S07E19 of Connection Problem: Signals, signals, signals

Note: This is cross-posted from my weekly newsletter in an attempt to both to make it easier to read this via RSS feed and to have this in my own independent archives. You can subscribe here to get it delivered to your inbox.


Hello hello,

Given the news cycle this week is pretty much a DDoS attack on our attention, this is going to be a short newsletter: A few small updates and plenty of small bits & pieces. There are some interesting signals in there, if I may say so myself, if you feel like you’re up for some flights of fancy today.



You’re receiving this because you signed up for this newsletter on tinyletter.com/pbihr or through my company’s website, thewavingcat.com. The Waving Cat is a boutique research and strategic advisory firm; I also co-founded ThingsCon, a non-profit that explores responsible tech. On Twitter, I’m @peterbihr. If you’d like to work with me or bounce ideas, let’s have a chat.


Brief updates from the engine room

Last week I started a new membership program called SPECIAL PROJECTS, the most direct way to support my writing, newsletter, advocacy, research & explorations. To kick things off, I’m planning to tackle a writing project, a short guide about responsible tech. The working title is Responsible Tech – A Pragmatists’s Guide.

ThingsCon Festival (Dec 7-11) is shaping up to be a full week of programming. Very much in the spirit of ending 2020 on a good note: The theme is “good things”, there’s going to be lots of exploration of good systems leading to good things; it’s easy to dip in and out; and if you’ve been hit by the pandemic/economy, prices are pay-what-you-can. (If you’re a student or junior researcher, please join for free. We’ve got your back.)

Unoffice Hours are still going: Click here to easily book a Zoom chat with me every Tuesday. Or ping me (by hitting reply) to discuss another time.

A few workshops this week. We’re working on a writing project about Open Source Hardware with some good folks over at Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (abbreviated HiiG in German). Working with Simply Secure on their new identity; something that’s a little outside my core expertise, but I’m a big fan of the organization, so I was surprised and delighted to be invited to join this collaborative effort.

Over at ThingsCon, Andrea Krajewski and I have been editing the annual RIOT Report (that’s short for State of Reponsible IoT) that’s going to be published around the time of the ThingsCon Festival in December. As a fun complement to the written report, we’ve started interviewing all contributors of the report. So for half a day this week, and two half days next week, that’s what we’re doing. If things work out the way we’re intending, these interviews will be released online in the shape of a gasp! podcast. Rather, together they’ll constitute season 1 of the yet-to-be-started ThingsCon podcast. Fun times!


Recently on the blog

Toys & Substractive Design


Small bits & pieces

…but lots and lots of them. Enjoy!

The San Francisco Symphony Plunges Into a New World (NYTimes) / Revisited Tim O’Reilly’s Welcome to the 21st Century and he ties together a few interesting points, and points to the importants of scenario planning (related: shout-out to How To Future by Scott Smith & Madeline Ashby) / Why Stress-Baking and Cleaning Make You Less Anxious (WIRED): Tidbit about the neurological effects of meditation or baking as a strategy to counter stress / I have not yet a chance to read Data & Society’s new report Ethics Owners but it looks ace / Artificial intelligence model detects asymptomatic Covid-19 infections through cellphone-recorded coughs. Alas, not available for personal news yet but very promising. (But why, oh why, do they conclude that it might be good to have that thing listening in the background everywhere? Sigh.) / Fascinating: Resilience is a reactive state of mind created by exposure to suffering / I love work setup photos, especially home office setups (this one here by Dries de Roeck) / Xaomi announces a smartphone factory that will work without people. Can’t be sure this is real until it’s live but… interesting? / Why Is Post-COVID China Embracing A Cyberpunk Aesthetic? (JingDaily): China’s youth, and luxury brands, go all in on cyberpunk. Related: \#FuturisticCyberpunkFace


Currently reading: The Uncertainty Mindset, Vaughn Tan. The 99% Invisible City, Roman Mars and Kurt Kohlstedt. Ministry for the Future, Kim Stanley Robinson


If you’d like to work with me or have a chat to explore collaborations, let’s chat! 


Who writes here? Peter Bihr explores how emerging technologies can have a positive social impact. At the core of his work is the mission to align emerging technologies and citizen empowerment. To do this, he works at the intersection of technology, governance, policy and social impact — with foundations, public and private sector. He is the founder of The Waving Cat, a boutique research and strategic advisory firm. He co-founded ThingsCon, a non-profit that explores fair, responsible, and human-centric technologies for IoT and beyond. Peter was a Mozilla Fellow (2018-19) and an Edgeryders Fellow (2019). He tweets at @peterbihr and blogs at thewavingcat.com. Interested in working together? Let’s have a chat.

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