Thursday, September 16, 2010 10:23 AM
The Chronicle of Higher Education’s “My Daily Read” feature, in which various professors “describe their media diets” is reliably snooty good fun. Turns out neither the University of Chicago’s Martha Nussbaum nor Northwestern’s Laura Kipnis has much time for blogs (Kipnis: “I’m not a fan….I like to read prose that’s edited, frankly.”) or Twitter (Nussbaum: “Never.” Kipnis: “That would be the last straw!”).
Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education
Photo Credit: Image by schani / Mark Probst, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010 4:36 PM
The architecture magazine Dwell always strives for aesthetic heights with its often dour and stark photographs of beautiful, expensive homes. The blog Unhappy Hipsters pokes some good-natured fun at Dwell’s photos by writing pithy captions that turn each photograph into a story with just a few words. According to the blog’s tagline, “It’s lonely in the modern world.” It’s also pretty funny.
Source: Unhappy Hipsters
Monday, January 11, 2010 2:56 PM
When photographer Alec Soth closed down his blog in 2007, he didn’t dwell on the details. “I’m hitting the road and hanging up the blog,” he wrote. “Send me a letter—I’m sick of e-mail.” In a flash, the only photography blog I ever truly loved was finished. Alec didn’t just telegraph his passions when he posted; he made them infectious. Oh, and he was hilarious.
Enough of the eulogizing. He’s back. In December, Soth launched the delightful group blog Little Brown Mushrooms (an appendage of his new publishing adventure), and it’s an entirely different beast. Reading it feels a little bit like being late to a treasure hunt and scrambling to catch up without the benefit of the first clues. And that’s not a bad thing. Like I said: delightful.
Looking for an easy entry point? Try any of the videos Soth has posted. Hell, start with this gem:
Source: Little Brown Mushrooms
Wednesday, November 04, 2009 3:41 PM
For nearly a decade, writer and artist Ken Habarta has been scanning newspapers, FBI alerts, and
the internet for information on bank robberies. He's
especially drawn to robberies that involve a note. "The single most popular way
of robbing banks," he says, "is the quieter, gentler act of passing a note."
Gone are the days of pistols in the waist line.
Habarta posts the notes, security camera stills, and other
details of bank robberies to his blog, Bank Notes (he
released a book of the same name before taking the project online). And he knows
"There are notes that clearly convey experience. Most of these guys tend to be
repeat offenders," he explains. "A lot of first timers throw everything into the
note: I've got a bomb; I've got a gun; I know where you live. These people often
get caught shortly thereafter."
He revels in the absurdities. "The average take is between $2,000 and
$3,000, but what's bizarre is the amount of people who write in demands of how
much they want. There was one person who just wanted $100."
One absurdity is his own creation: a robbery note generator. Click "Go" and you
get as many notes as you can stomach:
Don't be stupid.
You have 15 seconds.
I have a gun.
100s, 50s, 20s. Thanks.
Put it in the bag.
You have three minutes.
I have a gun.
Most robbers hardly need a note. "I really think down the road they'll institute
a dress code for banks," Habarta says. "You walk into a bank and you've got
giant spectacles, a cowboy hat, and a huge beard... these are red flags."
A Dayton Daily News article, which Habarta linked to, addresses the bank dress code issue:
"If you see a guy (in a bank lobby) with a baseball cap, dark glasses and a
mustache (or) beard, it’s probably a bank robber, not a customer," said Lt.
Larry Faulkner of the Dayton Police Department. Faulker said the disguise is so
common, he advises tellers to call the police if they simply see a man dressed
in that manner waiting in line.
The FBI and police nationwide are advising banks to adopt a policy of "no hats,
no hoods, no sunglasses, no cell phones" to head off robberies. More banks are
doing so, but in some cases the idea is pitting police against bankers concerned
about alienating law-abiding customers.
