I’m actually embarrassed that it took me until then to make the connection, particularly given I used to host the startup competition at a technology conference called “TechCrunch Disrupt.” The original Silicon Valley meaning of a disruptive company was one that used its small size to shake up a bigger industry or bloated competitor. Increasingly, though, the conference stage was filled with brash, Millennial entrepreneurs vowing to “Disrupt” real-world laws and regulations in the same way that me stealing your dog is Disrupting the idea of pet ownership. On more than one occasion a judge would ask an entrepreneur “Is this legal?” to which the reply would inevitably come: “Not yet.” The audience would laugh and applaud. What chutzpah! So Disruptive!

The truth is, what Silicon Valley still calls “Disruption” has evolved into something very sinister indeed. Or perhaps “evolved” is the wrong word: The underlying ideology — that all government intervention is bad, that the free market is the only protection the public needs, and that if weaker people get trampled underfoot in the process then, well, fuck ‘em — increasingly recalls one that has been around for decades. Almost seven decades in fact, since Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead” first put her on the radar of every spoiled trust fund brat looking for an excuse to embrace his or her inner asshole.
youtube

*This is so next-level.

Netflix Was Supposed to Kill Cable, So Why Is It Begging to Join Cable?

Netflix is in serious talks with Comcast and other pay-TV providers to hop onto the cable bundle as a stand-alone channel. Add it to the list of tech companies—Apple, Google, Microsoft, Intel—who have internally debated trying to “disrupt” the cable TV business, but have wound up working with the cable companies (e.g.: Apple, Xbox) or simply built their own cable equivalent (Google Fiber TV). 

For those who already have cable, Netflix, and an Web TV box, this might change nothing. But it’s a potential landmark moment in the pay-TV wars, precisely because it shows that the battle between Internet and traditional TV isn’t as bloody as some analysts like to pretend—at least, not yet.

Read more. [Image: Reuters]

Library book haul! I can’t ever have a study morning without picking up some books too. There’s a mix of recommendations and ones that simply tempted me

Bob Lefsetz:

Just because cars have lasted a century, that does not mean they’re here to stay, that does not mean they’re not ripe for disruption. Cars are the newspapers of today. Something oldsters can’t live without and youngsters can.

The basic premise is you’ve got to go. How you get there is irrelevant. Furthermore, the costs of car ownership…the insurance and the gas, never mind the maintenance, none of them appeal to a youngster who believes all costs should be baked in.

A common mistake is thinking that just because something has been around for a long time, it’s impervious to disruption. If anything, the long incumbency makes it more ripe for disruption. Everything — everything — eventually gets disrupted. 

(And yes, I now hate using the word “disruption” as much as everyone else because it has basically been neutered of meaning and turned into pure marketing. But it’s simply the best term here.)

8

A Review of Disruption: An Anthology

Full disclosure: at one point, I was slated to illustrate a short for Disruption with Zach Petit. Ultimately, I had no hand in the final product.

I didn’t think Disruption was going to be very good.

I don’t mean this as a slight to either of the editors. Simply, I think of online zines as a popularity contest, and I didn’t think anybody involved had enough visibility to attract the kind of talent required for a good product.

I was wrong about this.

Disruption is a sci-fi/fantasy anthology, loosely based around events that, well, disrupt the lives of the protagonists. Some shorts are fairly straightforward about this - in one short (Gestos), the whole world loses the ability to speak. Others subvert expectations about setting and character, leaving the reader to infer what the disruption is. While one story (Mechan Folly) relies on well-known sci-fi tropes, most of the shorts can be comfortably described as magical realism. Straight up, if it were me, I’d go ahead and just call it a “magical realism anthology”. No need to beat around the bush. If you’re part of the internet niche aware of this anthology, you probably don’t need your hand held.

