Showing posts with label digital-web 2.0. Show all posts
Showing posts with label digital-web 2.0. Show all posts

Monday, July 23, 2012

Why the Web Divides Us

The Internet has changed many things. But it has not changed the insular habits of mind that make us replicate in our online social networks the physical networks we already have; in other words, connecting with only those who share our interests, laying waste to the utopia of a truly connected world. Ethan Zuckerman's older TED talk on this topic - here . Author Eli Pariser 2011 TED talk on the dangers of a  "personalized web" above.

Both Zukerman and Pariser arrive at the same point: the need for algorithms that let us discover what we want to know as well as what we need to know. But that conclusion still sounds vague. The question is: can developers come up with curatoral algorithms that can look into a mish mash of  unfamilairity and spot in a culture alien to us, and in a context completly different from what we know, the sameness of things we value and cherish? Such curation is a tall order even for humans.

In the 2012 spring issue of the Wilson Quarterly, Ethan Zuckerman argues :
A central paradox of this connected age is that while it’s easier than ever to share information and perspectives from different parts of the world, we may be encountering a narrower picture of the world than we did in less connected days... Despite these lowered barriers, today’s American television news features less than half as many international stories as were broadcast in the 1970s... Search engines tell us what we want to know, but they can’t tell us what we might need to know. Social media such as Facebook or Twitter might tell you to pay attention to cassette recordings in Iran, but only if your friends include Iranians. Social media are a powerful discovery engine, but what you’re discovering is what your friends know. If you’re lucky enough to have a diverse, knowledgeable set of friends online, they may lead you in unexpected directions. But birds of a feather flock together, both online and offline, and your friends are more likely to help you discover the unexpected in your hometown than in another land.
The most powerful discovery engines online may be curated publications such as The New York Times or The Guardian. Editors of these publications are driven by a mission to provide their audiences with the broad picture of the world they need in order to be effective citizens, consumers, and businesspeople. But professional curators have their inevitable biases and blind spots. Much as we know to search for the news we think will affect our lives, editors deploy reporting resources toward parts of the world with strategic and economic significance. When mysteries unfold in corners of the world we’re used to ignoring, such as Tunisia, curators are often left struggling to catch up. The limits of online information sources are a challenge both for us and for the people building the next generation of online tools. 
If we rigorously examine the media we’re encountering online, looking for topics and places we hear little about, we may be able to change our behavior, adding different and dissenting views to our social networks, seeking out new sources of news. But this task would be vastly easier if the architects of Internet tools took up the cause of helping to broaden worldviews. Facebook already notices that you’ve failed to “friend” a high school classmate and tries to connect you. It could look for strangers in Africa or India who share your interests and broker an introduction. Google tracks every search you undertake so it can more effectively target ads to you. It could also use that information to help you discover compelling content about topics you’ve never explored, adding a serendipity engine to its formidable search function. Why aren’t engineers racing to build the new tools that will help unravel the mysteries of a connected world? They may be waiting for indicators that we want them and are ready to use them.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Kenya: Sneak Peek at Binyavanga Wainaina's Debut Memoir...

... One Day I Will Write About This Place, (July) from Graywolf Press Assistant Editor Steve Woodward.

A while back Bomb magazine put up Rob Spillman's talk with Binyavanga about the memoir and pretty much everything else. An excerpt on the impact of the internet and social networks on African writing:
BW Every break I’ve had somehow came via the Internet. When I first wrote “Discovering Home” I sent that by email to this guy called Andrew Unsworth. He was like, “How much do you want to get paid?” That was a break. “Discovering Home” I think, was the first work in the world published online to win a major literary prize. And since, with this younger group of writers, the biggest thing is a massive network of connected writers producing, creating, starting magazines, starting outlets online and offline, knowing each other. They’re African but they are not waving an African banner. You have all these young writers in Nigeria who know writers in Kenya because they met on Facebook and so-and-so’s workshop. You start to get the sense of this piling up of power and production, which is now larger than the sum of any parts you can see. That certainly has meant more to writing out of the continent than any other thing. There are 19–year–olds who’ve read all your work and they’re based in Zimbabwe.

RS When I was in Nairobi, it was amazing to see everybody reading online just because it’s so hard to get books or magazines across the borders. Kenyan readers were reading a lot of Nigerian writers, but online.

