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Digital Culture Links: August 10th 2011
Links for August 6th 2011 through August 10th 2011:
- Gamification is Bullshit [Ian Bogost] – Bogost gets straight to the point: “In his short treatise On Bullshit, the moral philosopher Harry Frankfurt gives us a useful theory of bullshit. We normally think of bullshit as a synonym—albeit a somewhat vulgar one—for lies or deceit. But Frankfurt argues that bullshit has nothing to do with truth. Rather, bullshit is used to conceal, to impress or to coerce. Unlike liars, bullshitters have no use for the truth. All that matters to them is hiding their ignorance or bringing about their own benefit. Gamification is bullshit. I’m not being flip or glib or provocative. I’m speaking philosophically. More specifically, gamification is marketing bullshit, invented by consultants as a means to capture the wild, coveted beast that is videogames and to domesticate it for use in the grey, hopeless wasteland of big business, where bullshit already reigns anyway.”
- London Police Use Flickr to Identify Looters [NYTimes.com] – “As rioting continues to roil the streets of London, local police forces are turning to the Web to help unmask those involved in the torching and looting. On Tuesday, the Metropolitan Police of London posted a set of photos on Flickr showing people they believed to be participants in the riots. Right now the images are primarily from the Croydon and West Norwood neighborhoods in south London, although the site says that more will be posted soon. With the initiative, called Operation Withern, the police are asking the public to identify anyone they recognize from photographs captured by CCTV surveillance cameras in areas where stores were looted. They say on the Flickr page that they hope to “bring to justice those who have committed violent and criminal acts.””
- Real name sites are necessarily inadequate for free speech [Bernie Hogan] – Important take on real names: “Offline people say things appropriate to the group they are in. That doesn’t mean they are two-faced, insincere or liars. It means people are context aware. People observe walls, clocks, furniture, fashion and music. These things guide us as to the appropriate way of acting. The guy writing his novel at the bar on Friday night is out-of-place. The guy who shows up to work drunk on Monday morning has a problem. Offline people don’t have to worry about their real name, because their behavior is tied to the context and the impressions the foster in that context. In fact, I’ll say that even more strongly – if your speech is not confined to the context you are in – but available to a potentially unknowable audience – you are online. This is why real name sites are necessarily inadequate. They deny individuals the right to be context-specific. They turn the performance of impression management into the process of curation.”
- How Blackberry, not Twitter, fuelled the fire under London’s riots [Tech Crunch] – All ‘social media caused it’ reports are exaggerated, but it is noteworthy that Blackberries are popular for communication in this context specificially because they are encrupted and not open: “Over the weekend parts of London descended into chaos as riots and looting spread after a protest organised around the yet unexplained shooting of a man by Police. Of course, there was huge amounts of chatter on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, with the latter coming under enormous amounts of criticism from the UK press for fuelling the fire. But while Twitter has largely been the venue of spectators to violence and is a handy public venue for journalists to observe, it would appear the non-public BlackBerry BBM messaging network has been the method of choice for organising it.”
- Facebook’s Photo Archive Can Be Used for Face Recognition in Real Life – “Facebook has had its share of problems over face recognition — a feature that connects a photo of a person’s face with their Facebook profile, making it easier to tag people in photos — but researchers from Heinz College, Carnegie Mellon University recently proved that Facebook’s vast photo archive can be used to identify people on the street, too. […] They used publicly available data — photos from Facebook profiles of students — and then used face recognition technology to recognize these students as they look into a web camera. The results? Using a database of 25,000 photos taken from Facebook profiles, the authors’ face recognition software correctly identified 31 percent of the students after fewer than three (on average) quick comparisons. In another test, the authors took photos from 277,978 Facebook profiles and compared them to nearly 6,000 profiles from an unnamed dating Web site, managing to identify approximately 10 percent of the site’s members.”
Digital Culture Links: August 5th 2011
August 5, 2011 / 1 Comment on Digital Culture Links: August 5th 2011
Links for July 27th 2011 through August 5th 2011:
- The freedom to be who you want to be… [Google Public Policy Blog] – A February 2011 post from the Google Public Policy blog, which included this: “Pseudonymous. Using a pseudonym has been one of the great benefits of the Internet, because it has enabled people to express themselves freely—they may be in physical danger, looking for help, or have a condition they don’t want people to know about. People in these circumstances may need a consistent identity, but one that is not linked to their offline self. You can use pseudonyms to upload videos in YouTube or post to Blogger.” In light of the real names policy on Google Plus, I wonder if Google is getting so big that the left hand is writing policies while the right hand thinks about things?
- “Real Names” Policies Are an Abuse of Power [danah boyd | apophenia] – Some important thoughts about the increasing in ‘real names’ policies, especially on Google Plus. From an historical point of view, boyd makes the important distinction between Facebook’s evolution (starting in a closed , trusted community where real-names are the norm) and GooglePlus, which has most directly courted the geek/coder/developer communities which have a much stronger tradition of handles, avatars and other non-real (where real = legal) names. And, as most people have pointed out, the disempowered, disenfranchised and non-elite members of society are often those who have the best (and convincing) need to use names other than their legal ones.
