Consider This

Please feel free to contribute to the page as you find interesting and related stories in your digital travels.

For reference, the The New York Times Internet News section.
See also Cyborgology.

Fall 2013

New Book Argues That Today's Kids Are Helpless Without Apps

Sarah Rothbard, Slate
"Each month in 'The Six-Point Inspection,' Future Tense and Zócalo Public Square take a quick look at new science and technology books that are changing the way we see our world."

Writing Bytes

New York Times
"The Internet has changed (and keeps changing) how we live today — how we find love, make money, communicate with and mislead one another. Writers in a variety of genres tell us what these new technologies mean for storytelling."

Algorithms: The Shape We're In

"A film by Lucy Leigh-Pemberton and Isobel Lawrence.
Algorithms underpin today's society and very few people know how they work. This documentary addresses some of the issue and changes we face as more and more aspects of life are controlled by algorithms."

Silicon Valley dreams of secession

You won't find a more brazen declaration of techno-utopian libertarian fantasy than this start-up founder's speech
Andrew Leonard, Slate
"Srinivasan didn’t stop there. Silicon Valley’s 'hit list,' he argued, had already knocked off newspapers and the music industry. Next up: 'We’re going after advertising, television, book publishing.' Higher education 'is next in the gunsights.' That’s three lethal metaphors, brought to you by a man arguing that Silicon Valley should secede from the United States."

Facebook Is No Longer the Most Popular Social Network for Teens

Jim Edwards, Business Insider via Slate
"Twitter has overtaken Facebook as the social media network that is most important to teens, according to Piper Jaffray's semi-annual teen market research report. Twitter is the new king of teens, with 26 percent naming it as their "most important" social site. Only 23 percent said Facebook was most important, down from a high of 42 percent."

The Real Privacy Problem

Evgeny Morozov, MIT Technology Review
"A different reading of recent history would yield a different agenda for the future. The widespread feeling of emancipation through information that many people still attribute to the 1990s was probably just a prolonged hallucination."

Use a smartphone? You may be addicted

Laura Donovan, Salon
"A company conducted a ten-city survey to see how attached users are to their gadgets."

Classroom Confidential: Should professors have any expectation of email privacy?

Colleen Flaherty, Slate
"Politics aside, Slocum’s case and others like it in recent months raise an important question: In the age of social media and smartphones, what expectations—if any—should professors have for privacy for lectures and communications intended for students?"

TED talks are lying to you

The creative class has never been more screwed. Books about creativity have never been more popular. What gives?
Thomas Frank, Salon
"What our correspondent also understood, sitting there in his basement bathtub, was that the literature of creativity was a genre of surpassing banality. "

'Cryptopocalypse' Now: Looming Security Crisis Could Cripple Internet

Paul Wagenseil, TechNewsDaily
"The Internet, and many forms of online commerce and communication that depend on it, may be on the brink of a "cryptopocalypse" resulting from the collapse of decades-old methods of shared encryption. The result would be 'almost total failure of trust in the Internet,'…"

Losing Our Cool: Hey Silicon Valley: Stop co-opting cool

Seth Stevenson, Slate
"I am here on an etymological mission. I’ve come to reclaim cool from Silicon Valley. Someone must rescue this once-useful word from the hordes of techies who misuse it."

When Batman isn’t available: Crowd-fund

"An Oakland, Calif., neighborhood turns to the Internet to raise money for local security"
Andrew Leonard, Salon

You May Want to Password-Protect Your Body

Laura Hood, Slate
" 'I think the future of chronic disease control will be implanted devices … They will be measuring vital signs, reaching back to the health care providers, whoever that might be and wherever they’re based. So you can imagine consultants and doctors around the world, or your local doctor, firing up a single app and being able to receive alerts on a patient.'"

The Future Is Not a Destination: The Futurist magazine’s top 10 forecasts for 2014 and beyond

Patrick Tucker, Slate

Disruptions: Minecraft, and Obsession and Education Tool

Nick Bilton, Bits (NY Times)
"While there are no known neuroscience studies of Minecraft’s effect on children’s brains, research has shown video games can have a positive impact on children."

Computer grading will destroy our schools

Benjamin Winterhalter, Salon
"There is a deeper issue, though, to which I suspect many people’s thoughts will have jumped immediately: the idea that reading and writing are uniquely human, and that our ability to do these things is part of what separates us from machines."

Technology and the College Generation

Courtney Rubin, New York Times
"Brittney Carver, 20, a junior at the University of Iowa, said she checks her e-mail once a day, more if she’s expecting something. Before college, she used e-mail mostly for buying concert tickets. She said she would never use it if she could avoid it."

Victims Push Laws to End Online Revenge Posts

Erica Goode, New York Times
"Women who have been victimized by disgruntled exes have filed civil suits based on claims of copyright infringement, invasion of privacy or, in some cases, child pornography."

Is Google Wrecking Our Memory?

Nope. It’s much, much weirder than that.
Clive Thompson, Slate
"If you ask the husband for his bank account number, he'll shrug. If you ask the wife for her sister-in-Iaw's birthday, she can never remember it. Together, they know a lot. Separately, less so."

Hush up, Franzen! Don’t blame Twitter for shallowness

Clive Thompson, Salon
"Critics say social media has caused a decline in discourse, but similar hysteria accompanies all new technology"

Cable TV Is Dying, and Colleges Are Killing It

Will Oremus, Slate
"It's 'cord-nevers'—young people who have never paid for cable or satellite TV and have no intention of doing so in the future."

In Praise of an Overflowing Inbox

"Email is ubiquitous, meritocratic, and forgiving. It will never die, and I don’t want it to."
Farhad Manjoo, Slate

Digital Natives: A Defense of the Internet Community

Daphne Koller, New York Times
"I believe the digital medium is a powerful addition to the ways in which our students can interact with one another in an educational context. In particular, while face-to-face communication has its advantages, so does the online medium."

The Two Cultures of Educational Reform

Stanley Fish, New York Times
"And the 'surprising finding' of another study “was that the writing of seniors who majored in science had actually deteriorated over the four years of college."

Who Will Prosper in the New World

Tyler Cowan, New York Times
"Those who are motivated to use online resources will do much, much better in the generations to come. It’s already the case that the best students from India are at the top in many Coursera classes, putting America’s arguably less motivated bright young people to shame."

Chatterbot: A Computer That Teaches People How to Be Social

Betsy Morais, The New Yorker
"MACH keeps track of weak language, like utterances of “Mmm,” “Uhh,” and “Basically.” And it examines the “average smile intensity” during the course of the conversation to provide feedback about how effectively you have been communicating. The software also plays back a video of your speech, alongside charts monitoring intonation, head movements, and other coded gestures."

Investigates Why People Stalk Their Partners on Facebook

Katy Waldman, Slate
"Whether or not students felt their romances were on shaky ground did not change their stalking habits. In other words, your obsessive monitoring of your boyfriend's Twitter feed says more about you than the relationship."

Spring 2013

Google Glass Picks Up Early Signal: Keep Out

David Streitfeld, New York Times
"As personal technology becomes increasingly nimble and invisible, Glass is prompting questions of whether it will distract drivers, upend relationships and strip people of what little privacy they still have in public."

Formatting a World With No Secrets

Book review ‘The New Digital Age,’ by Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen
Janet Maslin, New York Times
"'The New Digital Age' is much more prescient and provocative than it is silly. Its thinking got a little less futuristic when last week’s Boston Marathon bombings turned crowdsourcing and cameras into high-speed methods of needle-in-a-haystack detection."

CISPA passes in House of Reps.

Andrew Kulak, Collegiate Times
"The controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) passed again in the House of Representatives in a 288-127 vote last Thursday."

Civil Liberties Fears Doom House Cybersecurity Bill

Somini Sengupta, New York Times
"The White House on Tuesday threatened to veto a House bill that would allow private companies to share information about computer security threats with government agencies, signaling once again how difficult it is to balance civil liberties and security interests in the digital era."

Reflections on the Recent Boston Crisis

Posted by erik [hueypriest]
"However, though started with noble intentions, some of the activity on reddit fueled online witch hunts and dangerous speculation which spiraled into very negative consequences for innocent parties. The reddit staff and the millions of people on reddit around the world deeply regret that this happened."

Google Glass and the Demise of Ownership

John Villasenor, Slate
"The model of requiring purchasers of consumer electronics devices to first enter into restrictive contracts as a condition of sale and then to agree to restrictive licenses when using those devices raises multiple concerns. Most fundamentally, it does an end run around legal frameworks that evolved specifically to prohibit anti-competitive and consumer-unfriendly downstream control over transfers of ownership. And it’s confusing for consumers."

An Instant Path to an Online Army"

Randall Stross, New York Times
"Computer science researchers have been trying to build systems that summon online workers on demand and produce immediate results."

Teacher Knows if You’ve Done the E-Reading

David Streitfeld, New York Times
"Major publishers in higher education have already been collecting data from millions of students who use their digital materials. But CourseSmart goes further by individually packaging for each professor information on all the students in a class — a bold effort that is already beginning to affect how teachers present material and how students respond to it, even as critics question how well it measures learning. The plan is to introduce the program broadly this fall."

Robots: Imagining They’re Just Like Us

David Rosenberg, Slate
"'My images look both serious and absurd. … It is about creating emotions both aesthetic and with a twist; I like the fact that when you look at my pictures you have no clue if they are true or not or how and when they have been done.'"

Essay-Grading Software Offers Professors a Break

John Markoff, New York Times
"Imagine taking a college exam, and, instead of handing in a blue book and getting a grade from a professor a few weeks later, clicking the 'send' button when you are done and receiving a grade back instantly, your essay scored by a software program."

To Save Everything, Click Here

"Farhad Manjoo and Evgeny Morozov debate Morozov’s new book on 'the folly of technological solutionism.'" Slate

The Barbed Gift of Leisure

Mark Kingwell, The Chronicle Review
"The basic problem is that the robot helper is also scary. Indeed, a primal fear of the constructed other reaches further back in literary and cultural memory than science fiction's heyday, encompassing the golem legend as much as Mary Shelley's modern Prometheus, Frankenstein, and his monster."

