real life mag


Real Life is a magazine about living with technology. The emphasis is more on living. We publish one essay, advice column, reported feature, or uncategorizable piece of writing a day, four or five days a week.

Real Life is made possible by funding from Snapchat, and we operate with editorial independence and without ads.

intro’d via editor in chief Nathan


first email

circadian media – what keeps us inline w time


there are other ways to be in time, rather than merely on time — a synchronization of spirit that is irreducible to matters of milliseconds..t

circadian rhythm

from Ana’s: the time after waking as a liminal space between days and ultimately a space for mourning, where one can hold oneself apart from “the unrelenting present” and make room for its gravity.

from Linda’s: life is best lived against the clock, pitted against collective time.

from Adam’s: Since morning shows are mostly stripped of content, their function is to make one feel “part of the world” — no more and no less.

Already Late,” by Ana Cecilia Alvarez


I wanted to frame the morning not as a beginning, but as an aftermath. Not as a stage for production, but as an arrival to the shore of a previous day’s wreck. As waking from something, not toward a potential formula for economic success.

After Hours,” by Linda Besner

on Pete

His blog explains that everything you have been taught about money and time is wrong.

his vision of time is that of an engineer: time becomes a machine that can be tinkered with, hours and minutes rewired to achieve a more elegant purpose. His primary message is that you will not achieve financial security and personal happiness by working harder to get ahead of the pack; you will find these things by carefully studying what the pack is doing and then doing the opposite.

A post entitled “A Peak Life is Lived Off-Peak” extols the virtues of doing everything at the wrong time.

Most people spend most of their time doing what everyone else does, without giving it much thought,”..t

supposed to ness

Standardized schedules create waste and clog infrastructure.

Jane Jacobs ness

Off-peak evangelism proposes a market value to individuality and diversity as mechanisms for repurposing humanity’s collective wasted time. While not a formalized movement, people who blog about off-peaking often seem to feel that they’ve discovered a secret too good to keep to themselves — something that was right in front of us the whole time, requiring only that we recognize our own power to choose.

off-peakers only want, in effect, to slow time down by stretching the best parts of experience while wasting less. The arguments for off-peaking have centered on both the economic and the social advantages of recuperating unexploited time, like a form of temporal dumpster-diving that restores worth to low-demand goods.

The two people who encounter one another at the aquarium on a Wednesday morning appear to have more in common than the two hundred people who see each other there on a weekend. Like other choices that divide people into subsets, off-peaking allows its adherents to discover a kinship that may or may not reveal a significant similarity in worldview.

Being out of sync with yourself, the standardizers might say, is a small price to pay for the smooth running of society as a whole. The problem, the off-peakers might say, is that society doesn’t end up running smoothly — it ends up squashing individual freedom while also trapping everyone in traffic jams, long lines, and artificially inflated prices.

When everyone is on the same schedule, the physical presence of other human bodies turns them into obstacles to be navigated. On a less crowded field, it’s easier to see people as people…t

The inner voice saying that Tuesday afternoons are for working rather than for going to the park or the art gallery may need to be engaged in argument by a second inner voice, one that allows us to imagine placing something other than work at the center of our lives.


off the grid ness

“Here Comes the Sun,” by Adam Fales



The idea of “alternative” has always carried with it a sense of individual alienation and the faith in a community that might resolve or redeem it. The prominence of the alt-right, in discrediting the term, is also threatening to discredit the promise that has always been latent within it: that an ultimately inclusive solidarity can be forged through opposition to a mainstream that relies on so many exclusions. But now “alt” has been emptied of such hope, serving to aestheticize hatred instead.

“No Alternative,” by Gavin Mueller

But the web was something else: an unruly, unmappable mess that required tenacity and creativity to navigate, especially before the development of search engines. The web cultivated a researcher’s élan: Do a deep dive through a “rabbit hole” of links, and you might be rewarded with the treasure of truly eccentric content.

Alternative” was, it seems to me now, itself a kind of insufficient consumerist prerogative, a demand for more choices that was agnostic to the content of those choices.

If the world cannot be better, it can at least be predictable, the way television was. The new alternative is no alternative, again.