Bank robberies have declined over the years, said Special Agent Harry Trombitas
of the FBI's Columbus office, but the numbers could be even lower if more banks
had the "no hats" policy.
It's all a little sad. But it's fascinating too. I can't stop scrolling through
Habarta's vignettes. And there's something else I can't stop: the echo of Greg
Beato's Mug Shot Nation piece we ran a couple of issues back. Beato wasn't
talking about bank robbery images, he was talking about our voyeuristic
obsession with the mug shots that splash across television screens, websites,
newspapers, and magazines. Unflattering photos of people who, in some cases,
have been convicted of no crime (and may in fact be innocent). The people that
appear on Bank Notes are guilty and they've got the big glasses and the
beards to prove it. Still, Beato's critique resonates:
If appearing in this context is a fate so unpleasant that it can persuade
other people to avoid engaging in illicit behavior, then surely it constitutes a
penalty. And it’s a penalty that’s being applied without the hassle of due
We tend to overlook this fact because, frankly, it spoils the mood. The
presumption of guilt makes it easier to justify laughing at 23-going-on-zombie
crack whores and bug-eyed misfits sporting felony-caliber mullets. They deserve
the derision they get—they’re criminals! But the joke is really on us. As law
enforcement agencies expand their powers of surveillance, as they encourage us
to think of punishment without due process as standard operating procedure, we
not only tolerate it, we click and click and ask for more. If America’s
citizenry were more uniformly presentable, and its mug shots correspondingly
less entertaining, we might protest these developments more strongly. Instead,
we simply laugh at the latest person guilty of wearing a cow costume while being
arrested, then pass along the link to our friends.
And after all of that I've still got Bank Notes open on my desktop. And I'm
still clicking on the note generator:
This is a robbery.
No dye packs.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009 10:44 AM
I fell so completely in love with the new blog My Parents Were Awesome that I contacted its owner, 26-year-old Brooklynite Eliot Glazer, within minutes of discovering it. First, I wanted to say thank you (and apparently he gets a lot of that). And I wanted to know more about his daily submissions-based stream of decades-old family photos. In just one month Glazer has collected more than 900 submissions.
Glazer is an editor at Urlesque and a comedian and performer with the (fabulous) Upright Citizens Brigade . “I've always been in awe of old photos of my parents and grandparents,” he wrote in an email. “To see my own parents and grandparents look so effortlessly cool (and even glamorous) while my generation tries so hard to look unintentionally fashionable (not that there's anything wrong with that, of course) is pretty entertaining, too. I'm consistently surprised by the overwhelmingly positive feedback, especially when people submit photos of someone who has recently passed away.”
He's worked his own family into the mix. Here's his mom, his dad, his grandpa, his grandma, and his great-grandpa. We've assembled a slideshow of our favorites from the first month of My Parents Were Awesome. Enjoy!
Thursday, August 13, 2009 9:14 AM
Earlier this summer, as part of a master’s program at Emerson College, Kerry Skemp began blogging and tweeting about online commentary (i.e., comments left on websites or tweets) and its role in the future of publishing. The resultant blog, You’re Talking a Lot, but You’re Not Saying Anything, is filled with rich observations. For anyone who hasn’t been following all along, Skemp recently summed up the lessons learned with the ultimate “meta-commentary” post: “Commentary on My Commentary on Commentary.”
The distillation is fascinating stuff: a vision of online commentary that rebuffs proverbial complaints of commenters-as-trolls-and-idiots and slays simplistic traffic-building stratagems. “Online commentary both is and affects publishing,” Skemp writes. “It is publishing in the sense that it ‘makes public’ information that would otherwise remain private. In doing so, commentary (ideally) affects more than the commenter and the person being responded to.
“The unique nature of commentary on the internet allows it to be read by an unlimited number of people with varying levels of connection to the topic at hand. An astute comment can educate and inspire others; a negative or uninformed comment can motivate others to help educate. Admittedly, online commentary doesn’t give rise to enlightenment: but it can, and should.”
