Marginalia 30 – guitar pedals and compost

Last week I launched a new newsletter – Libraries & Learning Links of the Week. You can subscribe to that via email, RSS, or Mastodon just like Marginalia! LLLotW will be links relating primarily to library learning services, OER, and library technology, and inevitably that means there will be a bit less of those topics here on Marginalia. Feel free to choose one of the other, or subscribe to both, depending on your interests.

Services run on processes

Anna-Sophia Zingarelli-Sweet

This month's first Marginalia actually features in last week's LLLotW.

That’s it. That’s the punch line and thesis statement of this post. Services run on processes.

Zingarelli-Sweet thinks through her experiences working for a retail store in many roles, and how the front of house services and “customer delight” always rely on robust and well-articulated processes. As a huge fan of documentation and formal process, this brief blog post spoke to me. “YES! THIS IS WHAT I'VE BEEN TRYING TO SAY!” I yelled to nobody in particular, in my head.

...even the best front-end public services talent in the world can’t deliver an excellent customer/patron experience without time and talent dedicated to the back-end. Without excellent processes, services will fail. Without excellent technical services, libraries will fail.

Anyway that's why I put it in two different newsletters, so spread the Good News about good and well-documented processes underpinning all good service.

I would prefer not to

Ellena Savage

Ellena Savage writes for Overland about the ideas of education, “good jobs”, and young people without a future under neoliberal capitalism. Perhaps I was taken by this article because my father, too, was a high school teacher – though it seems my father and I are a decade older.

Savage writes what is in some sense a “coming of age” story. Youthful innocence replaced with the knowledge of what the demand to live a life means under neoliberalism:

The problem was that, like capitalism, the trail of crumbs led nowhere in particular... Failure was in-built. Everyone failed, because there was nothing win.

Savage goes on to identify all the maladies afflicting every generation, more intensively the younger they are.

The pathologies are easy to name, because they're visible, yet the most common symptom has no clinical name, it's just some grim feeling between cynicism and despair.

Nearly everyone I know and take seriously exudes this feeling. It drives Doomerism, yet the desire to reject what seems to be our fate also drives a passion for life – quite a different life, perhaps, to that our parents hoped for.

Design lessons from guitar pedals

Clive Thompson

I was directed to this wonderful piece via Mita Williams' University of Winds

It's a celebration of physicality, clarity, and robustness in design, but also of a deep understanding of context. Guitar pedals are designed to be stepped on, and used in the dark – they have to be ruggedly built, and simple to 'read'.

There’s something existentially thrilling about using a piece of electronics that you’re not worried about breaking. In a world where our digital gear has become increasingly delicate and thin — and increasingly crafted from glass, for god’s sake — a guitar pedal’s ruggedness makes you bold. You want to use it, enthusiastically and aggressively and often.

More tech should be that tough.

Waste not

Tynan Stewart

Here we learn about the “Lomi” – a countertop composting device selling for $499USD, plus subscription.

Stewart uses the Lomi to discuss the strangely sterile culture of Silicon Valley, obsessed with youth and growth, and terrified of anything suggesting death or decay.

Not composting so much as support for a particularly sterile vision of life untouched by decay yet somehow still blessed with renewal.

The aim is not to solve death for everyone but to rework it as a tool to intensify existing hierarchies, even beyond present disparities in human life expectancy.

To Stewart, the Lomi exemplifies the Silicon Valley bros' penchant for misunderstanding the world, its complexity, and what problems need to be solved. Indeed, the Lomi is such a good example of this because the making of compost can, in many ways, be seen as the antithesis of capitalist logics.

The point of composting is not simply that it produces a useful end result; it also forces one to slow down and participate in a cycle of transformation that is not driven by the capitalistic drive for efficiency and economic growth presently consuming the planet. Its pace is set by the organic process of decay, not the demands of profit.

I live in a small apartment so I understand the logistical difficulties of household composting in high-density cities. Those looking for reality-based solutions to this problem look – as my local council has – to communal action via giant municipal compost heaps. Ultimately the key problem with the Lomi is that it's an antiseptic individualistic solution to a communal need for things to rot.

The artisan farmers taking on Victoria's meat regulator

Mahmood Fazal

A bit of a change of pace for my last marginalia note this month. Background Briefing had a really interesting episode recently about how Primesafe's blanket approach to regulation and draconian enforcement has pushed Victoria's small meat producers out of business. I knew about this issue from connections in the organic and small-producer industry (I've visited the Jonai pig farm that features in the show), but hadn't really understood the background to why it is so difficult for small producers to find abattoirs. Mobile abattoirs would be less stressful for animals, make small and regenerative farms more financially viable, and quite likely result in better biosecurity, but as usual money and power politics are getting in the way of sensible food production and distribution practices. Worth a listen.

Until next time...