Posts Tagged ‘ posthuman ’

Pirate Bay for Sale, Sold!

I haven’t had a chance to give True Blood even a cursory examination, but this review reminds me that there’s still a lot of good TV I’m missing out on.

The Guardian | True Blood is biting into the Buffy effect

The connection to Buffy doesn’t hurt.

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Every so often there’s a review of some startup or other that catches my eye.  Epicenter on Wired.com has an interesting review right now of Google alternatives for search engines that makes for an interesting read. 

W I R E D Epicenter | Cool Search Engines That Are Not Google

The smartest one we found is Collecta. It scours the net for the most recent blog posts, news stories, tweets and comments and displays them in a continuous waterfall. It’s a torrent of information to keep track of, but if you are worried about your company’s online reputation or want the latest news on Iran, it’s indispensable.

Collecta makes me think of a beefier, richer version of the various RSS feed catchers I’ve tried over the months/years, but desguised as a search interface.  I’d like to reserve judgment until I’ve had more time to mess around with it, but at a glance it looks impressive. 

Keeping tabs on local news and events isn’t easy — even in the days of news aggregators. Enter Trackle. Think of it as a standing search engine that will notify you of news and events you want to know about. Want to follow stocks, know the weather, find news about your neighborhood, buy a treadmill on Craigslist, follow the big game while at work or find deals on specific products? Trackle searches constantly for you and sends you emails or text messages (your choice) when Apple stock falls or your team scores a run. The interface is clunky, but the idea of a search robot beats the hell out of an RSS feed any day.

After having a look at Trackle, I’m a bit iffy.  This is basically what I use Twitter for.  I think the idea of a search bot personalized to your interests is a worthwhile one, but the service needs to be refined.  It is a beta, though; Trackle is worth keeping an eye on, if only to see what developments will come out of it over time.

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7.7 Million. 

That’s the price of a Pirate Bay.  The new owners of the website hope to turn it into a profitable and legitimate venture.  I’m thinking the odds are against them, but who knows?  It looks like they’ve put some serious thought into their business model: 

W I R E D | After Sale, Can Pirate Bay Survive?

This comes on the heels of the much-publicized trial of The Pirate Bay’s original owners, now each facing 1 year of jail time and $3.5 million in fines.  (I feel frankly, like many, that outcome was a disappointing step backward in the realm of electronic copyright.)

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Mobile Gutenberg Banned for Lewdness

Eucalyptus, an iPhone app designed to make electronic texts like those on the Project Gutenberg online archive more easily accessible, was banned by Apple last week.  Apparently, among its 28,000 out-of-copyright titles, Gutenberg contains an 1883 translation of the Kama Sutra.  Nevermind that anyone can navigate to the Project Gutenberg website using iPhone’s Safari browser, or that you could obtain it via several other ebook apps.  Said Eucalyptus developer James Montgomerie to The Guardian:

“I’d never even thought about searching for it before. You have to type either “kama’ or ‘sutra’ before it appears. It doesn’t seem likely that they were searching for something else and yet it seems absurd that they were searching for that.”

Then, on Sunday, Apple changed its mind and notified Montgomerie that Eucalyptus would be sold to users (Apple backtracks on iPhone sex ban | guardian.co.uk).

Apple really needs to figure out what they want to do in terms of what should and should not be made available for the iPhone.  Clearly the recent fallout regarding the baby-shaker app has got people jumping over at Apple.  They either need to make it clear to consumers that they shouldn’t be held responsible for the content of third-party programs, or set specific guidelines for developers about what they’ll sell in the app store.  When it comes to censorship there are no easy answers, but ignoring the question until it goes away just seems irresponsible.

The Internet: Fundamentally transforming our brains

((As an aside, watching the Oscars and Wall-E just won best animated feature.))

The Guardian | The digital revolution risks changing the way we think

Jackie Ashley

…is the new way of social interaction actually changing the brains, and indeed the minds of a generation, and if so, what might that mean?

… We know from neuroscience that the brain constantly changes, physically, depending on what it perceives and how the body acts. So Greenfield suggests that the world of Facebook is changing millions of people, most of them young.

Greenfield argues that a shorter attention span, a disregard for consequences in a virtual everything-is-reversible world ((I bet sirdavid wishes it really was an everything-is-reversible world… sadly, not always the case)), and most importantly, a lack of empathy may be among the negative changes. She quotes a teacher who told her of a change in the ability of her pupils to understand others. She points out that irony, metaphor and sympathy can all be lost in cyberspace. ((I would disagree with this point; while maybe some of the nuances of the verbal medium are lost, everything that can be communicated textually can be communicated in cyberspace. So are we saying that metaphor and irony are harder to express in text? Oh, well sure, naturally that makes sense. What?))

There is also the question of identity. An intern working for Greenfield told her: “In a world where private thoughts and feelings are posted on the internet for all to see, it’s hard to see where ourselves finish and the outside world begins.” Where is the long-term narrative in a life reduced to a never-ending stream of bite-sized thoughts ((each roughly 140 characters in length))? Even clever writers end up “twittering” a burble of banalities.

… Digital culture has brought us a wider conversational democracy (good), which suffers from short attention span and is too self-referential (less good). There is no answer to this. The new world is here to stay. It is part of who we are becoming and how our minds are adapting. If you opt out of it, you cut yourself off…

On the broader points (the fact that digital communication is transforming the way we think, that the culture of the internet– in the main– promotes a shorter attention span and a penchant for self-reference) I agree with Ashley. The article is rather circular, though, presenting the argument that the most effective communication is physical and face-to-face, talking about how with the current events taking place globally we need more honest “IRL” debate, without coming right out and saying the Internet is seriously compromising the chance of this (I leave to you whether that’s actually the case or not– I don’t think so). While Ashley compliments Susan Greenfield for raising the long-term effects of digital social media, she never really gives those long-term effects any real consideration; seriously, what will happen in a world that can only communicate in 140-character blurbs when we need to solve such important problems as global warming, national security, and energy use?

