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“Politicians are all talk” -Trump, in the nytimes

Buzzfeed asked Donald Trump if he knew what trolling is. Trump didn’t know the term, so Buzzfeed explained it,

“It’s basically saying or doing things just to provoke people,” I said, explaining that there were many who considered him a troll because “provocation is your ultimate goal.” Trump bristled at the characterization. “That’s not my ultimate goal,” he protested. “My ultimate goal is to make this country great again!” But then, he thought about it for a moment. “I do love provoking people,” he conceded. “There is truth to that.”

The news media –especially those who report on, rely on, presidential electoral politics– are quick to call Donald Trump a “troll.” In this exchange, look at the word “just” in the definition, “saying or doing things just to provoke people”, that Trump isn’t really a candidate running a real election, he’s not politics as normal, but just going for attention. In the current media feeding frenzy over Trump, from Time, The Washington Post, MSNBC, and so many others, there is an emerging and necessary narrative that he’s a “troll.”

Classifying Trump as a “troll” is centrally about saving the rest of the election coverage as real and authentic. The narrative that Trump is trolling assumes and reinforces the notion that the rest of the coverage is in good faith, something news organizations desperately need to sell. more...

I love speculative fiction, especially when it includes a mystery. So imagine my excitement this past Saturday when I learned that Netflix released the new original series Between, premised on a mysterious illness that kills everyone over 21 years old. Blue skies could wait, this day was for binge watching. Or, as it turned out, for watching a single episode and then taking the dogs for a walk. Contrary to their usual season-dump format[i], Netflix is releasing Between on a weekly basis.

This got me thinking about how release schedules affect television for both producers and consumers, and wondering why Netflix would revert to the more traditional model. more...

Cartoon by Matt Lubchansky (@lubchansky) original posting can be found here.
Cartoon by Matt Lubchansky (@lubchansky) original posting can be found here.

A few editorial cartoons offering a counterpoint perspective to the cultural sentiments and media portrayals that denounce the Baltimore “riots” as politically unproductive, ethically unjustifiable hooliganism have achieved viral status.  One particularly prominent cartoon illustrates alternative histories in which once denied freedoms and equities were achieved without systemically disruptive uprisings (see image above).  In one panel an 18th century Haitian slave cordially informs a French Imperialist that he and his fellow slaves would rather be free.  The receptive overseer responding in an equally kind fashion decides to abolish the system of slavery that legitimizes his very authority.  In another panel an 18th century French revolutionary asks King Louis XVI to abdicate his power as well as dissolve the monarchy to make way for democratic rule and, like in the previous example, history is comically rewritten to suggest that the powers that be were enthusiastically and progressively responsive to such a request.  more...

Original picture of control room from Flickr user llee_wu, edited and used by the author under Creative Commons

The very fact that your eyes rolled (just a little bit) at the title tells you that it is absolutely true. So true its obnoxious to proclaim it. Perhaps cable news died when CNN made a hologram of  Jessica Yeller  and beamed her into the “Situation Room” just to talk horse race bullshit during the 2008 election. Or maybe it was as far back as 2004 when Jon Stewart went on Crossfire and shattered the fourth wall by excoriating the dual hosts for destroying public discourse. The beginning of the end might be hard to pinpoint, but the end is certainly coming. Fox News had its lowest ratings since 2001 this year, but still has more viewers than CNN & MSNBCNEWSWHATEVERITSCALLEDNOW combined. Even if ratings weren’t a problem, credibility certainly is. Imagine if CNN stopped calling themselves the “Most Trusted Name In News” and used the more accurate, “A Little Over Half of Our Viewers Think We’re Believable.” By now it is clear that the zombified talking heads of cable news are either bought and sold, or just irrelevant. Cable news channels’ hulking, telepresent bodies have been run through and left to rot on the cynical barbs of political bloggers and just about anyone at a comedy shop’s open-mic night. This last series of screw-ups in Boston (here, here, here and unless it was avant-garde electronic literature, here) begs the question if cable news channels can even tell us what’s going on anymore. Cable news is dead, but something keeps animating the corpse. more...

in defense

 

Last week the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) heard arguments on landmark civil liberties cases with regards to same-sex marriage. On Tuesday, the courts took on California’s Proposition 8—a ban on same-sex marriage, and on Wednesday they heard arguments on the constitutionality of DOMA, a law that excludes same-sex couples from federal recognition. In light of these cases, I saw two interrelated trends in my Facebook newsfeed: profile pictures in the form of the red Human Rights Campaign (HRC) equality sign (headline photo), and snarky status updates making fun of these HRC profile pictures, accompanied by a note of support for marriage equality[i]. That is, although both groups shared and expressed the same opinion about same-sex marriage, they disagreed about the appropriate methods for showing this support. This disagreement highlights debates about political activism in the face of new technologies and brings us back to the question: Does slacktivism matter? I will argue here, as I have argued before that yes, it does. more...