BW We’ve all got to go digital. There’s no question about it anymore. Print has to die. (more)
And the making of the famous "How to Write abt Africa" email - here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Egypt: Egyptian Cinephiles and Film Bloggers

This report from Al masry al youm English looks at a new generation of Egyptians watching their movies over the web. It's also a rare conversation with a couple of Egyptian cinephiles/film bloggers about cinema and subtitling films to Arabic.

A brief clip in there of Bjork from von Tier's Dancer in the Dark in Arabic made us smile.   

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tunisia: A Revolution by Any Other Name...

Issandr El Amrani on why it shouldn't be called a "Jasmine Revolution":
But there's another reason to stay away from "Jasmine Revolution." It was the term that deposed President Zine al-Abedine Ben Ali used in 1987 to describe his own takeover, in those initial years of his reign that offered some hope for a democratic transition. To reuse Ben Ali's propaganda phrase at this point seems perverse — whereas something like the Sidi Bouzid Revolution, marking ground zero of the movement that led to the dictator's downfall, seems so much more appropriate.
And enough with the twitter and wikileaks revolutions, please, writes Luke Allnutt over at RFE's Tangled Web. His diagnosis of the rush to label:
Twitter revolution narratives are popular because rather than being about Tunisia, they are often really about ourselves. When we glorify the role of social media we are partly glorifying ourselves. Some of us are not only praising the tools we know and love and use every day, but also the tools we build and have stakes in. To proclaim a Twitter revolution is almost a form of intellectual colonialism, stealthy and mildly delusional: We project our world, our values, and concerns onto theirs and we shouldn’t. We use Twitter and so must they. In our rush to christen the uprising, did we think to ask Tunisians what they wanted to call their revolution?

Saturday, December 4, 2010


Blogger Alexis Madrigal found the best twitter comments to the "pseudo event" of the Beatles catalog finally landing on Itunes:

Still on music, artist Arya Mularama's since gone viral sketch of the evolution of hand gestures at concerts still cracks me up:

Monday, November 29, 2010

Libya: The Other Wikileak

As though the wikileaks about Qaddafi's "voluptous [Ukranian] blonde" (NYT) or his botox regimen (El Pais) weren't titillating enough, Max Fisher, writing at The Atlantic, also got his hands on a different set of leaked U.S cables detailing the frantic U.S-Russian diplomatic effort to negotiate with Qaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam al-Qaddafi (the reformer) and wrangle the last containers of enriched uranium unto a plane out of Libya:
Libya agreed to remove its weapons-grade materials and equipment shortly after a 2003 incident in which the U.S. government intercepted a ship bound for that country with Pakistani-made black-market centrifuges. For six years, Libyan officials complied with U.S.-led international efforts to dismantle the program. In November of last year, when officials without notice halted the dismantling process, the Libyans were down to their last 5.2 kilograms--still enough to make a bomb. A few days later, the U.S. embassy was contacted by Saif al-Islam al-Qaddafi. The son of Muammar al-Qaddafi, Saif is widely seen as Libya's great hope for reform should he win out against his more conservative brother, Mutassim, and succeed their father. But on that day, Saif told the U.S. ambassador to Libya that he was "fed up" with the U.S. He warned, "Slowly, slowly, we are moving backward rather than forward." Saif, according to the State Department cables reviewed by The Atlantic, told U.S. representatives that he could "fix" the nuclear crisis--if the U.S. met his demands. His list included military equipment, assistance in building a nuclear medical facility, relaxation of trade embargoes against Libya, and a sum of money that he implied would be in the tens of millions of dollars. But Saif made clear that what he sought most was respect. He suggested that the United States and Libya end their decades of enmity with a grand gesture of d├ętente, even recommending that the senior Qaddafi and President Obama hold a joint summit. The incongruity of demanding friendship from the U.S. while simultaneously blackmailing it with the risk of loose nuclear materials does not appear to have bothered Saif. He concluded with a bit of American vernacular, telling the ambassador, "The ball is in your court." The U.S. ambassador warned Saif that the Libyans had "chosen a very dangerous issue on which to express its apparent pique about perceived problems in the bilateral relationship," as an embassy official later put it in summarizing the meeting. According to that official, whose cable to Washington was among the 115 pages reviewed by The Atlantic, the ambassador added, "By its actions, Libya was jeopardizing its relationship with the whole international community."
It's ironic how all these Cablegates as well as the prior Afghan and Iraq wikileak dumps show the digitization and increased access to intelligence, coming out of calls in the wake of  9/11 for governmental agencies to share their information with each other, now comes back to bite them in the ass:
The US embassy cables are marked "Sipdis" – secret internet protocol distribution. They were compiled as part of a programme under which selected dispatches, considered moderately secret but suitable for sharing with other agencies, would be automatically loaded on to secure embassy websites, and linked with the military's Siprnet internet system. They are classified at various levels up to "secret noforn" [no foreigners]. More than 11,000 are marked secret, while around 9,000 of the cables are marked noforn. More than 3 million US government personnel and soldiers, many extremely junior, are cleared to have potential access to this material, even though the cables contain the identities of foreign informants, often sensitive contacts in dictatorial regimes. Some are marked "protect" or "strictly protect".