Your Phone vs. Your Heart

Barbara Fredrickson, New York Times
"New parents may need to worry less about genetic testing and more about how their own actions — like texting while breast-feeding or otherwise paying more attention to their phone than their child — leave life-limiting fingerprints on their and their children’s gene expression."

Can Your Phone Tell You You’re Stressed?

Jon White, Salon
"The data feeds into software developed by Dana Pavel at Essex University that allows you to create a story-inspired visualization on your computer. It walks you through your day. If you wish, you can zoom in and focus on flashpoints. What was it exactly that was noisy? Where was I? What texts and emails did I receive at that time?"

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This Illegally Made, Incredibly Mesmerizing Animated GIF Is What the Internet Looks Like

Max Read, Gawker

Laptop multitasking hinders classroom learning for both users and nearby peers

Faria Sana, Tina Weston, Nicholas J. Cepeda Computers & Education, Volume 62, March 2013, Pages 24–31
"We found that participants who multitasked on a laptop during a lecture scored lower on a test compared to those who did not multitask, and participants who were in direct view of a multitasking peer scored lower on a test compared to those who were not. "

Reading, Writing and Video Games

Pamela Paul, New York Times, Sunday Review
"When experienced teachers express skepticism about the value of computer games in school, they’re often viewed as foot-draggers or change-resistant Luddites. A 2012 Project Tomorrow report (paid for in part by the technology industry), found that only 17 percent of current teachers believe technology helps students deeply explore their own ideas. "

A Discussion With Evgeny Morozov, Silicon Valley’s Fiercest Critic

Adrian Chen, Gawker
"Morozov is the fiercest and funniest critic of Silicon Valley's insufferableness. His salvos against Silicon Valley hype and the gurus who peddle it are exhilarating because their slick ideas have managed to seep into the highest levels of public discourse without much of a second look."

Google Concedes That Drive-by Prying Violated Privacy

David Streitfeld, New York Times
"Google on Tuesday acknowledged to state officials that it had violated people’s privacy during its Street View mapping project when it casually scooped up passwords, e-mail and other personal information from unsuspecting computer users."

Mind Plus Machine

Brain-computer interfaces let you move things with a thought.
Will Oremus, Slate
"What makes brain-computer interfaces possible is an amazing property of the brain called neuroplasticity: the ability of neurons to form new connections in response to fresh stimuli. Our brains are constantly rewiring themselves to allow us to adapt to our environment."


How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed by Ray Kurzweil
Colin McGinn, New York Review of Books
"Indeed, it is notable that Kurzweil makes no serious effort to generalize beyond the perceptual case, blithely proceeding as if everything mental involves perception. In fact, it is not even clear that all perception involves pattern recognition in any significant sense. When I see an apple as red, do I recognize the color as a pattern? No, because the color is not a geometric arrangement of shapes or anything analogous to that—it is simply a homogeneous sensory quality."

Tracking Sensors Invade the Workplace

Rachel Emma Silverman, WSJ
"A few years ago when Bank of America Corp … wanted to study whether face time mattered among its call-center teams, the big bank asked about 90 workers to wear badges for a few weeks with tiny sensors to record their movements and the tone of their conversations."

The Six-Point Inspection: Prepare for Our Robot Future

Sarah Rothbard, Slate
"Each month in 'The Six-Point Inspection,' Future Tense and Zócalo Public Square take a quick look at new science and technology books that are changing the way we see our world."

Eye-Tracking Smartphones Have Arrived. What About the Privacy Implications?

John Villasenor, Slate
"The Samsung Galaxy S IV, which is slated for introduction next week, will reportedly include an eye-tracking feature to make it easier to scroll pages without physically touching the screen. Some people will view this as an added convenience, and for people with certain types of disabilities, navigating by eye-movement can be a vitally important way to interact with objects on a screen."

Is It Time To Take Cyborg Rights Seriously? A Q&A With Neil Harbisson

Torie Bosch, Slate
"I believe that being a cyborg is a feeling, it's when you feel that a cybernetic device is no longer an external element but a part of your organism. One can start feeling cyborg by simply attaching an infrared sensor at the back of the head, a sensor that vibrates when someone gets close to you"

From Behind the Screen

Zack Budryk, Inside Higher Ed
"Another trend has popped up alongside the confession sites: college 'make-out' Twitter feeds, which feature candid, apparently unsolicited photographs of college students kissing — typically shot in bars or at large parties."

How To Create a Mind: Can a marriage between man and machine solve the world's problems?

Don Tapscott, The Globe and Mail
"I have written often about today's smartphones evolving into digital co-pilots, our constant companions that will help us get through the day. Kurzweil sees such devices shrinking to microscopic size and residing within our bodies."

Google Glass - How it Feels

Hyper-parenting connected to depression in college students, study suggests

Kristen Gloss, The Daily Free Press
"'With Facebook, it’s like all of our parents can watch us,' she said. 'Facebook is an easy way to know what we’re doing.'"

State Senate cracks down on texting and driving

Max Luong, Collegiate Times
"'I'll text without looking at the screen, and only when the roads are empty or when the light is red. I don't think I should be charged $200 for that,' said senior Graham Millinder."

When the Internet was for strangers

Facebook has degraded our friendships, but do online relationships have to be limited to "Catfish"-like scenarios?
Adrien Chen, Salon
"Today’s skepticism of online relationships would have dismayed the early theorists of the Internet. For them, the ability to communicate with anyone, anywhere, from the privacy of our 'electronic caves' was a boon to human interaction."

The Tribble-like robot with smart fur

Michelle Starr, CNET
"… [T]he Cuddlebot, made by Canadian artist and computer scientist Anna Flag, can differentiate between nine different kinds of touch, and respond in different ways."

Second Sight Announces FDA Approval

Second Sight Medical Products Receives FDA Approval for Argus II System
See Bionic Eyes and "Health Care Costs" Matthew Yglesias, Slate
"It doesn't fully restore their vision by any means, but it combines a high-quality video camera, digital processing equipment, and an implant capable of stimulating the optic nerves of even severely damaged patients."

Apple thinks your naked wrist needs an iWatch

A voice-activated command-and-control center for the quantified self? Get in line now for your iWatch
Andrew Leonard, Salon
"How cyborg are we willing to go? The question becomes more relevant by the day. Google glasses are not yet commercially available, but co-founder Sergey Brin has been spotted wearing a prototype. More to the point: Fresh reports from The New York Times and Bloomberg suggest that Apple is now devoting significant resources to an iWatch product."

How Raytheon software tracks you online - video

Online Class on How To Teach Online Classes Goes Laughably Awry

Will Oremus, Slate
"In other words, Morrison concludes, 'The honeymoon with MOOCs is over.'"

Is Facebook over?

A new study reveals that most users have taken extended sabbaticals from the site — sometimes weeks at a time
Jacob Sugarman, Slate
"According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, as many as 61 percent of Facebook members have tuned the website out for weeks and sometimes months at a time."

How can you tell if you are suffering from Future Shock?

Charlie Jane Anders, io9
"Instead of wondering where things are going, says Rushkoff, people have started to wonder about where things are right now. Around the time of the dotcom era, people became obsessed with speculating about the present. 'I think we have moved out of linear time and the historic sensibility altogether,' says Rushkoff, 'and our current stress stems more from the simultaneity and instantaneity of the digital media environment, as well as the loss of narrative and other connections to organic time.'"

I Love You. Now Text Me.

How online relationships are more real than real ones.
Katie Roiphe, Slate
"Lately there has been a great deal of public handwringing about whether the temptations of Internet communication have corrupted our ability to forge normal or healthy or real relationships (whatever those might mean)."
(see "Manti and the Mating Game", Frank Bruni, New York Times; "Has Facebook Ruined Love?", New York Times; and "A Million First Dates", Dan Slater, The Atlantic.)

Ray Kurzweil Says We’re Going to Live Forever

"But by the 2030s we’ll be putting millions of nanobots inside our bodies to augment our immune system, to basically wipe out disease. One scientist cured Type I diabetes in rats with a blood-cell-size device already."

Coming of Age with the Internet: Remembering Web 1.0

Jacob Savage, The American Reader
"In 1994, all of ten years old, I signed up for America Online. It wasn’t a simple process. After calling AOL’s toll-free line—and paying for the service by phone—I dialed up, the modem hissed, and I was promptly disconnected. Another few tries and I was in, connected at 2400 baud—not that I had any idea what 'baud' meant."

Here's a version of our course on Coursera: E-learning and Digital Cultures

How California’s Online Education Pilot Will End College As We Know It

Gregory Ferenstein, TechCrunch
"More recently, a pilot of MIT and Harvard’s joint online educational initiative, EdX, found that blending SJSU classes with world-class online lectures reduced the number of students who received a C or lower by 31% … In other words, computers can–and have–successfully replaced teachers."

Bluetooth talking glove

The New Intelligence

Steve Kolowich, Inside Higher Ed
"Arizona State University has become ground zero for data-driven teaching in higher education. The university has rolled out an ambitious effort to turn its classrooms into laboratories for technology-abetted 'adaptive learning' — a method that purports to give instructors real-time intelligence on how well each of their students is getting each concept."

The short, strange life of an original viral star

Mary Elizabeth Williams, Slate
"But back in 2006, when YouTube was still relatively new, one Renaissance man helped define the term 'viral star.' But when Aleksey Vayner died of unknown causes in New York last Saturday, he was a man who defined his moment of notoriety as “rock bottom,” a man who just last year changed his name to avoid association with the one that had briefly made him famous."

Before the E-text

Scott McLemee, Inside Higher Ed
"Cyberculture is all about convergence, if not in Goethean terms. It overloads the reader’s sensorium through every conceivable channel of communication (preferably at the same time) while bombarding us with invitations to respond to its messages, right away. 'Interactivity is a constraint,' Piper writes, 'not a freedom.'"

