The What-Would-I-Say App, (#wwis) created by HackPrinceton, has garnered widespread popularity. The app basically amalgamates your Facebook posts, rearranges them, and computes a best guess at what you, the Facebook user, would say. According the app’s creators, here’s how it works: (more…)
___With the Lilly Allen “Hard Out Here” video blowing up teh interwebs this week, I wanted to briefly revisit and expand on my earlier piece on “trolling as the new Love & Theft.” You can read it here. In particular, I want to expand my argument there in the direction of a conversation Nathan and I were having Tuesday over Twitter. We were talking about the idea of “coincidental consumption.” There Nathan defined it as a “passive byproduct of the sharing economy.” I don’t think it’s entirely passive..or active–it’s a both/neither case, as I see it. Coincidental consumption requires activity, input, and attention; it’s just that all these are indirect, or, if direct, momentary digressions. It’s a co-incidental consumption: it happens together with the primary mode of attention and address, but as a secondary or tertiary (and so on) concern.
Over the last couple of weeks, a YouTube video (above) of New York artist Richard Renaldi has continued to populate my Facebook News Feed. Renaldi’s project Touching Strangers is such that he positions strangers together in an intimate poses and photographs them. Despite lack of prior contact, these photographs depict what look to be quite sincere expressions of emotion. Moreover, the subjects interviewed in the video say that they feel some sort of connection towards those with whom they posed. This is certainly moving, admittedly interesting, but as a trained social psychologist, not very surprising. It does, however, offer interesting implications for people’s oft-spouted rants against in-authenticity and identity work on social media.
Let me begin by discussing the sociology of the work. I will them move on the implications for authenticity in light of new technologies. (more…)
We have a two-month break from self-inflicted government crisis, so let’s use it to take a breather, assess the situation, and cast some shade on rich people. Not because it is cathartic (it is), or because it will prevent the next crisis (it won’t); rather, I think studying the contours of the government-shaped hole of the last three weeks can teach us something about how Silicon Valley views public ownership. This is important because we typically use metaphors like “the commons” or “the public” to describe their products. These words imply a sense of trust, if not mutually assured disruption: sure a rich guy might own Twitter on paper but it becomes worthless if everyone stops treating it as a (if not the) center of daily life. What do the people that own these service/spaces think about the de facto collective ownership of their product? (more…)
A rendering of Facebook’s new Anton Menlo subdevelopment.
Silicon is a cyborg element. You can find it everywhere, but almost always bonded to something else. Silicon is the second-most abundant element on the planet and yet you have probably never seen it in its pure form. (For the record, it looks kind of like a leftover baked potato wrapped hastily in tin foil.) Entire geographic formations are named after the element, but (and I think this might be a first for naming conventions) those places have largely nothing to do with the extraction or even refinement of that element. Silicon is a prerequisite, a synecdoche for a larger industry that demands we refine and purify this promiscuous metal into a predictable and highly controlled component. True to its namesake, Silicon Valley (not to mention Austin’s lesser-known “Silicon Hills”) is an exercise in refinement. Intricate and eclectic streets are tossed aside in favor of gleaming, modern campuses with strict access control. It is a place where functions are separated so that they may reach the sorts of optimal efficiencies that Le Corbusier promised and Moses tried to deliver. But unlike Moses or Le Corbusier, the planners and corporate patrons of Silicon Valley are making places meant to be freely chosen. (more…)
Last week Twitter introduced an alert system that they described as “ a new feature that brings us one step closer to helping users get important and accurate information during emergencies, natural disasters or when other communications services aren’t accessible.” The alerts show up on users phones as special push notifications and SMS notifications and are marked with an orange bell in your feed. At first blush it seems like a great idea but, given that I’m writing this during yet another government “shutdown”, are governments and NGOs really the only organizations that should get access to this useful service? What can activists do to push back? (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? (more…)
A few recent events and articles/news items have me thinking, in a somewhat disjointed fashion, about both what it means to “do theory” or to practice philosophy, and how, exactly, one should go about doing and practicing these things.
In particular, it seems like philosophy is stuck between being reduced to a hard science, on the one hand, and being incompatible with “digital humanities,” on the other. And in the end I think this double-bind has the very troublesome effect of discouraging, silencing, and marginalizing what could be the most innovative things philosophy has to offer science, digital humanities, and contemporary intellectual life more generally. (more…)
Russian Internet giant Yandex posted a press statement on July 25th about the death of their co-founder Ilya Segalovich. Segalovich, 48 years old and a father of four, was a billionaire and a philanthropist, loved by many for his kindness and hard work to better the Russian Internet and software development field. He reportedly had stomach cancer and had been ill for some time.
The philosopher Michel Foucault taught that sexual repression and taboos aren’t so much the repression of sex but instead evidence of obsession. I’m reminded of this lesson after reading about a terrible story wherein a Georgia high-school decides to make a presentation to hundreds of students and parents on what not to do on social media. In doing so, they project a photo of one student in her bikini, an image taken from her Facebook page [she says shared with ‘friends of friends’] without her permission. Her face is not blurred; in fact, her full name is printed below the image. Her photo, indeed, her body itself, is being projected to all these people as ‘what not to do’, her image and body construed as a problem, how one should not present themselves in 2013. Humiliated by the school’s disrespectful and irresponsible behavior, the woman is suing. In trying to warn students of the dangers of posting online, the Georgia high-school acted in exactly the dangerous way students—everyone—shouldn’t act. (more…)
We live in a cyborg society. Technology has infiltrated the most fundamental aspects of our lives: social organization, the body, even our self-concepts. This blog chronicles our new, augmented reality.