On January 9th, people donning the symbols of Anonymous promised a “massive reaction” to the shooting deaths of over a dozen people in Paris. Posted to YouTube and Pastebin under the hashtag #OpCharlieHebdo, Anonymous proclaimed, “It’s obvious that some people don’t want, in a free world, this sacrosanct right to express in any way one’s opinions. Anonymous has always fought for the freedom of speech, and will never let this right besmirched [sic] by obscurantism and mysticism.” Obviously what happened in Paris was a despicable act and I have little sympathy for the perpetrators but their actions weren’t random. What happened in Paris is the beginning of a fight between fanatics who hold polar opposite views on free speech and the battle lines being drawn are dangerously close to the ones that outline the War on Terror. (more…)
This one time I got to meet Reverend Billy and his Stop Shopping Choir. They’re fun people with a knack for spectacle. The Reverend dresses up in all white to match his brilliant, platinum pompadour, and leads people into a mall or a busy street corner to preach and sing about the evils of consumer society. A small group of us exorcised a Bank of America ATM which was a great diversion for reaching around and unplugging it. All in all it was a lovely afternoon but today I’m nervous about the way people who look like me (white) are organizing around this topic. Given that it is prime time for shopping, it also means it is an excellent opportunity to protest the intricate tapestry of social norms and institutions that make up present-day consumerism. It is certainly true that lots of people should probably consume less than they do, but the activism around consumerism is often tin-eared and tone deaf when it comes to issues of class and, as we are seeing this year, race. (more…)
The wearable is going through an adolescence right now. Products like Google Glass, Oculus Rift, or the Pebble smartwatch are a lot like teenagers: They’ve come into their own, but still aren’t sure about the place in society. They are a little awkward, have problems staying awake when they need to be, and they attract derision by the New York Times. And just like human adolescence, this phase probably has a horizon. People could warm up to the idea of face computers, battery life will get better, and (eventually, hopefully) the public will learn to ignore Ross Douthat. But for right now, the wearable is in a precarious situtation. Are wearables like Glass relegated to the same fate as Bluetooth earpieces and the Discman, or can they be saved? Is the entire category irredeemable or have we yet to see the winning execution? (more…)
I’d like to start off with an admittedly grandpa-sounding critique of a piece of technology in my house: My coffee maker’s status lights are too bright. My dad got it for my partner and I this past Christmas and we threw-out-the-box-immediately-wanna-keep it, but the thing has a lighthouse attached to it. We live in a relatively small (and very old) place and our bedroom is a small room right off the kitchen. The first night we had the coffee maker I thought we had forgotten to turn off the TV. We don’t really need alarm clocks anymore either, because when it finishes brewing it beeps like a smoke detector. Again, we love the coffee maker (Dad, seriously we love it.) but sometimes it feels like wearing a shoe that was designed for someone with six toes. (more…)
Happy Halloween Week, everyone!! As much as I love free candy from strangers and the widespread creativity of costuming, Halloween inevitably brings with it a darker reality—and I’m not talking about monsters or ghouls. Unfortunately, Halloween becomes a showcase of Americans’ systemic racism, as displayed through ill-conceived racially fraught costume choices.
Below, I’ve compiled some nice resources to share with undergraduate students (or anyone, really) to facilitate discussions about and dissuasion from, the racist choices so many people make this time of year.
Keep in mind, the most effective form of anti-racist conversation is the one that happens *before* someone has a chance to engage in racist behavior. You get to avoid all of the messy defensiveness.
This list is far from exhaustive, but has some really useful material. Additional suggestions welcome in the comments section
The words you use to reference that fish matter.
This is just a very, very quick post, as I am presently in the thick of #ir14—the 14th Annual Conference of the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR). It’s my first time at IR, and so far I’m really enjoying it. The keynote, preconference workshops, plenaries, and sessions I’ve attended have been great, and the hashtag-stream quality is high (there are some talented livetweeters here, and plenty of hashtag socialization too). Since it’s not a disciplinary conference, everyone is here because they really want to be here—which you can feel in the general atmosphere, and which makes such a difference. From my barely-informed new member perspective, it really does seem as though AoIR has managed to roll a thought-provoking academic conference and a fun reunion party into one four-day long event (which, as a Theorizing the Web committee member, is obviously a project near and dear to my heart).
TL;DR: #ir14, I love you. And I’m bringing attention to the following critique not to be a jerk, but because I think you’re great and I know you—we—can do better. (more…)
George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the murder of Trayvon Martin. And yet, Martin, a 17 year old boy, is dead. Killed by Zimmerman’s lethal gunshot. Protestors have taken to Twitter, Facebook, and the streets. Here, I want to try to make sense how this case is far more complex legally than it is morally. In what follows, I argue that both bodies and laws are technologies—or more specifically—materialized action, and that the intersection of their imbedded values and assumptions afford justices processes which feel, at a visceral level, generally unjust. (more…)
As drones become increasingly autonomous, there is growing concern that they lack some fundamentally “human” capacity to make good judgment calls. In the penultimate episode of this season’s Castle (yes, the Nathan Fillion-staring cheez-fest that is nominally a cop procedural)–titled “The Human Factor” (S5 E23)–addresses just this concern. In it, a bureaucrat explains how a human operator was able to trust his gut and, unlike the drone protocols the US military would have otherwise used, distinguish a car full of newlyweds from a car full of (suspected) insurgents. Somehow the human operator had the common sense that a drone, locked into the black and white world of binary code, lacked. This scene thus suggests that the “human factor” is that ineffable je ne sais quois that prevents us humans from making tragically misinformed judgment calls. (more…)
I don’t recommend doing it, but if you search for “Charles Ramsey” on Reddit, something predictably disturbing happens. First, you’ll notice that the most results come from /r/funny, the subreddit devoted to memes, puns, photobombs, and a whole bunch of sexist shit. Charles Ramsey, in case you don’t know, is the Good Samaritan that responded to calls for help by Amanda Berry- a woman that had been held captive for 10 years in a Cleveland basement, along with Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight. The jokes on Reddit are largely at the expense of Ramsey, poking fun at his reaction to a police siren or his reference to eating ribs and McDonalds. As Aisha Harris (@craftingmystyle) said on Slate: “It’s difficult to watch these videos and not sense that their popularity has something to do with a persistent, if unconscious, desire to see black people perform.” (more…)
In the aftermath of what both sides agree was the most substanceless presidential election in our nation’s history, some variation of the phrase “post-truth politics” has begun haunting the pages of op-eds and news show roundtables (Seriously, its everywhere. Here’s the first five that I found: one, two, three, four, five.). To say that we live in an age of “post-truth politics” isn’t totally inaccurate, nor is it unworthy of the attention it is getting, but the discussion has yet to truly wrestle with the characeristics of commodified information. Information can be true, and it can be false, but how that information is disseminated, used, and ignored is what truly matters. Information doesn’t (just) want to be free, it also wants to be exploited. (more…)