The Best of “The Frailest Thing”

As promised in the last post, I’ve put together what you might think of as a “best of” collection—The Frailest Thing: Ten Years of Thinking About the Meaning of Technology.

It is an e-book consisting of 100 entries written over the span of this blog’s history. These entries amount to a little over 10% of what I wrote here over the years. I think they still hold up pretty well. Of course, a few of these are quite recent.

The e-book is now available for download via Gumroad in three file formats that should cover everyone. You’ll note that I’ve left the pricing altogether up to you. You are welcome to download the collection at no cost or you may decide to pay something for it if you’re so inclined. That’s your call … I know you’ll do the right thing [winks awkwardly].

In any case, the e-book is there for the taking, and I do hope you’ll take it. If you do, consider leaving a rating on Gumroad. Also, please do feel free and encouraged to let others know about it however you see fit.

Penultimately, I’m immensely grateful to Evan Selinger for his generous praise of this collection, which I’ll share here.

“If there ever was anything like the golden age of blogging, that time has passed. As a sign of the times, Michael Sacasas is no longer writing “The Frailest Thing,” a blog that ran for a decade and played a fundamental role in shaping how I, and so many others, made sense of the changing technological landscape and the place of humanity within it. While so much online commentary oozes outrage and snark, Sacasas chose to follow a different path. Motivated by curiosity, tempered by reverence for the value of history, and committed to patiently unpacking nuanced issues concerning aesthetic, moral, political, and religious values, Sacasas established himself as the public philosopher of technology. This collection of 100 posts is a testament to Sacasas’s rare ability to have thought aloud online without presenting quick-takes that have short shelf-lives. It’s truly a gem that means as much today as when each of the posts was authored. I can’t recommend it highly enough.”

– Evan Selinger, Prof. Philosophy, Rochester Institute of Technology

Here, too, are Nick Carr’s comments:

“For more than ten years, Michael Sacasas has been one of the most penetrating and stimulating critics of digital technology, probing its social, personal, and moral consequences. This book, which brings together his best work, is essential for anyone seeking to understand the human condition today.”

— Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows and The Glass Cage

Lastly, a word about the future of this site. It will remain up indefinitely, although I may prune it just a bit. I may also occasionally post a note about speaking engagements, but otherwise this will be it.

Many of you have already done so, but just in case:  do subscribe to The Convivial Society!

Cheers, and, as always, thanks for reading,


The Frailest Thing Is Dead

Dear readers,

In the early years of this blog, I made it a practice to post something thematic on Thanksgiving Day. I thought it might be apropos to revive that practice today with a twofold purpose.

First, to let you know that, having thought through the matter for some time, I’ve decided to bring The Frailest Thing to an end.

Second, to thank you for reading along these past ten years.

Some of you will know that I first launched this blog in late 2009 in conjunction with the first semester of my PhD program. I thought it might be useful to think out loud about what I was learning, so I first began by posting reflections on my reading. The blog took on a more general focus for awhile but soon began to focus more narrowly on matters related to technology and society with only occasional deviations from the theme. It proved to be a nice niche.

In my estimation The Frailest Thing peaked in summer of 2015 just before I took a hiatus in order to focus on my dissertation. The dissertation was never completed, but later that year I did welcome my first child and my second 19 months later. I revived the blog in 2016, but things were different then, my time and energy in shorter supply, and I don’t know that it has ever done much more than limp along since then.

In truth, the blog served me well over the years. It yielded good opportunities and allowed me to enter into valuable and engaging conversations and debates. Most importantly, my intellectual life has been deeply enriched by a number of individuals who I’ve come to know because of my writing here. For that, I will always be grateful. 

So thanks again for reading and sharing and commenting, especially those of you who’ve been around for the long haul. There is no shortage of content, as we all know, so it was always kind of startling to discover that folks were reading the words I put down here.

My plan will be to collect what I think is worth preserving from my writing here and turn that into an e-book. I will post one last time with an update once that project is complete. Stay tuned for that. Otherwise, consider this my sign off.

