Thanksgiving brings with it the compulsory advice and opinion pieces about how to manage uncomfortable conversations, audacious behavior, and embarrassing reminiscence that so often come with large family gatherings. However, these columns leave out a highly effective and likely widespread coping mechanism: the snarky text.

The snarky text is a surreptitiously crafted message in which the sender factually reports on the ongoings around them and accompanies the report with pithy commentary in written or pictoral form. Gifs are particularly effective. Snarky texts work best when the recipient is adequately primed about the dynamics in which the sender is ensconced. Recipients may be remote, or for an added layer of complexity, may be in the same location as the sender.   more...

via Reuters

TW: xenophobia, anti-Muslim racism, violence

One of my favorite uses of the internet and social media is spreading stories. Not just fiction stories, though those are great, but real stories about real people living interesting and complex lives. They can humanize the dehumanized, spread a bit of positivity in a time when things often seem hopeless, and bring attention to important social issues. Time and again we’ve been appalled at stories of police violence against black Americans, and personal stories can humanize the victims and draw increasing public attention to the systematic violence perpetrated against vulnerable and oppressed populations across the board. The popular “Humans of New York” project brings us stories about people from retirees visiting Rockefeller Plaza, to homeless veterans, to immigrants in a strange city dealing with countless hardships. HNY has recently started including stories from Syrian refugees as well. These stories make the lives of strangers intelligible to us. They help to close the gap between us. And they, at least some of the time for some of the people, help us to empathize.




Fallout 4 tells me that I am special.

At the start of the game, I am prompted to assign point values to Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck (yes, that spells SPECIAL) as an initial step towards the crafting of my customized protagonist. These statistics form the foundation of my character’s abilities, skills, and know-how. I will build on them and further specify them in the course of my play.

But Fallout 4 tells me that I am special in other ways, namely through the ways that it positions my protagonist within its narrative. My character is the lone survivor of a fallout shelter following a devastating nuclear war. She is cryogenically frozen, but wakes from her sleep long enough to witness her husband murdered and her infant son kidnapped. When she emerges from the vault 200 years after first entering it, she’s on a mission to find her son, despite having no knowledge of when the kidnapping happened.

Somehow, though, the local populace of wasteland Boston quickly determines that she exhibits exceptional leadership and combat skills. So they name her General, task her with the responsibility of restoring a floundering militia group, and put her at the head of rebuilding a new settlement and ultimately uniting the Commonwealth. Thus, immediately after emerging from a 200-year sleep during which time the world as she knew it was destroyed, my affluent-professional-suburban-Boston-wife-mother character is able to navigate a hostile irradiated wasteland, find resources on her own, master a particular fighting prowess, and then convince a straggling group of survivors to make her their leader. Soon enough she’s binding other settlements to her cause and gradually seizing power over the Commonwealth. more...

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image credit: Darwin Bell

Sometimes it is worth it to follow a bad idea down, as far as it goes, and pull back up the contorted, gross, and contradictory thing that it has latched onto. That’s important because sometimes that bad idea is attached to a value or belief that you yourself hold. It’s just worth knowing what your values and beliefs are capable of, when applied in extreme degrees or to cases you would not necessarily apply them to. This week dozens of state governors and Republican presidential candidates have come out to say that they, even though they have no legal standing to do so, would not allow Syrian refugees into the states they govern. They usually couch their declarations in terms of risk evaluation. For example, Florida governor Rick Scott told reporters he couldn’t possibly let Syrians into the state “without an extensive evaluation of the risk these individuals may pose to our national security.” If we were to put aside the obvious –that this is nothing more than naked xenophobia dressed up as national security concern trolling– and draw out a cost benefit analysis, (the only language bureaucracies understand) could we possibly find a suitable “good enough” scenario? more...