Finding enlightenment in a comment field might seem a bit farfetched, but Skemp backs up the claim with savvy observations that will be interesting to track as online comment infrastructure evolves. The presence of nasty (or self-serving) commenters, for example, means that “the art of commentary includes determining what to weed out,” a.k.a., a dose of media literacy. Additionally the “Twitterfication of commentary”—knowing who’s reading what you publish—injects accountability into the system, eliminating the anonymity under which bad manners and cheap shots flourish.
But more than commentary shifting toward more refined discourse, Skemp ultimately sees it functioning as a sort of super-discourse. “Commentary is the future of . . . search, and potentially even publishing,” she writes. “Commentary is the future of finding everything we need online, and responding to what is already online. Algorithms can only go so far without the human input that comes in the form of commentary: data showing what people think about other data.”
Source: You’re Talking a Lot, but You’re Not Saying Anything
Image by preater, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, August 04, 2009 11:32 AM
If the internet is killing books, the blog to book deal is an ironic reward for blogosphere fame, writes Sarah Hromack in the July/August issue of The Brooklyn Rail:
How strangely anachronistic is it (and yet, extraordinarily telling) that those who participate in perhaps the most monumental democratic exercise ever—and who do so daily, often for a living—would seek to tame the great, unbridled, immaterial beast that is the Internet with some high-gloss stock and two binding boards? How thoroughly odd it is that one would attempt to translate the particular digital reading experience of the Tumblr blog, or Twitter feed, or Facebook update into an analog one.
Source: The Brooklyn Rail
Thursday, April 30, 2009 11:05 AM
The term “hipster” has become a mark of derision. It’s mostly used in the context of “get out of my way, you damn hipsters,” or “that place is filled with stupid hipsters.” Writing on a personal blog A Fantasy of Flight, former 826 Valencia intern Zoe Ruiz explains why she’s not going to call people hipsters anymore:
At the point in time that I began to use the term hipsters I was very much dissatisfied with myself, with my life, and with anyone I met. I am not now dissatisfied with myself (most of the time). Hipster has become a word that carries a sense of dissatisfaction and a bit of anger. I have no use for a word that carries such a mood.
Better to leave the Hipster Olympics to other people:
(Thanks, The Rumpus.)
Source: A Fantasy of Flight
Thursday, March 12, 2009 1:26 PM
The internet poo-bahs at Technorati say that blog authority is dropping. The most popular blogs on the internet have seen their “authority” scores, based on the number of other blogs linking to them, go down recently, even if their ranks relative to the rest of the internet remain the same.
This loss of blog authority doesn’t point to a loss of importance, Brian Solis writes for TechCrunch. It shows that the way people consume media has changed. Instead of writing competing blog posts, people are increasingly turning to Twitter or Facebook to respond and make their voices heard.
We are learning to publish and react to content in “Twitter time” and I’d argue that many of us are spending less time blogging, commenting directly on blogs, or writing blogs in response to blog sources because of our active participation in micro communities.
Now people need to figure out new ways to measure the importance of blogs, taking social networking and non-traditional derivative content into consideration. Solis writes, “Now, we have the ability to instantly interact with, respond, or promote blog content away from the source blog, but that shouldn’t make the original post any less valuable.”
Wednesday, February 11, 2009 2:03 PM
In the endless stream of bleak dispatches about the global economic crisis, you’ve got to pick which calamities to follow or you’ll drown in a sea of misery. I’ve been tracking the news out of Iceland with particular interest—not because it’s cheery but because I can’t seem to look away.
For one thing, I vacationed there a few years ago and, like many visitors, was enchanted by the place’s mix of humongous landscapes, fantastic mythology, and coolly efficient society. For another, the current drama is absolutely riveting, with all the epic plot turns and vivid characters of an Icelandic saga: The country has gone bankrupt, the government has collapsed, they’ve installed the world’s first openly gay prime minister, and young people have been gathering every Saturday in downtown Rejkyavik, lighting bonfires, throwing eggs at Parliament, and banging pots and pans in a grassroots outpouring that some are calling Búsáhaldarbyltingin, or the Saucepan Revolution. Meanwhile, an obstinate central banker refuses to resign and has come to be the most hated man in Iceland.