But then, I’m not totally convinced that the digital revolution has the downside Ashley and Greenfield are suggesting. Short attention span, sure, but what about the thousands of bloggers out there that daily share their opinions– often carefully thought-out and meticulous– in cyberspace? What about video-bloggers on youtube, and podcasters on iTunes? …I think the big issue at stake, the most important part of us that is affected by the use of social media, is the one of identity. It’s too early to tell, I think, whether we’re looking at something greatly beneficial or mostly detrimental, but it’s important to recognize (and I think Ashley agrees with this) that whatever the changes are, we are changing the way we think by using this technology.

Anyway. To end as I began:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UblUO0LjPUg

‘New York’ Talks Twitter

Biz Stone and Evan WilliamsThis article in New York Magazine is worth a read, whether you’re a Twitter devotee, or a microblogging cynic (as a former member of the latter and a current member of the former, I can say it presents a pretty balanced picture of what Twitter is all about.) Thanks to mastermaq for tweeting it.

New York | How Tweet It Is

… From Twitter’s initial public debut as the best way to find the parties at South by Southwest in 2007, we’ve gone from hackers taking over Barack Obama’s and Britney Spears’s feeds to Republican operatives spending their post-election-malaise retreat bragging about who had more followers, to the Mumbai attacks, when users trapped in the Oberoi Hotel were transmitting messages that chronicled the ongoing madness. Twitter executives are proud of the Mumbai aftermath; Forbes called it “Twitter’s moment,” and Stone’s face lights up when it’s mentioned. “Twitter is not about the triumph of technology,” Stone says. “It’s about the triumph of the human spirit.”

I posted about Twitterers taking advantage of Twitter to communicate during the T.O. blackout a couple weeks ago. It’s a minor example compared to Mumbai, or the most recent unrest in Gaza (which has also developed a vast community of Twitterers). But for something less than two years old, and such a basic premise as fostering a culture of sharing in bite-sized bits that fit in a single text message, it’s surprising the kind of impact it has had so far, and continues to have. There’s a lot of people who study these forms of social media that look at Twitter and see something that should have been obvious– to the point of being mundane– revealed to be the next big evolution in how to interpret and disseminate information.

The reporter, Will Leitch, goes on to talk about how a Twitterer named Krums was the first to witness the crash of US Airways Fligh 1549 as it happened, and how Twitter became ground-zero for that particularly news item even as the New York Times and other news agencies scrambled to cover the story. Krums got a shot of the plane crash and his first thought was to share it on Twitter. And interestingly enough, as Leitch later discovers, Twitter didn’t even notice a spike in traffic.

“That’s only for huge shared experiences, like the inauguration, or Mumbai.” Twitter had unleashed something … and its executives were completely unaware, as its system worked on its own, without them.

Facebook Fraud

CNN.com | Fears of imposters increase on Facebook

facebook(CNN) — Without his input, Bryan Rutberg’s Facebook status update — the way friends track each other — suddenly changed on January 21 to this frightening alert:

“Bryan NEEDS HELP URGENTLY!!!”

His online friends saw the message and came to his aid. Some posted concerned messages on his public profile — “What’s happening????? What do you need?” one wrote. Another friend, Beny Rubinstein, got a direct message saying Rutberg had been robbed at gunpoint in London and needed money to get back to the United States.

So, trying to be a good friend, Rubinstein wired $1,143 to London in two installments, according to police in Bellevue, Washington.

Meanwhile, Rutberg was safe at home in Seattle.

OK, I’m only going to say this once. If you see a status message from me asking you to wire me money somewhere you didn’t even know I was going– DON’T DO IT. Seriously.

While it’s somewhat alarming that this sort of thing is happening, it’s somewhat more alarming that people are falling for it. It’s kind of like the Nigerian email scam all over again.

Agnotology – You mean ignorance isn’t bliss?

W I R E D | Clive Thompson on How More Info Leads to Less Knowledge

Normally, we expect society to progress, amassing deeper scientific understanding and basic facts every year. Knowledge only increases, right?

Robert Proctor doesn’t think so. A historian of science at Stanford, Proctor points out that when it comes to many contentious subjects, our usual relationship to information is reversed: Ignorance increases.

He has developed a word inspired by this trend: agnotology. Derived from the Greek root agnosis, it is “the study of culturally constructed ignorance.”

I had flashbacks of Neil Postman as I read this article. Arguably a different yet related concept is information-glut (or, perhaps more commonly, “information overload”): the notion that after a certain point the more information accumulates, the more chaos, uncertainty, and ignorance (rather than order, clarity, and knowledge) there is (Technopoly). As I recall, Postman posited this as something inevitable rather than driven by an actual desire to sow disinformation. He uses a story from Plato’s Phaedrus about the discovery of writing to illustrate his point. The god Theuth presents writing to the Egyptian King Thamus and describes how, by teaching it to his people, it would be “a sure receipt for memory and wisdom”. Thamus is less than enthused. He says to the god:

The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality. (371-372)

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1981: When News was more Inky and the Internet was “Fashionable”

Here’s a 1981 TV News Report about how the San Francisco Examiner was making their paper available for home computer users (imagine, if you will!).

http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=5WCTn4FljUQ

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