Hundreds of smart, stylish and intelligent people met in Brooklyn for two days in April. But this wasn’t just a hipster meetup in Williamsburg it was the venue for the refreshingly interesting Theorizing the Web conference.
Conference in New York
Setting the conference in a studio was a fun idea. The space was made up of large, mostly white, rooms and were a fun backdrop for the creative lineup of speakers all exploring the many exciting things the web have brought our society.
With three parallel sessions going on at all times and a very active twitter back channel the experience is exciting and intense. And unfortunately this also leaves the visitor with the experience that there was so much happening elsewhere. The good news is that everyone gains their own personal conference experience.
Some of the highlights of my conference were @the_log_lady on the poetics of image search, @OddLetters brilliant analysis of the gay girl in Damascus, @AnneLBurns on disciplining the duckface, @mathuclair provoking thoughts on neoliberalism and digital technology, and @hegemonyrules on assholes on reddit.
Now that I look through the program I realize how much I missed and how much more I would have loved to see. The joy of the conference however is the chance to participate, present (I spoke about the impact of e-books on culture) and to talk to smart people with a burning interest for the was in which the web is changing our lives.
Thankfully the sessions were both livestreamed and recorded and can still be accessed here.
The photographer Arne Svenson has an amazing series of photographs. What he has done is photographed his neighbors in the building opposite from where he lives in New York. Using a 500mm lens he peered through the glass-faced building and took some amazing shots.
The result is a series of images called The Neighbors. They are very personal images into peoples private lives but – from what I’ve seen online – none of the images clearly identify anyone. On the artist’s site this is how the photographs are explained:
The grid structure of the windows frame the quotidian activities of the neighbors, forming images which are puzzling, endearing, theatrical and often seem to mimic art history, from Delacroix to Vermeer. The Neighbors is social documentation in a very rarified environment. The large color prints have been cropped to various orientations and sizes to condense and focus the action.
The Guardian has a quote from Svenson about his work:
“I don’t photograph anything salacious or demeaning,” is Svenson’s stock retort when pressed on his work’s morality. “I am not photographing the residents as specific, identifiable individuals, but as representations of humankind.”
Despite this, two neighbors sued Svenson after having spotting their children among the subjects. Yet a court ruled this month that Svenson’s actions were defensible under the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech, and that such art needs no consent to be made or sold.
The interesting thing is that Svenson seems to express a clear ethical boundary. He is taking photographs of people, without their consent, inside their homes and making them public. And yet he does draw the line at making individuals identifiable.
Techdirt wrote about a cyberbullying case last year where a group of students in New York created a private Facebook group which was used to make fun of another student. This student filed suit against Facebook and the parents of the other bullying students. Techdirt writes that “the judge has now dismissed both claims, noting that while the Facebook comments were “puerile attempts by adolescents to outdo each other,” and while they displayed “an utter lack of taste and propriety, they do not constitute statements of fact,” even though they made some factually false assertions.”
(via ABA Journal) In a written opinion (PDF) provided by the New York Law Journal state supreme court judge in Nassau County granted a defense summary judgment motion, explaining that the statements at issue were not grounded in fact. The judge stated that:
A reasonable reader, given the overall context of the posts, simply would not believe that the Plaintiff contracted AIDS by having sex with a horse or a baboon or that she contracted AIDS from a male prostitute who also gave her crabs and syphilis, or that having contracted sexually transmitted diseases in such manner she morphed into the devil. Taken together, the statements can only be read as puerile attempts by adolescents to outdo each other.
While the posts display an utter lack of taste and propriety, they do not constitute statements of fact. An ordinary reader would not take them literally to conclude
that any of these teenagers are having sex with wild or domestic animals or with male prostitutes dressed as firemen. The entire context and tone of the posts constitute evidence of adolescent insecurities and indulgences, and a vulgar attempt at humor. What they do not contain are statements of fact.
Oo! Imagine spending a year in New York. Well Helen Nissenbaum, who does interesting and cool computer ethics (focus on privacy work), is looking to fill a research fellowship:
Areas of focus: Multidisciplinary study of privacy, security, social dimensions of digital networks, values in computing and information system design
The NYU Department of Media, Culture, and Communication is pleased to announce a Research Fellowship/Scientist opportunity in the philosophy and politics of computing, digital media, and information systems, with a special focus on NSF funded research in privacy, security, and social dimensions of networking.
This one-year postdoctoral position is renewable for a second year and carries a teaching load of one course per year, or possibly two, as preferred.
Thanks Michael Zimmer for the heads-up!