I’ve been relying on a couple of English-language blogs by Icelanders to give me the news out of this tempest. One of my favorites is The Iceland Weather Report, which is full of fiery, literary, and informed commentary on all things Iceland—and lately that’s been a lot—from a young woman named Alda Sigmundsdottir. She has captured the movement’s politely radical zeitgeist in posts like “Who Needs Concerts When You Have Protests?” and “On Holding the Tycoons Accountable.” And yes, she provides actual weather reports from downtown Reykjavik. (Catch her on a recent BBC report about Icelandic bloggers or a World Focus online radio show about Iceland’s economic collapse.)
I’ve also been checking in at The Reykjavik Grapevine to take the country’s pulse. A “life, travel, and entertainment” guide, it’s lately been full of great political blogging and on-the-scene reporting from the restive streets of the capital. See “Iceland’s Rainbow Revolution” by Valur Gunnarsson for a blow-by-blow chronicle of the march on parliament and “Things Falling Apart” for stunning photos from January 20 by Jóhann Trast Pálmason. (His photos accompany this post.) Gunnarsson even digs up the juicy nugget that the obstinate banker, David Oddsson, “started his career as an actor, playing the part of deranged despot Ubu Roy. It seems he will end his career the way he started it.”
One needn’t be an Icelander to apprehend and analyze the situation; in fact, a big-picture perspective can be valuable. U.S. writer Rebecca Solnit uses her Icelandic connections and background knowledge—she spent nearly three months there last summer—to sketch out the social, environmental, and global political ramifications of Iceland’s crisis in a brilliantly incisive essay at TomDispatch.com. The Icelanders she’s talked to since her visit, she writes, “are exultant to have reclaimed their country and a little terrified about the stark poverty facing them.”
Images by Jóhann Trast Pálmason, courtesy of the photographer.
Wednesday, February 04, 2009 10:32 AM
There’s an arms race taking place between advertisers and viewers, where people block out ads with TiVo or DVR, and companies slip more ads into peoples lives through evermore ingenious tactics. The battle could be self-defeating, because, according to a new study from the NYU Stern School of Business, viewers enjoy TV more when they watch ads.
The more time people spend in front of the TV, the less enjoyable it becomes, according to the study. Ads break up the routine, James Hibberd writes on his blog, and “the interruption helps re-freshen the novelty of the program.”
Most viewers adamantly disagree with the study’s findings, and the study’s authors admit, “Consumers prefer to watch television programs without commercials.” A commenter on Hibberd’s blog put it another way: “No offense but this article is complete crap journalism and comes off sounding like faux-industry sponsored ‘research’. It's like saying soldiers enjoy combat because it gets them out of the house.”
, licensed under
Friday, November 21, 2008 4:54 PM
Status updates and photos comments posted on Facebook provided the narration of one turbulent relationship, posted on the 26th Story blog. The author captured the saga of one anonymous couple’s love story, which would be well-known to any of the “friends” who are privy to their stories. The uncredited Bob Dylan quotes that pepper the story provide a kind of soundtrack, including this one:
Her is a bit nervous about Wednesday.....
Her feels so serene
Him: you rock my world.
Her has known it from the moment that we met....
Her can't even remember what his lips felt like on mine....Most of the time.....
(Thanks, Newmark's Door.)
Monday, November 03, 2008 11:50 AM
The new website Intent.com is like the Huffington Post of the metaphysical realm, offering an online repository of mindful living writing. Started by Mallika Chopra, an entrepreneur and Deepak Chopra’s daughter, the site’s brand represents an amorphous mélange of business motivation, self-help, and Eastern spirituality. The site breaks down into the squishy categories of Health, Relationships, Success, Balance, Causes, Planet, and Spirit.