Some pieces are weaker than others. Grovers drags up through the climax, though I can’t tell if this is more a fault of the writing or the illustration; Mechan Folly is competent, but neither particularly original or especially easy to follow. Friendship Comic takes a few reads to really get its point across, but I got a chuckle out of its meta-commentary on self-absorbed zine culture. The stars of Disruption are its remaining shorts - all of which are suprisingly strong, like, I’m not kidding you, this is no joke. 

Gestos, Topside, … (Untitled), A Break, and Monday round out the rest of the anthology. These are all super-strong artistically, though I will admit to wishing that (Untitled)'s dialogue was a little less artistic, and a little more legible. Gestos has an absolutely lovely palette. BUT

A Break ended up being my absolute favorite. Clay Lindvall, who both illustrated and wrote the short, managed to cram a lot of history and characterization into six pages, without ever feeling rushed. Pacing? Great. Art? Beautiful. I’d read more about these guys, and that’s not something I expect to say about anything coming out of an anthology. 

Long story short, Disruption is solid. It’s really solid. If you’re into supporting emerging creators, into diversity in representation, into people creating what they want to see in comics, not just talking about it - then drop five bucks on Disruption. Seriously, It’s five bucks.

Money well spent.

The Case Against Sharing by Susie Cagle

For the past few years, the “sharing economy” has characterized itself as a revolution: Renting a room on Airbnb or catching an Uber is an act of civil disobedience in the service of a righteous return to human society’s true nature of trust and village-building that will save the planet and our souls. A higher form of enlightened capitalism.

Read on…

Why Disruptors Are Always White Guys - Annie Lowery

It’s happening again. There’s a list of “media disruptors.” It’s predominantly white dudes. It need not be. And people are fed up.

For, in the new-media renaissance of the past few years, there are women and minority “disruptors” everywhere if you only take the time to look. There’s Jane Pratt of xoJane; Ben Huh of Circa; Sharon Waxman of the Wrap; Sommer Mathis of CityLab; Mary Borkowski, Rachel Rosenfelt, Jennifer Bernstein, and Ayesha Siddiqi of the New Inquiry; Sarah Lacy of PandoDaily; Nitasha Tiku of Valleywag; Mallory Ortberg and Nicole Cliffe of the Toast; and Susan Glasser of Politico Magazine. That’s only off the top of my head.

Online education strips away all of those expenses except for the cost of the professor’s time and experience. It sounds perfect, an alignment of technology, social need and limited resources. So why do so many people believe that it is a deeply flawed solution? Because it means massive swaths of higher education is about to change. Technology has disrupted many industries; now it’s about to do the same to higher ed.
Every age has a theory of rising and falling, of growth and decay, of bloom and wilt: a theory of nature. Every age also has a theory about the past and the present, of what was and what is, a notion of time: a theory of history. Theories of history used to be supernatural: the divine ruled time; the hand of God, a special providence, lay behind the fall of each sparrow. If the present differed from the past, it was usually worse: supernatural theories of history tend to involve decline, a fall from grace, the loss of God’s favor, corruption. Beginning in the eighteenth century, as the intellectual historian Dorothy Ross once pointed out, theories of history became secular; then they started something new—historicism, the idea “that all events in historical time can be explained by prior events in historical time.” Things began looking up. First, there was that, then there was this, and this is better than that. The eighteenth century embraced the idea of progress; the nineteenth century had evolution; the twentieth century had growth and then innovation. Our era has disruption, which, despite its futurism, is atavistic. It’s a theory of history founded on a profound anxiety about financial collapse, an apocalyptic fear of global devastation, and shaky evidence.

Most big ideas have loud critics. Not disruption. Disruptive innovation as the explanation for how change happens has been subject to little serious criticism, partly because it’s headlong, while critical inquiry is unhurried; partly because disrupters ridicule doubters by charging them with fogyism, as if to criticize a theory of change were identical to decrying change; and partly because, in its modern usage, innovation is the idea of progress jammed into a criticism-proof jack-in-the-box.