Tuesday, March 27, 2012 10:38 AM
Beautifully captured stop-motion
How social networks make
it tough to see ourselves as part of a larger group, like say, a class.
A NASA project that studies surface-level ocean currents is
Gogh’s Starry Night come to life.
Why thinking green could actually be bad for
What 2050 may really
look like (minus the flying cars).
Backronyms and downright falsehoods: debunking linguistic
The specifics on our brave
new digital world.
What house mice can tell us about where
the Vikings have been.
New research on the other
How the heat wave in the Midwest
NOAA’s climate software.
David Foster Wallace wants you to turn
the music down.
A new app lets Facebook users “enemy”
instead of “friend.” The app, developed by a University of Texas researcher, is called EnemyGraph, and purports to encourage a more accurate reflection of our social lives than the "friending" and "liking" can.
Image by Andreas Bauer, licensed under Creative Commons.
Monday, March 12, 2012 8:34 AM
The whole Kony 2012
debate has gotten me thinking about how activism has changed over the past few
years, especially with the explosion of social media use. Back in 2010, Malcolm
Gladwell wrote a much-read piece in The New
Yorker about the so-called “Twitter
Revolutions” in Moldova and Iran the previous year. Many observers had
jumped to the conclusion that social media had reinvented grassroots activism,
that, of all things, Facebook and Twitter were now powerful tools for populist
change. But as Gladwell argued, activists’ use of Twitter in both countries had
been way overblown, and in fact, it
was hard to see how social media could ever live up to claims like that.
Historically, most social movements, like civil rights in the U.S., had been
based on what sociologists call “strong ties”—activists were more likely to
commit time, energy, and personal safety, if they belonged to a strong,
cohesive group of like minded friends. By contrast, social media are based on “weak
ties” with very low personal commitment required of participants. Facebook
users were more likely to belong to a “Save Darfur” online group than to make
protest signs or risk arrest. If social media were having an impact on young
people, it was not in terms of civic engagement.
A lot of things have happened since then, most importantly
the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement. Both made heavy
use of social media to organize, communicate, and get the word out to a
larger public. Facebook allowed activists in Tunisia to coordinate and plan
the radar of a clueless and very 20th-century regime. A new
smartphone app allowed activists in the U.S. to broadcast episodes of
police brutality as they were happening. And, yes, Twitter let demonstrators
communicate in mass numbers quickly and effectively (some state prosecutors
have even subpoenaed
Occupy protesters’ Twitter feeds in recent months).
But, in spite of those developments, Gladwell’s argument
still has a lot of validity today. The fact is that the basic elements of
grassroots activism have not changed since the invention of Twitter. The role
social media played in Zuccotti Park and Tahrir Square was to facilitate and
streamline on-the-group organizing, not to take its place. The important
flashpoints in those movements were still physical, and involved the same
dynamics as previous grassroots struggles. And as The Atlantic’sNathan
Jurgenson has argued, Occupy
was in many ways explicitly low-tech, from the (entirely print) People’s
Library, to general assembly hand signs, to the iconic human microphone. While
Occupy made use of new media to organize and coordinate with itself, once
organized, it behaved much more traditionally.
And yet there are many activists and groups that still seek
to address very real issues entirely through social media. Over the past decade
or so, Facebook has probably been the most notorious. Especially in the U.S.,
issue-oriented Facebook groups have a history of being very popular, very good
at raising awareness, but
very bad at raising cash and affecting change, says Evgeny Morozov in Foreign Policy’s Net Effect blog. Like Gladwell, Morozov points to a brand of
activism that is low-risk and essentially unconnected with larger groups or
experiences. A powerful illustration is the group a Danish psychologist started
in 2009 to address a problem that didn’t actually exist (the group opposed a
never-planned dismantling of a fountain in Copenhagen). Within a week, the
group had 28,000 members. And interestingly, activists in the Global South seem
to be much better at translating digital participation into physical action. An
Facebook group in Colombia got hundreds of thousands of people to march
against the guerilla force in almost 200 cities in 2008. This may be because while joining a political Facebook
group from Bogota or Cairo can be a brave act of personal conscience, in the
U.S., there is very little danger. And in a network of weak ties, low personal risk means low personal investment.
This brings us to the now-ubiquitous Kony 2012 campaign, a
movement that has generated quite a bit of awareness
and controversy over the past few days. A viral video on the group’s
website has already garnered tens of millions of views, but many observers have
criticized the film’s overly
simplistic portrayal of Ugandans and the larger conflict. Spending only a
few of its thirty minutes on East Africa, the film’s moralistic message seems more
akin to White Man’s Burden than humanitarianism—and many have criticized its
commodification of the conflict, especially in light of Invisible Children’s allegedly
shady finances. The group has certainly accomplished its stated goal of
raising awareness about Kony, the LRA, and child soldiers in Africa, but it is
hard for many to connect the film’s slick simplicity and the group’s
consumerist message with facts on the ground.
