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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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Theorizing the Web 2016. Photo Credit: Aaron Thompson

Live tweeting is an art. Anyone can do it, but doing it well requires a serious skillset. Keeping up with the ongoing conversation, making valuable contributions, engaging with other people, keeping all your hashtags and usernames organized, all while somehow paying attention to the meatspace event that prompted the live tweeting in the first place… it’s a lot. On the heels of two conferences (Society for Cinema and Media Studies and Theorizing the Web) and a long (oh so long) presidential debate season, I’ve been thinking a lot about live tweeting as a particular form of rhetorical address. Here, I offer a rhetorical model for understanding live tweeting as a social phenomenon. more...

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“Basic,” “painful,” “embarrassing,” and comparable to necrophilia: a small sampling from the reviews of Fuller House over the last couple of months. The Netflix original, a remake of the classic 1980s/90s sitcom Full House, may become a lasting icon of terrible, terrible, really quite bad moments in television history. The kindest sentiment I came across was expressed by Maureen Ryan in Variety, who generously conceded that “[t]hose who enjoyed the original…and don’t mind its patented blend of cloying sentiment, cutesy mugging and predictable humor might find enjoyment in this unspectacular retread.”

Naturally, I binge watched. Of course, it was as awful as expected. Maybe worse. The remake is identical to the original in both form and feel. The characters are unidimensional, the story is episodic and shallow, the catch-phrases are somehow even less catchy, and oh the racism. Kimmy Gibbler’s ex-husband is a cringe-worthy Latino caricature whose lustful propensities can hardly be contained and the 11th episode centers around an Indian themed party which acts as the foil for copious jokes, includes an almost entirely white cast dressed in saris and jamas, and culminates with the party attendees spontaneously breaking into a choreographed dance for which mysteriously, they each know all of the moves. That last part may or may not be racist, but as a storytelling decision, asks the audience to suspend an unfair amount of belief.

Fuller House could not have been worse if it tried. Which is why I reinterpreted the season as though it did try. And then, Fuller House was very good. more...

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I only heard the term “blockchain technology” for the first time this past autumn, but in the last few months, I’ve became pretty absorbed in the blockchain world. Initially I was intimidated by its descriptions, which struck me as needlessly abstruse — though, in a perfect chicken-and-egg scenario, I couldn’t be sure, since the descriptions didn’t offer an easy understanding of how it worked. What compelled me to press on in my blockchain research was the terminology surround it. I’m a long-standing advocate for open source, and blockchain’s default descriptors are “distributed” (as in “distributed ledger”) “decentralized” (as in “decentralized platform,” a tagline for at least one major blockchain development platform [1: https://www.ethereum.org/])  and “peer-to-peer” ( the crux of all things Bitcoin and blockchain). These words all spoke to my f/oss-loving heart, leading me to click on article after jargon-heavy article in an effort to wrap my head around the ‘chain. As I learned more about it, I came to understand why it’s begun to garner huge amounts of attention. I don’t like to get too starry-eyed about a new technology, but I too became a blockchain believer.

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Theorizing the Web is right around the corner! This post is a short overview of my paper, “Textual Community: Finding Belonging in the Manosphere.” It’s part of the “Politics of Platforms” panel, C5 on Saturday, April 16th from 1:30-2:45 PM. more...

Panama Papers

Hacking is the new social justice activism, and the Panama Papers are the result of an epic hack. Consisting of 11.5million files and 2.6TB of data, the body of content given to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung by an anonymous[1] source and then analyzed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), is uniquely behemoth. It puts Wikileaks 1.7GB to shame.

The documents were obtained from Mossack Fonseca. The company is among the largest offshore banking firms, and their emails and other electronic documents tell a compelling (if not entirely surprising) story about untraceable monetary exchanges and the ways that state leaders manage to grow their wealth while maintaining a façade of economic neutrality. By forming shell companies, people can move money without attaching that money to themselves. This is not a sufficient condition for illegal activities, but certainly fosters illicit ones. more...

An Amazon Prime Air Drone
An Amazon Prime Air Drone

The Victorians were into some weird stuff but one thing that could stand to make a comeback is a subgenre of speculative fiction called “utopian romance.” These books were somewhat light on plot and spent most of their pages describing utopian futures where everything you could ever want or need was directly at your finger tips. I suppose that is as good a way as any to work through the existential angst that persists in the face of incredible violence mixed with the lavishness of global empire. One person that was not too keen on these novels was a legal stenographer by the name of Ebenezer Howard. He was reading one such utopian romance called Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy which described something akin to Amazon: an enormous network of hyper-efficient delivery systems that could get you just about anything you want nearly as soon as you wanted it. more...