Is there a Dunbar’s Number for our documentary consciousness?

Dunbar argued that we can only keep up with about 150 people at a time, at which point we reach a cognitive saturation. Can this similar sort of saturation occur with the proliferation of ways we can document ourselves and others on social media? The ways someone holding a working smartphone can document experience grows not just with the number of sites one can post to, but also the number of available mediums of documentation: audio, video, photo, and their recombinations into things like GIFs and Vines whatever else I’m forgetting or will come next. Each new app carries with it a different audience with different expectations, adding to the documentary chaos.

Or: Given the proliferation of options, how should I document this cat? more...

This is part of a series of posts highlighting the Theorizing the Web conference, April 14th, 2012 at the University of Maryland (inside the D.C. beltway). See the conference website for information as well as event registration. To the questions posed in the title of the panel “Whose Knowledge?  Whose Web?”, the answer has too often, and too simplistically, been “everyone’s.”  Among Web 2.0’s most strident enthusiasts, the rise of user-generated content is heralded as the reclaiming of knowledge production from entrenched institutions, allowing a brave new world of pluralist democracy to find expression online.  These digital evangelists speak of the emancipatory promise of the Internet in language usually reserved for that of markets.  In both cases, the prescription is the same: progress is a matter of access.  Hence, the “digital divide” has become a discussion about disparities in connectivity rather than one about the expressions and reproductions of social inequalities online.

This panel, featuring work by Emily Lawrence, Piergiorgio Degli Esposti & Roberta Paltrinieri, Andrew Famiglietti, and Martin Irvine*, problematizes the rosy picture of a digital public sphere in two critical ways.  The first problem is empirical: as Web 2.0 enters its second decade, how does its track record compare to its promise of producing pluralist knowledges?  The second is theoretical: are offline social inequalities merely mapped onto new digital platforms, or do social formations in digital space create new forms of discrimination?  Papers in this session examine how publics are formed online and what are their affinities, criteria for belonging, and methods of exclusivity.

Join us this Saturday at 2:30-4:00 for discussion—come as meat to Room B of the Theorizing the Web conference or watch via livestream and tweet your questions.

*Note: Due to an unforeseen scheduling conflict, Martin Irvine will not be able to attend the conference.

[Paper titles and abstracts after the jump.] more...


Image from Zeynep Tufecki/Technosociology.org

In the previous installment of this series, I set up what I characterize as the two primary areas of argument that stand against my primary claim: that social media technology and other forms of ICT, far from constraining emotional connections and the emotional power of solidarity-creating rituals, actually serve to facilitate emotions and the powerful connective work that emotional interaction does.

There are a number of ways that one could argue this is done, and Jenny Davis makes an especially pertinent argument in her post about the social cost of abstaining from digitally augmented forms of interaction. For the purposes of this piece, I want to focus my attention on the capacity of ICTs to facilitate the generation of emotional energy around contentious political action – especially contentious political action in a context of violent repression.

more...


Photo Credits: (From left to right) Candice Borden, epicmealtime.com, and osandstrom.com

Since you are probably going to spend today arguing about Occupy Wall Street with your conservative family members and helping your parents with computer questions we figured you would appreciate some slightly ligher fare: internet cooking shows. But because we are social scientists, we can’t be satisfied with uncritical review. Therefore, I want to discuss how these cooking shows interact with, perform, reify, and probelmitize constructions of gender and nationality. The three shows I want to cover (I’m gonna have to pass on this and this. There’s a great article at dailydot.com that lists most internet cooking shows.) are Epic Meal Time, Regular Ordinary Swedish Meal Time, and My Drunk Kitchen. Full disclosure: I have a profound weakness for all of these shows, with increasing affinity in the order I just presented them. In case you’re unfamiliar with these shows, I’ll briefly introduce them and then get into the theory. [Images after the break might be considered NSFW.] more...


The difficulties we face in getting a wifi signal underneath these trees, tells us something important about our relationship to technology.

Commentary about the Internet and the various communication services it provides, regularly fall into utopian or distopian visions of radically new worlds. The utopias tell of a future in which we are all continually connected in a seamless egalitarian web of techno-democracy. The distopian warnings describe overstimulated zombies shuffling from computer screen to smartphone, hermetically sealed in the echo chamber of their choosing. These predictions are equally unlikely to occur any time in the near future, and for one simple reason- Its really hard (and expensive) to get a stable internet connection in a park. more...