The Problem With the School of One

Can technology make education too customized for the student?
James Paul Gee, Slate
"For example, today there are adaptive, artificial (computer-based) tutors to teach algebra. Based on how the learner is faring, these tutors (which do quite well) customize presentation, problems, and the order of problems to each individual learner. They can also be equipped with sensors that tell the system when the learner is bored, confused, or frustrated and adapt instruction accordingly. Each learner proceeds based on his or her favored style of learning in a way that lowers the level of frustration as far as possible."

Eric Kambach, who took the course in fall 2010 (see the last link on the page), sends this link:

Technology Killed Courtship. Good Riddance

Amanda Hess, Slate
"In the New York Times this weekend, reporter Alex Williams mourns 'The End of Courtship.' Texting is to blame for dating’s demise. 'Instead of dinner-and-a-movie, which seems as obsolete as a rotary phone,' young people today 'rendezvous over phone texts, Facebook posts, instant messages and other 'non-dates' that are leaving a generation confused about how to land a boyfriend or girlfriend,' Williams reports. "

The End of the University as We Know It

Nathan Harden, The American Interest
"In fifty years, if not much sooner, half of the roughly 4,500 colleges and universities now operating in the United States will have ceased to exist. The technology driving this change is already at work, and nothing can stop it. "

Machine perception lab reveals robotic one-year-old (w/ video)

What Turned Jaron Lanier Against the Web?

The digital pioneer and visionary behind virtual reality has turned against the very culture he helped create
Ron Rosenbaum, Smithsonian magazine
"Lanier was one of the creators of our current digital reality and now he wants to subvert the 'hive mind,' as the web world’s been called, before it engulfs us all, destroys political discourse, economic stability, the dignity of personhood and leads to 'social catastrophe.'"

Don't Burn Your Books—Print Is Here to Stay

The e-book had its moment, but sales are slowing. Readers still want to turn those crisp, bound pages
Nicholas Carr, The Wall Street Journal
"The growth in e-book sales is slowing markedly. And purchases of e-readers are actually shrinking, as consumers opt instead for multipurpose tablets."

Does Facebook make everyone a cyborg?

Samantha Kimmey, Raw Story
"Amber Case, who calls herself a 'cyborg anthropologist,' argues that we are all now cyborgs, as we use not just traditional tools, which extend the 'physical self,' but technology which allows 'an extension of the mental self.'"

Invasion of the cyber hustlers

"From Jeff Jarvis to Clay Shirky, a class of gurus are intent on "disrupting" old-fashioned practices like asking us to pay for valuable content. Meanwhile, web giants like Google and Apple jealously guard their profitable secrets."
Steven Poole, New Statesman

The 10 Most Searched Things of 2012 Show How Screwed Up Humanity Is

Jesus Diaz, Gizmondo

"Here's the overall global ranking:

1. Whitney Houston
2. Gangnam Style
3. Hurricane Sandy
4. iPad 3
5. Diablo 3
6. Kate Middleton
7. Olympics 2012
8. Amanda Todd
9. Michael Clarke Duncan
10. BBB12" (a Brazilian show).

Facebook's Big Privacy Vote Ends Today, But We Already Know the Result

Will Oremus, Slate
"In the future, whenever there's a backlash to such changes, Facebook will be able to point to the silent super-majority who couldn't be bothered to take five minutes to preserve their privilege to weigh in on how their own data is used."

Do violent video games actually lead to violence?

Study links extended violent gameplay to lasting aggressive tendencies — but is that the same as violence?
Katie Mcdonough, Salon
"A recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology reports that after three days of playing violent video games like 'Call of Duty,' research subjects exhibited a spike in 'hostile expectations' as compared to the group who played nonviolent games."

Why Workers Are Losing the War Against Machines

Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, The Atlantic
"Despite massive automation of millions of jobs, more Americans had jobs at the end of each decade up through the end of the 20th century. However, this empirical fact conceals a dirty secret. There is no economic law that says that everyone, or even most people, automatically benefit from technological progress."

TEDx Talks: Some Ideas Are Not Worth Spreading

Phil Plait, Slate
"… TEDx Director Lara Stein, along with Editor Emily McManus, issued a public letter to all TEDx organizers warning them to be on the lookout for pseudoscience talks."

The Week's Best Robot Videos: A Real Transformer That Can Dance

Adam Sneed, Slate

Who Do Online Advertisers Think You Are?

Jeffrey Rosen, New York Time Magazine
"Should we worry about ads aimed specifically at us everywhere we go on the Web and, increasingly, on our mobile devices too? Yes, and not just because the ads can be invasive and annoying. Real-time bidding also makes the online marketplace less of an even playing field, allowing companies to send loyalty points or discounts — or price increases — to individuals based on their perceived spending power."

Nassim Nicholas Taleb: The future will not be cool

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Slate
"Close your eyes and try to imagine your future surroundings in, say, five, 10 or 25 years. Odds are your imagination will produce new things in it, things we call innovation, improvements, killer technologies and other inelegant and hackneyed words from the business jargon. These common concepts concerning innovation, we will see, are not just offensive aesthetically, but they are nonsense both empirically and philosophically."

People’s History of MOOCs

Barbara Fister, Inside Higher Ed
"Massive, open to all, a democratic space that offers people from all walks of life exposure to the greatest thinkers of our time, and while we’re at it, a fabulous branding opportunity - welcome to the nineteenth century municipal public library."

Cambridge researchers to study Terminator-like scenarios

Eric W. Dolan, Raw Story
"Price has co-founded the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk along with Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn and astrophysics professor Martin Rees. The center will study 'extinction-level' risks posed by nanotechnology, biotechnology, artificial intelligence and climate change."

IBM simulates 530 billon neurons, 100 trillion synapses on world’s fastest supercomputer

We are getting closer to simulating a human brain. Apparently this system's "synapses" run at only ~1500 times slower than real time.

Bookstores? I’ve gone over to the Amazon side I know the online behemoth is evil. But then I got a Kindle — and suddenly I really like this devil

Art Edwards, The Nervous Breakdown, Slate
"I bought a Kindle, which means I’m the devil."

This Is Your Brain on Neural Implants Are you still you if devices improve your memory, attention span, and other cognitive skills?

Ray Kurzweil, Slate
"We have already largely outsourced our historical, intellectual, social, and personal memories to our devices and the cloud. The devices we interact with to access these memories will become smaller and smaller, making their way into our bodies. It will be a useful place to put them—we won’t lose them that way. And in the coming years, we will continue on the path of the gradual replacement and augmentation scenario until ultimately most of our thinking will be in the cloud."

Elite Online Courses for Cash and Credit

Steve Kolowich, Inside Higher Ed
"The elite-branded, massive courses now being rolled out through Coursera and edX have set the stage for the 2U consortium, but the online courses from the consortium will not be MOOCs. The idea is to replicate not only the content and assessment mechanisms of traditional courses, but also the social intimacy."

Out of Touch E-reading isn’t reading

Andrew Piper, Slate
"… Reading isn’t only a matter of our brains; it’s something that we do with our bodies. Reading is an integral part of our lived experience, our sense of being in the world, even if at times this can mean feeling intensely apart from it"

The digital challenge, I: Loss & gain, or the fate of the book

Anthony Daniels, New Criterion
"The first entry in our series 'The digital challenge.' What does the future hold for printed books?"

The ends of humanity

Socialism is dead, and the transhuman future looms. Is there any way to recover a sense of global purpose?
Ken MacLeod, aeon
"But once ‘humanity’ becomes a variant set of populations rather than an invariant essence, it loses its obviousness as a standard of value. "

Google faces antitrust ultimatum

Following a long FTC investigation, the tech giant must settle or face a lawsuit
Natasha Lennard, Salon
"The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has been investigating the tech giant for over a year, looking into claims that Google has given its own services — such as YouTube or Google Drive — precedence over competitors in search results."

The Year of the MOOC

Laura Pappano, New York Times
"MOOCs have been around for a few years as collaborative techie learning events, but this is the year everyone wants in. Elite universities are partnering with Coursera at a furious pace. It now offers courses from 33 of the biggest names in postsecondary education, including Princeton, Brown, Columbia and Duke."

York University prof enlists student snitches to battle digital distraction

Louise Brown, The Star
"'There’s not an ounce of scientific evidence that students can actually multi-task and learn,' argued Kim, who is not against technology in learning; he spices up lectures with YouTube clips and holds an iPad with the class photo so he can call on students by name."

Technology Changing How Students Learn, Teachers Say

Matt Richtel, New York Times
"Scholars who study the role of media in society say no long-term studies have been done that adequately show how and if student attention span has changed because of the use of digital technology. But there is mounting indirect evidence that constant use of technology can affect behavior, particularly in developing brains, because of heavy stimulation and rapid shifts in attention. "

Man with ‘bionic’ leg to climb Chicago’s Willis Tower

Carla K. Johnson, Associated Press
"His whirring, robotic leg will respond to electrical impulses from muscles in his hamstring. Vawter will think, 'Climb stairs,' and the motors, belts and chains in his leg will synchronize the movements of its ankle and knee."

Don’t fall in love with your robot

Robert Ito, Pacific Standard
"The Japan Robot Association, an industry trade group, predicts today’s $5-billion-a-year market for social robots will top $50 billion a year by 2025."

Literature is not Data: Against Digital Humanities by Stephen Marche

"There are, of course, many hundreds of digital projects on the go at the moment. For instance, Early English Books Online has existed for a decade. That wonderful database in its own way demonstrates how digitization leads to the decline of the sacred. Before EEBO arrived, every English scholar of the Renaissance had to spend time at the Bodleian library in Oxford; that’s where one found one’s material. But actually finding the material was only a part of the process of attending the Bodleian, where connections were made at the mother university in the land of the mother tongue."

After e-literature, there’s no going back

Roland Chambers, The Browser
"So born digital, as you can see, can encompass a wide variety of genres and works. And then, on the question of why now, why people are writing digital literature now… Actually, the field has origins beyond the current moment."