But more broadly, Invisible Children’s use of social media
has much more in common with groups like “Save Darfur” than with genuinely
grassroots battles like Occupy. In the film, the campaign’s founder Jason
Russell talks about the need to “make Joseph Kony a household name.” To do
this, they want to get the attention not only of the American public, but also
of “20 culture makers” and “12 policymakers,” including Bill Gates, Lady Gaga,
and Ban Ki-moon. While Russell urges ordinary people to call their
representatives and poster their neighborhoods, it’s these 32 people that he
believes will have the most impact. “We are making Kony world news by
redefining the propaganda we see all day, everyday, that dictates who and what
we pay attention to,” he says.
But it’s hard to see how this redefinition plays out,
especially as the campaign relies almost exclusively on the “weak ties” and
low-risk participation that generally have very little social impact. If it’s
our job to spread the video, buy
the “Action Kit,” get the attention of celebrities, and not much else, what
exactly are we redefining? In the film, Russell laments that “the few with the
money and the power” tend to frame and address issues in their interests, but
that’s exactly what Invisible Children is seeking to do. In encouraging young
people to participate in clearly delineated ways for clearly delineated
reasons, the group ignores the critical thinking and bottom-up organizing that
made other movements so successful—with or without social media.
Of course, all this has to do with what Invisible Children
hopes to accomplish. If their goal is to “make Joseph Kony a household name,”
then they did a fine job. The popularity of the group’s film was unprecedented,
speed with which it spread was astounding. As a result, tens of millions of
people know more about Uganda and East Africa than ever before. However, if the
group wants to work out some of the complicated questions that have surfaced
over the past week about Uganda’s own
poor human rights record, or the U.S.’s equally poor history of
humanitarian intervention, or the neocolonial
dimensions the campaign has assumed, then more bottom-up methods of
organizing may be a good place to start. As Occupy and the Arab Spring have
shown, young people have a lot more to offer than their money and their
Sources: Kony2012.com, Christian
Science Monitor, The
New Yorker, Wired,
Jazeera English, Huffington
Daily Beast, Amnesty
Monday, December 05, 2011 4:17 PM
Social scientists and media theorists speak in accord on point: What you post to blogs and social networks reflects a specific version of yourself that you project outward to the rest of the digital world. By tweeting about our cats and liking musicians on Facebook, we’re really just crafting our identity—at least, what we want other people to think is our identity. Sometimes the two don’t necessarily see eye to eye.
A new infographic generator called Twitterize Yourself adds an additional layer of unreality on top of our already fluid, artificial personalities. The way it works is by a bit of reverse engineering: Feed your Twitter account name into the software and the website spits out a version of you based on its analysis of your previous tweets. It will try to guess your fashion, interests, and even your prevailing mood. What’s more, you can also go head-to-head with another person to see how you match up. The picture above juxtaposes Utne Reader editor-in-chief David Schimke (@dmschimke) versus the official Utne Reader Twitter account (@utnereader). Nice sandals, boss.
Of the friends and co-workers accounts I’ve tried Twitterize Yourself on, there are typically two outcomes. Either the website will reproduce a perfect semblance of the person, meaning that person’s tweets accurately reflect their interests and personality; or the Twitterize Yourself avatar is surprisingly different from the person’s personality, which should make one wonder what they’re actually telling the world with their 140-character missives. For example, our editor doesn’t smoke (or wear dandy vests around the office).
At the very least, Twitterize Yourself is a lunch break distraction, and at best it should give us pause when managing our digital identities. For the sake of transparency, I’ve included my meta-Twitter version of myself (@willwlizlo) below. It’s less than flattering.
Friday, August 05, 2011 4:28 PM
As more of our lives appear online, it’s only natural that our deaths will soon unfold there, too. Utne Reader wrote about the online afterlife in the March-April issue, and in “Digital Death” Chris Faraone covers the topic for the Colorado Springs Independent. “I don’t care about my body,” he writes. “It’s my virtual soul that I wish to preserve.”
