SUNDAY, 25 JANUARY 2015

Why “move fast and break things” doesn’t work in the real world

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Recently, I wrote about an odd, distressing situation involving an executive at Uber, a texting-friendly taxi service, who thought he should do oppo research on a journalist. One hopes that the matter has been straightened out because 1) journalists (people who choose to write about other people’s lives) rarely have lives worth exposing and 2) his approach to media interferes with news gathering for the public.

But several other issues that arose during the controversy are worth unpacking:

As Charlie Warzel notes at Buzzfeed, we ought not to view a company like Uber as merely a cell phone app:

The problem: “Move fast and break things” works when the “things” are software. It works slightly less — and poses a serious safety concern — when those… click here to read whole article and make comments

 

THURSDAY, 22 JANUARY 2015

Does modern technology promote pop culture nihilism?

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Maybe. Let’s talk about it. Recently, we looked at the relationship between selfies and self-centredness.

No disputing it is a serious relationship. But I honestly don’t know how much technology—as such—contributes to the innate human tendency to self-centredness. The folk song “It’s Hard to Be Humble” premiered in 1980, long before the Internet was the Biggest Thing on the Planet.

Maybe I just need more lines of evidence to be sure.

Meanwhile, a friend kindly writes to say that he stumbled on a whole contemporary pop culture phenomenon of nihilism, promoted in the fashion industry and in movies (In the Dust of This Planet). I’ve noticed it too.

The key problem in dealing with pop culture nihilism is that it is often dressed up… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

WEDNESDAY, 21 JANUARY 2015

You’ve heard of the internet of things. Behold the internet of me

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The so-called “internet of things” has been the talk of the technology world for years now. Consumer electronics firms are exploring ways of connecting all manner of personal and household objects to the internet, thereby extending their functionality.

Some of these devices are undeniably very useful, such as household thermostats which allow us to log on at a distance and turn on our heating before heading home. But others are frankly ludicrous – witness the smart toothbrush.

Despite the rush to connect all our household objects to the internet, there is an even more important technical trend which has appeared in the past year or so – the internet of me. Instead of just… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

MONDAY, 19 JANUARY 2015

Anti-blasphemy laws? Anti-hate speech laws? Some things to consider before you vote.

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First, the landscape has changed. Demands for censorship that used to be opposed by universities are now coming from universities. As American commentator Derek Hunter explains,

The idea of punishing speech arbitrarily deemed inappropriate is something that is not only the antithesis of one of this country’s founding principles, it was something colleges were supposed to be safe from. Encroachment on something so sacred as freedom of speech would’ve have sent students to the street just a generation ago; now they march to demand censorship.

Yes indeed. In fact, as he recounts:

The progressive all-women’s Mount Holyoke College cancelled its annual performance of The Vagina Monologs” because students worried it could alienate transgendered students. …
click here to read whole article and make comments

 

SUNDAY, 18 JANUARY 2015

Does the selfie signal an increase in self-centredness?

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Dictionary meanings of self (the unified conscious whole that experiences something, whether it is a birthday party or a stubbed toe) don’t quite capture the concept of the “selfie” As put in a Guardian article (2013),

It starts with a certain angle: a smartphone tilted at 45 degrees just above your eyeline is generally deemed the most forgiving. Then a light source: the flattering beam of a backlit window or a bursting supernova of flash reflected in a bathroom mirror, as preparations are under way for a night out.
The pose is important. Knowing self-awareness is conveyed by the slight raise of an eyebrow, the sideways smile that says you're not taking it too… click here to read whole article and make comments

 

WEDNESDAY, 14 JANUARY 2015

The persistent internet hoax endures, now on Facebook

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Perhaps you’ve not thought this through. knowyourmeme    

With somewhere in the region of 1.3 billion users, Facebook is the largest ever internet social engagement phenomenon. With so many people interconnected through the site, information can speedily propagate around the world – without any clear indication whether it is correct – and this has given new life to the phenomenon of the internet hoax.

Once hoaxes arrived as urgent steps to carry out to remove viruses that didn’t exist from your computer, or warnings about waking up in a bath of ice with no kidneys. On Facebook, one of the most frequently repeated is of the supposed power… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

MONDAY, 12 JANUARY 2015

More good news: Why radio, like books, survived the Internet

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Recently, I talked about how the Internet was worse for bookstores than for reading: Part I and Part II. When the dust settled, many books and readers crawled out alive because a) much smaller press runs became economically viable, but b) we still have to buy the whole book in order to enjoy it.

So why was radio so much less impacted by the Internet than by TV? Video, after all, did kill the radio star.

Well, have a look at this 50s doo-wop. Does it look like good TV to you? And what about the one embedded below? It all sounded fine, but try televising it and the visuals… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

TUESDAY, 6 JANUARY 2015

Good news! Internet worse for bookstores than for reading, Part II

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Further to Good news! The Internet is worse for bookstores than for reading, Part I: (Dust settled, many books and readers have crawled out alive.)

The big difference is that the Internet changed how authors and readers find each other.

Some key changes were not intuitive. For example, many placed high hopes in putting great books online. As Richard Seltzer put it in Samizdat,,

Already there are tens of thousands of books in plain text electronic form available for free over the Internet, thanks to volunteer projects like Gutenberg. But while I applaud those efforts and download many of those texts, I must admit that I rarely read them -- only when I haven't been able to find a print edition of the same book. That's… click here to read whole article and make comments

 

MONDAY, 5 JANUARY 2015

Good news! Internet worse for bookstores than for reading, Part I

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Okay, it’s not good news for someone who owns a bookstore and rejects online business. But if you want to encourage reading books rather than buying them in one particular way, you may find the news heartening.

Last time I looked at this topic, I was focusing on books as sold in bookstores. Dead tired at one multiple author book signing, I learned that customers were buying our books for their nephews or their pastors or whoever else they thought “ought to” read them. They themselves were “too busy” to read books.

As you can imagine, I wasn’t very ready to buy into a ”save the local bookstore” cause at the time.

But… click here to read whole article and make comments


 

TUESDAY, 30 DECEMBER 2014

Texting Uber taxi service

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Uber is an international San Francisco-based ride sharing service, founded by Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp in 2009. It links riders and drivers via Smartphone. In a world of locally historic but highly change-resistant taxi companies, it offers one-tap, cashless pickups, with clear pricing and fare splitting permitted.

In principle, what could go wrong—except for the companies that didn’t think of it first?

Ah… enter an ambitious recent hire, senior executive Emil Michael, who decided to “target” journalists who publish negative information about Uber.

In many representative democracies, that’s a well-supported legal right of media, when supported by at least some fact stream. Admittedly, the fact stream could amount to no more than cherry picking the dissatisfied… 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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