Discover more from Idée Fixe by Toni Cowan-Brown
Idée Fixe Interlude #1
"It's easier to chase, than it is to lead" Lewis Hamilton
Thank you for being here, when really you could be a thousand other places. If you are new to Idée Fixe, welcome. 🤗
Idée Fixe #1: Remote Work
My first idée fixed focused on Remote Work (a four-part guide) which could not have come at a better time, as an increasing amount of people have been asked to work from home - i.e. remote work. Putting lots of people in the position of having to work and manage remote teams for the very first time.
Idée Fixe #2: Lab-Grown Industry
I’m currently working on my next idée fixe which will be a two-part dive into the lab-grown industry. From lab-grown diamonds to the impossible meat industry and now, the lab-grown dairy companies - the next food frontier? All promising sustainability and innovation. But are we ready for it all
Idee Fixe Interlude 🥳
In the meantime, I will share with you weekly what I’ve been reading, watching, listening, and what caught my eye recently - this will be the Idée Fixe Interlude.
This week’s overview includes tech giants and their influence of politics, the 2020 tech survey, the kick-off of the 2020 Formula 1 season amidst the Coronavirus outbreak and my latest read: Talking to Strangers.
If you are having a hard time keeping up with the latest events canceling their conferences due to the Coronavirus, worry no more. Is It Canceled Yet will tell you, and do so with a little humour.
Google Giant - Swinging The Vote? (The Markup, February 2020)
The Markup, a not for profit newsroom, is only in its second week of publishing and already it’s bringing us some in-depth stories like the above one.
Just a few months ago I was in DC for a workshop hosted by the Johns Hopkins University. Around the table were Twitter, Facebook, political campaigners and consultants, and campaign platforms. The academics who called this workshop have published a report which summarises this bipartisan effort. The subject of Google’s algorithm (see above piece by The Markup) was a big part of the discussion as Google plays a central role in getting the messages from campaigns to their voters. And with it came the questions of electoral fairness, power, and transparency. All of which we should be paying close attention to.
“Practitioners also pointed to numerous issues relating to the ways the algorithmic and other decisions that platforms make have implications for electoral fairness.”
Facebook reverses course, removes over 1,000 deceptive Trump campaign ads (Popular Information, March 2020). Phenomenal work by Judd Legum, an independent journalist, who has no big budget, no newsroom, and no advertisers, but relentless in his call for accountability.
How Politicians Fooled the World Into Believing in Nations (Vice, August 2019)
As someone who is European first, then from Brussels, and only then a Brit, the theory and practice behind national borders (and national identity) is one that I have always found fascinating. I find them absolutely pointless, especially in today’s world, where we are constantly faced with global challenges. That will all require an equally global solution.
Twitter starts testing its own version of Stories, called ‘Fleets,’ which disappear after 24 hours (TechCrunch, March 2020)
I don’t know about you but I’m excited about this. As someone who has tweeted over 20,000 times and increasingly uneasy with so many of my unfiltered thoughts out there for all to pick up without context, I welcome the opportunity for more fleeting thoughts.
Tech vs. Media: A Simple Solution, But A Difficult Path. (February 2020)
I came across this piece by Hunter Walk on the difficult relationship between tech media and the tech community. He eloquently put together something that I have been feeling for some time now, and have seen first-hand when I was an exec at a tech company. Yet I hadn’t realised it needed to be said so plainly (i.e. there is a very real misunderstanding between these two spaces). I pulled on this thread a little further and I clearly had thoughts. In the same vein, danah boyd reminds us that:
“journalists don't wake up every day and say, "I'm going to help undo democracy." No! But what does it mean when journalists become complicit in amplifying things that actually contribute to that? You can help educate a journalist.” - Protocol
Pop Culture 🍿
If Men Could Menstruate (Gloria Steinem, 1978). This brilliant essay still resonates, a lot, nearly 40 years after it was published. Happy Internal Women’s Day, well ironically it was really only 23 hours.
The Tyranny of Terrazzo. Will the millennial aesthetic ever end? (The Cut, Spring 2020)
“We have lived through a moment in which design came to seem like something besides what it was, like a business model or a virtue or a consolation prize. The sense of safety promised in its soft, clean forms begins to look less optimistic than naïve.”