- Evil fiction: teacher a target of fake Facebook profile [the Age] – “Police are hunting the creator of a fake Facebook profile that was used to impersonate a Sydney primary school teacher and frame him as a paedophile by targeting kids at his school. The teacher, who cannot be named, is a long-time campaigner against racism online and with others he runs a blog that names and shames racists by publishing their hate-filled Facebook postings. In a phone interview, he said he believed this is why he was targeted. He said he and his family had been harassed over the phone, received death threats and had threatening notes left in his mail box after his personal details – including his address, phone number, photos and work details – were posted on a white supremacist website. “This Facebook profile opened up a couple of days ago with a picture of me and a friend with shirts off holding a beer … they were writing things on the wall such as ‘i’m gay and I like little boys’ and all sorts of things like that,” the teacher said in a phone interview.”
- Google+ pseudonym wars escalate – is it the new being ‘banned from the ranch’? [guardian.co.uk] – “Google is handling the issue of monikers rather badly when it comes to Google+. The list of blocked users is what is now being referred to as the NymWars extends to some fairly influential users. […] Blocked users are told: “After reviewing your profile, we determined that the name you provided violates our Community Standards.” Standards that are being used to ensure that everyone using Google+ is signed up using their real name. It doesn’t take much imagination to work up a few conspiracy theories about why Google should be so insistent on a real-name policy, alongside some more rational, soft-policy theories on encouraging a more, mature constructive level of engagement that reflects how we best communicate in the real world – ie, when we know who we’re talking to. But online identity is more nuanced than that. Though the roots of pseudonyms may have been in the murky, early web days when users may have felt safer protecting their identity when exploring this new world …”
- 6,000,000,000[ Flickr Blog] – Flickr reaches 6 billion photos in size, increasingly roughly 20% the number of uploads per year. This is a lot of photos, but a good, official (instagram-like) Flickr mobile app would probably mean this number would be much higher.
- Facebook’s new ‘Expected: Child’ tag sparks outcry [The Age] – “Facebook just made it easier to tell all your friends and acquaintances about your new pregnancy in one fell swoop. The social networking site recently added “Expected: Child” to its list of friends and family tags. The company also allows you to write in your due date and has optional space for the soon-to-be little one’s name. […] When I heard the news I put in a call to a friend who is 10 weeks pregnant to see if she would consider adding an “Expected: Child” on her Facebook account. The answer? A big fat no. “I’m so curious to see who would even do that,” she said. She identified three main problems with this new designation.
1. It might hurt her friends’ feelings to hear about her pregnancy over Facebook rather than in person.
2. The issues around having a miscarriage.
3. For people who have had trouble conceiving, Facebook was already a minefield of pregnancy announcements and new baby photos.”
- Fox Network to limit Web access to its shows [CNET News] – Fox in the US increases the tyranny of digital distance and provides massive incentives for unauthorised downloading of TV shows: “Fox Network announced late today that it will begin delaying Web access to many of its popular TV shows to give cable and satellite TV providers greater exclusivity with programming, essentially putting up a de facto pay wall around its content. Beginning August 15, only those people who subscribe to a participating video distributor will be able to view TV shows on an Internet portal the day after shows air on the network, the company said in a press release. All other viewers who are used to seeing episodes of “The Simpsons,” “Bones,” and “Glee” for free the next day on sites such as Hulu or Fox.com will now have to wait eight days to catch their shows.”
- BBC iPlayer goes global with iPad app launch in 11 countries [guardian.co.uk] – “BBC Worldwide is launching its global iPlayer service today, via an iPad app that will be made available in 11 countries in Western Europe. The US, Canada and Australia will follow later this year, as part of what is intended to be a one-year pilot. The service will offer a limited amount of content for free, supported by pre-roll ads and sponsorship, but its core business model is subscription, with users paying €6.99 a month or €49.99 a year. The 11 launch countries are Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, The Republic of Ireland, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland. The global iPlayer app includes some features that are not in the UK version, including the ability to stream shows over 3G as well as Wi-Fi, and a downloading feature to store programmes on the iPad for offline viewing. “We think we have a load of unmet demand for BBC and British content internationally,” said BBC.com managing director Luke Bradley-Jones in an interview with Apps Blog.”
