James Bridle


James Bridle

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm James Bridle, I'm a writer and artist. I'm from London and I live in Athens, Greece. I make stuff with words, code, the internet, and sometimes with physical stuff. You can find my work at jamesbridle.com and I have a book coming out this year which is called 'New Dark Age' (Verso, July 2018) and it's about technology, politics, knowledge, and the (end of the) future.

What hardware do you use?

I have a 2013 MacBook Air which I am keeping going as long as I can. I've been trying to extricate myself from the Apple ecosystem, and this summer I finally installed Ubuntu on it and am now 93% there, occasionally dual-booting back to OSX when I need to use Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. In my studio I have a much bigger monitor with external keyboard and mouse for working on.

I have a Fairphone 2, which is about two years old now and part of the same de-Appling process. It's a bit more sustainable (I have upgraded it several times with component parts) and ethical, and while far from perfect at least points the way towards better things. If there's a pattern here it's that of choosing intentionally difficult tech which frequently makes life less efficient, but hopefully, like putting a bit of tape over the webcam, this self-flagellation is balanced by the necessity of paying a bit more thought and attention to the fabric of things.

I recently used a bunch of Philips Hue lightbulbs in an artwork and now we have them in the house, which is a small concession to the Internet of Things, which I am deeply suspicious of. In fact, they are not connected to the internet, despite their complaints. Neither is the Roomba, another recent purchase. I've been writing about the anthropomorphism of tech for years and it's very weird to finally be living with something that provokes it so strongly, just as everyone said it did.

I feel I should also mention my (five year old) Kindle Paperwhite, which despite very, very bad feelings about Amazon I still believe is the best piece of tech design of the last decade and, given how much I read and how far I live from Anglophone bookstores, is utterly indispensable.

And what software?

Writing is done in endless series of .txt files with whatever text editor is to hand, and any further editing in LibreOffice Writer. Everything is backed up obsessively to cascades of Hard Drives, to Dropbox, and to Backblaze. I also use Pinboard and Tumblr a lot to keep notes and record research.

Code is mostly written in Atom these days, having given up the wonderful Coda when switching OSs. Along with Keynote, this is the only application I really miss (LibreOffice Impress is a pig I am learning to live with). I'm trying to teach myself better code and coding practices using Jupyter notebooks for some of the stuff I'm currently working on, and making better use of GitHub. I've also made a lot of use of Amazon Web Services (EC2 and S3) on recent projects as the laptop just doesn't have the power. Again with a nod to personal feelings about Amazon, the feeling of being able to log in and run code on really big and distant machines is quite something.

I use ExpressVPN and a couple of backup services most of the time. It's actually installed on my home router so that everything defaults through the VPN. Yes, I'm paranoid. I also simply, but deeply, object to there being a record of everything I do stored somewhere, whether it's my ISP, the telephone company, or a hotel wifi connection. I also use 1Password for everything, and Signal Messenger for everyone not on Whatsapp.

What would be your dream setup?

Unlimited, free/cheap, high-bandwidth connection. Everything else follows from that. More battery life and cheaper, smaller storage. The cognitive effort of switching OSs and apps over the last 1-2 years has been surprisingly high, but also made me realise how little I need in terms of hardware and software if I have a clear idea of how something works and what I want to do with it. I left a very good sound system in storage in London however, and I would very much like to have much better audio in my life. That and some kind of home media centre are probably next.



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