As Faraone notes, the so-called digital death industry is booming with tribute sites, data banks, will-writing pages, and more. In case he should depart the analog world unexpectedly, Faraone decides get his online personal affairs in order with the help of Entrustet, a digital estate planning site whose tagline is: “Decide how you’ll be remembered. Pass on the keys to your digital legacy.” Faraone writes:
The first thing [they advised] me to do is “cloud count,” or take an inventory of every site and service I belong to. Aside from the basics—Twitter, YouTube, Gmail, Tumblr, Facebook, and an interminable MySpace—there are several other accounts that I want closed, or at least maintained, after I pass. There’s the eBay profile that I use to sell old comics for beer money, and the Adult Friend Finder account from my truly degenerate days. I also have a few WordPress blogs, SpringPad for my field notes, and online Bank of America access. After I die, my relatives can contact these companies directly, and follow procedures to get into my accounts.
Most appealing to me is the service If I Die, which allows you to write notes that will be delivered only if you kick the bucket. The website suggests several different kinds of messages:
A letter to a friend - to say something personal.
Simple instructions - whether or not to read your journal, what to do with your cat, where your documents are kept.
Passwords - how to log into your computer, how to access your address book.
An informal will - so your next of kin knows what to do with your stuff.
Sending heartfelt messages to grieving friends and family members after you’re gone—what a sublimely staggering concept. Then again, why wait? Compose your letters on If I Die, but deliver them while you’re still of this world and share the love. I always meant to tell Dr. Wilk what an impactful professor he was and Galactic Pizza how much joy they’ve brought to my life. . . .
Source: Colorado Springs Independent
Image by theaucitron, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, July 21, 2011 10:49 AM
Would you like to take a ride on the euthanasia coaster?
Slavoj Žižek, “philosophy’s answer to Bob Dylan,” chats with the Guardian about WikiLeaks, Lady Gaga, and a new communist society.
Obvious news, finally quantified: Two sociologists have analyzed 42 years of Rolling Stone covers and determined that women are increasingly presented as sex objects.
In the modern homestead, the woman’s role is a lot like her role in yesteryear’s homestead.
Would a medium-sized bargain be better politically for Obama than the grand bargain he was hoping for?
Even if you think your child has the next Great American Novel in them, they may need a few pointers to actually become a writer.
Gay rights improved by French fries. RIP, Wallace McCain (d. May 13, 2011).
Fun mashup: Sesame Street rock the Sure Shot.
At Denmark’s Roskilde festival, design firm UiWE tested a chic, communal urinal for women.
Star anise, sun-dried tomatoes, and cake sprinkles. Check out these amazing hyper-close-ups of common foods.
A recent Wall Street Journal editorial said that WikiLeaks and News Of The World hacking are “largely the same story.” You can’t make it up.
Rupert Murdoch and News Corp. are getting lambasted for the phone-hacking scandal. Call it eye-for-an-eye, but the hacker collective called LulzSec now has The Sun and News of the World in their crosshairs. As LulzSec’s twitter account says, “expect the lulz to flow in coming days.”
And the most misleading headline of the week award goes to…“Michele Bachmann’s Migraines: Joan Didion Weighs In”.
Paul Ford, writing for New York, mourns the end of endings brought about by social media.
A sad tale about the state of things at Ireland’s National Library.
Christopher Walken reads
The Three Little Pigs. (Just for fun.)
Have changed attitudes toward getting hammered left us with a bland literary landscape?
Renegade artists take over bus shelter ads in Madrid. Long live civil disobedience!
Downsized drama is over. The Germ Project brings back big, complex, messy theater.
This college lecture has been brought to you by the Koch brothers.
If you missed the recent episode of Frontline about the Kill/Capture campaign in Afghanistan, watch it now.
In defense of treating books badly.
Image by iluvcocacola, licensed under Creative Commons.
Monday, April 18, 2011 5:00 PM
I miss the days before iPhones. With pocket-sized, portable, 24-hour access to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, it’s entirely possible to fill every free second with other people’s family photos, favorite song lyrics, video links, and ideas without connecting to them—or to ourselves—in a significant way.
In Tricycle magazine, Lori Deschene, founder of the website Tiny Buddha, asks us to take a deep breath and rethink our online lives with ten ways to use social media mindfully.
Deschene advises that we examine our intentions before posting, experience life now and share it later, give ourselves permission to ignore yesterday’s stream, and always represent our authentic selves. She writes:
In the age of personal branding, most of us have a persona we’d like to develop or maintain. Ego-driven tweets focus on an agenda; authenticity communicates from the heart. Talk about the things that really matter to you.
And before you flood the Internet with every minor rumination, question if your contribution to the online ether is worthwhile. Deschene reminds us:
The greatest lesson we can all learn is that less is enough. In a time when connections can seem like commodities and online interactions can become casually inauthentic, mindfulness is not just a matter of fostering increased awareness. It’s about relating meaningfully to other people and ourselves.