“Lonely Road,” by Adam Clair 

As the world becomes more connected, we are all increasingly vulnerable to the feeling that we are not connected enough. Coast to Coast offers a vision of an alternative world, one with infinite connectivity and possibility but which somehow remains infinitesimally mappable, comprehensible. It’s a world where belief costs nothing — where belief itself can sustain. It always leans toward more, toward those as-yet-still-coiled and uncoded forces in a universe where bigfoots and remote viewing and spontaneous human combustion are all real — but loneliness is not.


teams – feb 12 2018

This sentimentality about teamwork should not distract us from the fundamental organizing principle of teams: winning. Forming a team implies choosing an enemy. Beating that enemy redeems the personal sacrifices. The idea of the team under capitalism rationalizes the otherwise suspect and potentially destabilizing notion of cooperation by situating it within a larger framework of competition. A team is a collective subject that corresponds to capitalist organization, pre-empting the kinds of collectivity that might go against its grain.

marsh label law


Metrics on social media provide a scoreboard, and a clear incentive for certain kinds of teamwork

there are alternative ways to imagine communities outside the search for unifying enemies..t

marsh label law

brooks contempt law

And there are different ways to view the world then as an endless war of allegiance


“If art has any liberating potential beyond serving as a tax-dodging investment vehicle, its place along a blockchain seems only to amplify the art world’s existing inequalities”

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outer space

When, a few years ago, nearly a quarter million people eagerly volunteered to die on Mars, they perhaps had this in mind, a frontier fantasy muddled with martyrdom and the dream of a nobler death than eco-suicide. ..Elon Musk, who aspires to found a Martian colony, declared that candidates for Mars must be prepared to die, but that “it would be an incredible adventure. I think it would be the most inspiring thing that I can possibly imagine.”

It is sad to imagine an imagination so limited. It is as if Musk believes our planet is so devoid of the possibility of good, that all the opportunities for improving the lot of beings on Earth are so boring or so disappointing, that it is more inspiring to hold a death lottery and launch his similarly nihilistic counterparts into the void.

Event Horizon,” by Lou Cornum


The Moon Treaty, among other directives, bans any state from claiming sovereignty over any territory of celestial bodies; bans any ownership of any extraterrestrial property by any organization or person, .. It also bans military activity such as weapons testing or the founding of extraterrestrial military bases (though it’s hard to see U.S. presence anywhere in the stars or on Earth as anything other than militaristic). 

Evoking the common heritage of “mankind,” the Moon Treaty could appear a pie-in-the-sky attempt at more equitable relations to land than have been established on Earth since the advent of private property and national borders.

Their sites of expansion are not centered so much on the territories capital requires in order to enclose, privatize, and extract until depletion (though they can be intimately connected, as in the development of the university and research centers as global actors of dispossession), but on sites of encounter.

the undercommons

Science fiction should allow us some way to bend around these frames, and occasionally, in the right hands, it does, though it more often does not. Donna Haraway, whose work takes on the tones of science fiction, sees the science-fiction tradition as a form of theorizing. She repeats across her different writings that “it matters what concepts we think to think other concepts with..t


The story is never different enough. We can’t always see difference differently enough..t

Land and life are the categories of thought that outer space can call us to interrogate, to repair not only by some future metric of what has never been done but also by what might have been possible had colonialism not happened as it did, if exploration and contact could have happened in another way

I see sequels to these works in which our species learns or relearns the need for different needs..t

maté basic needs

To go to outer space, rather than preserve humanity, we cannot stay human. Any critique of the human, including mine, is hugely indebted to black studies, a site that contends that the development of the figure of the human is inseparable from the racial orders that classify people as human, not quite human, and nonhuman wherein human is always proximity to whiteness and nonhuman is proximity to blackness. This is what Alexander Weheliye has argued in his book Habeas Viscus, drawing from black feminist critique to rouse all other minoritarian subjects to abandon our bids into the human project and refuse the calculus that grants others personhood always at the cost of further exclusion and violence against black people. The Jamaican philosopher, novelist, and playwright Sylvia Wynter has stated that one of the projects of black studies is an inquiry into and enactment of other ways of being a species, ways counter to the form of human that is taken to mean the Enlightenment’s rational man. This is a refutation of the idea of the human as a self-possessed sovereign being, defined by his ability to possess and improve property..t.. When I think of how else humans could be, this means operating under different modes of production and different relations to land and being that are communist, nonhierarchical, and deeply pleasurable.

Outer space gives us a place to socially, sensorially, think how we want to think. If the search for an “out there” does truly prompt a shift in consciousness, it should be one that helps us inhabit the present, to study together on biosphere one until we find another way of living that doesn’t leave so many dead. .t..This is not a statement against outer space or exploration. What I want, what I need, is a space program for the people.

a nother way


content – by @alexmolotkow

This week we are talking about “content” — not the substance of what’s published but an orientation: a broadcasting mentality as a way of being in the world..t

Anyone with access to the internet can tap an audience, but at the cost of some mental real estate:..t.. The more we use social media, the more we restructure our language to its inputs, and the more its feeds determine the way we think about everything.

