Redlining

Redlining refers to the racist policy and/or practice of denying services to people of color. The term was coined in the 1960s by sociologist John McKnight and referred to literal red lines overlaid on city maps that designated “secure” versus “insecure” investment regions, distributed largely along racial faults such that banks became disproportionately unwilling to invest in minority communities. In turn, realtors showed different, more desirable properties to White clients than those they showed to clients of color, thereby reinforcing segregation and doing so in a way that perpetuated White advantage. Redlining was outlawed in the 1970s but its direct effects were intergenerational and versions of redlining continue to persist.

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Currently, the hashtag #WhyYouNeedTherapyInOneWord is trending on Twitter. From forums where people congregate to share strategies for combatting mental illness to essays that give a glimpse into the experience of those who have mental illness, I believe there is a strong capacity for internet communication to reduce stigma and help those in need. There is also a capacity to increase stigma, or trivialize these experiences. And sometimes a single online event can do both.

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IMAGE1One of the most prominent theorists of the late 20th century, Michel Foucault, spent a career asking his history students to let go of the search for the beginning of an idea. “Origins” become hopelessly confused and muddled with time; they gain accretions that ultimately distort any pure search for the past on the terms of the past. Instead, his alternative was to focus on how these accretions distorted the continuity behind any idea. This method was called “genealogy,” by Nietzsche, and Foucault’s essay expanded on its use. Dawn Shepherd captured the significance of this lesson in a beautiful, single sentence: “Before we had ‘netflix and chill ;)’ we just had ‘netflix and chill.’”

The temptation with something as recent as the web is to emphasize the web’s radical newness. Genealogy asks that we resist this demand and instead carefully think about the web’s continuity with structures far older than the web itself. While genealogy is not about the origins of “chill,” genealogy emphasizes the continuity of “chill.” Genealogy must build from an idea of what “chilling” entailed to say something about what “chill” means now.

Conversations about these continuities animated many of the conversations at Theorizing the Web 2016. Both the keynote panels and regular sessions asked audiences to imagine the web as part of society, rather than outside of it. In the words of its founders, the original premise of the conference was “to understand the Web as part of this one reality, rather than as a virtual addition to the natural.”
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Budweiser recently announced that it would rename its beer “America” for the duration of the US election season. The rebranding was described as a testament to the “shared values” of Budweiser and America, and their marketing firm Fast Co stated: “We thought nothing was more iconic than Budweiser and nothing was more iconic than America.” Who can disagree with that? No one, because it doesn’t make sense. But that’s beside the point.

Negative responses to the re-branding have generally taken two forms. First, folks on social media are gleefully pointing out that Budweiser is owned by a Belgian corporation. While there is some obvious cognitive dissonance happening when a Belgian corporation brands itself as America’s beer, they’re certainly not unique among products manufactured overseas that use American patriotism as a marketing tool. At least Bud is brewed in the US. But a second response to the announcement is the evergreen accusation that Bud both tastes like nothing and tastes like piss.

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boatySome may label this moment a crisis of democracy, a moment in which the voice of The People lay inert; a moment in which the promise of citizen driven governance, shining so brightly in the glow of digitally connected screens, reveals itself as a farce.

I am talking, of course, about Sir David Attenborough, or more to the point, I am talking about the $300 million British research vessel not called Boaty McBoatface.

The British National Environmental Research Council invited citizens to select the name for their new polar research vessel. It was an opportunity to bring science to the public and involve the public in scientific discovery. Anyone was allowed to submit a name, and everyone voted on their favorites. The name with the most votes was to moniker the craft. Radio personality James Hand proposed the name Boaty McBoatface. Hand’s suggestion was well received, and the citizenry irrefutably selected Boaty for the vessel’s name. Case closed, right? No, the vessel’s name is David… which sound nothing like Boaty and includes zero McFaces.       more...

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Years ago, when I was a sales associate (fancy word for telemarketer, please don’t hate me), my company sent us to a conference designed to improve sales and increase our quality of life. They put us up at a very fancy hotel—probably the fanciest I have ever stayed at—and promised that the trip would not only increase our success rate and commission, but also make us happier. For three days we sat through seminars and presentations that started at 7 am and ended at 6 pm. Corporate big wigs, motivational speakers, and customers all attested to the important work our sales associates did, how we were changing lives with our product, and how a positive mental attitude could help us change even more lives while making us rich. There was also a gala where we got gussied up. They gave us a few free drinks. Most people were pretty hammered.

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Rose Eveleth’s piece for Fusion on gender and bodyhacking was something I didn’t know I needed in my life until it was there. You know how you’ve always known something or felt something, but it isn’t until someone else articulates it for you that you truly understand it, can explain it to yourself, think you might be able to explain it to others – or, even better, shove the articulation at them and be all THAT RIGHT THERE, THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT. You know that kind of thing?

Yeah, that.

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While those of us in the states were mired in election drama, across the Atlantic Brits came together to celebrate a sacred and time-honored holiday: #EdBallsDay. more...

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Is that? Oh my god. The Statue of Liberty, I said in my head, the words hanging in the whirring jet cabin on its descent to LaGuardia. The figure was so small, its features imperceptible and shrouded in shadow – a dark monolith amidst the gently churning Atlantic. The sudden apprehension of our altitude came with a pang of vertigo.

The plane yawed and a second shape swam into my oval window. Is that…  the Statue of Liberty? The original figure and its twin were, in fact, a pair of buoys in the bay. I leaned back in my seat and snickered to myself.

It goes without saying that in this instance my sense of scale, perspective and distance, let alone rudimentary geography, were fundamentally (if comically) off.

Finding one’s way in an unfamiliar city for the first time always involves an initial phase of bewilderment: the more familiar one is with their home terrain, the more alien the new place appears. Indeed, across my handful of excursions in and around Queens while attending #TtW16, this distortion pervaded my perception of space. more...

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A photo posted by d a banks (@d_a_banks) on

Today at The Awl there’s a nice long read about the city I live in Troy, NY. I’ve written about Troy before and it certainly never runs out of interesting stories. Luke Stoddard Nathan, the author of the piece, and I spoke for a few hours about his essay a month or so ago and after reading the finished piece (you should too!) I remembered some of the ground we covered over beers. Luke’s essay follows the peculiar story of Washington Park –one of only three private parks in New York State— and the decades-long argument over who owns the park and who should be allowed to use it. When we spoke I mentioned that problems like Washington Park are ultimately the result of a lack of imagination when it comes to governance. We have two bad options: perpetually under-funded public systems and restrictive private ones. This is also a technological problem because not only are bureaucracies a kind of technology, but so are parks insomuch as they are built things that result from applied knowledge. How do you solve a problem like Washington Park?

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