The end of this blog, of course, does not mean the end of my writing. For whatever combination of reasons, I’ve found a measure of satisfaction in writing my newsletter, The Convivial Society, and that is where I will be expending most of my discretionary writing time. Needless to say, please do follow along.

So, then, The Frailest Thing is dead. Long live The Convivial Society.




Nine Theses Regarding the Culture of Digital Media

1. The context of oral communication is one’s immediate audience characterized by precisely delineated embodied presence. The context of print is a discursively constituted individual interiority. The context of digital communication is disembodied immediacy characterized by distributed, algorithmically constituted presence. 

2. Communication in oral societies is agonistically toned, pugilistic. Print fosters cool, detached expression. Digital media encourages performative, ironic combativeness.

3. Oral societies privilege honor, print culture privileges civility, electronic media spontaneity and insouciance, digital media shamelessness. 

4. In oral society, repetition is remembrance. In cultures of print and mass media, the repeatability of content reigns. In digital culture, the repeatable form triumphs. 

5. Oral media subsumes the self in the traditions of local communities. Print, later supercharged by electronic media, lifts the self into the realm of romantic imagination and expressivist individualism. Digital media ultimately collapses the experience of romantically inflected individuation, subsuming the self into constantly generating and degenerating swarms of information.

6. In oral societies, freedom is conformity to communal standards. In the culture of print, to be free is to choose for oneself. In digital culture, freedom is relief from the obligation to choose.

7. Pre-digital rhetoric aimed at persuasion and expression. Digital media ultimately undermines the plausibility of persuasion and the desirability of expression.

8. Information scarcity encourages credulity. Information abundance encourages cynicism. Information superabundance encourages epistemic nihilism.

9. All information is now disinformation.

I write The Convivial Society, a newsletter about matters related to technology and society. You can subscribe here.

Conference on Democracy and the Internet

Not much has been going on here for the past four months or so. Not sure that will be changing anytime soon, but I did want to let you all know about a conference at which I’ll be speaking this coming Friday just in case you happen to be in or near Washington D. C.

The conference is titled “American Democracy in the Internet Age” and it will be hosted by the Center for the Study of Statesmanship at Catholic University. You can read more about it here.

Do hope you all are well. As life circumstances have evolved and times have changed, the fate of this blog has ebbed and flowed. I’m not sure, honestly, whether it is long for this digital world or not. Whatever the case, my newsletter, The Convivial Society, is where I’m doing most of my writing these days. You can subscribe here if you are so inclined.


How to Make Twitter Morally Useful in Four Steps

I’ve developed a four-step strategy for making Twitter morally useful.

Step One: Compose your tweet

It will be best to do this with as little reflection and revision as possible. Simply compose your tweet as you are led by external circumstances and internal dispositions. N.B. Quote tweets can be especially instructive for the purposes of this exercise.

Step Two: Hold your tweet up as a mirror of your soul

This, of course, is the difficult part, but, after a moment’s effort, it should not prove all that challenging. But it will require a measure of honesty to oneself and careful attention to what one is actually thinking and feeling. Perhaps you begin with a simple question to yourself:  Why? Why am I tweeting this? Not ostensibly, but in reality. Additionally you might the following:  What do I hope this tweet will accomplish? What is it likely to accomplish? Who is the real, again not ostensible, audience? Etc. You get the idea. Finally, reflect on what the answers to questions like this reveal about you. 

Step Three: Delete the drafted tweet

Its work is done. Delete the draft. Don’t think very long about this. Just do it. Everyone, including you, will be better for it.

Step Four: Repent, do your penance, resolve to be a better human being, etc.

Seek the counsel of your moral/religious/spiritual tradition for how best to proceed along the path of moral growth.

Of course, this post is written in a somewhat facetious spirit, but only somewhat. I should add, too, that I don’t certainly don’t like what I see when I hold Twitter up as a mirror of my soul. And, yes, you could perform this exercise with other platforms; Twitter rather focuses the matter for me.