But it reminds us that meaning, under capitalism, reduces to a product, and making our lives meaningful might offer no protection for us after all.

“You Don’t Say,” by Navneet Alang


We are thus caught up in two contradictory phenomena: on one hand, the tendency of text to float away from its author, suspended in that strange space in which it speaks for itself; and on the other, a cultural insistence that we link bodies to utterances. Online, the author isn’t so much dead as in a state of purgatory, neither quite dead nor exactly alive in the same way..t

we have entered an age in which the desire to connect the meaning of the utterance to a subject position has intensified exponentially. What is often referred to as “identity politics” is in fact just this process: the insistence that the determining context of a statement is the identity of who is speaking.

Nissenbaum argues that reasserting the integrity of context is an important dimension of restoring privacy rights, but the concept can be extended more generally — that the dissociative nature of online discourse lends itself to an erasure of context because the pace at which the utterance spins away and multiplies from its beginnings has exponentially increased.

The desire to put in place the statement that has been temporarily, aesthetically dislodged from a body produces a context in which what is said is already overdetermined by an ongoing political debate about what can be said, who is allowed to say it, and what is desirable to say at all.

The utterance is always operating as a minor part of a much larger whole composed of clashing ideologies, but importantly, the statement thus becomes a representative of an identity or ideological group ..t..— that is, “just the sort of thing that type of person would say.”

marsh label law

When the network of reception precedes the statements, each utterance must be violently yanked into one framework or another; there is little room in such a system for those utterances that might uncomfortably straddle contradictory frameworks at once..t

Barthes says, “language knows a subject not a person” — that is, language constitutes a person as a construct. The intensified digital version is that the discourse does not know a person, only the subject of ideology, positioned and framed as such.

we are stuck in the fundamental paradox of being a subject: that to other subjects, we are at best only ever an object, a thing to be placed in the appropriate context despite whatever objections we may exclaim. 

Cost of Simplicity,” by Tatum Dooley


Adbusters were participating in market competition under the guise of subversion. “What we see on display in Adbusters magazine is, and always has been, the true spirit of capitalism.”

Like Dove before them, Glossier’s packaging suggests that participating in capitalism can be a form of self-care. Here, a “minimalist” aesthetic is deployed to suggest purity, authenticity. 

To be happy is to be virtuous is to be without baggage.

“This ‘commodification of the authentic’ is something Marx could not have predicted,” Isabelle Graw writes in her 2008 book, High Price: Art Between the Market and Celebrity Culture. “For him, the problem lay in the fact that the object-like appearance of the commodity concealed the social character of labor. But the line between ‘fake’ and ‘real’ is no longer as clearly defined as Marx postulated.” While the modes of production are promoted as a selling tactic — whether it’s true or not — the modes of distribution are becoming more opaque.

But a minimalist backdrop suggests a life void of objects and clutter, a body void of excess calories, a mind void of troublesome thoughts and desires. It suggests an evolution beyond material pursuits, while at the same time selling an excess of products. The de-facto aesthetic of embedded advertising promises that you can attain a life of beauty, serenity, and freedom from want by buying the innumerable objects advertised..t.. Its visuals, much like its constant demands on the viewer, are designed to disappear.


4 post for 4 panels at theorizing the web conf april 2018

the next generation – Alexandra Molotkow:

There is a growing consensus that the only way forward is to remake completely..t

a nother way

Even texting is at best a realization of the classic childhood yearning to be with one’s friends all the time.

institutional knowledge has never seemed so completely at odds with the world as it is

extremely online socialism:

On this panel, activists, Occupy participants, political analysts, and journalists will assess the status of the left online and consider a variety of political and communication strategies for moving forward

let’s try tech as it could be..

nerding out – David A. Banks:

Nerds, like Evangelicals, see themselves as an embattled minority even as the culture and economy bend to their desires..Nerds can side-step America’s anti-intellectualism by pointing to their aggrieved status: How can I be an elite intellectual when I am so oppressed?

