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From fitness tracking devices to search engines, it’s easy to think of personalised technologies as convenient shortcuts and useful tools for working towards goals. But, argues James Williams, a doctoral candidate at the Oxford Internet Institute and a former Google employee, the primary aim of personalised tech is to keep users coming back by any means necessary – and often in a way that encourages empty distraction. In this brief animation featuring audio from a 2017 lecture at the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) in London, Williams makes the case that the consolidation of the ‘attention economy’ to just a handful of companies is an unprecedented and deeply fraught human experiment – and one that demands active, attentive resistance.
Nature and landscape
Take a serene hike through an ancient forest, inspired by a Miyazaki masterpiece
Design and fashion
The mundane becomes mesmerising in this deep dive into segmented displays
Tour the European architecture that dreamed of a wondrous, fictitious China
Trek alongside spiritual pilgrims on a treacherous journey across Pakistan
Thinkers and theories
Photographs offer a colonialist window to the past – one that must be challenged
Animals and humans
An artist and ants collaborate on an exhibit of ‘tiny Abstract Expressionist paintings’
How a curious question about colouring maps changed mathematics forever
Meaning and the good life
The world turns vivid, strange and philosophical for one plane crash survivor
The rise and fall of Kowloon Walled City, Hong Kong’s infamous urban monolith