Hello, I’m Jony Ive, Senior Vice President of Design at Apple, and I want to tell you about a new product that you will absolutely love. It has been crafted with pain-staking attention to detail. Absolutely every aspect of this phone has been given the kind of care that you have come to expect from an Apple product. The seamless integration of hardware and software produces a product that, once you use it, will make you wonder how you lived your life without it. Today I’m thrilled to announce our best iPhone yet. We’ve crafted a phone that works and smells just the way you expect it to and we’re calling it iPhone Pumpkin Spice. (more…)
I’m in the midsts of one of those unavoidable grad student extended crises this month so I I thought writing something this week was going to be out of the question. But last Monday I had an interaction with a PDF that I really need to tell someone about. Trust me, its more interesting than it sounds.
Lately, I’ve been taking advantage of my institution’s (appropriately ancient-sounding) ILLiad Inter-Library Loan System. Usually, if I can’t find journal article I need, I just ask a fellow grad student friend over GChat or Facebook to get me the article from their library. If I can’t find anyone (or I’ve asked them too many times) I resort to ILLiad. Getting a book from ILLiad means waiting about 24 hours for an undergrad on work study to copy and paste a DOI and send me the article under another institution’s journal subscription. It is the ultimate exercise in artificial scarcity: A teenager in a library basement, fueled on Moe’s burritos and motivated by the threat of crushing student debt, orchestrates the transfer of a few ones and zeroes in such a way that my desire for the article can be monetized to the benefit of a publishing company’s CEO and a couple of computer system designers. The physical scarcity of a paper journal is transmuted into a new kind of scarcity: the scarcity of student labor and my own dedication to reading this article that I saw in someone else’s bibliography. (more…)
“If it weren’t for all of you I would have lost my mind at my job.” Its a familiar refrain that I hear at lots of small conferences and, occasionally, on Twitter backchannels. Its an amazing compliment to hear that your weak tie with someone means so much, but its also an immensely troubling prospect. Hundreds (maybe thousands?) of highly trained professionals have serious misgivings about their professional associations, their home institutions, and maybe even their life’s work. I had heard variations on this theme most recently this past week when I helped out at the (really, really cool) Engineering, Social Justice, and Peace Conference hosted here in Troy, New York. The conference was attended by an array of people: engineers, educators, activists, and social scientists like myself. Some people worked in industry, others in academia, and a significant portion worked for NGOs like Engineers Without Borders. And again, I just want to reiterate: No single person said the exact phrase above, and I certainly don’t want to (mis)characterize any of the attendee’s personal feelings about their jobs or work. Rather, what I witnessed at ESJP is more accurately characterized as a feeling of “coming home.” Think of it as the positive side of the same disaffected coin. This anecdotal trend was in my mind when I read this Seattle Times article about social scientists finding new and inviting homes in tech companies. Are social scientists finding better intellectual homes in industry than in academia? Or am I connecting two totally separate phenomena? Is it just the pay? More to the point: can social scientists do more and better things for the world working in Silicon Valley than the Ivory Tower?
The entire University of California system just went Open Access
As someone working out of a Science and Technology Studies (STS) Department, I was proud to see that Dr. Chris Kelty (Author of Two Bits) had just won a major battle for open access. Kelty is an excellent example of the kind of scholar that reflexively applies the findings of his scholarship to the everyday concerns of his job. As an Associate Professor of Information Studies at UCLA, he studies open source communities and concepts of responsibility in scientific research. As the chair of the UC University Committee on Library and Scholarly Communication (UCOLASC), he just spearheaded one of the largest windfalls for open access publishing.