Image by Alan Stokes, licensed under Creative Commons
Tuesday, October 26, 2010 1:52 PM
What’s the old adage? Buy low, sell when Twitter users are in bad moods? Is that it? If not, maybe it should be, because according to a story in Wired, "[t]he emotional roller coaster captured on Twitter can predict the ups and downs of the stock market, a new study finds. Measuring how calm the Twitterverse is on a given day can foretell the direction of changes to the Dow Jones Industrial Average three days later with an accuracy of 86.7 percent.
The findings were somewhat stumbled upon, according to Johan Bollen, the social scientist behind the study. Attempting to find the mood of the public through Tweets, Bollen and Huina Mao, a grad student, used a questionnaire aimed to attach feelings to adjectives. After searching millions of Tweets for those adjectives—and other words used in conjunction with them—Bollen and Mao figured they could see the general mood of the population—at least those on Twitter.
Using this information along with an algorithm trained to predict the fluctuations of the stock market, the algorithm’s accuracy increased to 86.7 percent from 73.3 percent. That is, when the information of the general mood on Twitter was taken into account, this algorithm was able to predict much more accurately which way—up or down—the stock market would go.
Bollen admits that more research is needed to understand why this happens, but until then, why not add Twitter to your list of resources for figuring out who’s best to play with your money?
Image by mil8, licensed under Creative Commons.
Monday, October 18, 2010 5:00 PM
Conan O'Brien has more than 1.7 million followers on Twitter. Jay Leno has fewer than 100,000. To say that Conan has a younger audience—and therefore an audience more likely to use Twitter—would be an understatement, as well as a path well-beaten. Nonetheless, Conan's use of social media to rev up the hype around his new show on TBS has been impressive. Using the name Team Coco, O’Brien has dived head first, reports Fast Company, and “dominated…the digital age.”
Starting with the website TeamCoco.com—“[t]he source of all things Conan”—O’Brien has used all the tools at his disposal for promotion: Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Tumblr, Google Maps (to track his large blimp around the country), and YouTube to promote his new show. By creating web videos for announcements—which are then promoted via Twitter, et al.—like the name of his new show (“Conan” or “Conaw”?) and whether or not Andy Richter would be joining him on TBS, O’Brien has created a place for viewers to get all the information they needed while he was away from their TV screens.
Never mind the self-promotion and all that, though. What makes Conan O’Brien popular in these new venues is what has always made him popular: He’s hilarious. Just read some of these Tweets:
After 9 hours driving from drug store to drug store, it hit me: no one sells Columbus Day decorations.
The Nobel Prize in Science has gone to scientists who created an ultra-thin carbon. Actually it's normal thickness, but wearing stripes.
David Hasselhoff was kicked off of “Dancing With the Stars.” He should stick to singing. I mean acting. I mean…
Of course, those could have been posted by writers or assistants. But there’s no substitute for O’Brien’s delivery, which is on full display in his YouTube videos.
Right now Utne is just shy of 12,000 followers on Twitter. At 1.7 million, Coco’s got us beat…for now.
Source: Fast Company
Monday, June 28, 2010 10:43 AM
Report at 0600, use no more than 140 characters: Uncle Sam wants you for his Twitbook account. After recent military restrictions (both considered and enacted) on servicemembers’ use of social media, the Pentagon has finally drafted a formal social media policy, reports Wired’s Danger Room. Read the official Pentagon document here (PDF). Of course, this development comes at a time when more and more government agencies, officials, and even politicians have begun using services like Facebook and Twitter for public relations. So, military access seems like a natural Web 2.0 evolution. But “access,” as defined by this new the policy, remains potentially tenuous, as you would expect. As Danger Room notes:
The new policy allows servicemembers to use the Defense Department’s unclassified networks to access everything from “SNS” (that’s “social networking services” in Pentagon-speak) and “image and video hosting websites” to “personal, corporate or subject-specific blogs” (that’s us!) and “Wikis.” But it also gives commanders wide latitude to restrict access to preserve operational security. A Pentagon news release notes that the new policy allows commanders to “safeguard missions” by “temporarily limiting access to the Internet to preserve operations security or to address bandwidth constraints.”
Still, for the connections social media can furnish between servicemembers and their families overseas—not to mention that the best policy is always an actual, clearly articulated policy—accommodating the information impulses of those in uniform seems like a great idea.
Source: Danger Room
Image by ob1left, licensed under Creative Commons.