Saturday, November 6, 2010


If this blog had a rule, it's probably the bear hug embrace of remix anarchy.

And who says sampling and remixing--and the resulting recontextualization and knowledge creation-- should provide food for just for our thoughts?

As all cultural artifacts or scraps of mass understanding become just a google search away, we find ourselves in an age where the very act of sampling and remixing can be done collectively; similar people sharing a similar appreciation and understanding of a scarp of culture can physically come together to sample and remix, in some manifestation of small group lunacy a la Godard's...Outsiders or where the hell is Mattwhatever cultural actifacts make them bond:

H/T: Open Culture, see: Everything is a Remix

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Africa: The Tribal Drums of Twitter

... or at least author Margareth Atwood's (who is one of the more active literary rockstars on twitter with a rabid following) way of wrapping her head around how twitter fits into the timeline of human communication:

Money quote:
So for me, anything that happens in social media is an extension of stuff we were already doing in some other way. So, it’s all human communication. And the form that most closely resembles the “tweet” is the telegram of old, which also was limited because you paid by the letter. And so short communications very rapidly sent. So all of these things, the postal service, et cetera, they’re all improvements, if you like, or modernizations of things that already existed earlier in some other form. Even African tribal drums, for instance, could send very complex messages over great distances. They were very rapid, they were very well-worked out and communications could just go like wildfire using that medium of communications. So all of this stuff is what we do now, but it’s not different in nature from what we have always done, which is communicate with one another, send messages to one another, and perform our lives. We’ve been doing that for a long time.

Friday, October 22, 2010


As all our distractions become digital, this segment of the doc PressPausePlay sees corporealnesses like vinyl upgrading to art objects worth owing. James Wolcott struck a similar chord in a piece in Vanity Fair last year:
An ancillary victim of the film-library thin-down is the framed movie poster that used to grin from so many walls when I first came to New York. Duck into someone’s apartment and you might have been met with the poster for the Radio City Music Hall spectacular for Abel Gance’s Napoleon, Rita Hayworth in Gilda, Robert De Niro skulking through Times Square with his full-bodied scowl in Taxi Driver, or some French New Wave classic exhaling its grainy romanticism. But as more and more films are fetched from the ether, the movie poster loses its memento value, its Pop vintage. What will survive in the entertainment bunker are the definitive boxed sets jammed with extras (mini-posters, booklets, director’s cuts, bonus discs) that preserve film and TV classics in Proustian density: the “Ford at Fox” collection (corralling half of director John Ford’s output for the Fox studio spread across 21 discs—auteurist’s heaven), Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Berlin Alexanderplatz, The Sopranos, and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Chosen Collection” (40 discs suitable for any crypt). They attest to the foundational tastes of the owner without having to be viewed in their stupefying entirety.

Friday, July 23, 2010


The future of the magazine? It packages what your social networks share and filter your way. Gawker flips:
Flipboard mines your Twitter and Facebook friends for interesting articles and videos to show in a swipe-friendly magazine format. It also takes mundane status updates from your friends and turns them almost into magazine articles, with blown-up pictures (where possible) and headlines... what's intriguing about Flipboard is the message implicit in the product: News today is more and more about sharing and less and less about broadcasting, and even a device as inventive and popular as the iPad isn't going to reverse that trend.
And if this becomes the preferred approach to laying out content for the Ipad, then it's easy to project a magazine future where everyone is reading a form of blog or writing for one.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Nigeria: Digital Wildfire, Pt.2

SMS texts as riot accelerant:
Days of deadly violence between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria last week was fuelled by inflammatory text messages, a religious leader has told the BBC. Rev Joseph Hayab said hundreds of texts circulated around the city of Jos - some urging Christians not to buy food from Muslims "because it was poisoned". Another told Muslims the state governor had ordered their water supply to be cut in an attempt to kill them. Police say 326 people died in the riots - other estimates are much higher.
Remember the SMS enabled hoax in Ghana last month?