Twitter and Facebook 'harming children's development'

Graeme Paton, The Telegraph
"Young people’s brains are failing to develop properly after being overexposed to the cyber world at an early age, it was claimed … Baroness Greenfield, professor of pharmacology at Oxford University, said a decline in physical human contact meant children struggled to formulate basic social skills and emotional reactions."

The Internet Agenda

Mark Edmundson, Inside Higher Ed
"But suppose Internet courses do begin to bring in revenues. If the partnership with Coursera works out well, we may soon become dependent on their good will. We may, in other words, need to take very seriously their thoughts about the kinds of courses we should teach and make available online. At Virginia, and at all the schools that begin teaching online, the distribution companies may come to have a consequential say in the way that professors teach and students learn."

Chinese researchers create mind-controlled quadcopter drone

Eric W. Dolan, Raw Story (
"The researchers use an electroencephalography (EEG) headset — which measures electrical activity in the brain — and a laptop computer to translate thoughts into commands to control the drone. The researchers can move drone forward by thinking 'right,' fly upward by thinking 'push,' descend by clenching their teeth, and take a picture by blinking their eyes four times."

Maine Dem attacked for “World of Warcraft” persona

Jillian Rayfield, Slate
"Maine Republicans are attacking Democrat Colleen Lachowicz for leading what they call a 'bizarre double life' as Santiaga, a level 85 orc in the role-playing game 'World of Warcraft.'"

The “Lost” Steve Jobs Speech from 1983; Foreshadowing Wireless Networking, the iPad, and the App Store

A question with direct bearing on our class:

What Makes Humans Human?

And is technology one of those things?

California Legalizes Self-Driving Cars

Will Oremus, Slate
"… Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed a bill legalizing autonomous vehicles on the state’s roadways. The allows Google to test out its self-driving car in the state immediately, provided there’s a licensed driver in the driver’s seat to take over if needed, according to the San Francisco Chronicle."

Robots are coming (for your job)

Michael Lind, Salon
"Legal software and teaching programs will undermine the rents that lawyers and professors can extract from society, while the cost-lowering industrialization of higher education and medicine will replace independent individuals who are good at looking things up with computer-assisted teams."

Want to wear your smart phone on your head?

Google wants you to also. (youtube)

I stalk my kids on Facebook

Francesca Kelly, Salon
"As I view their lives onscreen, I am seeing them through a new lens, so to speak. I am watching them separate from me and from our home and create a new environment for themselves — an environment in which I play no role. This, I know at least intellectually, is a very good thing."

Could the Internet Ever “Wake Up”?

And would that be such a bad thing?
Dan Falk, Slate
""Even today it might 'feel like something’ to be the Internet," Koch says. Each computer feels nothing, of course, but the totality of the Internet may be more than the sum of its parts. "That’s true for my brain, too. One of my nerve cells feels nothing—but put it together with 100 billion other nerve cells, and suddenly it can feel pain and pleasure and experience the color blue.""

Cultural ADD? (satire)

The Onion nails it.

Comedian Pete Holmes discussing how unsatisfying "knowing" has become.

Apparently stand-up comedians are at the forefront of dissecting our throwaway, unsatisfied, know-everything and learn-nothing culture.

New Breed of Robotics Aims to Help People Walk Again

Brian X. Chen, The New York Times
"Ekso is one of several companies and research labs that are working on wearable robots made to help disabled people or to make the human body superhuman."

Robots at War: Scholars Debate the Ethical Issues

Don Troop, The Chronicle of Higher Education

Technoprogressive Wiki, Moral Enhancement

Moral Enhancement

Julian Savulescu and Ingmar Persson, Philosophy Now.
"The pace of scientific change is exponential. But has our moral psychology kept up?"

An Open Letter to Wikipedia

Philip Roth, The New Yorker

Headless ‘cheetah bot’ breaks human and robot speed records

Stephanie Mlot, PC
"The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and Boston Dynamics have unleashed a legged robot that's even faster than Olympic champion Usain Bolt. "

Elizabeth Haydu sends this along:

Will Artificial Intelligence Turn Evil & Against Humans?

On Tuesday (9/4) I made mention of Louis CK's bit:

Everything's Amazing & Nobody's Happy.

Astleigh made mention of the rick-roll meme in her profile and, in so doing, may have inspired:

The cast of Mad Men "sing" Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up"

In Defense of the Living, Breathing Professor

'Crowd-sourcing' the grading of an essay online is no substitute for thoughtful evaluation by a trained educator.

Internet Cat Video Film Festival

Winner of the Golden Kitty: Henri 2, Paw de Deux

Stay Out of My Kitchen, Robots

Evgeny Morozov, August 27, 2012, Slate
"Today's technologies are no longer the dumb, passive appliances of the 1950s. Some of them feature tiny and sophisticated sensors that "understand"—if that’s the right word—what's going on in our kitchens and attempt to steer us, their masters, in the right direction. And if Khrushchev's rhetorical question sought to highlight the limitations of the consumer, today's attempts to build a "smart kitchen" highlight those of the culinary geek."

Are Memes & Internet Culture Creating a Singularity? | Idea Channel | PBS

Rebecca MacKinnon: Let's take back the Internet!

TED Talks

Online Learning, Personalized

Somini Sengupta, December 4, The New York Times

"As schools try to sort out confusing claims about the benefits of using technology in the classroom, and companies ponder the profits from big education contracts, Khan Academy may seem like just another product vying for attention … But what makes Mr. Khan’s venture stand out is that the lessons and software tools are entirely free — available to anyone with access to a reasonably fast Internet connection."

Twitter takes sides on the Internet’s future

While some tech companies aim to sell surveillance, one aims to thwart it.
Nancy Scola, December 4, Salon

"If you’re wondering where Internet and other digital technologies are headed, take note of two news items from this past week … The first was a piece in the Washington Post profiling the Wiretappers’ Ball, a recent gathering in suburban Maryland for those who make tools for surveilling, monitoring and throttling the Internet — and for the people who buy them … The second … reported by the Wall Street Journal, was that San Francisco-based Twitter Inc. had acquired Whisper Systems, a two-person firm that specializes in securing the Android mobile operating system. The firm’s only employees … seek to make it harder for snoops to monitor who and how) you are texting, calling and otherwise connecting with digitally."

"A Robot Has Shot Its Master"

The 1930s hysteria about machines taking jobs and killing people.
Matt Novak, Nov. 30, 2011, Slate

"The Great Depression, like today, was quite obviously a dark time for the American worker. The unemployment rate hit nearly 25 percent by 1933, leaving 13 million people out of work. And people needed something to point to as the source of their woes. Rightly or wrongly, a great many things took the blame: the president, the weather, immigrants, the wealthy. But with the tremendous rush of technological advancement that was seen in the 1920s, there was a new and terrifying thing at which to point our unemployed fingers: the robot. Coined in 1921, the word robot was still relatively fresh to the national lexicon. But it was a great shorthand for something frightfully inhuman or dehumanizing"

Robots set up home at Science Museum

American Censorship: Round 2 - Net Neutrality

Members of Congress are trying to destroy the internet - read and take action:

Virtual schools are multiplying, but some question their educational value

Lyndsey Layton and Emma Brown, November 26, Washington Post

"K12 Inc. of Herndon has become the country’s largest provider of full-time public virtual schools, upending the traditional American notion that learning occurs in a schoolhouse where students share the experience. In K12’s virtual schools, learning is largely solitary, with lessons delivered online to a child who progresses at her own pace."

Japan's cure for snoring and sleep apnea - a robotic bear pillow

Connor Livingston, Nov. 20 2011, //[]//

The Japanese have created a robotic bear pillow that caresses you in your sleep to deter you from snoring…

Facebook tracking is under scrutiny

Byron Acohido, Nov. 16, 2011, TODAY

"Facebook officials are now acknowledging that the social media giant has been able to create a running log of the web pages that each of its 800 million or so members has visited during the previous 90 days. Facebook also keeps close track of where millions more non-members of the social network go on the Web, after they visit a Facebook web page for any reason."

Should Robots Walk on Two Legs?

Torie Bosch, Nov. 14, 2011, Slate

"The reason robots should be bipedal, he argues, is that our environment is already built for humans. Stairs aren’t navigable by wheels or treads, for one thing. By some estimates, 80 percent of land mass isn’t accessible by wheels: 'Legs are king.'"

Google’s Lab of Wildest Dreams

Claire Cain Miller and Nick Bilton, November 14, The New York Times

"Robots figure prominently in many of the ideas. They have long captured the imagination of Google engineers, including Mr. Brin, who has already attended a conference through robot instead of in the flesh.

Fleets of robots could assist Google with collecting information, replacing the humans that photograph streets for Google Maps, say people with knowledge of Google X. Robots born in the lab could be destined for homes and offices, where they could assist with mundane tasks or allow people to work remotely, they say."

Klout is bad for your soul

The social media tool is being taken up as an actual measure of value and influence. And we should be wary
Bonnie Stewart, November 12, Slate

"If you’re on Twitter, or even Facebook, Klout has heard of you. And Klout has ranked you, with a single tidy number meant to sum up your influence and engagement in the social media sphere. is a social media analytics company based in San Francisco. Three years ago, it began ranking Twitter users according to the splash their links and witty repartee made among their followers."

Generation Sell

William Deresiewicz, November 12, The New York Times
I am cautious of “generation speak” but, admittedly, I deploy it in our discussions — Prensky’s “Digital Natives” offers a ready example. Still, I think Deresiewicz’s article speaks incisively to issues raised both in the class and on the forums.

"AND that, I think, is the real meaning of the Millennial affect — which is, like the entrepreneurial ideal, essentially everyone’s now. Today’s polite, pleasant personality is, above all, a commercial personality. It is the salesman’s smile and hearty handshake, because the customer is always right and you should always keep the customer happy. If you want to get ahead, said Benjamin Franklin, the original business guru, make yourself pleasing to others."

