Fidelity Angst

Every few years, someone comes along to claim their new audio format finally strips away everything between musician and ear. Once, it was Neil Young; now, it’s T-Bone Burnett. But in this incisive essay, Mack Hagood teases at why a certain kind of listener is so consumed with the search for “a technology sophisticated enough to disappear itself.”

When they try out a new cable or component, is the audiophile really listening to the music anymore? Or are they now listening to something else — the difference between their listening and their auditory memory? Or the imagined possibility of a difference between the two? At some point, the erotics of music crossfade into something more onanistic.

Source: Real Life Mag
Published: Jul 6, 2022
Length: 9 minutes (2,417 words)

Taking Stock

Rob Horning explores the term “creator” in this essay on labor, exploitation, and content production and consumption on the internet.

“Creator,” like “creativity,” is essentially a null term that signifies nothing about one’s activity but instead marks one’s limitless availability — a willingness to make anything at all in one’s life into content for sale.

Source: Real Life Mag
Published: Mar 10, 2022
Length: 9 minutes (2,450 words)

Tale Spin

What is storytelling? Megan Marz explores stories, narratives, blog posts, and vibes in this Real Life essay.

While I could recognize that blog posts were narrative constructions, and many of them had conventional arcs, they seemed to break with a tradition that to me defined what stories were. They appeared to leak literary expression back into the daily flow, making everyday life, for a minute here and there, feel as meaningful as art. I didn’t perceive this as a return to “storytelling,” a term that, for me, carried associations close to the opposite of Benjamin’s. It felt like a refreshing departure.

Author: Megan Marz
Source: Real Life Mag
Published: Mar 14, 2022
Length: 9 minutes (2,458 words)

The Great Offline

“The problem is, of course, that the boundary between the offline and the online is incredibly hard to situate. It shifts as technologies change and become absorbed — to differing degrees, at differing paces — into the collective cultural perception of what counts as real as opposed to virtual. (Does watching cable TV count as being offline? What about answering a telephone call?)”

Source: Real Life Mag
Published: Dec 16, 2021
Length: 13 minutes (3,306 words)

Passion Plan

“Despite any collateral damage, Nintendo and their peers will keep squeezing maximum profit from the biggest, most proselytized audiences they can assemble for however long they can. In practice, this is what ‘convergence culture’ looks like. Playing games that cite other games that can be frictionlessly purchased on devices you can take everywhere, and then also preordering the next console, indoctrinating your kids into the eleventh title in a franchise, writing fan fiction about the Ice Climbers, watching trailers, subscribing to Switch Online, talking up the properties with your friends on social media, and always eagerly waiting to be fed the next morsel, all to the benefit of a bottom line. The goal is brand extension on into infinity, a hegemony of Mario Brothers coin-sound effects.”

Source: Real Life Mag
Published: Dec 9, 2021
Length: 11 minutes (2,835 words)

The Great Beyond

“While it is not new for technology to mediate our relationship to death, the interactivity and public-ness of in-memoriam profiles is distinctly novel.”

Source: Real Life Mag
Published: Oct 7, 2021
Length: 9 minutes (2,299 words)

Why Can’t We Be Friends

“Podcasts and other forms of ‘parasocial’ media reframe friendship as monetized self-care.

Source: Real Life Mag
Published: Jul 1, 2021
Length: 12 minutes (3,068 words)

Screen Memories

“Screenshots are also proof of memory — proof that I was there, online at a moment in time.”

Source: Real Life Mag
Published: Jan 14, 2021
Length: 14 minutes (3,661 words)

Home Body

On the visible and invisible systems that connect our homes to the outside world — and that bring injustice, power imbalances, and the labor of others into our private spheres.

Source: Real Life Mag
Published: Aug 17, 2020
Length: 12 minutes (3,140 words)

Too Human

Anatomical models for medical education are based on “average” bodies, which means they actually represent no one at all — and therefore produce less-skilled physicians.

Source: Real Life Mag
Published: May 20, 2019
Length: 13 minutes (3,469 words)