H/T: TiA

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Africa: Ushahidi

Back in Dec, American Prospect's Mark Leon Goldberg and  Patrick Meier (Tuft University) talk about new media technologies employed in the service of humanitarian efforts, referencing this UN Foundation report Meier co-authored and his dissertation work. Below they spend some time talking about Ushahidi:

Friday, January 22, 2010

Egypt: Cairo on Second Life

David Denton has completed the first phase of conceptual design of a major mixed-use project--Location: Sixth of October City; Shopping Center: 300,000 SM; Hotel: 400 rooms; Office Building: 20 stories; Parking: 3000 spaces--to be built in Cairo, Egypt. The project may be the first of this scale to be created initially in in the Internet accessible virtual world of Second Life, where everyone's avatar can do whatever.

H/T: The Arabist

Friday, January 1, 2010

Rwanda: California Dreaming

Citing "Africa... missed both the agricultural and industrial revolutions," Global Post's Earmon Kircher-Allen writes about President Kagame's plans to make sure Rwanda catches the "digital revolution.”

No doubt Kagame is looking to the next generation and plans to use this as a springboard.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Quotes of the Past Week

"... it's like looking into a mirror, after you've done a ton of coke off it"
-- Steven Colbert comparing clips of conservative rabble rouser Glen Beck and himself pretty much doing the same things.
"In reality, nothing in this agreement precludes any other company or organization from pursuing their own similar effort. The agreement limits consumer choice in out-of-print books about as much as it limits consumer choice in unicorns. Today, if you want to access a typical out-of-print book, you have only one choice — fly to one of a handful of leading libraries in the country and hope to find it in the stacks"
-- Google's co-founder Sergey Brin explaining the benefits in the settlement agreement between Google, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers, over Google's project to digitize all "out-of-print" books.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Internet/Publishing: Pinky and the Google, Pt.2

Before reading Google co-founder Sergey Brin's moving op-ed  in yesterday's NYT, stating Google's side of the ongoing and far reaching settlement suit with the Authors' Guild, first read UC law professor Pamela Samuelson's summary of the Dept. of Justice's interest in the case, why it had to go back to the drawing board and what she thinks the new settlement deal addressing the DOJ's concerns will look like.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Local/ Storytelling/ Advertising: HBO Brands Itself as an Experience

The Washington DC leg of the HBO tour showing off its Imagine interactive/ web experience/ promotion/ installation went live today at Adams Morgan. appears HBO, BBDO and the Barbarian Group are playing with the ability of the web to render visible, tangible and even measurable those overlapping elements of a story: design/ structure versus investment/engagement, balancing these elements in a way that solicits just te right amount of viewing effort in proportion to intrigue. Start with the Teddy Bear chase and work it out from there. And on the way, please, spin the cube around when watching The Affair .You will be pleasurably shocked.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Gabon: Ushahidi Deployed

Riz Khan talks to Francois Gouahinga, Gloria Mika and Jean Claude Nzamba in preview to last Sunday's Gabonese elections. He also talks to...

...Alice Backer, one of the bloggers deploying Ushahidi to keep tabs on what happens after the ballots are cast.

Ushahidi, which means "testimony" in Swahili, was created to use the lessons learned from Kenya's post electoral fallout in 2008 in creating a platform that allows anyone around the world to set up their own way to gather reports by mobile phone, email and the web - and map them. The core engine is built on the premise that gathering crisis information from the general public provides new insights into events happening in near real-time and the Gabonese cyber community are using it to collect and visualize information in Gabon in anticipation of post electoral unrest.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Advertising: Story Enablers and Storytelling

A Creativity and Art's panel is asked how technology is changing storytelling in advertising.

Panel includes Mike Hoefflinger, director of monetization product marketing, Facebook; Ben Palmer, co-founder, CEO, The Barbarian Group; Allesandra Lariu, SVP, digital group creative director, McCann Erickson; John Mayo-Smith, EVP, chief technology officer, R/GA; Kevin Slavin, managing director and co-founder, Area/Code and Creativity editor Teressa Iezzi.

The whole chicken and egg conundrum about which comes first, story or cool technology, reminds me of the whole collaboration between John Gaeta and the Warchowski brothers from back in the day.

Remember when "bullet time" was still "whoa"?


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