For the LULZ, or, Publishing Today

Popular Science has never really been an in-depth journal–you can tell as much from the name of the publication, which emphasizes the “popular” aspects far more than the “science.” Don’t get me wrong, they sneak a lot of interesting DIY projects in there, and there’s plenty of cursory information about upcoming developments if you want to move on to something slightly more complex like WIRED, or an actual scientific journal. But I couldn’t help but laugh at this particular bit from their Future of Money issue (January/February 2016):

I even visited a strip club, where I convinced the exotic dancer to create a Bitcoin wallet while I watched.

First off, there’s something deeply creepy about the way the author Kashmir Hill (who goes uncredited in the print issue) uses the phrases “convinced” and “while I watched.” Then there’s the classic language used for “strip club” and “exotic dancer.” Now, there’s a valid point to be made about how Bitcoin is so accepted now that you can even use it in an establishment that Popular Science presumably views as lowest-common denominator (i.e., stupid, technologically backward). But the way it’s presented as a one-line throwaway (and, of course, it’s the pull-quote for this page-long article) speaks to the luridness of the publishing industry. (An irony not lost on me, considering that I’m pulling out the same line for comment.)

If the stripper’d already had a Bitcoin account, I’d be totally behind this article; the fact that the journalist had to set him/her up with one suggests that the author manipulated things in order to get a nice line (and an amusing thing to put on an expenses invoice). This doesn’t speak to a changing economy or industry, then, so much as a one-off stunt that a journalist was supposedly able to convince a dancer to agree to. (I’m guessing that the club itself didn’t allow Bitcoins to be used in payment for drinks or anything else.) It feels exploitative, and while it’s apropos of something, that something’s as artificial and soulless as it gets.

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