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Found Quotes

Here’s a long list of fantastic quotes I’ve collected over the past few months.

On storytelling…

“Stories online aren’t really stories right now. They’re like fragmentary reactions to things for the most part. They’re like little nerve firings. Very rarely are they fully formed thoughts and expressions and so on. So, I think creating a space that’s more about slowing down and contemplating and being introspective is a prerequisite for getting people to tell stories that have impact. When you design a space that encourages short, reactionary verse, people are going to give you short, reactionary verse. Maybe when you design a space that’s not encouraging that, people will use more depth in their self-expression.”

Jonathan Harris

…and reading…

“Reading is an act of resistance in a landscape of distraction…. It requires us to pace ourselves. It returns us to a reckoning with time. In the midst of a book, we have no choice but to be patient, to take each thing in its moment, to let the narrative prevail. We regain the world by withdrawing from it just a little, by stepping back from the noise.”

David Ulin

…the nature of creativity…

“I define a creative person as someone who has the ability to identify and deeply understand a problem, and then solve that problem by breaking the conventions of the status quo. By this definition, tortured artist or not, all of us can probably think of plenty of individuals we know who are creative.”

Kate Canales

…human progress…

“We stand on the brink of a future that no one can ever have experienced before.”

Ann Blair

“Usually when we theorize about technological progress, we tend to over-emphasize the harmful consequences and under-emphasize the positive consequences. We are generally surprised and amazed by the benefits that arise. That has happened enough times that I am skeptical about pessimistic assessments of technological progress.”


“When the story gets in the way of doing the right thing, there is something wrong with the story.”

Stewart Brand

“The process of technological developments is like building a cathedral. Over the course of several hundred years, new people come along and each lays down a block on top of the old foundations, each saying, ‘I built a cathedral.’ Next month another block is placed atop the previous one. Then comes along an historian who asks, ‘Well, who built the cathedral?’ Peter added some stones here, and Paul added a few more. If you are not careful you can con yourself into believing that you did the most important part. But the reality is that each contribution has to follow onto previous work. Everything is tied to everything else.”

Paul Baran

…conferences, networking, screen worship…

“I’m sitting at the back of a conference right now. It’s dark, except for the massive screen on the stage and everyone’s laptops. If you landed from space you’d think we were here to worship screens. You’d be right.”


“And I’m no good at the networking either. I hate the networking. In game theory there’s a thing called the Schelling point. If someone asked to meet you in London, no other details, where would you go? That’s the Schelling point. Lots of people would say under the clock at Waterloo Station. At conferences you’ll find me at the anti-Schelling point. It’s the place where most people don’t go. I’m an unsociable bugger.”

— Russell Davies


“I do not think one can assess a writer’s motives without knowing something of his early development. His subject matter will be determined by the age he lives in — at least this is true in tumultuous, revolutionary ages like our own — but before he ever begins to write he will have acquired an emotional attitude from which he will never completely escape. It is his job, no doubt, to discipline his temperament and avoid getting stuck at some immature stage, in some perverse mood; but if he escapes from his early influences altogether, he will have killed his impulse to write.”

George Orwell

…video games…

“Video game architecture is solipsistic. An entire world is brought into being explicitly for one person.”

Tim Maly

…content and incorporeality…

“What distresses me about the transfer from thing to cloud — it was Karl Marx who lamented that “all that’s solid melts into air” — is not just the loss of the object, the fetish, the thing, but also the larger thematic implications. Of course we will never dispense with physicality altogether: even the characters in Forster’s extreme parable had bodies that lived in cell-like structures. But the primal materiality that governed the terms of existence is being by degrees, quick degrees, put at a distance. In his book The End of Nature, Bill McKibben argued with some persuasiveness that we have tamed nature and domesticated the idea of it. Nature is now for vacations or high-priced adventurings; or else it is, for the fortunate majority of us, a catastrophe spectacle, something else for the AOL home page slide show: tsunami, tornado, calving iceberg. We might try on the big picture for a moment, imagining the terms of physical existence as they were a hundred years ago for the average person, and comparing these with the present. I won’t itemize, though I could. The short version is that the world, its elements, its nouns, has receded, as has its intractability, the defining obstacles of time and space. It’s almost as if world and screen were in inverse relation, the former fading as the latter keeps gaining in reach, in definition, in its power to compel our attention.”

— Sven Birkerts

…the effects of the flood of information…

“It’s as if you kneel to plant the seed of a tree and it grows so fast that it swallows your whole town before you can even rise to your feet.”

Jaron Lanier

“The great power of modern digital filters lies in their ability to make information that is of inherent interest to us immediately visible to us. The information may take the form of personal messages or updates from friends or colleagues, broadcast messages from experts or celebrities whose opinions or observations we value, headlines and stories from writers or publications we like, alerts about the availability of various other sorts of content on favorite subjects, or suggestions from recommendation engines – but it all shares the quality of being tailored to our particular interests. It’s all needles. And modern filters don’t just organize that information for us; they push the information at us as alerts, updates, streams. We tend to point to spam as an example of information overload. But spam is just an annoyance. The real source of information overload, at least of the ambient sort, is the stuff we like, the stuff we want. And as filters get better, that’s exactly the stuff we get more of.”

Nicholas Carr


“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

Robert Heinlein

…time and internet-time…

“Cyberspace, especially, draws us into the instant.”
James Gleick

“It’s hard not to think “death drive” every time I go on the internet. Opening Safari is an actively destructive decision. I am asking that consciousness be taken away from me. Like the lost time between leaving a party drunk and materializing somehow at your front door, the internet robs you of a day you can visit recursively or even remember. You really want to know what it is about 20-somethings? It’s this: we live longer now. But we also live less. It sounds hyperbolic, it sounds morbid, it sounds dramatic, but in choosing the internet I am choosing not to be a certain sort of alive. Days seem over before they even begin, and I have nothing to show for myself other than the anxious feeling that I now know just enough to engage in conversations I don’t care about.”

Alice Gregory

…the flaneur in the city of change…

“Many people seem to think that if you talk about something recent, you’re in favor of it. The exact opposite is true in my case. Anything I talk about is almost certain to be something I’m resolutely against, and it seems to me the best way of opposing it is to understand it, and then you know where to turn off the button.”

Marshall McLuhan

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