The fuse is lit: Gearfuse rebooted

New Gearfuse: ready to roll

If you’ve followed Gearfuse for awhile, no doubt you’ve noticed changes in the last few weeks. We’re expanding on the coverage of gadgets and inventions that Gearfuse has long featured, dialing up our filters to gather a broad spectrum of amazement across science, technology, and culture. We’re asking big questions (sometimes too big!), overturning our assumptions about discovery and innovation, setting our clocks to awaken us to technology’s past as well as its future.

The first change happened early in November, when I joined Gearfuse as editor and lead writer. While I’ve written on many topics throughout my career, a somewhat tangled spaghetti-monster of science, technology, and culture is always in my crosshairs. I’m interested in everything from the origins of life to the history and future of the book to the heat-death of the universe, and I readily flip-flop between wide-eyed credulity and supercilious skepticism. These qualities, although they kept me from becoming a scientist, have powered a varied writing career spanning books, print journalism, and the Internet, worked out both in sober nonfiction and in a kind of speculative, science-fictional storytelling I’m inclined to call “dreampunk.” But because I started out studying anthropology, I tend to approach science and technology as a world of varied cultures and strange rituals. I’m happiest when my posts act as the transmissions of an anthropologist from Mars trying to cope with the tribes of technologists, scientists, makers, and gamers that are indigenous to the Internet.

The next stage in the evolution of Gearfuse begins today, with the rollout of a new design. The most prominent feature of that design is a cleaner nav bar across the top, reducing the previous broad array of categories we cover to a tight cluster of the five concepts we use to gather our interests, curiosities, and concerns together. You can think of them as the Gearfuse “beats”—although rather than defining vertical categories, they act as horizontal themes cutting across broad zones of science, technology, and culture. We approach them as follows:

EMERGENCE hovers at the bleeding edge of innovation, discovery, and invention: nanotechnology, green tech, quantum computing, paradigm-shattering scientific advances, and emergent forms of art and culture. In contrast to virtual reality, we’re interested in the impact of what the wild Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek calls “the reality of that which does not yet exist.” And Gearfuse pays careful attention to the modern poetry of emergence—the rhetoric we use whenever we call a tool, fact, or fiction “new.” Emergence not only has a future—it has a history, too.

NETWORKS posts highlight networking phenomena of all kinds, from new internet packet-switching protocols to transportation networks to the ways and wherefores of ecosystems. Networking technologies have opened up new patterns and new ways of living, learning, and earning in technological society; networks also provide us with metaphors for coming to grips with our brains, our neighbors, and our universe. We’ll be concerned not only with how networks function, but how we function in their midst, in privacy, security, and mobile technology.

SCIENCE is about the ever-changing shape of what we know and how we know it. But it’s also about how knowledge bequeathed to us by past generations imposes lenses that focus, alter, and distort our image of the world. We’ll turn a hungry, critical eye on new understandings of Earth, its climate, and living systems, transformational understandings of materials and medicines, and the search for life throughout the universe. In an age of technological and social transformation, the multi-disciplinarity that characterized early science is in the midst of a rebirth, breaking down the boundaries that have grown not only with the sciences but between science and the arts—changing not only what we know, but what we think it all means.

TECH CULT focuses on the ways in which we use technologies as means of expression—and how we use arts and culture to make sense of living in a technological age. In Tech Cult you’ll find art games and artful hacks; here, we’ll chart the changing ways of reading, learning, and expressing ourselves, the rites and rituals of science and tech. We’ll also cover books, arts, and performance that takes the pulse of technological life.

HAYWIRE is about the offbeat and off-the-boards, the inspiring and the insane, the riches and excesses of geek culture, the memes that quicken our pulse and infect our brains. If it makes us laugh, scratch our heads, or spin in our chairs (or hits the trifecta and does all three), you’ll find it under Haywire.