Monday, April 26, 2010 3:20 PM
Every time privacy policies are tweaked at Facebook, you should be worried. The company is looking for new ways to make money, and in this day and age that means selling you things. And all of those personal details you've entered into your Facebook account are the keys to the monetization kingdom. Maybe that works just fine for you. That's not the problem. As users, we ought to have a clear choice and we don't. That's the problem. Since the most recent changes this month, we've been bumping into all sorts of sharp commentary on Facebook privacy and helpful guides to getting your privacy back. Here's the best of what we've found:
Want to get right to it and restore your privacy settings right now? Here's Valleywag's How to Restore Your Privacy on Facebook. And here's Mashable's guide to Disabling "Instant Personalization."
Perhaps the best analysis of the recent changes came via the Twitter account of tech-guru Anil Dash: "Will someone ask [CEO Mark Zuckerberg] why he doesn't use Facebook's default privacy at F8 tomorrow? If it's not good enough for him then why's it OK for us?"
Here's a creepy tool: Want to know what data Facebook published about you? It's a sluggish tool, since it seems the entire internet is there typing in usernames, but here it is: http://zesty.ca/facebook/.
In her CNET column, How Facebook Is Putting its Users Last, Molly Wood has this to say:
Let's be clear: I hold few illusions that Facebook's business strategy has ever been about anything other than building up a huge user base and then selling ads to those users. And obviously, the more targeted the ads, the easier it is to get people interested in them. But as the opportunities for data mining and targeting grow, Facebook faces a growing problem: how to get the data, if the users won't share it.
Facebook has created an unprecedented web (if you will) of connected users, with connections to other users who are more than willing to specify, in great detail, their interests, hobbies, and buying habits. The only problem? Those pesky private profiles.
Users tend to want to protect that data, at least a little bit, and at least some of it has to be "public," if it's to be used for the kind of behavioral targeting and, ultimately, ad targeting that really brings in the big bucks. And that is really the only explanation left for why Facebook has now gotten so shrilly insistent on you publicizing virtually every facet of your life. It's not about the user anymore, people (if it ever was).
It's possible that Facebook will do what it has done in the past when privacy concerns take hold of its users: offer up the non-apology apology. Daniel Sinker wrote a concise history of Facebook's non-apologies during the last time Facebook reminded us how much we value our privacy. He ended on a rather sour note, and it's where I'm going to leave you now: "Really, they've got all your content already—where are you going to go?" Ugh.
Image by Gauido, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010 12:12 PM
The Atlantic Wire has been running a series of posts called “What I Read.” Often, the “media diets” of American writers and pundits are predictable. I suppose the latest offering from Mother JonesWashington bureau chief David Corn is predictable too, but I like the way he framed it. I’ve grabbed the first and last paragraphs for you here. If you want to know more about Corn’s RSS feed, skip straight to the post.
Here’s how the day starts. I wake up. I complain I haven’t slept enough. I reach for the damn iPhone. I check email. I’m looking to see if there's any news I'll have to deal with that morning. And I’ll glance at Twitter to see if anything has happened in the minutes before I brush my teeth.
+ + +
Never before in the history of the known universe has there been so much information available to us humans. And never before has it been so difficult to process all the information we receive. Some consultant recently told me that the average American is bombarded with 4000 messages a day (fact-checkers, back me up on this.) Those of us who are informationalists—people who work with information professionally—must be assaulted more often. The toughest challenge, I find, is wading out of the cresting information river to experience media for frivolity’s sake or simply escaping the churning waters altogether for a few moments. If I manage to do either, it's usually after tending to the dishes in the kitchen late at night. Then I head to bed, look at that stack of books, feel a pang of guilt, and shut out the light. I do miss reading. Nowadays, we absorb.
Source: Atlantic Wire
Thursday, March 25, 2010 4:18 PM
Could over-sharing on Google, Facebook, and blogs mean the end of shame? On his blog Tweetage W@steland, Dave Pell writes:
The firehose that is the social web sprays (often very) personal details about others across your screen, whether you like it or not. The children of the social, realtime web will likely have encountered so many examples of what used to be secretive behavior that almost nothing will seem wildly out of the ordinary. While I have my deep reservations about the wanton nature with which we are throwing privacy to the curb, I do wonder (perhaps over-hopefully) whether the end of privacy might also herald the end of the often useless feeling of alienated embarrassment.
In their seminal work, The Cluetrain Manifesto, the authors wondered “What would privacy be like if it weren’t connected to shame?” Now, more than a decade later I’d ask a slightly different question:
Can shame survive in a world without privacy?
Will shame be able to so easily attack our minds when we are connected to a virtual army of those who share our perceived symptoms and situations?
Source: Tweetage W@steland
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