Futurists flocked to Barcelona this week to take part in Mobile World Congress. The annual exhibition gathers technophiles, venture capitalists, and mobile manufacturers in one place for a five-day, tech industry circle jerk. This year's big announcement came via Samsung: the electronics mega-company unveiled new phones—the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge. Despite its advanced features, one thing is abundantly clear right away: the S6 resembles the iPhone 6. Gizmodo writer Darren Orf noted, "It's hard to not see the iPhone 6 in Samsung's latest phone... But that doesn't mean the Galaxy S6 doesn't have its own charms." This reminded me a lot of what Matt Buchanan wrote about in 2013 when Apple debuted the iPhone 5S and 5C. "[P]hones have matured to the point that, until a truly radical breakthrough in computing technology occurs, there is not much left to improve on... And, for the next few years, advances in smartphones and tablets will continue to be subtle and iterative, driven by the twin processes of simplification and connection." Mobile technology, it could be said, has entered an era of convergence. Competing phone makers are developing devices that mirror one another, in both design and function. Or, the short version: Samsung is Apple is Microsoft is Amazon. The old axiom proves true: the more things change, the more they stay the same.
"The Gangsters of Ferguson" by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Government, if its name means anything, must rise above those suspicions and that skepticism and seek out justice. And if it seeks to improve its name it must do much more—it must seek out the roots of the skepticism. The lack of faith among black people in Ferguson's governance, or in America's governance, is not something that should be bragged about. One cannot feel good about living under gangsters, and that is the reality of Ferguson right now.
"I'm a New Mom — What If I Never Work Full-Time Again?" by Laura June
By 9 months, my daughter was actually fun to hang out with: She stayed awake for longer stretches, she laughed at my jokes. We were having a good time and my new mom anxieties were passing. I was happier as a mother than I had thought I would be. My husband and I were married for seven years before trying in earnest to have a baby, mostly because of my ambivalence about having one. We had a full life together, and I have always been very, very busy on my own: with work, reading, cooking, and sewing. I sometimes had trouble imagining how or where a baby, and then child, would fit into that. So though I wasn't in a hurry to have a child, I knew that we did want one — eventually. And then, "eventually" arrived. During pregnancy I told myself it would be OK. The baby wouldn't be that much work, really, and I could get back to some semblance of a normal life after a few months. I wasn't prepared for the reality that I might not want to go back to "normal."
"The Grantland Q&A: Errol Morris" by Alex Pappademas
Would you have been happy working in another medium, as long as you'd been able to do that kind of work?
Probably, yes. But I like film. And I like visual storytelling. I'm sick of interviewing. I am really sick of it. I'm not gonna say I do it better than anybody else, but I do it differently than anybody else. I am good at it, for whatever reason. There are a lot of different reasons, but if that's all I'm going to do for the rest of my life is stick a camera in front of people and say to them, "I don't have a first question, what's your first answer?" I think I would be very sad. Philip Gourevitch, who wrote this book with me on the Abu Ghraib material, said, "Do you know you start off every interview the same way?" And I said, "No — I used to transcribe my interviews but I don't do it anymore." He said, "You always say, 'I don't know where to start.'"
"The Near Future of Word Torture" by John Herrman
The magic middle ground—the one we're all familiar with through slightly less intentional texts—is the suggestion of voyeurism. That little iMessage animation suggests a glimpse behind the curtain—and sort of offers one, as you watch your texting partner type and then stop typing and then start again—but never lets you all the way in. It might animate then disappear forever, which could mean many different things. It might animate for a while, then pause, and animate briefly before making way for a terse "sure." This is both performed and received as a performance, and alters the way in which people text. But it doesn't destroy the medium or paralyze its participants. The process of creation is public but obscured. The text feels alive and urgent! Etc. An app to replay writing in not-quite real time, but instead in chunks, might be interesting.
"How Is Polio Still a Thing?" by Leigh Cowart
The CIA stopped using vaccination campaigns as cover in August 2013, but the damage has been done: Suspicion is as endemic as the disease itself, and religious extremists are fueling the rumors about sterilization as a way of enforcing their authority. The World Health Organization has noticed. It warned that if we fail to wipe polio from its last bastions of infectivity, we face as many as 200,000 cases of children paralyzed from polio each year within the decade. And, according to its website, "As long as a single child remains infected, children in all countries are at risk of contracting polio."
Authorities in Pakistan are not taking that threat lightly: More than 500 parents who refused polio vaccination for their kids were recently arrested jailed in a rare, widespread crackdown. Will it help?
"Who's the Man? How Being Versatile in Bed Is a Way of Life" by Rich Juzwiak
Because topping is associated with masculinity and that is something gay culture is obsessed with, it behooves a man to outwardly identify as a top, regardless of actual practice. It's simply good marketing. Because of the prevailing idea that topping is somehow "less gay" than bottoming, you could see how someone who's less than 100 percent comfortable with his sexuality would deny the truth to others or even deny himself the potential pleasure in getting fucked.
I understand that being a total top exists within the realm of possible human behavior, but I'm always a little skeptical when I hear a guy call himself that—much more skeptical, that is, than when a guy tells me he's a total bottom—for at least he is at peace with his faggotry. Hetero patriarchy is a motherfucker. It takes years of undoing sometimes.
"Let's Really Be Friends" by Kyle Chayka
The perception that online relationships are somehow less real than their physical counterparts exemplifies what Nathan Jurgenson, a New York-based sociologist and researcher for the messaging platform Snapchat, calls "digital dualism." Contemporary identities and relationships are no more or less authentic in either space. "We're coming to terms with there being just one reality and digital is part of it, not any less real or true," Jurgenson said. "What you do online and what you do face-to-face are completely interwoven."
North of Selma, Black Leaders 'Fighting the Same Battle" by Wesley Lowery
"Shelby County has become the new Selma," said the Rev. Kenneth Dukes, who has spent all 47 of his years in the county, leads the local NAACP branch and on weekdays drives a school bus for the Montevallo school district. "Not because of the brutality; we aren't being beaten. But because we're still here fighting for the same things, fighting the same battle."
[Image via Getty]