Eyal Ophir on the Science of Multitasking

Avi Solomon, Nov 7, Boing Boing

"Eyal Ophir was primary researcher on the pioneering Stanford Multitasking study. He now designs information interfaces for the browser RockMelt."

"Humans don't really multitask - we task switch. Our brains are serial machines, so we just switch very quickly between tasks, and it feels like we're multitasking. So when we found that heavy media multitaskers performed worse on a classic test of task-switching, it was like finding out that these heavy media multitaskers were worse at multitasking."

Which Way Privacy? The Supreme Court asks whether the government can put a GPS device on your car without a warrant.

Dahlia Lithwick, November 8, Slate

"Antoine Jones was convicted in 2008 and sentenced to life in prison for possessing and conspiring to distribute more than 50 kilograms of cocaine. Key evidence in the case against him was obtained in 2005, when District of Columbia police got a warrant to secretly install a GPS device in order to monitor the Jeep Cherokee driven by Jones and his wife. The warrant expired after 10 days, but the police nevertheless used the GPS to monitor everywhere he drove, every 10 seconds, for 28 days."

Virginia Tech Robotics: Walking as Jazz

The Robotics and Mechanisms Lab (RoMeLa) at VT has gained attention recently for the CHARLI humanoid project, which demonstrated huge success in the annual RoboCup competition. This year, the Navy approached RoMeLa in search of a fire-fighting robot ("high risk, high reward" project). SAFFiR has been proposed as the solution, or the next step in robotics. If the RoMeLa team can successfully emulate the human tendon and master "force control," this will generate an enormous payoff. The team leader, Derek Lahr, states that "when it works out, the Navy will have a robotic sailor, basically, and there's no end to what you could do with a humanoid robot aboard a Navy ship." -Olivia Walsh

Memory-Erasing Pill: A Threat to our Human Identity?

Speaking of what makes us human…I recalled this article and its related research on memory-erasing drugs. For anyone who has seen the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, this should sound familiar. -Olivia Walsh

Why Second Life Failed How Clay Christensen's "milkshake test" predicts which ultra-hyped technology will succeed, and which will bomb.

Dan and Chip Heath, November 8, Slate

"Today, Second Life limps along. In the first half of 2011, the company reported that an average of about 1 million users logged in every month—which, you have to admit, is about 999,990 more than you expected. But during this same period, Facebook averaged roughly 500 million logins per month."

Humanoid Robot Petman

Strangely intriguing robot. It's ironic that there is a fan in front of the robot even though he has no use for it. He would make an excellent soldier though.

Artificial Skin with Nerves

This is an article I found about artificial skin that feels with nerves made of clear nanotube springs
-Sanglin Lee

Scottish Accents Foil iPhone 4S' Siri

Sarah Lai Stirland, October 26, 2011, TPM

"The Times of London ran a story Wednesday … reporting that many people in Scotland are having a hard time getting Siri to understand their commands and comments."

One Google Books To Rule Them All?

Maria Bustillos, October 26, 2011, The Awl

Bustillos looks critically at Google Books, Amazon eBooks, and the traditional publishing industry while discussing the current status of copyright protection in the United States. Very interesting and timely piece from one of my favorite Awl contributors! It's a little long for a blog article, but Bustillos writes pretty sentences. -jenny

Researchers Create A Mind-Controlled Super Limb

Neal Ungerleider, October 25, 2011, TPM

"During tests at the University of Pittsburgh, volunteers successfully controlled the prosthetic arm with their minds. Tim Hemmes, a quadriplegic injured seven years ago in a motorcycle accident, was able to move an arm for the first time in years."

Feds To Monitor Google’s Privacy Practices For Next 20 Years

Sarah Lai Stirland October 24, 2011, TPM

"The FTC's settlement with Google requires the company to inform and obtain its users' consent before it shares any of their information with third parties, and subjects the company to 20 years of privacy audits every two years by an independent third party monitoring service. The audits are meant to ensure that Google is living up to its promises about what it is doing with its users' personal information. The company is also required to implement a comprehensive 'privacy program.'"

Screen Time Higher Than Ever for Children

Tamar Lewin, October 25, 2011, The New York Times

"The study, by Common Sense Media, a San Francisco nonprofit group, is the first of its kind since apps became widespread, and the first to look at screen time from birth. It found that almost half the families with incomes above $75,000 had downloaded apps specifically for their young children, compared with one in eight of the families earning less than $30,000. More than a third of those low-income parents said they did not know what an “app” — short for application — was."

Combating the Facebook Index

Hemi H. Gandhi, October 24, 2011, The Harvard Crimson

"Intrigued by this paradox, I started asking my classmates “Why do you Facebook during class?” Answers were mixed, but generally a variant of the following responses. People say they go on Facebook under one of the following circumstances: A professor starts regurgitating exactly what they’ve read in the textbook; paying attention won’t clarify confusion; a professor starts on a random tangent that is neither interesting nor relevant; students need a break to re-focus; students feel pressed for time and decide to multitask."

Paging James Bond: Researchers Develop System That Wipes Data Based On Location

Sarah Lai Stirland, October 23, 2011, TPM

"A group of mobile computing researchers at Virginia Tech have come up with a way to completely wipe sensitive information from Android devices based on the person’s location. The researchers say that their system could be used under a variety of scenarios — from preventing hospital personnel from misusing patients’ sensitive personal information to people in the military who should not be carrying sensitive strategic information around with them."

A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute

Matt Richtel, October 22, 2011, The New York Times
Series: Grading the Digital School

"The chief technology officer of eBay sends his children to a nine-classroom school here. So do employees of Silicon Valley giants like Google, Apple, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard.

But the school’s chief teaching tools are anything but high-tech: pens and paper, knitting needles and, occasionally, mud. Not a computer to be found. No screens at all. They are not allowed in the classroom, and the school even frowns on their use at home."

Is my Facebook page a liberal echo chamber? After I defriended an old acquaintance, I had to wonder: Why have I grown so intolerant of any dissent?

Kim Brooks, October 21, Salon

"And the common thread in all of these instances was a feeling of shock, a profound bewilderment at one’s private space having been invaded by the political-cultural-socio-religious “other.” We block, we hide, we un-friend, we condemn. And in doing so we can all feel like we’re doing something."

"Information Is Cheap, Meaning Is Expensive"

George Dyson, 17.10.2011, The European

"The European: Is the internet increasing the innovative potential of mankind?
Dyson: It is very easy to be a pessimist: There is no good music anymore, no good art. But maybe we have to recognize that innovation is still happening, albeit in very different ways. We might feel that all that time people spend on Facebook is a great loss for the creativity of the human species, but maybe that is not true."

With Siri, Apple Could Eventually Build a Real AI

John Stokes, Oct. 17, 2011, Wired Cloudline

Apple's new iPhone 4S's greatest selling point is Siri, a voice interface that has a bit of an attitude. Is Sire merely data, algorithms, or the beginning of intelligence?

You Are What You Meme: What Maru the cat says about us.

Sam Leith, Saturday, Oct. 15, 2011, Slate

"The success of these memes prompts certain questions. Not least, what’s wrong with us? But also, what do they tell us about our relationships with each other? And what is it that makes certain memes catch fire?"

RSA Debate: Humanity 2.0

"How will we ascribe status to human life in a ‘post-human’ world? Should we take post-humanism seriously? If so, how do we define and value our humanity in the face of a future that will only otherwise confer advantage on the few? As we re-engineer the human body, and even human genome, are we attempting to realize dreams that hitherto have been largely pursued as social-engineering projects or are we doing something new?"

Military robots offer protective solution for troops

Tom Vanden Brook and Gregg Zoroya, USA TODAY

"The military is sending 650 of the small robots, called Recon Scouts, to Afghanistan at a cost of about $13.4 million. Some have already arrived."

IBM Projects It Will Have World’s Most Powerful Supercomputer in Two Years, Artificial Human Brain in 10

Carl Franzen October 5, 2011, TPM Idea Lab

"But now, IBM is working with DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, on a 'cognitive computer' that would simulate the same number of neurons as the human brain, upwards of 100 billion, and would run on much less energy than WATSON. They expect to have the feat completed in 10 years time."

Technology Loop

This is a clip from Portlandia, a very important show.

The University of Wherever

Bill Keller, October 3, 2011, The New York Times, Op-Ed

"Meanwhile, one of Stanford’s most inventive professors, Sebastian Thrun, is making an alternative claim on the future. Thrun, a German-born and largely self-taught expert in robotics, is famous for leading the team that built Google’s self-driving car. He is offering his 'Introduction to Artificial Intelligence' course online and free of charge. His remote students will get the same lectures as students paying $50,000 a year, the same assignments, the same exams and, if they pass, a 'statement of accomplishment' (though not Stanford credit). When The Times wrote about this last month, 58,000 students had signed up for the course. After the article, enrollment leapt to 130,000, from across the globe."

You Love Your iPhone. Literally.

Martin Lindstrom, September 30, 2011, The New York Times, Op-Ed

"This past summer, I gathered a group of 20 babies between the ages of 14 and 20 months. I handed each one a BlackBerry. No sooner had the babies grasped the phones than they swiped their little fingers across the screens as if they were iPhones, seemingly expecting the screens to come to life. It appears that a whole new generation is being primed to navigate the world of electronics in a ritualized, Apple-approved way."

Scientists create cyborg rat with artificial cerebellum

Eric W. Dolan, September 27th, 2011, The Raw Story

"Researchers at the Tel Aviv University in Israel successfully wired a functional computer chip to a rat's brain."

Robots Steal Your Job?

You're highly educated. You make a lot of money. You should still be afraid.
Farhad Manjoo, Sept. 26, 2011, Slate

"At this moment, there's someone training for your job. He may not be as smart as you are—in fact, he could be quite stupid—but what he lacks in intelligence he makes up for in drive, reliability, consistency, and price. He's willing to work for longer hours, and he's capable of doing better work, at a much lower wage. He doesn't ask for health or retirement benefits, he doesn't take sick days, and he doesn't goof off when he's on the clock."