 

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Hello fellow bloggers! Today I want to give you some helpful tips and tricks for using Twittr.com. Twittr, also called Twitter or http://www.Twitter.com, is like Friendster but not as good. (They’re working on it!) Twittr is a social network based off of the Alfred Hitchcock movie The Birds and only lets you post 140 characters at a time but lets you tweet as many times as you want. The service is fairly limited (the company doesn’t even know what harassment is) but there’s still a lot of options so let’s dive right in!

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Hello Everyone,

We are excited to announce that co-editors David A. Banks and Jenny Davis will be guest editing a special issue of the open access journal Social Sciences on Social Media, Internet, and Society. The CFP is below and we hope to get lots of submissions from the extended Cyborgology family! CFP and submission instructions are below and here.

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Photo credit: Karri Huhtanen on Flickr

I sit too much. You probably do too. The rise of office jobs and screen-based work and leisure has taken its toll. Incredible advances in chair-comfort technology have made sitting irresistible. And if a cat crawls into your lap… forget it. That chair is your new home. Sitting is the new smoking. It’s killing you. Quick, run for the hills. Or better yet, buy an activity tracker. I guess.

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Unfortunately, sitting and smoking are two of my favorite things

I bought an activity tracker. For all of my distaste of the quantified self, I did it anyway. This isn’t a product review—I’m not interested in the strengths of weaknesses of various activity trackers paired against each other—but if you’re interested, I bought a Fitbit Alta because it is small and not ugly and it tells me when I get a text message, which is fun and exciting. What follows is a personal reflection on why I bought it, how it’s changed my day-to-day activity, and why I think these observations are significant.

I bought an activity tracker for three major reasons. First, I wanted to track my sleep. I’ve always had problems with sleep—too much, too little, not restful, so restful that I could be mistaken for a corpse, and so on. Some times I can get nine hours of sleep and still need an afternoon nap, and other times I can run on three or four hours of sleep without even noticing. This is actually a symptom of bipolar disorder, and part of managing my health is paying attention to my sleep and understanding how it can trigger mania and depression.

That leads me to my second reason: the silent alarm. I’m an early riser and (sometimes) a heavy sleeper. My husband is a late riser and a light sleeper. A silent alarm seemed like a good solution—I can get out of bed relatively quietly without pangs of guilt. Now we just need to replace all of the flooring in the entire apartment so it doesn’t sound like an ogre is walking through the kitchen.

Finally, I was enticed by the “get up and move” feature, which reminds you to walk around for 2-3 minutes every hour. At ten to the hour it sends me a polite and encouraging message like “Get up and move!” or “Want to take a walk?” When I reach my hourly step goal it celebrates my achievement. It fact, it celebrates everything I do. 7,000 steps? Here, have some excessive vibrations and fireworks! Sleep well last night? “Sweet, you met your goal!” It’s like a little digital cheerleader, patting me on the back for slightly decreasing my sedentary lifestyle.

Fitbit never shames me, which is more than I can say for myself. If you don’t meet your goal, no worries. No frowny faces or bright red alerts. It is only celebratory. This works for me, as self-flagellation is a bad habit of mine. Of course, there’s a practical element of this for Fitbit as a company; who wants to wear a wrist band that chastises you for watching a movie in the afternoon?

I’m surprised how much I like counting my movements. I bought this device with the expectation that I would send it back. I thought it might be annoying, or that I would feel guilty for how sedentary I am. Or, I thought it would just be a piece of crap that didn’t work. But I’ve had it for almost two weeks now and I still like it. I also forgot how nice it is to have a clock on my wrist. Whoever thought that up was really on to something.

But here’s what troubles me about how much I like this tracker—I bought it because I felt so out of touch with my own body. I find it comforting to know, as a quantifiable fact, that I am tired because I didn’t sleep well. I’m surprised by how often I need to be reminded to move. It’s not exactly shocking, but seeing the direct correlation between how much work I get done and how little I move is disturbing. It’s almost as if my mind is waging a war against my body, and the activity tracker is a UN diplomat trying to broker a peace.

It’s a deeply human experience to look for a techno fix for our problems; from the first weapons and tools made by pre-homo sapiens to the index card I taped over my annoying coffee maker light, there is a long human tradition of seeing a problem and inventing a technology to fix it. Sometimes a techno fix has a reasonable amount of success addressing particular problems, and sometimes it offers a misguided alternative that fails to address the root causes of inequality and social ills.

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So many problems can be solved with index cards and duct tape

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Works on Microwaves as well!

The activity tracker does a bit of both; it helps mediate the gap that I feel between my perception of my body and the material conditions of that body, but fails to address the structural conditions of a society that requires so many of us to sit at a desk for eight to nine hours a day, five (or six!) days a week. Until we shorten the work day, demand more breaks that allow us to be active in whatever way we are able, or diversify the types of work that require long periods of sitting, activity trackers are a bandaid on the bullet wound of sedentary lifestyles that are killing us.

OK, gotta go—I need 56 steps to meet my goal for the hour.

Britney is on Twitter.