Clocks and Watches. – Necessity of Punctuality.

The perfection of clocks and the invention of watches have something to do with modern nervousness, since they compel us to be on time, and excite the habit of looking to see the exact moment, so as not to be late for trains or appointments. Before the general use of these instruments pf precision in time, there was a wider margin for all appointments; a longer period was required and prepared for, especially in travelling… men judged of the time by probabilities, by looking at the sun, and needed not, as a rule, to be nervous about the loss of a moment, and had incomparably fewer experiences wherein a delay of a few moments might destroy the hopes of a lifetime. (page 103)

Beard, G. M. (1881). American nervousness, its causes and consequences: a supplement to nervous exhaustion (neurasthenia). Putnam.

American Nervousness was published in 1881 and it reminds me of the regular panics surrounding smartphones today.

The Political Pose

While listening to a Guardian podcast episode about why people hates vegans I came across this quote:

Alicia Kennedy considers it troubling that the internet has transformed something with such a rich political history into “a wellness thing” that allows would-be consumers to label themselves vegans without having to engage with the “excess baggage” of ideology.

This nails the whole slacktivism argument so elegantly, seeming political without the “excess baggage” of ideology.

Of course social media allows for this form of poseur to thrive. But this does not mean all that looks like a pose is hollow. The challenge is identifying the difference.

Farkas Post Truth Discussion

In New York next week? Come and join us for Post Truth discussion! 

Next Friday, October 18, the McGannon Center will host Johan Farkas for a lunchtime discussion from 12:30pm to 1:45pm in Room 7-119 at the Law School. Farkas, who is a PhD Fellow in Media and Communication Studies at Malmö University in Sweden,will talk about his book, Post-Truth, Fake News and Democracy: Mapping the Politics of Falsehood

Mathias Klang of Fordham’s Communications and Media Studies Department will moderate the conversation. You can learn more about Farkas and his book here

Do you have a book idea?

I’ve got a new position as Book Series Editor at the Fordham University Press! Yay!

We are looking to revitalize the McGannon Book Series, and looking for books that “…interrogate the ways in which media and networked communication technologies (1) constitute social, economic, cultural, and political arrangements and (2) affect the distribution, regulation, and control of information flows.”

If you have an idea you would like to discuss, reach out!

The problem with hacktivists is… Fashion?

This is quote was worth saving, maybe?

“When I was young there were beatniks. Hippies. Punks. Gangsters. Now you’re a hacktivist. Which I would probably be if I was 20. Shuttin’ down MasterCard. But there’s no look to that lifestyle! Besides just wearing a bad outfit with bad posture. Has WikiLeaks caused a look? No! I’m mad about that. If your kid comes out of the bedroom and says he just shut down the government, it seems to me he should at least have an outfit for that. 

 John Waters on the sorry style of today’s rebels  

The algorithm is a bad guide

Algorithms are flawed. And yet they seem to be the best technology companies have to offer. How many products claim to “learn from your behavior”? But what happens when I am the weaker part in this information exchange? There is no way I can know what gems are hidden in the database. So once again the products recommended to me are repetitive or shallow.

So it was great to stumble upon Susanna Leijonhufvud’s Liquid Streaming, a thesis on Spotify and the ways in which streaming music, selected by algorithm not only learns from our experiences, but more interestingly, acts to train us into being musical cyborgs (a la Haraway)

Starting from the human, the human subject can indeed start to act on the service by asking for some particular music. But then, as this music, this particular track, may be a part of a compilation such as an album or a playlist, the smart algorithms of the service, e.g. the machine, will start to generate suggestions of music back to the human subject. Naturally, the human subject can be in charge of the music that is presented to her by, for instance, skipping a tune, while listening on a pre-set playlist or a radio function. Still, the option in the first place is presented through a filtering that the machine has made, a filtering that is originally generated from previously streamed music or analysis of big data, e.g. other networked subject’s streamed music. Added to this description; if an input derives from the subject’s autonomous system, then the analogy of an actor-network is present on yet other layers. The actor-network of the musical cyborg work both within the subject itself, as the subject is not consistent with an identity as an entity, as well as between the subject and the smart musical cicerones.

