My Internet: Edward Ongweso Jr
The writer-podcaster doesn't think too hard about the effects of Being Online.
Embedded is your essential guide to what’s good on the internet, by Kate Lindsay and Nick Catucci.
Most weeks, we quiz a “very online” person for their essential guide to what’s good on the internet.
Today we welcome Edward Ongweso Jr, a staff writer at Motherboard, Vice’s technology section, and the co-host of This Machine Kills, a podcast that critically examines the political economy of technology. Edward is seeking epic high fantasy fiction podcasts, has learned a lot from Azealia Banks about how to construct an insult, and believes the metaverse is an abomination and an affront to God and should be destroyed. —Nick
EMBEDDED: What’s a recent meme or other post that made you laugh?
EDWARD ONGWESO JR:
Everything about SBF and FTX has been very funny to watch unfold, especially learning that Michael Lewis has had access to his calendar for six months.
EMBEDDED: What types of videos do you watch on YouTube?
EDWARD ONGWESO JR: I primarily use YouTube to find new music and have diligently trained it to recommend mixes and DJ sets, as well as channels that feature both, so I can discover more.
For example, My Analog Journal is one of my favorite channels this year—I discovered them this summer when I stumbled on this set just when I was getting into Japanese city pop. I got into that via bossa nova, which I rediscovered this year thanks in part to YouTube recommendations like “Brazilian Doomer Music” but also sets and mixes like this or this.
Also a big fan of ASOIAF theory videos (and videos on fantasy/science fiction in general). They come from a small community of creators, but I’ve mainly listened to Preston Jacobs for years and been convinced to re-read the series a few times (along with GRRM’s other work).
One of my roommates sent me a YouTube read-along of a short story titled “17776” at 3 AM which takes place in the year 17776 and imagines how football would work that far into the future, a fun story.
EMBEDDED: What do you use Instagram for?
EDWARD ONGWESO JR: I have used it less and less to post updates of what I'm up to, but will still share pictures of my beautiful friends or something fun we got up to. The endless stream of Reels and advertisements makes it less and less appealing to use, especially in the basic Stories feature as it progresses on its own. Despite that, it’s been good for finding tattoo artists and art, as well as updates on venues and clubs or suggestions for places in the city I haven’t visited yet.
EMBEDDED: Do you tweet? Why?
EDWARD ONGWESO JR: Yes! I’ll give you an earnest answer: it’s a lot of fun, takes a few seconds to do, and is a key part of a website I really enjoy. It’s fun to shitpost and read shitposts, as well as work through half-formed ideas, AND join in on a struggle session when the main character of the day is revealed. Twitter has also introduced me to some of my closest friends, got me my apartment, showed me the job listing that gave me my job, introduced me to mentors, my podcast co-host, and my enemies. I think a lot of people have ironic/post-ironic shame about being Being Online or Tweeting but there’s no fun in that. There is a lot of fun in using it (just don’t think too hard about its effects on attention, the media’s political economy, or the general population’s politics).
EMBEDDED: What change would Elon Musk have to make for you to quit Twitter?
EDWARD ONGWESO JR: I can’t really think of a scenario where I would leave because of Musk’s actions. It’s far too easy to just ignore or retreat from parts of the site that you don’t want to see. I was here when the Nazis and right-wing reactionaries were more present, I will be here when Musk lets them back on in full force.
EMBEDDED: Have you ever had a post go viral? What was that experience like?
EDWARD ONGWESO JR: Viral posts are a coin flip. Sometimes the interaction is incredibly fun and people have hilarious quote retweets or replies riffing off of whatever joke you posted (or really thoughtful suggestions and messages if it’s a story). Sometimes the eldritch god masquerading as an algorithm amplifies it to a group of people that go nuts when they see it. These two tweets are examples of relatively innocuous ones that drove some people to lose their goddamn minds but also had a lot of really funny replies and convos going on that I enjoyed.
EMBEDDED: Who’s the coolest person who follows you?
EDWARD ONGWESO JR: The person reading this text.
If we are talking about public figures, uhhhh, I am required to say Chuck D or AOC or Susan Sarandon. I have no idea who follows me though to be honest, I’m on Twitter to post incessantly and read other people’s posts.
EMBEDDED: Who’s someone more people should follow?
