Inside the Moral Kiosk

by Ethan Kaplan

Music + Microcode - Former and current music executive and technologist

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The Phone, It Reifies Me

There is and always has been a dialog between what you use to form a digital identity and what you use to maintain and express that identity. This difference – utility and formation essentially – are the two destinations when setting out to make anything that is “social” through software.

From the outset of connected computing, services and technologies have divided themselves between these two areas. Some aimed to form a home for identities; a root as it were. AOL, Compuserve, MySpace, Facebook, even .plan files tried to serve this purpose.

And others were tools for those identities. Some provided video, audio, photo hosting. They were utilities for specific aspects of the identities.

OpenID and later OAuth (as mostly pushed through by Facebook), let the homes for identities extend themselves through the utilities. You could use Facebook Connect to bootstrap...

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Reform Internet Company Surveillance - .com

The undersigned users on the Internet believe that it is time for the world’s Internet companies to address the practices and laws regulating Internet companies' surveillance of their users and access to their information.

While the undersigned users understand that Internet companies need to take action to protect their citizens’ safety and security and their own ability to raise funding and differentiate in a free market, we strongly believe that current laws and practices need to be reformed.

Consistent with established global norms of free expression and privacy and with the goals of ensuring that marketing and data intelligence efforts are rule-bound, narrowly tailored, transparent, and subject to oversight, we hereby call on Internet companies to endorse the following principles and enact reforms that would put these principles into action.

1 - Limiting Internet Companies’...

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The Space Between Sense and Fanaticism

Music is the white whale of social networks. Twitter and Facebook have both attempted to address it on a product level and both failed abjectly. This is not for lack of an earnest and honest love for music. I believe everyone from the top of the organization down at both companies loves music. Zuckerberg is a huge Green Day fan. I’m sure Costolo is a big music fan as well. I know Ev was.

No, I don’t think they have failed in music because they don’t love music. I just think they don’t understand it.

There isn’t room anymore for waxing nostalgic about the importance of music, and what it was vs. what it is. That I reserve for cranky older people who want the 70’s to return.

I do remember staying up until midnight, opening a CD and having it transform me in 74 minutes. I had that happen many times growing up. While this doesn’t happen anymore,...

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The Things We Can’t Control, Starting with P

One of the things I’ve gotten better at as I’ve gotten older is realizing that there are things in life I can’t have any impact on, and things that I can. The key to dealing with anxiety is not trying to control that which I can’t effect.

When thinking about this in relation to my job, I started to realize that it breaks down into the P’s

Process Politics Products Policies Procedures People Perception Pettiness

These are all parts of what we do day in and day out.

However only two of these really matter. That which we make (products) and those that make it (people).

You can’t ship politics or process. You can’t change perceptions or mitigate pettiness. You ship products and take care of the people. That’s it.

Every day I get in the car and drive 45 minutes to work, or fly an hour up to work. Before I get out of the car and walk in I try...

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One Six Right

IMG_0962.jpeg My first solo

“Van Nuys Ground, Three Zero Six Echo Foxtrot, taxing back to northwest corner and returning for closed traffic. Student’s first solo.”

“Three Zero Six Echo Foxtrot, roger.”


Five weeks ago I pulled a Diamond DA20 aside on the ramp at Van Nuys Airport, my instructor got out and I started the airplane again.

“Van Nuys Ground, Three Zero Six Echo Foxtrot, student pilot, requesting taxi.”


20130830_124410_366_1.jpg Flying out of Santa Barbara

“Six Echo Foxtrot, cleared for take off, one six right.”

Landing light on, mixture full, flaps at take off. Check the wind sock. Align with centerline. Verify heading to 160 degrees. Throttle advanced, engine instruments in the green, airspeed is alive, rotation and rotating. Positive rate of climb.


20130813_163811_498_1.jpg Final approach, 16L

My first memory involves airplanes. When I was two and a half, a few months before my...

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“Daddy, let’s play the binocular game!”

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Everyone that works with computers has a formative moment where they realized that that the computer could do something. It wasn’t just a metal box that our parents used. It provided an avenue for the ability to extend the capacity of what made us “us”

For me it was the moment I saved a file, then retrieved it and printed it later. Something I wrote (I was five or so) was put on a disc and I could add to it later, and print it as it was in was in the moment any time I want.

Data. The externalizations of ideas that came from me.

Computers helped focus me through their very inability of dealing with nonlinear process. Databases forced you to deconstruct any reality into a strict structure. Normalization of the distinctly abnormal.

My relationship with computers is still rooted in the same obsession with data and the distillation of reality into very set, concrete...

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What is it that we are looking for?

We wake up and look at our phones.

We jump on every new service that promises something, anything.

This constant hunt for a connection through and with technology that makes the technology disappear.

But what is it that we are really looking for? We have all this if we just put the devices down?

Are we hunting for transhumanism? To be more human than human? Or is it something else?

Is it that as we get more connected we get more remote, or is it that as we virtualize ourselves we subjugate the reified aspect of Self beneath the idealized, perfect digital representation?

Is it that we are trying to extend our lives, reduce our mortality to a medium that doesn’t age? Or is it that the oppression of what reality means is too much?

There was a time when what we take for granted about computing was relegated to the fringes. Computer mediated communication, online community studies,...

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Ada Lillian

It is 7:30AM on September 11, 2013.

I’m in a hospital room at Cedars Sinai Medical Center. In a bassinet sleeps my new daughter and in a bed sleeps my wife. I have a web browser open with a video feed showing my son sleeping at my house.

Twelve years ago I awoke to a world on fire. I stared at the television, like everyone else did and mourned for the loss of the world that I had known. It was irreparable not only for what was done to us, but in how we as a country chose to respond. It’s been 12 years and even our most progressive representatives are subject to the strident doctrine that our scarred nation still holds fast to.

Today I wake up to a world not on fire, but in bloom. Summertime is over, a new life has just begun and I’m not mourning for anything, even though my world is again changed.

I’ve always found being a dad to be pretty easy, not in the...

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Cinema

First it was a light wall in a dark cave

Then a light stage in a dark room

A small screen in a dark room, people ran from the train.

The screen got bigger, the room got bigger. The screen was brighter.

Then there was a small screen in a light room at home

The screen got bigger.

The screen got color.

The screen got flat and wide.

The sound got grand.

The big screens got 3D.

They got smell.

They got massive.

And then there were small screens and big screens, sometimes in sync, sometimes divergent.


The greatest thing about medium is that it cascades its affordances down to the media that uses it. As technology progresses, the art expressed through it changes to accommodate, react and be influenced by both the opportunities and the constraints thereby imposed.

All art begins as constraints, for there is no form of representation completely devoid of them. Cinema through its history has...

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Have you seen death singing?

Screen Shot 2013-07-19 at 10.48.26 AM.png

My great grandma was an avid e-mailer before she had a series of strokes that robbed her of much of her memory. When the brain decides to rebel against it’s body, it is a sad thing to behold. She still had her spark, but that sharpness disappeared.

I e-mailed with her occasionally. My cousin Denise e-mailed with her all the time.

She has been dead now for nearly nine months, dying just short of her 100th birthday.

Occasionally I find myself typing “from:bfasack@yahoo.com” into Apple mail. I have about a dozen e-mails from her in there from five years ago, mostly answering invites to birthday parties or checking in.

Back in the 90’s, people like Howard Rheingold wrote a lot about the power of textual media to convey emotion when multiple authors juxtaposed them into the same space. Back then it was called “Virtual Communities,” because their...

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