Artificial news for virtual selves?

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The use of artificial intelligence in mainstream news writing is advancing rapidly, according to Caleb Garling at Wired:

Two years ago, the Los Angeles Times became the first major outlet to report on an earthquake—almost instantaneously—with a bot. Today, companies like Automated Insights and Narrative Science are powering the production of millions of auto-generated “articles,” such as personalized recaps for fantasy sports fans. A similar metrics-based formula can be used to recap a customer’s stock portfolio performance. Here’s a snippet of auto-prose from one of Narrative Science’s investment reports:
The energy sector was the main contributor to relative performance, led by stock selection in energy equipment and services companies. In terms of individual contributors, a position in energy equipment and services company Oceaneering International was the largest… click here to read whole article and make comments



Digital afterlife:  How the internet changes mourning and bereavement

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For many of us, the Internet’s relationship to death has been simply the convenience of consulting a funeral home’s site, to find out the particulars.

But social media have transformed all that. For example, as Internet communications specialist Nicola Wright notes at First Monday,

At present, there is no consensus as to how social media company policies on deceased user accounts are handled, an area that is further muddied by legal issues of ownership and privacy.

Sounds pretty boring, right? Until we consider this: At one time only family members would likely have keepsake photos or journals of a deceased grandmother. Just about anyone may have them now, on line, for whatever reason—and visible to the whole world. Can that person be ordered to take them down? It’s… click here to read whole article and make comments



Canadian Christian writers’ conference big success AFTER the bookstore closes

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Readers may recall a column I wrote recently about how the Ottawa Christian Writers Fellowship became much more active after the Ottawa (Canada) Christian bookstore closed.

It wasn’t that the bookstore had been doing anything particularly wrong. Rather, people continue to read but the Internet has changed how authors and readers find each other.

Sensing that we needed to take outreach more seriously, we had decided to put on a conference. As only a handful of people came to the monthly meetings at the bookstore, we hoped for perhaps five people other than ourselves (the five organizers).

Forty or more showed up. We ran out of chairs—and spaces in the church hall window well. The attendees… click here to read whole article and make comments



Internet etiquette: Should one pull articles from an Internet site?

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As more and more people depend on the Internet for communications, here’s an issue that often arises. What happens when we are urged to pull a story?

How we handle it should probably largely depend on why we are urged to pull the story.

If large government or corporate interests are threatening us with a SLAPP lawsuit (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, typically launched by people with considerable social power against those with less), we may not be able to  fight the battle all on our own.

In less dire situations, there are nuances. Here are a couple of stories that may be relevant:

The well-known site Buzzfeed is believed to have click here to read whole article and make comments



New media: Information is not reduced by being shared

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That is one key way that information differs from matter or energy. And it matters to claims around net neutrality.

We share information without reducing it, in a way that we can’t share the hot water tank without reducing the hot water.

I’d like to draw attention to a comment thread on a previous article One commenter’s underlying assumptions are quite significant. He thinks the government has some kind of fundamental right to control public utilities. 


The actual story is more like this: Historically, there was a risk that the trickle down of public utilities in Western countries might be too slow. Put another way, one can’t have both free public health care andclick here to read whole article and make comments



The Internet does not need policing to enforce social justice

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Some of us have long been suspicious of government attempts to police the Internet.

For one thing, the Internet is not a technology that privileges ethnicity or nationality. It only identifies and directs personal interests.

That can be good or bad. It could promote local charity or terror. Perhaps it needs policing, but not in the interests often claimed by those arguing for “net neutrality”.

A recent Pew survey of teen Internet use shows that more than half of teens go on line daily, mainly due to cell phone access. The more important item is that use is not related to claims about privilege:

Much of this frenzy of access… click here to read whole article and make comments



Doxxing: It used to be only celebs and politicians could just trash people in media

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And get away with it. Now anyone can.

Because new media are cheap and easy for anyone to use, we could all do things that formerly only billionaire playboys who owned media could do (see, for example, the Citizen Kane story). So we need media literacy and good judgement even more than in the past.

Why? How about fake Web sites? Made up science journals and science citation scams? How about spying vs. parenting, apparently malicious manipulation of Internet data, turning fiction into fact (once enough canards are in circulation), photoshopping (an older trend given new life in “fake but accurate”?) , courts can  alter documents without notice, It also helped sponsor the… click here to read whole article and make comments



In traditional media, fact doesn’t matter any more, only social virtue

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Every so often, I do a story on the slow death of traditional media in the age of the Internet. For a specific reason: The people most likely to pay attention to traditional media are seniors, who are also the people most likely to vote.

As it happens, increasingly, traditional media are losing money and looking for saviours. The most likely saviours are governments that can make certain which stories get disseminated. That is why it matters who votes, and what they understand.

Another way of putting this is: The new “fourth estate” is the new media. Not the old media of print, radio, and TV.

But most public recognition still goes to the old media. That is a serious problem for public discussion.

click here to read whole article and make comments



Civilized world cannot recover its will?

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This is not strictly a story about new media. But as governments struggle to get control of new media, it is certainly relevant.

Consider recent media stories:

From Mark Steyn:

On this Good Friday, Christians are under attack in Africa. On this Passover, Jews are under assault in Europe. And on any day of the week anyone who catches the eye of the caliph's enforcers is getting his head sawed off in the Islamic State.

But the point of all these stories is that Christian majority countries don’t care and don’t do anything. Few vote based on anything that happens to Christians.

I will never forget the sneer on the face of the Canadian Liberal… click here to read whole article and make comments



Public shaming on the Internet: Good? Bad? Think before we retweet?

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The Internet can be used for totalitarian purposes, in the same way as can thousands of people ranting in a stadium. There is strength in numbers for good or ill.

A The Guardian review of two new books So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed and Is Shame Necessary? , tries to unpack the question of shame:

As Ronson makes patently clear, all these people’s punishments by far outweighed the gravity of their so-called crimes. In fact, having researched the history of public shaming in America in the Massachusetts Archives, he can only conclude that Lehrer, for one, was humiliated to a degree that would have been thought excessive… click here to read whole article and make comments


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Connecting is MercatorNet's blog about social media and the virtual self. We'd love to hear from you. Send us your tips and suggestions. Post comments. We want to make it as lively as possible. The editor is Denyse O'Leary, a Canadian journalist. 

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