What About the “Breakfast Club”? (The New Yorker, April 2018)
A brilliant read that questions how we should look back on the films, the art, the music and all the content we leave behind. All created during different times, and yet still consumed and sanctioned today.
“How are we meant to feel about art that we both love and oppose? What if we are in the unusual position of having helped create it? Erasing history is a dangerous road when it comes to art—change is essential, but so, too, is remembering the past, in all of its transgression and barbarism, so that we may properly gauge how far we have come, and also how far we still need to go.” - Molly Ringwald
Our attitudes towards all this content might have changed, and times certainly have, thankfully. But is it truly only with hindsight, that we can see how things weren’t okay back then and we can be critical of it all? I can’t help but draw a parallel to today’s (sometimes dangerous) cancel culture and wonder what consequences there are when we continuously judge the past with today’s lense.
Uncanny Valley by Anna Wiener
I absolutely loved this book for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it obviously hit home for me as a woman who has been working in and around tech for the past decade.
Secondly, I love Anna's writing and sense of observation. She has this incredible capacity to pick up on the smallest of details that often go unnoticed.
Thirdly, some were disappointed with the lack of 'wow' moments in her memoir but actually this is what I love most about stories like Wiener's - the whole journey itself makes for a compelling story. There doesn't need to be a big moment or reveal for it to be compelling or even interesting. To me, it speaks volumes that as a society we seem to crave those big reveals to get that shot of adrenaline needed to make it through the day.
Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
Gladwell’s latest book offers a powerful deep-dive into our interactions with strangers, and why they so often go wrong. He reminds us that humans are by nature trusting — of organisations, people, technology, and really everything. Often, too trusting. The topic for this book and his message to us all is that we should all approach strangers “with caution and humility”.
Formula 1: Drive to Survive (Netflix)
🏎The Netflix Formula 1 documentary is unapologetic in all its forms and I love it. Season two and one are highly binge-able. We get to discover the best in class as well as the ‘best of the rest’ battling it out for a spot on the podium or at the very least for a few points. It has everything you would want from a sports documentary - big egos, incredible team spirit, adversity, continuous pressure, politics and back-door deals, epic musical choices, high highs, and extremely low lows. But most of all you get in insight into one of the most competitive and beautiful (in my opinion) sports out there.
“We could have looked like rock stars. But now we look like a fucking bunch of wankers. A bunch of fucking clowns.” - Guenther Steiner, Haas Team Principal
😷The perfect documentary to watch days away from a new season of Formula 1, and 2020 looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun. Now that is if the Australian Grand Prix is still on amidst the recent Coronavirus outbreak. We already know that the second race which is scheduled to be in Bahrain will take place but without spectators which is obviously a very wise and safe decision and will make for a somber race.
This is such a brilliant and beautiful project - breathing new life into those classics.
Since 1984, the Criterion Collection has been dedicated to publishing important classic and contemporary films from around the world in editions that offer the highest technical quality and award-winning, original supplements. No matter the medium—from laserdisc to DVD and Blu-ray to streaming—Criterion has maintained its pioneering commitment to presenting each film as its maker would want it seen, in state-of-the-art restorations with special features designed to encourage repeated watching and deepen the viewer’s appreciation of the art of film.
Shit I Googled this week 🧐
Q: Why do F1 teams wear headsets during their team meetings?
A: As I was watching Season 2 of Drive to Survive, I realised that all the team debriefs take place with every single team member wearing their headset, even though they are in the same room. It took me a while and some digging to get an answer that felt legitimate.
Here is what I found: Post-race debriefs take over two hours and as a team, they go over every aspect of the race; tires, engine performance, race strategy, weather conditions… Everyone’s input is not only welcomed but absolutely needed, and these F1 teams these days (and those that can afford it) can get very big.
Because today’s cars are “more computer than machine”, the teams are constantly looking at an enormous amount of data. Some working out of Mission-Control - that room near the track where they all huddle - and others still back at the factory, as there is a cap on the number of people allowed down at the track (but not at the factory). So basically, they are operating in a remote-first environment and the headsets/mics ensure everyone can hear exactly the same thing regardless of location. It made my day as I obviously just spent the past two months writing about Remote Work.