I had seen a lot of praise for Parkin’s book when it first came out, but didn’t know what to expect. It’s a hodgepodge, in a good way, of miniature essays, reviews, and reportage on games taken from a wide swathe of creative and commercial spectrum, collected into twelve chapters exploring different emotional roles and consequences video games fulfill and create. The pieces that relied more on reportage than criticism were the most interesting for me, because there were new stories there where the critical voice is very much in line with a developing consensus. That said, for those unfamiliar with that voice, this represents a great, thoroughgoing gateway into thinking about video games from a new, critical perspective.
Shirky lands on a take on Xiaomi that’s subtly different from any that I’ve heard before and makes them quite a bit more intriguing to me than I’d previously expected. Put simply, a focus on rapidly iterated software running on well-designed, but commodified, hardware sold online only has allowed Xiaomi to stake a claim to a segment of the smartphone market that doesn’t necessarily exist in the wealthier Western economies. Shirky makes a compelling case that it will, however, define the aspirational smartphone platform for the rising global middle class. I am increasingly wary of futurist predications about the liberating effects of consumer technology, but I think this Shirky’s picture of the next five or ten years is compelling.