Newsletter No.19 — Jan 21, 2018

Sentiers No.19

Heads up: For a couple of reasons related to early writing methods, the first forty-five issues archived here are “pre last review” and haven’t been fully re-reviewed yet. Please forgive typos and miscellaneous mistakes if you see them! They are also less structured than more recent issues and thus haven’t been split into multiple notes. (Yet?)

This one starts social media (FB) heavy, sorry about that. Good articles though and lots of other good stuff further down.

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It’s the (Democracy-Poisoning) Golden Age of Free Speech
On censorship, the new de facto censorship of attention, the weaponization of information and networks, dark posts, and free speech as ends or means.

The most effective forms of censorship today involve meddling with trust and attention, not muzzling speech itself. As a result, they don’t look much like the old forms of censorship at all. They look like viral or coordinated harassment campaigns, which harness the dynamics of viral outrage to impose an unbearable and disproportionate cost on the act of speaking out.

Important and yet; yawn
As Facebook slides away from news in general, it’s worth remembering that Twitter is where we (and the media themselves) go for breaking news. Twitter is a bit of a garbage fire right now and I’m stepping away from it more and more but this move by FB feels like an opportunity for the bird, if Dorsey and crew decide to clean up their act with regards to harassment, nazis, and other horrors. I keep going back to the fact/idea that it’s an interest graph and that’s what they should be working on.

Facebook’s Motivations
Very strong piece by Thompson, exploring the possible motivations for Facebook’s move away from news. One of the options:

Rather, the only thing that could undo Facebook’s power is users actively rejecting the app. And, I suspect, the only way users would do that en masse would be if it became accepted fact that Facebook is actively bad for you — the online equivalent of smoking.

If Facebook stops putting news in front of readers, will readers bother to go looking for it?

My strong suspicion is that the overwhelming majority of users will barely notice a difference, and that an even more overwhelming majority will do nothing to change their off-Facebook news habits to make up for the loss.

Facebook will now ask users to rank news organizations they trust
😭 ”We decided that having the community determine which sources are broadly trusted would be most objective,”

BlackRock’s Message: Contribute to Society, or Risk Losing Our Support
I 100% endorse this view. However, how much they themselves believe it and will apply it is a whole other question. I expect this is largely based on PR reasoning and wanting to maintain profit. In other words defensive, not visionary.

Laurence D. Fink, founder and chief executive of the investment firm BlackRock, is going to inform business leaders that their companies need to do more than make profits — they need to contribute to society as well if they want to receive the support of BlackRock.

I liked Justin Jackson’s year in review for its honesty and the ‘taking care of yourself’ message he gives but also for the part about books. ‘Going all digital’ means even when he reads books his kids see him on his phone. It’s half the reason for keeping my library; I love being surrounded by books but I also want my son to be surrounded, and interested, and curious about them. (So far so good.)

Detroit’s Mower Gang Keeps The Grass Short
The city can’t pay for maintenance of all the parks so a group of citizens have organized into a ‘gang’ and both mow the grass and repair the play sets. 😍

City of Barcelona Kicks Out Microsoft in Favor of Linux and Open Source
They will replace all apps with open source alternatives and then switch from Windows to Linux (Ubuntu). They will also outsource to local small and medium sized enterprises and hire 65 developers.

Cape Town drought: Day Zero comes as does a new water levy. Very bad situation and guess who’s going to be hurt the most?

The Rise of The Hip Hop Photographer
I don’t know much about music (especially Hip Hop) or the culture around it but I found this parallel between Hip Hop and Instagramming photographers interesting.

But the most significant connection between hip hop and the modern photographer is the evolution of the artist. In both, the path of the artist begins with a deep intimacy of the street. It finds its strength and power there. But then seeks to transcend it.

++ This list should prove very useful: 2018 Films Directed or Written by Women.

Beyond the Rhetoric of Algorithmic Solutionism
danah boyd on algorithms and a look (and emphatic recommendation) at Eugenia Eubanks’ new book Automating Inequality.

[O]ffering a fantastic backronym for AI. Rather than thinking of AI as “artificial intelligence,” Eubanks effectively builds the case for how we should think that AI often means “automating inequality” in practice.

++ Don’t Call AI Magic
On magic, alchemy, transparency, neutrality, limitations, and accounting.

To evoke magic is not only to provide an alternative regime of causal relations, but also to minimize attention to the methods and resources required to carry out a particular effect. Magic denies an accounting of what went into making something work, or that it required work at all.

++ Google’s art selfies aren’t available in Illinois. Here’s why.
Supposedly because Illinois has strict laws on the use of biometrics. The whole thing makes sense to me, except for the fact they could be doing this with profile pics elsewhere. Maybe it’s to go around EULAs on their main platforms?

++ TV, retail, advertising and cascading collapses
I know that’s not the point of the article but I don’t see (in his position) how you can mention things like this quote below and say nothing of privacy and surveillance.

Suppose I put a bunch of HD cameras in the right parts of Berlin and Brooklyn and track what people are wearing, entirely automatically, and then see what of that shows up in middle America in a year, and then apply that pattern matching to what people are wearing in Berlin now? Again, no longer science fiction. Computers are going to be able to analyze images and video the way they’ve been able to analysis text and numbers for 50 years, and indeed much better, with much more sophisticated pattern analysis. So - what does that do to how ecommerce can make suggestions? And what does that do to retail and advertising?

++ Nintendo is making a bunch of awesome DIY cardboard toys for the Switch
People are losing their minds over this announcement and those kits do sound very cool but—and I haven’t looked much—they seem to be finite, not a platform which would include developing your own. (Right?)

The History of Europe: Every Year. Animation of the changes in countries / borders from 400BC to today. Too quick in some parts but still much more parsable than many of these types of videos.

++ Aztec Warrior Wolf

[E]ar and nose ornaments and a piece of body armor known as a pectoral—glittering, stylized versions of attire that were used to decorate the sacrificed wolf, ::as if the canine were symbolizing a human warrior.::

++ Complex engineering and metal-work discovered beneath ancient Greek ‘pyramid’.

Dean Allen died, I wrote something about him, the indie web and Yulblog (blogging meetup in Montréal). Also see what Om Malik ,
Jason Kottke, and John Gruber wrote about him.