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The Monday Media Diet with Severin Matusek
On Nick Cave, Emily Segal, and "Vom Leben der Natur"
Severin Matusek (SM) is founder of co—matter, a research and strategy studio based in Berlin.
Tell us about yourself.
I grew up in the 90s with computers, video games and talking to strangers on the internet. This led me to study philosophy where I ended up focusing on media theory as the discipline that combined my interests in the various approaches about how we (may or may not) perceive the world and the emerging tools and technologies that radically challenge these frameworks. In short, I find it interesting how we create reality.
I’m the founder of co—matter, a research and strategy studio based in Berlin. Most recently we published After the Creator Economy (together with Metalabel), a publication about the future of creative collaboration. I also host The Culture & Technology Podcast, write a newsletter and curate a Figma board about topics I’m currently interested in such as multiplayer creativity, world-building, community infrastructures and the metaverse.
Besides that, I take pictures with small cameras, choose bicycles as my preferred way of transportation, try to be vegan as much as I can and am the father of a four year old human who just fell asleep next to me as I write this at 9PM on a Sunday.
Describe your media diet.
There are few things that make me happier than a print magazine in my mailbox. The New Yorker is my favorite - there’s no other which keeps quality journalism consistently at that level. I subscribe to Stack Magazines for a monthly curation of independent print magazines. My favorite discoveries so far are Real Review and Mother Tongue. I recently subscribed to the print issue of Logic Magazine. I order and pick up all my books at a local book shop because I believe we need to maintain the infrastructure that keeps us physically and intellectually alive.
Digitally, the stuff I actually read (amongst the random bits of information that capture my attention when my mind is attached to a screen) is mostly by writers who I trust for intelligent takes on contemporary culture, such as: Kyle Chayka, Jia Tolentino, Jenny Odell, James Bridle, Claire L. Evans, Elvia Wilk, Yancey Strickler, Emily Segal, Other Internet, Terry Nguyen, Adina Glickstein, Sari Azout, Tom Critchlow, Matt Klein, Emilie Friedlander & Andrea Domanick, Taylor Lorenz, Ezra Klein. I follow and subscribe to them across the usual channels.
In terms of actual media, Dirt has become my go-to newsletter for digital pop culture. I enjoy Imperfectly Perfect for its rawness and randomness. WITI, of course. Besides that, Discord communities have become my main source for context and curation on the topics I’m interested in. Metalabel, Trust, Startupy, Radar, Protein and Dirt are the communities I check daily and where I have the most meaningful connections and discussions with people across the world wide web.
Finally, I often start and end the day listening to radio on my phone while making breakfast and dinner. It’s a mix of classical music, daily news and five minutes of learning about the lives of insects, fungi and other strange animals in a program called “Vom Leben der Natur” (The Life of Nature) on Austria’s national radio OE1. I like the idea that by listening to this radio station for the rest of my life I’ll eventually know something about classical music and nature by the end of it.
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What’s the last great book you read?
Faith, Hope and Carnage by Nick Cave and Seán O'Hagan. I randomly picked it up in a book shop. Although in hindsight it felt like the book picked me. As someone who experienced loss and grief during the pandemic, the way Nick Cave reflects on the loss of his son deeply spoke to me. I felt a sense of relief that someone else was able to put these emotions into words. When the world stops making sense to you this is a good book to read.
What are you reading now?
I’m re-reading Elias Canetti’s Auto-Da-Fé. It’s the book that sparked my interest in literature when I was 16. To me, Canetti is among the great authors and observers of the 20th century along with Nabokov and Kafka. It’s the first time I re-read a book and I’m curious to find out if it still speaks to me the same way it did 20 years ago.
What’s your reading strategy when you pick up a print copy of your favorite publication?
I always read the editors letter, then scan the table of contents and pick the story that interests me most. I then let the magazine rest at different places in my apartment so I can pick it up whenever I have a minute to spare. Often in the kitchen, while cooking, or next to my bed. I do this on purpose so I’m less tempted to check social media on my phone. Then I open a random page and read whatever is on there.
Who should everyone be reading that they’re not?
Emily Segal. The books that mean the most to me contain moments of personal truth. Words and passages that describe a person’s relationship to the world that might be similar to mine. I’ve had a few of these moments when reading Mercury Retrograde, Segal’s first novel. The same happens, but differently, when reading Nemesis’ memos (like their most recent one, Max Pain).
What is the best non-famous app you love on your phone?
Vytal. It’s a QR-code based system for reusable containers that you get when you order food or coffee to go. It’s free, easy and reduces packaging waste by 100%. This is the only useful app I have on my phone.
Plane or train?
Train. I often take trains from Berlin to Vienna or Paris. I use the time for deep thinking that would normally take me a week to focus on. Wifi is off. Coffee and snacks from the train restaurant. My mind travels as we speed through the landscapes of Bohemia or Alsace at 300km/h.
What is one place everyone should visit?
Durmitor National Park in Montenegro. I’ve never heard about it until last summer when I went on a road trip with my girlfriend hunting for Spomeniki (aka huge, mostly abstract, concrete monuments built in the middle of nowhere across Yugoslavia). It’s breathtaking. I want to go back there for a week of bikepacking.
Tell us the story of a rabbit hole you fell deep into.
The resurgence of community radio. Projects like Refuge Worldwide in Berlin, Oroko Radio in Ghana or Index in New York City. These are community-led online radio stations that transmit a worldview, a sense of culture and belonging. They are open, dynamic universes you can join by casually listening or eventually hosting your own show. The future is about world-building and collective sense-making. Music and voice (aka radio) might be the most intuitive, direct and intimate way of entering a world. It’s the evolution of podcasts, connected and collaborative. I’d love to start a community radio station. (SM)
Thanks for reading,
Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN) & Severine (SM)
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