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The other day I went to Taco Bell for the first time in a long time. As we pulled away from the drive thru window I noticed that something was off, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Then I looked down at my lap. The bag. This was not a Taco Bell bag, this was more like a fancy Bloomingdale’s bag; it was a thick, heavy brown paper that was dramatically different from the thin, flimsy plastic that Taco Bell has used for as long as I can remember. My first thought was “my cats are gonna love this.” My second was “why does this bag say Live the VIP life?” more...

 Front page of one of Columbia’s local papers the day after the resignations
Front page of one of Columbia’s local papers the day after the resignations

The story emerged for me two Thursdays ago, when a colleague at the University of Missouri, where I work, asked if I wanted to accompany her to find a march in support of Jonathan Butler, a graduate student on hunger strike with demands that president Tim Wolfe resign over his inaction towards racism on campus. We encountered the protest as it moved out of the bookstore and followed it into the Memorial Union, where many students eat lunch. This was the point at which I joined the march and stuck with it across campus, into Jesse Hall, and finally to Concerned Student 1950’s encampment on the quad where the march concluded. Since then I’ve been trying to read up on what led up to this march, sharing what I find as I go. This task became much easier after Wolfe’s announcement on Monday that he would resign, and the national media frenzy that followed. At first, however, learning about the march that I had participated in proved far more difficult than I expected. more...


My street in winter.

Pew Research Center recently released a report saying that Americans feel better informed thanks to the internet. Well, it was released in December of 2014 but they just Tweeted the report so what was old is new again. While info glut has been a concern since Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock in the 1970s, the majority of internet users polled in this study find that they know more, not less, about the world thanks to digital technology. But what is most interesting about the study is not how much they know, but what they know more about. more...

Marching_Mizzou_on_Farout_FieldToday is a big day in Columbia, Missouri where the the University of Missouri system president Tim Wolfe resigned amidst protests over his longstanding failure to address racial issues. Led by #ConcernedStudent1950, named for the first year Black students were accepted into the university, campus protests have been ongoing for several months. Early last week, graduate student Jonathan Butler went on a hunger strike, followed by football players boycotting their athletic labor and catapulting the story into public discourse. Things came to a head this morning with Wolfe’s announcement. Of course, I went immediately to the  Columbia, Missouri Yik Yak where I refreshed compulsively.  more...


We’re doing a sixth annual Theorizing the Web event, April 15 and 16, 2016 at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, NYC. (3 boroughs in 3 years)

The Call for Papers is here. Please please share this with anyone you think would like to submit or attend.

Registration is, as always, pay what you want, min 1$. This year, you NEED to register before the event itself.

Read more about the event here. Most simply, TtW is a DIY event run by a small volunteer committee. The event is public, accessible, concerned with social power and inequality, and highlights thoughtful, critical ideas about technology and society. “Theory” doesn’t mean “academic”; we equally value ideas from artists and activists and practitioners and writers and so on. Here are some photos from past events.

We have invited panels and keynotes to announce shortly as well.

Thanks to the Museum of the Moving Image for hosting us this year. Thanks everyone for all the love these past 5 years and for helping us spread the word again <33



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This year I was able to attend the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing for the second time. As only a casual programmer, I am an odd attendee, but the event supports a cause I care deeply about: getting and retaining more women in technology and engineering roles. GHC is an exhilarating mixture of famous keynote speakers, girl power workshops, tech demonstrations, and a “swag” filled career fair. On Day 1 I was definitely into it:

But this year, unlike last year, the shiny newness of GHC had worn off a bit, and I started to notice a few things that bothered me. As a mainstream conference, GHC is made palatable to the widest possible audience of women, men, and businesses (because in America, they count as people too!). Being palatable means the conference doesn’t critically engage with many important issues and is therefore open to a variety of critiques. For one, its feminism is of the Lean In© variety, so it doesn’t really engage with the intersection of race, class, and gender [PDF] in tech companies. GHC also supports an, at times, obscene and gratuitous display of wealth, with “The Big Three” of Silicon Valley (Google, Facebook, and Apple) competing to outspend each other putting on the biggest recruitment show. Maybe I have the start of a series of posts on my hands… more...