As the cornerstone of Intent.com, bloggers state their intent (“To laugh out loud every day!”, “Not to over indulge in candy or booze tonight!”, “To recognize and share the presence of life’s magic”) and users can register to add their own intents or to affirm others.
The site isn’t simply an unmitigated orgy of loving-kindness, however. Yesterday, Deepak Chopar posted an overtly political video blog about John McCain entitled, “War Hero or War Criminal, Who Decides?” In fact, there’s a generous dose of political content, most of it pro-Obama and against California’s Prop-8. There are also the sorts of diverting anecdotal pieces that wouldn’t be out of place at Slate, Salon, or, well, HuffPo.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008 3:30 PM
A wiry thirtysomething guy bikes out of the Whole Foods parking lot, a pannier of organic produce strapped to his rack. He’s on his way home to make dinner after a couple of hours volunteering at the local Obama campaign headquarters. He inches down the driveway, waiting for an opportunity to turn right into the busy rush-hour traffic.
He sees an opening and jumps into the lane, pedaling quickly. But he’s not moving fast enough for a hulking SUV whose impatient driver doesn’t want to change lanes. She tailgates him for several yards, laying on the horn, then swerves into the other lane and tears past him, yelling something about getting on the sidewalk. The cyclist gives her a one-fingered salute, then notices a McCain-Palin sticker on her bumper.
We are all guilty of certain prejudices. In the escalating (and increasingly dangerous) tensions between car commuters and bicycle riders, battle lines are drawn. As an avid cyclist leaning fairly hard to port, I had very little reason to interrogate the stereotypes embodied in the scenario above. But eventually a few needling questions penetrated my insulated sphere of thought: What if there are conservatives who ride bikes? What the hell do they look like? And where can I find them?
On the Internet, of course.
“I am a gun-owning, low-taxes, small-government, strong military, anti-baby murder, pro-big/small business, anti-social program, conservative Democrat,” wrote Maddyfish, a poster on Bike Forums, an Internet discussion forum where everyone from the casual hobbyist to the obsessive gearhead can discuss all things bike-related, from frame sizes to the best routes downtown. There are dozens such forums for bicyclists and I recently crashed three of them—Bike Forums, MPLS BikeLove, and Road Bike Review—with a simple question: Are there any conservative cyclists out there? Maddyfish (an online pseudonym) was one of the first to reply: “I find cycling to be a very conservative activity. It saves me money and time.”
And just like that, biking conservatives came out of the cyber-woodwork, offering their own mixtures of bike love and political philosophy. “I do not care about gas prices or the environment. I care about fun and getting where I am quickly,” wrote Old Scratch. “I’m a Libertarian,” wrote Charly17201. “I am extremely conservative, but definitely NOT a GOPer. … I ride my bike because it provides me the opportunity to save even more money for my pleasures now and my retirement in the future (and my retirement fund is NOT the responsibility of the government).”
The more liberal bikers in the forums repeated some variation of this formulation: “Drive to the ride = conservative; bike to the ride = liberal.” In other words, conservatives load bikes onto SUVs and drive them to a riding trail, while liberals incorporate their bikes into every aspect of their personal transportation, whether utilitarian or recreational. For moneyed conservatives with a large portion of their income budgeted for recreation, high-end bikes and gear have taken their place along golf as a rich man’s leisure activity.
But there are conservatives who integrate bikes into their lifestyle just as thoroughly as their liberal counterparts. Mitch Berg is a conservative talk-radio host whose blog, A Shot in the Dark, is divided between political content and chronicles if his experiences commuting by bicycle. “I grew up in rural North Dakota, and biking was one of my escapes when I was in high school and college,” he told me. “It’s my favorite way to try to stay in shape. And if gas fell to 25 cents a gallon, I’d still bike every day.”
