note from the deep – the subscriber

A call center employee sitting on the beach in an impressionist style (Model by CompVis and Stability AI)

The subscription desk has really shrunk. It is basically just me and Roberta left. There used to be this huge team based in Southeast Asia, but since our customers have all become really comfortable managing their subscriptions online, management realized they needed just a couple of voice actors to handle the outliers.

Even then, please know that I know, we are creating training data for a deep learning algorithm that will contribute to a system that will eventually take over our jobs. At some point, though, maybe, there’s this long tail of edge cases that’s always going to need a human touch. Job security comes under long tails.

You want to know who to feel really bad for though? All the writers, copywriters, journalists, graphic designers, and photographers that were caught up in the shuffle of The Great Mergers and Acquisitions. I don’t think people quite realize yet how big of a mess that year was. The papers weren’t going to report it – they were all the ones consolidating! It is probably here at the subscriptions desk that we really had front row view of the carnage. Hold on, I’ve got a call coming in…

“Subscriptions desk, how may I help you? …. Uh, huh … Oh, you’re subscribed to both the Miami Times and the Tallahassee Herald? … I see … well, you’re the only person in the country subscribed to both … … it technically shouldn’t be possible, but it would be my pleasure to help you out with that … “

“You’ve been subscribed to both for years and have only realized that now? … yeah … yeah … oh, yeah … yeah, they really are just the same paper, but in what we call a different voice … writing style … yup … algorithmically generated … that’s right, AI … it was in the terms of service … it should have been sorted out in the subscription user flow … I’m sorry you feel that way … “

“It is pretty impressive though, right? … how does it work? … well, we just have one beat journalist collect the facts and then we have a software program write the story and present an opinion using the bias preferences you provided and continue to provide through your reading and consumption patterns … “

“I have you down for news in a progressive, festive, anti-authoritarian voice with clean, touch tropical styling and latin, hispanic, and russian imagery… in English for you… that’s for the Times… Oh, we pretty much have a publication in every language for every culture… Not as many of those kind of people in Miami as you would expect, because people have been moving to places that look and think like them for ages … “

“yeah, yeah, it is a little window behind the curtain … no, none of your friends are subscribed to two publications like this … well, that’s because your friends only subscribe to the Herald … yeah, I can see that based on their social media permissions … ”

“Oh, you want to keep that subscription now? … no, no, sure, sure … yeah, it has been a pleasure to help you out today … Do you mind holding for a few minutes for a quick survey on our conversation today? … Thank you. You too!”

DALL-E, Stable Diffusion, Midjourney, Sudowrite are just some of the names of the early projects that were created that gave a glimpse of the future. Those AI generators that would create essays, prose, and images based on a line of instruction soon put a lot of graphic designers, photographers, and copywriters into either retirement or into the whole new business of identity and perspective manufacturing. It fed fuel to the fragmentation of a singular authoritative voice and identity, which was always of course a fiction.

The trend was long established. Literacy and declining costs in the development, production, and distribution of content slowly etched away at the stage and Shakespeare, or pulpit and the Bible, which as Nietzsche observed, was replaced with newspapers. Streaming services etched away at the idea of one blockbuster film to capture the imagination of a public. Is there one book everyone has read or one movie we all see? Will there be a star as universally recognized as Elvis? Nope, those days are done.

Our collective gaze is shattered and there isn’t a word we share unless through refractions of remixes and AI samples. A new breed of archaeologists try plumb the depths for the origins of cultural phenomenon while AI accelerate the stacking of layers of noise.

Sorry. I’m not complaining. I have a job. And all these news publications catering to all the millions of classes and subclasses of interests, biases, nostalgias in every conceivable language, dialect, and subculture’s modes of idiomatic expression makes everyone really feel like they belong. My aunt has the Katie Couric bot-presenter give her all her news. Katie on her screens all day. It is very comforting to her to have an assuring voice in these uncertain times.