Proton-based transistor could let machines communicate with living things

Hannah Hickey, September 20, 2011
"Materials scientists at the University of Washington have built a novel transistor that uses protons, creating a key piece for devices that can communicate directly with living things. The study is published online this week in the interdisciplinary journal Nature Communications.

Devices that connect with the human body’s processes are being explored for biological sensing or for prosthetics, but they typically communicate using electrons, which are negatively charged particles, rather than protons, which are positively charged hydrogen atoms, or ions, which are atoms with positive or negative charge."

Not Sharing Is Caring

Facebook's terrible plan to get us to share everything we do on the Web
Farhad Manjoo, Sept. 22, 2011, Slate

"My problem with 'frictionless sharing' is much more basic: Facebook is killing taste."

Source: Facebook To Launch Read, Listened, Watched, And Want Buttons

Leena Rao, TechCrunch

"Facebook is planning for ways to surface personal content better. And we’ve heard from a source that Facebook will introduce new buttons on the wall that will begin introducing some granularity to the 'Like' concept. We’re told these new buttons are 'Read,' 'Listened' 'Watched.' The network will also soon launch new social commerce buttons like 'Want' following the introductions of the aforementioned buttons."

In Small Towns, Gossip Moves to the Web, and Turns Vicious

A. G. Sulzberger, September 19, New York Times

"But of late, more people in this hardscrabble town of 5,000 have shifted from sharing the latest news and rumors over eggs and coffee to the Mountain Grove Forum on a social media Web site called Topix, where they write and read startlingly negative posts, all cloaked in anonymity, about one another."

Michael Wesch

Wesch, "… a cultural anthropologist exploring the effects of new media on society and culture", has produced numerous videos that may serve as inspiration as you perform your Study. For example: An anthropological introduction to YouTube

Protect Our Right to Anonymity

Jeffrey Rosen, New York Times, Op-Ed

"The case, United States v. Jones, concerns a GPS device that the police, without a valid warrant, placed on the car of a suspected drug dealer in Washington, D.C. The police then tracked his movements for a month and used the information to convict him of conspiracy to sell cocaine. The question before the court is whether this violated the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures of our 'persons, houses, papers, and effects.'"

Debating Extreme Human Enhancement

(This conversation is part of a Future Tense, a partnership between Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State.)

"Critically for our purposes, the human being is more and more becoming a design space… [T]his is not new. But the rate of change and concomitant (and mainly still potential) psychological, cultural, and social dislocations are. So in some ways transhumanism is not, as we'd like to frame it, about us; it's about reality as we know it becoming our design space—including, and especially, that part of reality that we have heretofore ring-fenced as 'human.'"

The Local-Global Flip, or, "The Lanier Effect"

A Conversation with Jaron Lanier [8.29.11]
How the Internet is destroying the middle class
Artist and theorist Jaron Lanier argues that high-tech "innovations" are making us poorer and less ambitious
Matt Zoller Seitz, August 31, Salon
"Apropos of nothing except the subject's brilliance, I strongly urge you to read this truly epic interview with Jaron Lanier at Edge. It's about, well, pretty much everything that affects you day-to-day — the decline and death of the middle class, the awesome utility of the Internet as a means to spread hate, superstition and lies, the dicey relationship between humans and machines, the reduced expectations of the younger generations."

The Leaky Nature of Online Privacy

Network analysis can uncover your personal details even if you choose to hide them.
Kevin Gold, August 30, 2011, Slate
"It's clear at this point that anybody can take a photo of you and post it on the Internet; once it's there, it is nearly impossible to remove all copies. But increasingly, pattern recognition software has made it possible to learn about someone not based on what he has shared about himself but by examining what his friends have made public."

Beloit Mindset List for the Class of 2015

Each year, Beloit College produces a Mindset List for the incoming freshmen class. Check out the characteristics that supposedly define this year's class, and also take a look at what they have to say about each freshmen class from 2002 onwards.

Body and Soul

Virginia Hughes, August 25, 2011, The Last Word On Nothing
"For the sake of this blog post, let’s consider a more realistic scenario: that in 10 or 20 or 50 years, we will have built a pre-conscious robot that responds to its surroundings, feels pain and pleasure, and has a primitive sense of self. Because these bots will inevitably be used for all of the nasty things we don’t like to do — fight in war zones, clean the house, pump gas — is it time to start thinking about how to protect them from us?"

GPS and the End of the Road

Ari Shulman, The New Atlantis
"Digital mapping and GPS are just the beginning of a much larger revolution in technologies designed to facilitate our interactions with places and travel between them. But it is astounding how quickly these technologies have changed one of the most basic aspects of our existence: the way we move through the world. When driving down the highway, you can now expect to see, in a sizable portion of the cars around you, GPS screens glowing on dashboards and windshields. What these devices promise, like the opening of the Western frontier, and like the automobile and the open road, is a greater freedom — although the freedom promised by GPS is of a very strange new sort."

Can a computer ever give good book recommendations?

The latest and most ambitious attempt to turn literary taste into an algorithm
Laura Miller, August 24, 2011, Salon

Who's Afraid of Digital Natives? Let's not get intimidated by kids and their Internet savvy.

Annie Murphy Paul, August 22, 2011, Slate
"Davidson's youth worship, though extreme, is common these days among those who write about technology and society. Individuals born after the dawn of the Internet are not the same as you and me, goes the now-familiar refrain. As a result of their lifelong immersion in electronic media, young people's brains are 'wired differently,' and they require different schools, different workplaces, and different social arrangements from the ones we have."

The Kids Are Not All Right

Joel Bakan, August 21, 2011, The New York Times
"When I sit with my two teenagers, and they are a million miles away, absorbed by the titillating roil of online social life, the addictive pull of video games and virtual worlds, as they stare endlessly at video clips and digital pictures of themselves and their friends, it feels like something is wrong."

Our kids' glorious new age of distraction

Thomas Rogers, August 11, 2011, Salon
"Younger generations, she [Davidson, see above] argues, don't just think about technology more casually, they're actually wired to respond to it in a different manner than we are, and it's up to us — and our education system — to catch up to them."

A prime aim of the growing Surveillance State

Glenn Greenwald, August 19, 2011, Salon
"There have literally been so many efforts over the past several years to heighten surveillance powers and other means of control over the Internet that it's very difficult to chronicle them all."

Why libraries still matter

Critics say they're obsolete, but New York's main branch is a reminder of what the Internet can never do
Laura Miller, May 11, 2011, Salon

"The anniversary of the NYPL's main building is an occasion to talk about why the library needs to be a place as well as an ethereal mass of data residing somewhere in 'the cloud.' Not everything we need or want to know about the world can be transmitted via a screen, and not every experience can be digitized"

Should Teaching Be Outsourced?

Inside Higher Education

"What should a college do if the best instructor is elsewhere? Many colleges take pride in recruiting such talent, for either a semester or a career. But when a college contracts out teaching to talent at another entity, is it good educational policy or the kind of outsourcing of which many professors are dubious?"

Apple, Google Collect User Data

Julia Angwin and Jennifer Valentino-Devries, The Wall Street Journal

"Apple Inc.'s iPhones and Google Inc.'s Android smartphones regularly transmit their locations back to Apple and Google, respectively, according to data and documents analyzed by The Wall Street Journal—intensifying concerns over privacy and the widening trade in personal data.

Google and Apple are gathering location information as part of their race to build massive databases capable of pinpointing people's locations via their cellphones. These databases could help them tap the $2.9 billion market for location-based services—expected to rise to $8.3 billion in 2014, according to research firm Gartner Inc"

See also "Apple's secret location tracker: An 'ominous development'"

Wave of the Future: Trusted Identities In Cyberspace

Dan Rowinski, April 20, 2011, The New York Times

"The National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) will be a department within the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) that will work with the private sector to give Internet users a secure identity. The idea is to create an 'Identity Ecosystem' - 'an online environment where individuals and organizations will be able to trust each other because they follow agreed upon standards to obtain and authenticate their digital identities,' according to the report." (See also ReadWriteWeb)

How Facebook Sells Your Most Intimate Moments

Ryan Tate, April 19, 2011, Gawker

"Facebook's surplus of intimate moments—and its willingness to target ads in those moments—appear to be staggeringly profitable: An article released today by the MIT Technology Review, which was granted access to Facebook ad executives, says that, after earning an estimated $4 billion in annual revenue, Facebook is 'just getting started' creating 'an entirely new way to advertise.'"

Lester Bangs' Basement: What it means to have all music instantly available.

Bill Wyman, April 19, 2011, Slate

"Lester Bangs, the late, great early-rock critic, once said he dreamed of having a basement with every album ever released in it. That's a fantasy shared by many music fans—and, mutatis mutandi, film buffs as well. We all know the Internet has made available a lot of things that were previously hard to get. Recently, though, there are indications of something even more enticing, almost paradisiacal, something that might have made Bangs put down the cough syrup and sit up straight: that almost everything is available."

Big Swing: Robot Sportswriter Outperforms Human


"Okay, so it's not really a robot. It's actually a software program. You feed it data, it processes that data, and it spits out a news story putting those numbers you gave it into context — just like you'd see in your local newspaper."

Counter: Stop Saying the Robot Out-wrote A Reporter John Zhu
"The only problem is that the person out-written by the software program is not, and doesn’t even claim to be, a journalist. Instead, the human-produced piece in this case is a press release on the official George Washington athletics website — in other words, a PR piece."

When we all fought over the phone: My kids don't understand that clunky receivers and old-fashioned TVs were once a kind of glue that kept us together

Katherine Greider, April 17, 2011, Salon

"When I was a child, my family watched TV, listened to records, and talked on the phone only in fixed locations inside our own home, at more or less circumscribed times. All Americans did. Now, without a second thought, we're uncoupling these enjoyments from domestic life in a shift that may turn out to be as momentous as when Americans evicted childbirth and death from their homes in the early twentieth century."