EDWARD ONGWESO JR: Malcolm Harris (@BigMeanInternet) is one of my favorite writers/thinkers and has a great book on Silicon Valley/America/the world (and tech) coming out soon, along with great essays in the meantime and musings about our tech overlords. Veena Dubal (@veenadubal) is a brilliant legal scholar who is deeply moral, incisive, and insightful in her analysis and critique of Silicon Valley—her ethnographic work led me to becoming a journalist and helped prime my own moral framework as it relates to the tech industry. Rest of World has maybe the best coverage of tech outside of the West, follow them and read their work. My friend, collaborator, podcast co-host, and a scholar of technology himself Jathan Sadowski has been a massive influence on my thinking about tech and its political economy for the last few years. He’s working on a massive project about insurance tech that is eroding my faith in humanity but is endlessly fascinating.
EMBEDDED: Which big celebrity has your favorite internet presence, and why?
EDWARD ONGWESO JR: I learn a lot about how to better construct an insult—how to read someone and really lay into their weaknesses and flaws so you can break their spirit—whenever I read an Azealia Banks post.
EMBEDDED: Where do you tend to get your news?
EDWARD ONGWESO JR: Twitter lists, group chats, newsletters, and listservs.
EMBEDDED: What’s one positive trend you see in media right now? What’s one negative trend?
EDWARD ONGWESO JR: Good: It’s been genuinely funny to watch Taylor Swift fans gear up for a Ticketmaster struggle session because they weren’t able to get tickets. I welcome them to the antimonopoly fight and hope they get their pound of flesh from those corporate parasites.
Bad: The persistence of fawning profiles of tech founders, with the most recent example being the wall to wall glowing and uncritical coverage of Sam Bankman-Fried. You had some profiles describing him as a philosopher king because he talked about utilitarianism while playing League of Legends during an interview or calling his lifestyle akin to a monk’s when he owned penthouses and palatial estates.
EMBEDDED: What does “cancel culture” mean to you?
EDWARD ONGWESO JR: This is the only cancel culture that ever existed and I desperately want it to return.
EMBEDDED: Do you subscribe to any Substacks or other independent newsletters? What are your favorites?
EDWARD ONGWESO JR: Cowgirl by my brilliant friend Lola, Where's Your Ed At by Ed Zitron, Read Max by Max Read, Chartbook by Adam Tooze, Nwanevu by Osita Nwanevu, BIG by Matt Stoller, Unpopular Front by John Ganz, I Hate It Here And Never Want to Leave by Jordan Uhl, and the Discourse Blog are some of my absolute favorites.
EMBEDDED: Are you into any podcasts right now? How and when do you usually listen?
EDWARD ONGWESO JR: My favorite podcast for a long while was Arts of Travel but it’s been discontinued. Still I highly recommend it if you’re interested in a consistently international look at politics, tech, economics, culture, and more. Odd Lots, TrashFuture, The Dig, Future Histories, and General Intellect Unit are some of my favorites as well. I think next year I’m going to try to get into fiction podcasts, always open to suggestions (weird science fiction and epic high fantasy ideally).
EMBEDDED: Have you ever been heavily into Snapchat? Around what age?
EDWARD ONGWESO JR: I used Snapchat pretty heavily from when I was 17 to about 23 (2012-2018). It tailed off just before I graduated college in 2019 and I haven’t really touched it since, but I did just get a push notification from it while answering this question.
EMBEDDED: When was the last time you browsed Pinterest? What for?
EDWARD ONGWESO JR: I last used Pinterest yesterday! I'm there a lot to collect sci-fi art, tattoo ideas, posters I might be interested in getting, ideas for pieces of a mural I’m looking to paint in my room, design ideas, etc.
EMBEDDED: Are you nostalgic for Vine or Tumblr? Why?
EDWARD ONGWESO JR: I think I’m nostalgic for those platforms maybe because they shaped a lot of what I find funny or interesting on the internet, as well as some of the communities I keep plugging back into on different platforms. Tumblr also felt much more like a community and Vine was hilarious and produced certain videos that aren’t really around anymore on TikTok, though the influence is very obviously there.
EMBEDDED: Are you in any groups on Reddit, Slack, Discord, or Facebook? What’s the most useful or entertaining one?
EDWARD ONGWESO JR: On Reddit, some of my favorites are r/freefolk and r/ASOIAF which has been a great place to talk about the book series, the adaptations, and theories about events and conspiracies submerged in the text. On Slack, my favorites revolve around playing a variant of Diplomacy and collaborating on science fiction/fantasy stories.
EMBEDDED: Are you playing any games right now?
EDWARD ONGWESO JR: I’m closing in on the end of God of War: Ragnarok and playing around with Victoria 3. When I’m done with God of War, I’m going to pick up Call of Duty and Fortnite again because I’ve missed the sound of incoherent screeches when we end up winning a match.