The STEM fields are most closely associated with the nerd, but as long as there are white papers, bills, and studies to read, any topic can become eminently nerd-out-able. Everything from reactionary 4Chan shitposters to Nate Silver–esque explainers to Jordan Peterson’s repackaging of generic self-help as deep psychopolitical analysis can seem to qualify as a kind of nerdiness

It is an ideal time to study the nerd because they are in the midst of a civil war. On one side are New Atheists, race scientists, Gamergate veterans, and the acolytes of Jordan Peterson who are determined to defend white supremacist patriarchy as natural or rational. On the other side is a class of beltway wonks and Silicon Valley disrupters who more than anything want American empire to run smoothly and collegially.

This civil war is best described by example: After New Atheist Sam Harris had Charles Murray, on his podcast and characterized the reception of his 1994 book The Bell Curve — a work of racist pseudoscience — as “a politically correct moral panic,” Ezra Klein wrote a long rebuttal.

Missing from this debate is the recognition that politics is not a game of who can lay out the most complete set of facts. It is rather a competition of moral perspectives.

For all their command of information and adept application of technical skill, nerds categorically refuse to be moral agents in a world desperately lacking them. This makes them a danger to us all.

god view – Nathan Jurgenson:

The idea that anyone can, in the pursuit of knowledge, transcend their social location — who you are, where you are from, what your particular interests, fears, vulnerabilities, and so on are — has a long history; it also has a long history of being debunked.

The final keynote panel at Theorizing the Web this year, on the idea of objectivity, is something we’ve wanted to do since we started the conference in 2011. False claims to objectivity have often been the underlying concern behind some the specific topics that presenters and panelists have taken up over the years, from the way media platforms try to represent themselves as neutral, apolitical vessels to the declarations of the “end of theory” in the wake of big data. This year, we’ve decided to take on the “view from nowhere” directly as the topic of the closing keynote.

A prominent voice against the impossible claims to neutrality has been Donna Haraway, .. t.. who described this way of seeing the world as if at a clean remove from the messy political human reality as a “gaze from nowhere,” and a kind of “god trick.”


there is no single correct, “healthy” way to have an identity, or to have close friends, or to be with your family, or to be in the world. These are all always in flux, always in the course of being renegotiated.


“authentic self” is a media product that is early in the process of being falsified or discredited; as ever, seeking an authentic self (which essentially means seeking a way to represent it) guarantees its eventual inauthenticity
Original Tweet:

the rhetoric of “authenticity” and the “real self” militates against that self ever being shared; the real “real self” always turns out to be the anxieties one has about being real when being observed
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what is “real” is a matter of a medium’s genre conventions and not the idiosyncrasies of the performer
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“Memories features that seem to help us manage our excessive photos in fact pull us deeper into a cycle of constant production”
Original Tweet:

This kind of prodding teaches us to put the idea of performance at the forefront of how we form memories. It suggests that one should remember what attracts external attention — that the point of memory is approval, and that memory follows from potential monetization..t

The social consensus around what is “worth” remembering is becoming more and more tethered to the same ideal, in which all memories are visual, polished, and commercially viable..t

To mitigate superimposed commercial narratives on our self-understanding, we must pursue individually or communally determined structures of importance rather than offloading that responsibility to a commercial algorithm..t

ie: daily curiosity first via 2 convers as infra


nathanjurgenson (@nathanjurgenson) tweeted at 11:38 AM on Mon, Nov 04, 2019:
the problem with lots of “tech humanism” and “digital wellness” is that they share the same individualism that makes many tech products bad in the first place

A universalized mode of living and being almost always leaves someone out, always producing “losers.”

doesn’t have to be that way.. today we have the means for equity – everyone getting a go everyday.. via tech as it could be.. listening to every voice .. everyday.. because it has to be all of us

The digital-wellness movement, though it seems to counter the grandiose schemes of the tech industry, shares a similar aspiration of *fixing people for their own good, prescribing a specific one-size-fits all relationship with technology as a way to build an ideal society.

rather.. we need a means to *uncover what is already there.. return shells.. et al

In both cases, what differentiates the human from the nonhuman is the capability for agency.. But “human” has never had a truly universal definitions.

we don’t need to define human.. but there are universal needs/desires of humans.. we could focus on .. ie: maté basic needs

These theories all point to the idea that no natural “essence” differentiates humans from machines, and there is no need to establish humans and machines as strictly distinct.


As deeply rooted in liberal humanism as the separation of “human” and “machine” is, it has never been self-evident. Rather, it needs to be iteratively reinforced for its continued existence, just like any other ideology. Digital wellness is part of that reinforcement. As a totalizing worldview that manifests in material practices, this movement is complicit in the problems it seeks to resolve. In reinforcing the essential division between humans and their devices, along with the idealized sovereignty of the individual liberal humanist subject, the digital wellness movement amounts to just a different way of imposing the liberal humanist utopia.