Harry Potter and the network of neutrality

Michael Winship, April 15, 2011, Salon

"None of these efforts would have been possible without a thriving networked culture and a free and open Internet. But it's not for nothing that while the National Conference on Media Reform was just getting underway in Boston, the Republican House of Representatives, in the midst of all the government shutdown melodrama, voted 240-179 (six Democrats voted with the GOP) to nullify the FCC's Net neutrality rules protecting access to the Internet. As USA Today columnist Rhonda Abrams wrote on Friday, 'It was a pure 'David versus Goliath' bill, and the House voted to protect Goliath.'"

How to Fix (0r Kill) Web Data About You

Riva Richmond, April 13, 2011, The New York Times

"Snoops who take the time to troll further online may also find in blog posts or Facebook comments evidence of your political views, health challenges, office tribulations and party indiscretions, any of which could hurt your chances of admission to school, getting or keeping a job or landing a date. Many privacy experts worry that companies will use this data against users, perhaps to deny insurance coverage or assign a higher interest rate on a loan."

Do Computers Cost Too Little? The surprisingly complicated economic debate about how much, exactly, our technology is worth to us.

Annie Lowrey, April 13, 2011, Slate

"Imagine that you stumbled downstairs this morning to find a masked burglar clutching not the silverware or the jewelry but your laptop. This unusual criminal said he did not want to steal your computer but wanted to kidnap it. He would return it if you would bargain with him, determining how much you would pay in ransom, per year, for the privilege of having it in your home."

Mark Zuckerberg Invented Facebook Get over it.

Farhad Manjoo, April 13, 2011, Slate

"I suspect we're mainly interested in how Facebook got started because we want to know whom to credit for coming up with a brilliant idea. In America, we root for the guy with the great idea over the guy who didn't sleep for a year making it happen. If Zuckerberg really did come up with the idea for a campuswide social network, he deserves all the billions that are coming to him. But if he stole the idea, why should he profit from something that someone else thought up first?"

Miss G.: A Case of Internet Addiction

Virginia Heffernan, April 11, 2011, The New York Times

"She then described a typical surfing session: 'I’ll be on Facebook and see a status update of song lyrics, and I’ll Google them and find the band name, that I will subsequently Wikipedia and discover that the lead singer is interesting and briefly look at his Twitter and try his music on Grooveshark' — a music search engine and streaming service — 'while looking at pictures of him on Tumblr' — the multimedia microblogging platform — 'that will lead me to a meme I’ve never heard of that I’ll explore until I find hilarious photos I will subsequently share with friends of mine on Facebook.' Gabriela, who sometimes dresses in the futuristic Victoriana known as steampunk, also loves Webcomics, a site for graphic novels and comic books, and Neopets, a game that lets players care for virtual pets."

No More Privacy Paranoia Want Web companies to stop using our personal data? Be ready to suffer the consequences.

Farhad Manjoo, April 7, 2011, Slate

"I know I sound naïve, but bear with me. Yes, Google collects a lot of information about all of us. It does so on purpose, and for all sorts of reasons. Some of these reasons we don't like very much—Google, like all big Web companies, sells ads, and it can get more money for those ads when they're targeted to you. This practice pays for the Web, and it's the reason you don't pay a fee to conduct a Google search. Still, I understand why people are wary of online data collection. Too often, though, our conversations about online privacy end right here."

Where Are the Women in Wikipedia?

A The New York Times Online Debate

"Wikipedia, the 'free encyclopedia that anyone can edit,' has more than 3.5 million articles in English covering nearly every subject under the sun. Every day, hundreds of thousands of people go there to add information or create new pages (the site offers straightforward instructions). Yet despite the site's openness, surveys suggest that less than 15 percent of Wikipedia's contributors are women. The Wikipedia Foundation has set a goal to raise the share of female contributors to 25 percent by 2015. What accounts for this imbalance? Is there something about Wikipedia's format and purpose that attracts more male contributors (other sites like Flickr and Yelp do not appear to have this gender gap)? Are there ways to alter this gap?"

Can Young Students Learn From Online Classes?

A The New York Times Online Debate

"School administrators say online courses in K-12 classrooms can give students the skills they'll need in college and the workplace. Indeed, the presence of online courses in primary and secondary schools is a growing trend across the country. Critics, however, say the interest in such courses is driven by a desire to spend less on teachers, especially when budget crises are forcing deep cuts in education. Given that middle school and high school students are easily distracted, can they really learn and benefit from online classes?"

Twaffic: Will Twitter—and tweets about traffic—change the way we drive?

"Given Twitter's particular genius for broadcasting micro-narratives of no particular consequence (Will that friend of yours get on that next flight to Spokane? Oh, will that grocery line ever budge?), it's little surprise that conversation about traffic—the liturgy of complaints, the minor revelations, the rare piece of useful information, the grinding banality of it all, or even the joy of not being in it—is such a staple of the site."

Is Facebook a Fad? What social networks will look like in five years.

Farhad Manjoo, March 31, 2011, Slate

"Let me go out on a limb and declare that Facebook isn't going to go away anytime soon. The site is more entrenched than just about any other technology we use. It's easy to go to a new search engine—just type Bing instead of Google—and there's nothing stopping you from switching your brand of computer or cellphone. You can't switch over to a new social network, though, unless your friends do so as well."

The e-book that launched a thousand flame wars

A self-published author takes on a critic — and becomes a cautionary tale
Drew Grant, March 29, 2011, Salon

"Every year, hundreds of thousands of books are put out by independent presses that let you pay to publish your own story. And with the popularity of the iPad and Kindle, these would-be authors can bypass the cost of printing entirely, making your writing-to-publishing process a one-step deal. That may have been one step too few for British author Jacqueline Howett, whose book went out into the world before it was copyedited — and full of typos."

I Don't Want To Be a Superhero: Ditching reality for a game isn't as fun as it sounds.

Heather Chaplin, March 29, 2011, Slate

"In a gamified world, corporations don't have to reward us for our business by offering better service or lower prices. Rather, they can just set up a game structure that makes us feel as if we're being rewarded. McGonigal goes even further. She talks about an 'engagement economy … that works by motivating and rewarding participants with intrinsic rewards, and not more lucrative compensation.' This economy doesn't rely on cash—rather, it pays participants with points, peer recognition, and their names on leader boards. It's hard to tell if this is fairy-tale thinking or an evil plot."

Wall of Sound: The iPod has changed the way we listen to music. And the way we respond to it.

Nikil Saval, March 28, 2011, Slate

"The first to ring the alarm about the omnipresence of recorded music were classical music snobs who, as part of their contracted duties as university professors, had to spend time on college campuses. 'This is being written in a study in a college of one of the great American universities," wrote George Steiner in 1974. "The walls are throbbing gently to the beat of music coming from one near and several more distant amplifiers. The walls quiver to the ear or to the touch roughly eighteen hours per day, sometimes twenty-four.'"

Betrayed by our own data

Mobile phones are tracking devices that reveal much about our lives. One look at our interactive map of data provided by the Green party politician Malte Spitz shows why.
Zeit Online

"This profile reveals when Spitz walked down the street, when he took a train, when he was in an airplane. It shows where he was in the cities he visited. It shows when he worked and when he slept, when he could be reached by phone and when was unavailable. It shows when he preferred to talk on his phone and when he preferred to send a text message. It shows which beer gardens he liked to visit in his free time. All in all, it reveals an entire life."

A Digital Library Better Than Google's

Robert Darnton, March 23, 2011, New York Times

"On Tuesday, Denny Chin, a federal judge in Manhattan, rejected the settlement between Google, which aims to digitize every book ever published, and a group of authors and publishers who had sued the company for copyright infringement. This decision is a victory for the public good, preventing one company from monopolizing access to our common cultural heritage."

No Sharing Allowed: Amazon and book publishers' stupid attempts to curtail e-book lending.

Farhad Manjoo, March 22, 2011, Slate

" … [B]ook publishers are pushing Amazon to limit e-book lending. That seems plausible. Publishers have long been wary of letting people share digital content. Indeed, they demanded the right to disable sharing for any book in the Kindle or Barnes & Noble Nook stores. Publishers haven't been shy to take advantage of that right. By my count, just three of the top 10 books in Amazon's Kindle store (as of Tuesday morning) are lendable. Things get worse when you move to the more expensive books on the New York Times bestseller list. Not a single one of the top 10 books on the Times' hardcover fiction list is lendable, and just one of the top 10 books on the nonfiction list can be loaned out …"

The Gadgets of Your Dreams: Introducing a series on how technology will change over the next decade.

Farhad Manjoo, March 14, 2011, Slate

"As tech users, we've all seen massive changes over short periods of time. For the next few weeks, I'll be writing a series of articles on the next wave of transformations—the trends that will affect our lives over the next five or 10 years. I'm going to look beyond this year's phones, tablets, and Web sites to ask—and try to answer—deep questions about tomorrow's tech. What will mobile computers look like in 2016? What's the coolest gadget you'll have in your house? Will we finally get home entertainment systems that don't require an advanced degree to operate? What frustrating tech problems will still have gone unsolved?

This will be an interactive series: I want you to come along with me—revealing your wish lists, sharing your opinions, challenging my assertions—as I peek into the future. Let's start here: As you look forward to the next decade in tech, what are you most excited about? And what's the most annoying tech problem you're hoping will get solved? Let me know in the comments below, and we'll get to your thoughts over the next few weeks."

  • Tablets for All! by Farhad Manjoo, Slate
    • Jeff Benjamin: "Convergence is the way things are shaping up as far as functionality. A few years back, I had a PDA, a phone, an MP3 player, a GPS, and a laptop. Now, my smartphone does just about everything all those devices did, in one small package that fits in my pocket. I can even use spreadsheets on my phone, albeit not very well. So I don't think function (work vs. games) is a particularly useful split—I both work and play on all my devices … Smarter devices and software will let you carry just one gadget (perhaps with a small accessory like a keyboard or headset) and use it to work or play however you want: plug it into a larger monitor or a keyboard, use the touchpad, use Swype-like text entry, use a mouse, etc."