Berg doesn’t believe there’s anything inherently political about riding a bike. “But people on both sides of the political aisle do ascribe political significance to biking. The lifestyle-statement bikers, of course, see the act as a political and social statement. And there’s a certain strain of conservatism that sees conspicuous consumption—driving an SUV and chortling at paying more for gas—as a way to poke a finger in the eyes of the environmental left.”
The impression that bikers are liberal is reinforced, Berg feels, by the most vocal and political members of bike culture. These are the folks who corner the media's spotlight (and draw drivers' resentment) with high-profile events like Critical Mass, a group ride that floods downtown streets in many cities at the end of each month as riders zealously reassert their rights to the paths normally traveled by cars. Similarly, when the price of gas climbed to $4 over the summer, the media couldn’t run enough stories about the unprecedented popularity of bike commuting. Activist bikers leveraged the newfound media attention to promote certain messages: that bicycling is an inherently political activity; that cyclists care about traditionally progressive causes like environmental protection; that more tax money should be allocated for bike paths and a transportation infrastructure that takes vehicles other than cars into account.
“The faction of bikers that is fundamentally political has done a good job of tying [bikes and politics] together,” Berg says. “The Green Party has wrapped itself around the bicycle.” But for many, biking is political because everything is political: “You need a public infrastructure to [bike],” wrote Cyclezealot, on Bike Forums. “So, cycling will always be affected by politics, like it or not.”
When politics does bleed into cycling, does it create tensions? I asked Berg if he ever feels outnumbered on group rides dominated by liberals, and if those differences ever come to the fore. “Of course,” he replied, “On several levels. I’m a conservative. I don’t believe in man-made global warming. I’m biking for reasons that are partly personal and partly capitalistic; I don’t want to pay $4 for gas.” But he has made liberal friends based on a common love of cycling. So has William Bain, a retired Naval officer living in the Pacific Northwest whose bike commute is a 43-mile round trip. “Cycling is the common bond I have with my liberal friends,” said Bain. “We can get in a heated passionate argument about politics and then go out and try to ride each other into the ground. Good clean fun.”
Berg and Bain have allies in the government who see bicycle advocacy as a nonpartisan issue. Take Republican Greg Brophy, a Colorado state senator and an avid cyclist who competes in road bike marathons and uses his mountain bike to haul farm equipment. Brophy worked with Bicycle Colorado to pass Safe Routes to School and is supporting a “Green Lanes” bill to give bicyclists safer routes through metro areas.
Conservative cyclists don’t tend to get help from all their political allies, however. Some right-wing personalities know that biking is a hot-button issue and make pointed attacks on cyclists while reinforcing the liberal-cyclist stereotype. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s hard-right columnist Katherine Kersten earned the ire of the Twin Cities bike community in 2007 when she characterized Critical Mass as a mob of “serial lawbreakers” bent on ruining the lives of honorable citizen motorists. “Are you rushing to catch the last few innings of your son's baseball game? Trying to get to the show you promised your wife for her birthday? Critical Mass doesn't give a rip.”
Last fall, Twin Cities talk-radio host Jason Lewis made on-air remarks decrying the “bicycling crowd” as “just another liberal advocacy group.” He recycled a common anti-bike canard—that bicyclists have no rights to the roads because they don’t pay taxes to service those roads—before issuing a call to arms: “The people with the 2,000-pound vehicle need to start fighting back.” Lewis’ comments seem especially reckless in light of recent events: In September alone, four Twin Cities cyclists were killed in collisions with motor vehicles. One conservative blogger celebrates bike fatalities and gleefully anticipates more. “Keep it up,” he tells cyclists, “and the law of averages says we’ll have a few less Obama voters in November.”