Leijonhufvud (2018) Liquid Streaming p. 274

We often forget this feedback loop. Since we are trained by the algorithms the level of serendipity and growth is relatively low and we tend to be stuck in a seemingly narrow spiral – especially considering we are supposed to have access to an almost infinite amount of music.

As a newish Spotify user who is musically ignorant, I often find the algorithm to be laughably unhelpful since it does little to expand my horizons and as such is less of a cicerone (knowledgable guide) and more of a frustrated and frustrating gatekeeper.

It would be nice not to have the things I already know recommended to me ad infinitum, but rather show me things I have not seen or heard. Sure I may hate them but at least I may have the chance of expanding my repertoire.

Susanna Leijonhufvud (2018) Liquid Streaming: The Spotify Way To Music, Doctoral Thesis, Luleå University of Technology, (Fulltext here http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/record.jsf?pid=diva2%3A1171660&dswid=-2263

CFP Digital Ethics

Its time for another symposium on digital ethics, this will be the 9th year running. Here is the call for papers

We are looking for papers on digital ethics. Topics might include but are not limited to privacy, hate speech, fake news, platform ethics, AI/robotics/algorithms, predictive analytics, native advertising online, influencer endorsements, predictive analytics, VR, intellectual property, hacking, scamming, surveillance, information mining, data protection, shifting norms in journalism and advertising, transparency, digital citizenship, or anything else relating to ethical questions raised by digital technology. This is an interdisciplinary symposium, we welcome all backgrounds and approaches to research.

Researchers can either submit a proposal as a team (consisting of one junior and one senior scholar) or individually. In the latter case, organizers will match submitters up with a partner based on compatibility of the proposal. Five teams will be selected to present completed research at the symposium and critique each others’ work during five 75-minute sessions. After further review, the articles will be eligible for inclusion in a special issue of the Journal of Media Ethics.

Important dates:

Abstracts should propose original research that has not been presented or published elsewhere. The abstract should be between 500 and 1,000 words in length (not including references) and should include a discussion of the methodology used. Please also submit a current C.V. of all authors with the abstract. Abstracts are due on May 20, notifications will be sent out by June 5. Completed papers will be due by October 15.

For more information check out the Call for Abstracts: 9th Symposium on Digital Ethics

Privacy Summer Course

This course will explore the effects of surveillance technologies from the everyday devices to the most sophisticated. It will analyze the effects of technology on society, culture and law. Students will gain insights into the impact of surveillance and technological empowerment on communication. Through the study, analysis and application of privacy & surveillance theory the participant will develop a firmer understanding of the role of surveillance on society and its impact on privacy.

In order to cover the topic in five weeks the course will cover one topic each week.

  • Privacy & Surveillance Theory,
  • Privacy, Surveillance & The Body
  • Privacy, Surveillance & The Home,
  • Privacy, Surveillance & The City,
  • Privacy, Surveillance & Digital Technology

Check out the syllabus here.

Arrogance of Simplicity

This is from an article arguing against our fetishization of counting calories and BMI but the conclusion contains an important truth that should be applied more broadly:

Humans come in many shapes and sizes. Some people can truly eat whatever they desire and not gain a pound; others chew on leaves and remain portly. The lengths we go to calorie count isn’t a sign of health; it’s orthorexia, which creates cortisol, another factor in weight gain.

Don’t be fooled by the arrogance of simplicity.

Derek Beres Do Caliries Even Count

It’s all too easy to fall for simplistic solutions and slogans. It’s also a reminder to question established truths.

NYC After Break

Spring break is over and the commute has returned. My tired body not used to the rigor of early mornings (how quickly we forget), made worse by the increased darkness of daylight savings. But each trip is its own reward, and this one didn’t disappoint.

One the subway a heavily tattooed man helped a blind man who was losing his balance, despite a grey sky, children celebrated spring by running and smiling, even the panhandler gave me a heartier smile as he shook the coins in his hand.

A rat ran along the side of the street and around the corner. At the site of a former launderette a crowd gathered to watch the removal of debris from the recent fire that had ravished the building.

A man with a black cowboy hat with a large gold brooch on the front was leaning against a wall while making a phone call. His snakeskin boots matching his brown snakeskin belt, which had a buckle that matched the gold on his hat.

There is always something happening here. It’s good to be back.