The third phase in the renewal of Gearfuse will take place over the course of December as we invite two more writers into the fold. First, we’ll be welcoming John Brownlee as our columnist. John has covered technology for an amazing variety of venues in print and online, ranging from Wired and Playboy to Boing Boing and Kotaku. He’s also founder of the splendid Ectoplasmosis, a blog that curates fringe art, culture, and ephemera, and was editor of the now-extinct cult blog Table of Malcontents. His column, “Unevenly Distributed,” will appear weekly, and I can’t wait to see what he has in store. A third member of the team, who will cover the gadget world, will come aboard in January. We join publisher Steve Rufer, Gearfuse’s animating spirit, who spearheads this reboot and makes the whole endeavor possible.

We hope you’ll join us for the ride. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook. Send us tips and comments; shake us up and keep us on our toes. The fuse is lit, and we’re ready to roll.

7 comments

  1. Rebooted indeed. Gearfuse has been my most frequently visited blog for the past year, but these changes are frankly driving me away. Not because of a fear of change, but because it’s abandoning my original reasons for visiting gearfuse. I came for goofy DIY’s, nerdy graphics, and amusing tech. Now Gearfuse is feeling like a generic Engadget or Gizmodo copycat, and frankly, if that’s what I was looking for, I would go to one of the bigger competitor sites. I’m sorry to be a downer, but Gearfuse is getting the kick off of my bookmarks :/

  2. I’m sorry you feel that way, Gabriel. I’m not sure it’s true that we’re a copycat site, though—I’m doing a lot that’s distinct from sites like Gizmodo and Engadget. I don’t think you’ll find personal natural history commentary at Gizmodo, or anything quite like my take on the Rolling Stones and the history of recording technology, or discussions of 3D imaging that connect caverns in Nottingham to casts of ant colonies, or careful think pieces on the assumptions underlying tech culture. Maybe the stuff I’m doing here is not to your taste; maybe it strikes you as too challenging or highbrow. But you can hardly call it a ripoff of other sites’ content.

  3. Brilliant stuff. Congrats!

  4. What we really need to manage our information overload, well beyond thoughtful curation to suggest priorities in the flow, is thoughtful interpretation to suggest how we might better direct the flow. It’s not enough to anesthetize one’s self with an endless flow of “cool,” although there are plenty of websites/blogs/advertisements-masquerading-as-zines out there to help with that. But neither is it enough to just keep up. We need to know what to make of it; we need to shift from being consumers, even of ideas, to being creators (or makers, or programmers, however you want to term it).

    That’s where a site like this can have a real impact. By aggregating across the various disciplines and categories (“horizontally”), and drawing out threads and themes that might not have been apparent otherwise, and providing cross-disciplinary historical and cultural context to all the futurism, the interpretations being built here can signpost not only what it might be useful to think about, but further, how it might be useful to think. Because there’s no question that our thinking is changing. The question is do we want to be in control of that? Or do we want to cede control to assumptions and forces we were too lazy or unaware to investigate, because we were numbing out with bullet points and 4chan?

    So far what I’ve seen of the gearfuse reboot is great: thought-provoking, cutting-edge, funny, and creatively challenging. I look forward to more!

  5. The revamp is just fantastic. Aesthetically it’s an easy flowing site. Writing and choices of material… just spot on. Well worth a check 2x a day for a great read that’s relaxing and informative.

    Bravo!

  6. It’s a matter of taste I suppose, but I disagree with Gabriel – I think new Gearfuse is exactly what is missing from the gadget blogs (which I still like and read) and what is missing from the more conceptual social-crit and culture blogs (which I still like and read). It strikes a nice balance. In fact, it has re-booted my desire to regularly read blogs at all (I’d largely abandoned my feed reader in favor of links sent by friends).

    Plus FSM FTW.

    keep up the good work!

  7. I’m not a Gearfuse reader nor a tech blog reader, but I’m about to become one—an anthropological guide to the evolution of e-reader rituals is much more my cup of tea than a report on Apple’s latest product offering. I think the comments on this post are pretty interesting though—I hope you can keep the gadget blog people who want goofy DIYs and also attract the people like me who have no interest in gadget blogs, but love reading intelligent social/cultural/conceptual commentary. Perhaps you can report back on that down the line?

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