On July 24, 2013 the University of California Senate approved a state-wide Open Access Policy that will, according to the press release, make all “future research articles authored by faculty at all 10 campuses of UC… available to the public at no charge.” This is a huge step forward for the Open Access movement because, as the press release goes on to say, (more…)
Last week I came across an announcement on Facebook that said, “Introducing: The Occupy Money Cooperative. #LetsCooperate.” At first, I’ll admit, I thought it was a poorly executed joke. Perhaps I’m projecting a little bit, since I’m one of those terrible people that still think occupy jokes puns are funny. (“Occupy toilets!”) Still thinking the link was from Occupy Lulz I clicked on it (maybe it would be funny…?) and was brought to a page that could have been mistaken for the Chase website. The cool blues and abstract shapes scream “financial institution” and the video still looks like it might come from a credit card company. All the distinguishing aesthetic features of finance are there. But this is definitely an Occupy venture, and a serious one at that. Why would a radical leftist movement try to make a bank?
Here is a list of skills that, as a grad student at one time or another, I’ve been expected to have with absolutely no offered training whatsoever: (more…)
Not gonna show images of #Trayvonning.
Note: This article discusses virulent racism and white privilege. However, every effort has been made to not post or link to the images discussed below.
At first, I didn’t want to write about the privileged little shits who, sometime around May of last year, got it in their heads that it would be funny to lay facedown on the floor with some skittles and tea and call it #trayvonning. The Zimmerman verdict brought the disgusting meme back into timelines and news cycles, so I feel obliged to make short mention of it. I thought it would be disingenuous of me to write a post for just about every other (1, 2, 3) performative internet meme without mentioning this disgusting bit of racism. #Trayvonning shows up on the usual platforms –Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr—albeit I don’t see as much #Trayvonning as I did #standingman or even #eastwooding in its heyday. There are no dedicated web sites to #Trayvonning (although I haven’t checked Stormfront), nor have I ever seen the hashtag reach trending status. If there’s any silver lining to this story it’s the fact that I encountered many more people deriding the meme, than participating in it. (more…)
Earlier this week, the New York Times ran yet another hilariously digital dualist piece on a new surveillance system that lets retailers follow customers’ every move. The systems, mainly through cameras tied into motion capture software, can detect how long you stared at a pair of jeans, or even the grossed-out face you made at this year’s crop of creepy, hyper-sexualized Halloween costumes. The New York Times describes this as an attempt by brick and mortar stores to compete with data-wealthy “e-commerce sites.” (Who says “e-commerce” anymore? Seriously, change your style guide.) Putting aside the fact that most major retailers are also major online retailers, making the implicit distinction in the article almost meaningless, the article completely misses the most important (and disturbing) part of the story: our built environment will be tuned to never-before-seen degrees of precision. We have absolutely no idea what such meticulously built spaces will do to our psyches. (more…)
I “Like” CNN on Facebook. Not because I enjoy getting the news on my Facebook feed (my friends do that) but because I love watching a bunch of people hate on CNN. As the above photo demonstrates, CNN tends to show its ass a lot. Asking your readers about the Royal Family’s baby on the 4th of July, will undoubtedly piss off a dozen different demographics. It is constantly being called out for doing all of the things we know are wrong with American cable news. There are dozens, in some cases even hundreds, of comments about calling a revolution a coup, ignoring the important parts of stories, and generally missing the mark when it comes to stewarding and curating these weird things we generally call “national conversations.” I just want to know why CNN chooses to subject their brand to such public, naked criticism on a daily basis. (more…)
Note: This article touches on slut shaming, body shaming, homophobia, and ableism.
I love swearing. It’s a weekly miracle that my essays don’t include “totally fucked” or “fucked up and bullshit” in every paragraph. If I were reborn as a linguist, I would study swearing and cursing. I watch documentaries about cursing, I play a lot of Cards Against Humanity, and this interview with Melissa Mohr, the author of Holy Shit: A Brief History of Swearing is my favorite episode of Slate’s just-nerdy-enough podcast Lexicon Valley. If you’ve been in the audience when I give a presentation, you probably (despite my efforts to the contrary) heard me swear five or six times. I would hate to live in a world without swearing because it would be fucking dull. Unfortunately, my (and most English-speaking people) love of swearing comes into direct contradiction with inclusionary social politics. I need a new arsenal of swear words that punch up and tear down destructive stereotypes. Every time I swear, I want to be totally confident that I’m offending the right people. (more…)