While such critics tap into right-wing rage at all things liberal, conservative bikers appeal to a saner tenet of their political tradition: the free market's invisible hand. “Let the market roam free,” Berg exclaimed. “The higher gas goes, the more people will try biking.” And where there’s money to be made, bikes and bike-share programs will emerge. When the Republican National Convention came to the Twin Cities in September, for example, a bike-share program was there to greet it. Humana and Bikes Belong made 1,000 bikes available for rental during the convention, with 70 bikes staying behind as part of a permanent rental program.
Conservatives on bikes represent the breakdown of party-line stereotypes. They are heartening examples of crucial divergences from the lazy red/blue dichotomy the pundits are relentlessly hammering in these last frenzied days of campaign season. They are a microcosm in which a stereotype falls away to reveal an actual individual. What's more, they represent not just the abandonment of tired clichés, but more bikes on the road—something all of us on two wheels, regardless of our political idiosyncrasies, can agree is a good thing.
, licensed by
Thursday, July 31, 2008 1:10 PM
Beginning August 9th, the late George Orwell’s diary will be published as a blog, each entry appearing 70 years to the day after the British writer first penned it. Orwell (1903-1950) is best known for the classics 1984 and Animal Farm, although he was also a fiery essayist. The online publication of his diary is a project of the Orwell Prize, a British award for political writing.
Orwell kept his diary from 1938 to 1942. Gearing up for August, the Orwell Prize folks hint at what the entries contain:
What impression of Orwell will emerge? From his domestic diaries (which start on 9th August), it may be a largely unknown Orwell, whose great curiosity is focused on plants, animals, woodwork, and—above all—how many eggs his chickens have laid. From his political diaries (from 7th September), it may be the Orwell whose political observations and critical thinking have enthralled and inspired generations. . . . Whether writing about the Spanish Civil War or sloe gin, geraniums or Germany, Orwell’s perceptive eye and rebellion against the ‘gramophone mind’ he so despised are obvious.
Image by mushroom and rooster, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008 10:29 AM
Those with their fingers (cursors? browsers? aggregators?) on the pulse of the blogosphere, along with regular readers of the New York Times Magazine, are by now probably familiar with—if not already tired of—the online fracas surrounding Emily Gould’s 8,000-word cover story about her meteoric rise to celebrity as a blogger and the complete erasure of whatever boundaries might have once existed between her public and private lives. Whatever your opinion of Gould, her piece, or the entities (ex-boyfriends, former employers, herself) she alternately skewers and exonerates, the piece and resulting online meta-noise illuminate some interesting points about online culture, the current media landscape, and the millennial generation’s tendency to overshare. But if you’re one of those rare souls who have more important things to do than read blogs all day and just need a (relatively) quick gloss, the Huffington Post provides a comprehensive link dump regarding the whole sordid, incestuous affair, while the Columbia Journalism Review offers a concise and cogent analysis that might, if we're lucky, serve as the last word on the brouhaha.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008 3:32 PM
An Advocate survey of the “homophobosphere” mentions a valuable theory for understanding the haters lighting up comments fields with antigay bile. It's called the John Gabriel’s Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory, explains journalist and NYU adjunct professor Clay Shirky, and it breaks down like this:
Normal Person + Audience + Anonymity = Fuckwad.
Those deserving of the moniker are spread far and wide beyond homophobes: “Fuckwad” can justly be applied to anyone from the patriots on patrol for lapses in allegiance to Old Glory to the sad souls who vehemently blast intellectual troglodytes for not fully grasping the nuance of Marx’s later works. But the scope and volume of the wretchedness spilled in the blogosphere against homosexuals is uniquely alarming. The Advocate reports that tens of thousands of people felt compelled to register their rage against performance artist Chris Crocker for his “Leave Britney Alone!” video (the YouTube phenomenon has garnered more than 19 million views and almost 275,000 comments—one of which is pictured above). And bloggers, from Andrew Sullivan at the Daily Dish to Xeni Jardin at boingboing.net, report clogs of antigay backlash.
