⚡️ Announcing Kernel Magazine
How you can support Reboot's most ambitious work to date
Today, we’re announcing Kernel, Reboot’s print magazine.
Kernel includes 14 pieces of original writing on tech’s past, present, and future; all researched, written, illustrated, designed, and curated by a team of over 20 volunteers over the last six months. It brings Reboot’s ethos to a new medium, spotlighting work that is more ambitious in scope and dreams than we’ve shared before. All revenue will support our projects still to come.
You can preorder a print and digital copy of Kernel by purchasing an annual subscription to the Reboot newsletter at $30, which will increase to $40 after October 8th. Issues will be mailed out in mid-October to U.S. addresses. All subscribers will also receive access to the full digital issue, invite-only digital events and seminars, and audio versions of pieces.
We’re all so grateful for your continued readership and support.
For more context on the philosophy and process behind Kernel, I’m sharing a note from Jasmine Wang, Kernel’s editor-in-chief:
As our dependence on technology became increasingly apparent over the course of the pandemic, the need for a community like Reboot became increasingly clear. We’ve now published 40+ essays, interviews, and book reviews by young technologists for 1200+ readers; have hosted 25+ free events with 500+ attendees; ran a student fellowship with 20 students from 16 schools and 4 countries; and host a vibrant internal community of 150+, including 30+ incredible volunteer contributors.
Kernel Magazine is our largest project yet. It is a home for historical research, cultural critique, and possible futures that deserve an at-length treatment. It is a mosaic of long-form work by a community of young technologists united primarily by our commitment to a set of guiding principles and dialogic practices. It is an artifact of our shared collective belief that meaningful, extended, truth-seeking, empathy-based discourse is more important to intentionally create than ever, both for the project of collective sense-making and what it unlocks: responsible action.
The main precursor to the magazine was an in-person retreat: eleven brilliant, kind, and critical technologists travelled to Asheville to think, write, and be in community together. Being together for a month was a revelation. Many of us were in liminal states. The pandemic in some ways was a welcome system reset. Many of us were deeply questioning if choices we had made had been made mimetically and were searching for meaningful community and paths forward. We arrived mostly as strangers and Twitter mutuals, and left as friends. We learned the lesson that every co-operative learns: that community is forged through taking care of one another. We talked about our value systems and formative events in the course of arriving at them, how we were still arriving at them.
Everyone who attended contributed in some form: four of us formed a core task force, and almost everyone authored a piece. Reboot community members volunteered to help edit each other’s pieces, design and lay out the magazine, make art for each piece, and build our digital home. In the end, the majority of volunteers who supported Kernel were not at the retreat, although our in-person gathering still feels important to mention as the initial seed. Kernel has truly been a collective labour of love and hope, and I feel so much gratitude for the opportunity to steward this work together with so many other wonderful people.
A tribute to everybody who contributed will go out on Friday, but I want to first thank the members of our core task force: Saffron Huang, our creative director, for leading an incredible design effort; Emily Liu, our managing editor, for shepherding our dozen pieces through to completion and ensuring that everyone’s pieces received thorough editorial attention; and Jessica Zhou, our web director and all-around cheerleader, for helping us define our understanding of a digital home in more ways than one.
Much of this labour was done on a volunteer or honorarium basis. Our commitment to compensating community members for their time, expertise, and labour is the primary impetus for launching a paid subscription. We are honoured to have received grants for upfront costs from funders like 0xPARC, Emergent Ventures, SPARC, and Stanford HAI, and are simultaneously excited about taking this first step towards financial independence, and toward a model where our work is empowered by the same community who we write for. Surplus subscription revenue from the magazine will seed Reboot’s first community treasury, which members can vote on to fund shared community resources like workshops and books, as well as external-facing public goods like interviews, essays, podcasts, and talks.
Kernel’s inaugural issue asks the question: where do we begin? It opens with a section that’s oriented to the past, to situate our work within lineages of thought, action, and structure. Having understood its contingency, we are brought to the present. We examine the values-ladenness of the technologies that undergird and shape our lives, and understand how they simultaneously circumscribe our agency and grant us affordances for action and being. Then, finally, we speculate about the future: about how we might shape technologies and how they will in turn shape us.
Every day for the next three days, we’ll pre-release a piece from the magazine from each section.
Tomorrow, Reboot founder and director Jasmine Sun will share a piece from our section on the present, titled “take back the future!” The manifesto outlines the personal, philosophical, and historical underpinnings for Reboot’s existence; and the role we might play in shaping technology’s future.
On Wednesday, we’ll release Matthew Sun’s contribution to our section on the past, “e-raced,” which argues that fostering healthier digital communities requires reckoning with how early utopian visions for the internet erased racial identity.
On Thursday, you’ll receive Riley Wong’s speculative fiction piece, “hypnopompia”, which traces the journey of a dream researcher in surreal, glimmering prose.
Finally, on Friday, we’ll reveal the magazine’s full table of contents and feature our community of contributors.
In addition to a print copy of Kernel Magazine, annual subscribers will receive:
Digital access to the entire first issue
Audio versions of the magazine pieces, narrated by the authors
Invitations to monthly seminars with authors and community members
$30 is a limited-time discount for our earliest supporters. After October 8th, the price will return to $40 per year. Print copies will ship on Oct 15th.
Our readers range from college students, organizers, and journalists to tech founders, consultants, and tenured professors. If you’re a high-income or institutional buyer, we would be so grateful if you considered making a contribution above the listed price to sponsor someone else’s membership: select “Reboot Donor” on the subscription page to select an amount of your choosing, or make a tax-deductible donation via Pledges.1 If you’re a student, or these prices are otherwise not feasible for you, please fill out this form — we don’t want anyone to be unable to engage with Kernel for financial reasons, and we’ll happily grant you access to the full digital magazine once it’s released, no questions asked.
Regular readers of our newsletter will notice a difference in tone. Our Substack is grounded in the present and the world of today, and often centered on current issues or recently published work. We asked Kernel authors to be ambitious with their pieces, and this led to a centering of dreams in this issue. We use the term “dream” expansively: we have pieces that feature the dreams that we dream while asleep, but also those that are alive when we wake. To list only a few: there are the original dreams of the internet and communities that helped shape it, the dreams of tech workers ranging from founders to activist organizers, the dreams we compartmentalize so that we might work more effectively. For me, as for many others, these varied, rich, and ambitious dreams are precisely what attracted us to technology, but these dreams are not immune to critique. As Saffron discusses in her piece, “our technological pursuits consist in providing means for constructing objects according to our desires and dreams .. [and as such] .. the critical question for technologists will become: what are the desires and dreams worth specifying, and the paths we should create, and endorse, to get there?”
A final closing note on our name. In computer science, the kernel is the most fundamental part of a computer’s operating system. It is responsible most notably for memory, as well as CPU time, used for executing instructions. In ecology, kernels are the inner parts of seeds, and are often edible, even nourishing. In speech, the kernel of an argument is the core important idea of a subject. We’re interested in the tensions between these definitions: human-made kernels govern systems in a top-down fashion, which is at odds with the bottom-up ecological world-building borne from natural kernels. We’re also interested in the similarities: in all these systems the kernel is fundamental, and its composition and potentialities are thus worth understanding.
We’re not looking for prescriptive, top-down answers. We’re looking for kernels.