EMBEDDED: What’s something you might want to do in the metaverse? What’s something you wouldn’t want to do?
EDWARD ONGWESO JR: Destroy it! It’s an abomination and an affront to God! Few people know this but if you go into the metaverse, you can’t get into heaven!!!
EMBEDDED: What purpose do you see in NFTs?
EDWARD ONGWESO JR: Fraud. There’s really no other reason to touch an NFT unless you’re interested in fraud.
EMBEDDED: Do you think Web3 will mean a better internet?
EDWARD ONGWESO JR: Web3 is a PR word devoid of meaning and coherence. You should check who’s reaching for your wallet when it comes up.
EMBEDDED: Do you text people voice notes? If not, how do you feel about getting them?
EDWARD ONGWESO JR: I love voice notes and think they’re generally the best way to communicate. You can actually hear someone’s voice, it doesn’t feel like you have to respond immediately which is good if I can’t but still want to talk in something close to real time.
EMBEDDED: Do any of your group chats have a name that you’re willing to share? What’s something that recently inspired debate in the chat?
EDWARD ONGWESO JR: A groupchat of my friends named “VILLIANS” where we recently argued about who owes the most money to our collective horny jar.
EMBEDDED: What’s your go-to emoji, and what does it mean to you?
EDWARD ONGWESO JR: 👁 It's a versatile one that you can use for anything suggestive. I see you, I get you, what do you mean, are you sure, interesting, that’s right, so on and so on.
EMBEDDED: What’s a playlist, song, album, or style of music you’ve listened to a lot lately?
EDWARD ONGWESO JR: I like to make playlists whenever I leave NYC for a trip with music I discovered during the trip or listened to during it that resonates in a different way now. Here is a recent one from a trip to Vegas and San Francisco. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Flo Mili, Masayoshi Takanada, Miki Matsubara, Kamasi Washington, Mulatu Astatke, Bola Johnson, and Dele Sosimi. The albums I’ve had on repeat are Masayoshi Takanada’s Brasilian Skies, Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, and Ebo Taylor’s Love and Death.
EMBEDDED: Do you pay for a music streaming service, and if so, which one? When was the last time you bought a music download or vinyl record, CD, or tape?
EDWARD ONGWESO JR: This week I bought a few records (Songs in the Key of Life, Blues and Root, and Stone Flower). I have Spotify (I know), but looking for an alternative (open to suggestions).
EMBEDDED: If you could only keep Netflix, Disney, HBO Max, or one other streaming service, which would it be, and why?
EDWARD ONGWESO JR: Mubi! I share accounts for every other service I use but Mubi is actually worth the money!
EMBEDDED: What’s your favorite non-social media app?
EDWARD ONGWESO JR: It’s a toss up between the Notes app and Audm. Most of the productivity apps are bullshit, the simplicity of Notes is freeing and there’s a wide variety of things you can use it for. Audm is a great way to listen to a piece when I don’t want to look at a screen and there are a few readers who I’ll listen to anything they voice over even if I don’t care about the story itself.
EMBEDDED: What’s the most basic internet thing that you love?
EDWARD ONGWESO JR: I can take any intrusive thought and turn it into a ten hour rabbit hole if it’s interesting enough.
EMBEDDED: Is there any content you want but can’t seem to find anywhere online?
EDWARD ONGWESO JR: I’ve kept a pretty detailed set of journals and diaries since I was a kid but what’s missing are the first few years I was really online because I assumed it would be forever so I could always access everything, remember every password, and eventually port it over to my journals. Boy was I wrong.
EMBEDDED: Do you regularly use eBay, Depop, or other shopping platforms? What’s a recent thing you’ve bought or sold?
EDWARD ONGWESO JR: eBay was fun but I really enjoy bartering and a lot of the marketplaces don’t allow for that. Sad. I recently bought some jewelry from a Kenyan artist who teased me about how bad my Swahili is, and I’m thinking of doing a barter to have someone sew some lovely threads my family back home got me.
EMBEDDED: Have you recently read an article, book, or social media post about the internet that you’ve found particularly insightful?
EDWARD ONGWESO JR: I think this piece on how influencers and promoters restructured markets was really smart and insightful.
EMBEDDED: What’s the last thing that brought you joy online?
EDWARD ONGWESO JR: Honestly? The fact that Sam Bankman-Fried won’t stop tweeting or talking to journalists. I respect it. Keep posting through it brother, you’re one thread away from convincing everyone that you were right.