The quandary is what to do about it. Sullivan and others make a convincing case for a First Amendment free-for-all: You have take the good with the bad. Besides, other commentators often end up dampening antigay flamers. “Call it free-market tolerance,” says the Advocate.
At boingboing.net, Jardin and her colleagues have another approach: disemvowelment. When their comment moderator spots a nasty comment, she hits a button that removes all the vowels (and much of the bluster). So “Xeni is a transgender Lebanese terrorist, and her butt is big” becomes “Xn’s trnsgndr Lbns trrrst nd hr btt s bg.” What once was irrational animosity becomes a slightly amusing puzzle.
“It’s like they’re flinging poo at you,” Jardin says. “You still let them fling it, but the poo doesn’t stick anymore.”
Wednesday, February 27, 2008 12:02 PM
It may come as a bit of a surprise to the denizens of cyberspace that there are still those living in a world defined by three dimensions. And these 3D-living dinosaurs still spend long summer evenings at real carnivals with Ferris wheels and carnies, eating cotton candy and peeing in biffies. These happy carnival-goers, relishing their moments of old-timey fun, are equally unaware of what passes for a carnival in the blogosphere. Unlike the carnivals of yore, where people became so sick from fried food and roller coasters that their bloated bodies and sugar-numbed minds were rendered useless, blog carnivals actually make life easier by pointing readers to interesting posts on a central topic. The blog carnival we’ve been attending lately is the Carnival of Journalism, a monthly round-up of experienced media writers who offer industry analysis and helpful advice for journalists.
Image by Svenstorm, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008 10:32 AM
Finally, a social networking site aimed at the cranky old-school reporters who were forever bitching about “those Internets,” until they realized they were on the verge of losing their jobs to a bunch of 20-somethings with Facebook accounts who are willing to work for a Jimmy John’s sandwich and a free Internet connection. Ryan Sholin, of blogosphere renown, took pity on them and created Wired Journalists.com to help them learn about The Google. And judging from the turnout on the message board, it’s working. Onward, crusty journalists!
Image by monoglot, licensed under Creative Commons.
Monday, January 21, 2008 9:31 AM
Before the Internet, millions of office workers missed out on the luxury of playing the game Dolphin Olympics 2 on a quiet Thursday afternoon, instead coasting to the day's end in a fog of boredom. Before the Internet, conversations would fall into a confused silence when people should have been quoting interesting facts they’d gleaned from Neatorama, yet could not. But now that the Internet hovers over our every waking hour like a mildly benevolent elf, office employees can amuse themselves while pretending to work, friends can compete over who has memorized the more perfect morsel of knowledge, and our lives—if we can navigate the rich riches of the web well enough—are wholly satisfied. But the Internet is a sprawling place. You need some sort of a guide to all the weird stuff out there. Where could you find one of those?
At the Internet technology blog ReadWriteWeb, Marshall Kirkpatrick has posted a handy, customizable guide to finding weird stuff on the web. What you get at the end of the process—hopefully—is a single RSS feed of blogs that you’ll think are neat (in Kirkpatrick’s case, a collection of weird hunting blogs). And then you can compete with your friends over who knows the most facts about your favorite cat meme, just like the cool kids.
Photo by allspice1, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, January 17, 2008 4:05 PM
President Bush just returned from a weeklong tour of the Middle East, which included his first trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories since becoming president. For such an important visit—one that Bush hopes might establish his legacy as a diplomatic peacemaker—a mere press release just wouldn’t do. So the White House tried something new, in the form of what looks to be a blog, aptly titled “Trip Notes from the Middle East.” But don’t get too excited: The Trip Notes, written by various White House staffers over the course of the visit, are anything but substantial. Posts from Bush’s January 8-16 visit include descriptions of the weather, lodging conditions, how the staff kept busy on the airplane, and the array of animals on King Abdullah’s ranch. But cheers to the White House for attempting to embrace modern technology.
(Thanks, Columbia Journalism Review.)
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