Do we need to abandon concepts of individualistic freedom and agency to be able to live with technology? Not necessarily. But the digital wellness movement insists on a false separation of the “user” from other agents in the computing system: from code, hardware, the programmer, and from data. This leads to design choices that frame people as individual actors and service consumers, despite the amount of data and content that users produce and on which devices and apps depend.

deeper issue/problem is that we are focusing on the wrong (nonlegit.. ie: from whales in sea world) data..  what we need to focus on is self-talk as data

What we need now is new ways of making and relating, from which different metaphors of technology will emerge..t

2 convers as infra

@nathanjurgenson: if youre tech critique is focused on getting back to the “real” and the “human” then youve traded tech problems for another set of issues inherent to defining and regulating what is “natural”

perhaps the problem is more that we think we need to (and that we can) define and regulate what is natural.. rather than creating a means to let the natural re\emerge .. ie: tech as it could be.. (listening to every voice everyday) to get us back/to an undisturbed ecosystem.. ‘in undisturbed ecosystems ..the average individual, species, or population, left to its own devices, behaves in ways that serve and stabilize the whole..’ –Dana Meadows

few days later (thread)

No thanks @elonmusk, I don’t want a computer chip from a large corporation to be implanted in my brain. I think it’s a good idea tho, and your heart is in the right place.
I want to chip myself with open technology and solve my own autism. Not become a borg.


post in real life mag on oikos ness – by @k_pendergrast:

“The private home is not an isolated unit, but a living system within a mass of systems, requiring the labor of many.”
(via @_reallifemag)
Original Tweet:

In this house, I’m a fetus, cradled, protected, fed and watered inside these nourishing walls..t

Beyond the boundaries of the home itself we find a vast interlinked system of networks,..t pipes and wires that enable the modern city to function,” writes Matthew Gandy in his essay “Cyborg Urbanism,” and beyond the city limits the tubal networks fan out in space and back through time, via pipes and ditches and dams, through shipping routes and into pit mines. This connection to — and dependence on — infrastructural networks that aid and supplement our daily lives produce what Paul Graham Ravenand later Deb Chachra, calls the “cyborg collective” (cyborgs abound in this cityscape). In this formation, all of us are bound together by the mass of pipes and wires, dependent on what we’ve built and mutually invested in the care and continuity of our systems.

Everyone deserves this kind of care, I think, but a glance out the window reminds me that not everyone has it..t

bachelard oikos law as org of econ

those of us with flick-of-a-switch access to power and water are massively advantaged in the reproductive labor stakes. I can shit and shower whenever I like, with no one yelling at me or threatening to call the cops.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), we can’t take care of ourselves alone. Within the city, especially, our ability to live comfortably and maintain our bodies and communities depends on the branching networks of pipes and tubes and the labor that feeds into them. We’re enmeshed in the infrastructures of the collective cyborg even when it’s clearly failing us, undermined by rot and capital. I want the intimate care I feel in my household nest to be extended across the entire system, but instead I walk through the neighborhood and spot only the ruptures. People locked out of obscene housing markets, clothing stores peddling jeans for which rivers were dyed blue and made deadly, and public toilets that always seem to be locked. I want to see it torn down, but I also want to see it repaired, so it can repair us.

Collective care without the collective assemblage of infrastructure is near impossible, so we need to figure out how to maintain the systems that still function, and how to fix the ones that are broken or working against us.

Infrastructure is a massive investment, and much of that investment has already been made. To maintain it, to take care of the far-reaching tendrils of the homes that sustain every day, is the best way to respect what we’ve already created, already ruined.

iwan baan ness

If the house must be imagined as a womb, perhaps that’s OK: the parent/fetus relationship was never a private relationship either. The parent eats, drinks, connects to the appendages of the collective cyborg, in order to nourish and nurture the creature within.

.. the infrastructures of the home mean that we’re inexorably intermingled, codependent, and beholden, even as we might feel more disconnected than ever. To survive, we need to build the strategies and solidarities that allow us to maintain the infrastructural systems that serve us — an act of self-care beyond the boundaries of the self

ie: 2 convers as infra



Real Life no longer has funding, and is ceasing publication indefinitely. We thank all of our contributors and readers.
Good night 💚
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