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.