- Media Piracy in Emerging Economies | A Report by the Social Science Research Council – “Media Piracy in Emerging Economies is the first independent, large-scale study of music, film and software piracy in emerging economies, with a focus on Brazil, India, Russia, South Africa, Mexico and Bolivia. Based on three years of work by some thirty-five researchers, Media Piracy in Emerging Economies tells two overarching stories: one tracing the explosive growth of piracy as digital technologies became cheap and ubiquitous around the world, and another following the growth of industry lobbies that have reshaped laws and law enforcement around copyright protection. The report argues that these efforts have largely failed, and that the problem of piracy is better conceived as a failure of affordable access to media in legal markets.” [PDF]
Digital Culture Links: July 26th 2011
July 26, 2011 / 1 Comment on Digital Culture Links: July 26th 2011
Links for July 21st 2011 through July 26th 2011:
- Bradley Horowitz – Google+ – Google addresses a number of the concerns arising from the ‘real names’ policy in Google+. Not all the issues are resolved by a long shot, but Google+ is in trial mode and many solutions seems forthcoming. Also: “MYTH: Not abiding by the Google+ common name policy can lead to wholesale suspension of one’s entire Google account. When an account is suspended for violating the Google+ common name standards, access to Gmail or other products that don’t require a Google+ profile are not removed. Please help get the word out: if your Google+ Profile is suspended for not using a common name, you won’t be able to use Google services that require a Google+ Profile, but you’ll still be able to use Gmail, Docs, Calendar, Blogger, and so on. (Of course there are other Google-wide policies (e.g. egregious spamming, illegal activity, etc) that do apply to all Google products, and violations of these policies could in fact lead to a Google-wide suspension.)”
- iPad Book Apps Hobbled: Only Existing Account-Holders Can Use The Apps, Google Books Booted [TechCrunch] – Apple takes 30%, or your app dies: “At the beginning of the year, Apple said it wanted 30% of everything sold through the iPad platform. You could sell almost anything – books, downloadable content, magazines, pictures of kittens – but, according to their subscription rules, everything had to go through Apple itself and you could not, in short, go out to a web page to complete the transaction. That promise – to shut down external web stores on the iPad – has been fulfilled and the Nook, Kindle, Kobo, and Google Books apps have just been either drastically changed or removed from the App Store entirely. Nook, Kindle, and Kobo now have no access to the web-based bookstore and you can no longer create accounts in the app.”
- Not rocket science – Angry Birds boss puffs his chest at Fortune tech conference [News.com.au] – Convergence in action: “Peter Vesterbacka, the chief marketing officer of Angry Birds creator Rovio, outlined the company’s ambitions last week at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference at a Colorado ski resort. … downloads of the addictive Angry Birds game had hit 300 million. Angry Birds involves catapulting cartoonish birds into fortresses built by egg-stealing green pigs but Mr Vesterbacka said Rovio was “not a games company”. “What we are building is a next generation entertainment franchise,” he said. “I think we’re the fastest growing consumer franchise ever.” Mr Vesterbacka said Rovio had acquired an animation studio and started producing two-minute animated Angry Birds shorts, and a full-length movie was two or three years away. “We’re working on new Angry Birds experiences,” he said. “We’ll expose a bit more of the Angry Birds story.” The Rovio executive said the company’s next project was its first book. “It’s the Angry Birds cookbook,” he said.”
- Does Google+ hate women? [Bug Girl’s Blog] – As Google’s new social network Google+ matches Facebook in demanding that users only use their real (legal) names, a host of issues emerge for people who have good and legitimate reasons to use anonymity or pseudonymity online (including those who wish to address hate, abuse and other crimes without explicitly naming names or having that cemented to their online selves).
Importantly, too, as Google+ is linked to Google in general, declaring a real name (or your age) on Google+ can end up forfitting other Google services, such as GMail, which can be a much larger issue.
- NYU Prof Vows Never to Probe Cheating Again—and Faces a Backlash [The Chronicle of Higher Education] – “A New York University professor’s blog post is opening a rare public window on the painful classroom consequences of using plagiarism-detection software to aggressively police cheating students. And the post, by Panagiotis Ipeirotis, raises questions about whether the incentives in higher education are set up to reward such vigilance. But after the candid personal tale went viral online this week, drawing hundreds of thousands of readers, the professor took it down on NYU’s advice. As Mr. Ipeirotis understands it, a faculty member from another university sent NYU a cease-and-desist letter saying his blog post violated a federal law protecting students’ privacy.”
- Start-Up Handles Social Media Background Checks [NYTimes.com] – “Companies have long used criminal background checks, credit reports and even searches on Google and LinkedIn to probe the previous lives of prospective employees. Now, some companies are requiring job candidates to also pass a social media background check. A year-old start-up, Social Intelligence, scrapes the Internet for everything prospective employees may have said or done online in the past seven years. Then it assembles a dossier with examples of professional honors and charitable work, along with negative information that meets specific criteria: online evidence of racist remarks; references to drugs; sexually explicit photos, text messages or videos; flagrant displays of weapons or bombs and clearly identifiable violent activity. “We are not detectives,” said Max Drucker, chief executive of the company, which is based in Santa Barbara, Calif. “All we assemble is what is publicly available on the Internet today.””
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