As long as you don’t bore or feel ignored, you won’t unsubscribe.

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day 5 – walking lucile street – georgetown

Lucile Street - Ms A's photos highlight the range of placemaking actions in this industrial district

Today we walked from 15th Ave S by Flora Bakehouse all the way west to the end of Lucile Street at East Marginal Way South. We connected the two segments of Lucile Street on Airport Way S. Joining us for this segment of Lucile was our neighbors, the Yamashitas.

Lucile Street – we walked from 15th Ave S to E Marginal Way S and back.

Reflections

Walk reflection by Ms A
Walk reflection by Ms N
Walk reflection by Ms M

For our only walk through an industrial zone, it really wasn’t all that bad! Much of the industrial uses fronting Lucile Street had an office park feel with maintained landscaping or parking areas.

As the kids noted in their reflections with mentions of hearing and seeing cars and trucks, this segment had by far the most traffic. It was positively busy compared to the residential stretches where on some days we only had one or two cars pass us for the entire walk.

Lucile Street – Sidewalk quality could range from leafy and complete to non-existent. Concrete blocks filled in parking spots along several stretches.

But for being a busier area, the kids still described themselves as feeling happy although maybe a bit hot. The elements of placemaking that businesses used to make the street comfortable included regular landscaping, large creative and/or colorful signage, and large painted murals with images appearing unrelated to the business it was on.

We did, however, speak as a group about one other element of placemaking that is more controversial – concrete “eco-blocks” are used on a few unfinished curbs to define the edge of the sidewalk, but clearly as a strategy to resist the parking of RVs by unhoused neighbors. The strategy appears to be working on this part of Lucile Street.

Lucile Street – A visit to Hilltopper Electric Bike Company where we learned about their electric conversion kits for standard bicycles and how they develop and test their battery and motor kits.

The kids illustrated and mention bicycles in their reflections, because we stopped-in at the HQ and warehouse of Clean Republic, makers of Dakota Lithium brand electric batteries and Hilltopper Electric Bike conversion kits.

Clean Republic is a great example of one of several green industry businesses that are on Lucile street. The most prominent of which is the Ardagh Group’s glass recycling plant. It occupies several city blocks along the Duwamish Waterway at the very end of Lucile Street. According to the company’s website, the glass plant is over 91 years old, sits on 17 acres rented from King County, and employs 345 workers.

Clean Republic is far smaller than Ardagh, but far more approachable. Chris and the team were very welcoming and gave us a generous amount of their time to see their products and give us a hands-on demonstration of how they perform quality testing on their electric bike conversion kits. If you have and love your bike, but have been considering an electric bike, check out their conversion kits.

After our tour of Clean Republic, we purchased a few banh mi sandwiches from Pho Sriracha on 4th Ave S and walked back to Georgetown Playfield and Spraypark. The kids took in the cooling mist of the spraypark before we returned back up Lucile Street to the car parked off 15th. And with that, our walk across Seattle on our street came to a close.

Dossier

Lucile Street – The sidewalk and mini-park on the south side of Cleveland High School feels forlorn even at the corner of the school’s high-end sports field on 13th.
Lucile Street – Visual typography include vintage neon signs, creative industry-themed street art and signage, and plenty of industrial hazard signage including a shop for these signs.
Lucile Street – The road ends at East Marginal Way South before the Duwamish River. The factory across the street is a glass and packaging manufacturer operated by Ardagh Group, a Luxembourg-based multinational company. Some of the best street art lines the wall of the complex across from Lucile Street. Aerial photography courtesy Google Earth.

Measurements

Date of walk: Wednesday, Aug 17th, 2022
Start time: 10:06
End time: 13:44

Sunny, 73℉

Elevation plot generated by Garmin Connect App. Although it feels flat, interesting to see that Georgetown gradually slopes down towards the Duwamish on the west.

Max elevation: 152ft
Min elevation: 13ft