Top 10 e-paper technologies in the next 20 years

Chris Jablonski, February 9, 2011, ZDNet

"Over the next two decades, conventional print and static information displays will slip into the electronic realm as breakthroughs in e-paper technologies unfold. Today’s portable touchscreen devices and e-readers like the Kindle and Nook are paving the way for next-gen e-devices with magazine-quality color, viewable in bright sunlight, but requiring low power. They’ll also be durable, flexible, and even contain video."

An Accelerated Grimace: On Cyber-Utopianism

Chris Lehmann, March 2, 2011, The Nation

"What's common to these parables of the information marketplace is a vision of an uncoerced social order within the reach of any suitably wired and enterprising soul inclined to donate a microsliver of that unfathomably huge surplus of time to crowdsourced tasks. This being the general drift of our social destiny, Shirky waves away the old-school leftist critique of crowdsourced content as 'digital sharecropping' as so much 'professional jealousy—clearly professional media makers are upset about competition from amateurs.' Such critics are also guilty of a category error, because 'amateurs’ motivations differ from those of professionals.' What if the dispensers of free user-generated content 'aren’t workers?' Shirky asks. 'What if they really are contributors, quite specifically intending their contributions to be acts of sharing rather than production? What if their labors are labors of love?'"

Armies of Expensive Lawyers, Replaced by Cheaper Software

John Markoff, March 4, 2011, The New York Times

"'From a legal staffing viewpoint, it means that a lot of people who used to be allocated to conduct document review are no longer able to be billed out,' said Bill Herr, who as a lawyer at a major chemical company used to muster auditoriums of lawyers to read documents for weeks on end. 'People get bored, people get headaches. Computers don’t.'"

You vs. the Computer

"Computers mimic human reasoning by building on simple rules and statistical averages. Test your strategy against the computer in this rock-paper-scissors game illustrating basic artificial intelligence. Choose from two different modes: novice, where the computer learns to play from scratch, and veteran, where the computer pits over 200,000 rounds of previous experience against you."

"The Most Human Human": Can computers truly think?

What one man learned about his humanity by competing with artificial intelligence
Laura Miller, February 27 2011, Salon

"The computer has also radically altered our species' efforts to define itself in opposition to the not-human. For most of history, philosophers have ruminated on what differentiates us from animals. Some, like Descartes, identified the essence of humanity in the capacity for higher reason and abstract thought. But computers have cleaned our clocks in the realms of logic, mathematics and information storage and retrieval, all disciplines once considered the hallmarks of a uniquely human mind. Cue another of Christian's digressions on chess-playing computers, devices that eventually succeeded at beating the best humans in a game that aficionados once celebrated as a form of art."

Blogs Wane as the Young Drift to Sites Like Twitter

Verne G. Kopytoff, February 20 2011, The New York Times

"Blogs were once the outlet of choice for people who wanted to express themselves online. But with the rise of sites like Facebook and Twitter, they are losing their allure for many people — particularly the younger generation … Former bloggers said they were too busy to write lengthy posts and were uninspired by a lack of readers. Others said they had no interest in creating a blog because social networking did a good enough job keeping them in touch with friends and family."

Book Lovers Fear Dim Future for Notes in the Margins

Dirk Johnson, February 20 2011, The New York Times

"'People will always find a way to annotate electronically,' said G. Thomas Tanselle, a former vice president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and an adjunct professor of English at Columbia University. 'But there is the question of how it is going to be preserved. And that is a problem now facing collections libraries.'"

The Digital Lives of Babies

Lee Siegel, February 18, 2011, The New York Times

"A recent study published by AVG, an Internet security company, found that 92 percent of American children have an online presence by the time they are 2. One third of mothers in the United States said that they had posted pictures of their newborns online, and 34 percent of American mothers had posted sonograms of their babies in the womb. According to the AVG study, American mothers are more likely to post pictures of their children online than mothers in any other country."

Lady Gaga's 'Born This Way' Plagiarism Sin

Richard Rushfield, The Daily Beast

On Wednesday (2/16), we discussed sampling (the Vanilla Ice controversy) and the perils and promises of appropriating creative expression and existing texts in the digital age. A more contemporary example can be found with Lady Gaga: "…[W]hat brought her to the top of this zeitgeist pyramid were her unrivaled skills in the post-modern art of pastiche. She patched together bits of Madonna, David Bowie, Grace Jones, Laurie Anderson with performance art, '70s avant-garde, Wiemar Berlin—the list goes on and endlessly on. To her fans, such vigorous borrowing is an art form in itself; juxtaposing various found objects was a commentary about the transient nature of artistic reality. The more she took, the more celebrated she became."

How the Internet gets inside us

Adam Gopnik, February 14, 2011, The New Yorker

"All three kinds appear among the new books about the Internet: call them the Never-Betters, the Better-Nevers, and the Ever-Wasers. The Never-Betters believe that we’re on the brink of a new utopia, where information will be free and democratic, news will be made from the bottom up, love will reign, and cookies will bake themselves. The Better-Nevers think that we would have been better off if the whole thing had never happened, that the world that is coming to an end is superior to the one that is taking its place, and that, at a minimum, books and magazines create private space for minds in ways that twenty-second bursts of information don’t. The Ever-Wasers insist that at any moment in modernity something like this is going on, and that a new way of organizing data and connecting users is always thrilling to some and chilling to others—that something like this is going on is exactly what makes it a modern moment. One’s hopes rest with the Never-Betters; one’s head with the Ever-Wasers; and one’s heart? Well, twenty or so books in, one’s heart tends to move toward the Better-Nevers, and then bounce back toward someplace that looks more like home."

My Puny Human Brain

Jeopardy! genius Ken Jennings on what it's like to play against a supercomputer.
Ken Jennings, February 16, 2011, Slate
"IBM has bragged to the media that Watson's question-answering skills are good for more than annoying Alex Trebek. The company sees a future in which fields like medical diagnosis, business analytics, and tech support are automated by question-answering software like Watson. Just as factory jobs were eliminated in the 20th century by new assembly-line robots, Brad and I were the first knowledge-industry workers put out of work by the new generation of 'thinking' machines. 'Quiz show contestant' may be the first job made redundant by Watson, but I'm sure it won't be the last."

"For his Final Jeopardy answer (which he got correct), Jennings added a personal message: 'I for one welcome our new computer overlords.'"

"Jeopardy" confirms our darkest technology fears

The show's three-day tournament of trivia is really about our relationship to machines
Mary Elizabeth Williams, February 15, 2011, Salon
"The idea of man-against-machine competition is a source of constant fascination, one in which the dark fear that we could be bested by our creations always lurks right underneath the surface. Everybody may love GPS, but nobody wants to wind up in the Matrix. And as technology leaps forward at an increasingly breathless pace, the possibility of our obsolescence starts to seem less like science fiction and more like straight up science."

The Tablet Age Is Upon Us

Computers are getting smaller, more portable, and more connected than ever. Here's the bad news.
Farhad Manjoo, February 14, 2011, Slate
" … [T]hese developments show that mobile operating systems are sweeping the computer business. Every big tech company will now focus on phones and tablets as its next big source of revenue while PCs will take up an ever-smaller share of the pie. This shift isn't entirely surprising."

Web of Popularity, Achieved by Bullying

Tara Parker-Pope, February 14, 2011, The New York Times
" …[N]ew research suggests that the road to high school popularity can be treacherous, and that students near the top of the social hierarchy are often both perpetrators and victims of aggressive behavior involving their peers."

The Dirty Little Secrets of Search

David Segal, February 12, 2011, The New York Times
"'I think we need to make a distinction between two different kinds of searches — informational and commercial,' he said. 'If you search 'cancer,' that’s an informational search and on those, Google is amazing. But in commercial searches, Google’s results are really polluted. My own personal experience says that the guy with the biggest S.E.O. budget always ranks the highest.'"

The Computer Made Me Do It

Review, William Saletan, February 11, 2011, The New York Times
"Humanity is migrating to cyberspace. In the past five years, Americans have doubled the hours they spend online, exceeding their television time and more than tripling the time they spend reading newspapers or magazines. Most now play computer or video games regularly, about 13 hours a week on average. By age 21, the average young American has spent at least three times as many hours playing virtual games as reading. It took humankind eight years to spend 100 million hours building Wikipedia. We now spend at least 200 million hours a week playing World of Warcraft."

Diagnosing the Digital Revolution

Why it's so hard to tell whether it's really changing us.
Alison Gopnik, February 7, 2011, Slate
"But other changes that seemed equally profound at the time have turned out, in retrospect, to be minor. The radio was an improvement on the telegraph but it didn't have the same exponential, transformative effect. How do we know when and how changing your technology will change your life?"

Twitter Can’t Save You

Lee Siegel, February 4, 2011, The New York Times
"As Evgeny Morozov demonstrates in The Net Delusion, his brilliant and courageous book, the Internet’s contradictions and confusions are just becoming visible through the fading mist of Internet euphoria. Morozov is interested in the Internet’s political ramifications. 'What if the liberating potential of the Internet also contains the seeds of depoliticization and thus dedemocratization?' he asks. The Net delusion of his title is just that. Contrary to the 'cyberutopians,' as he calls them, who consider the Internet a powerful tool of political emancipation, Morozov convincingly argues that, in freedom’s name, the Internet more often than not constricts or even abolishes freedom."

The Myth of Government Neutrality

The subtle, obscure, and legalistic ways the government regulates the Internet.
Bruce Gottlieb, February 1, 2011, Slate
"Government has always played a significant role in how we communicate. This happens through economic regulation—communications law, antitrust enforcement, intellectual property, and even public education and the postal service."

Spotlight Again Falls on Web Tools and Change

Scott Shane, January 29, 2011, The New York Times
"Fear is the dictator’s traditional tool for keeping the people in check. But by cutting off Egypt’s Internet and wireless service late last week in the face of huge street protests, President Hosni Mubarak betrayed his own fear — that Facebook, Twitter, laptops and smartphones could empower his opponents, expose his weakness to the world and topple his regime."

"Block Like an Egyptian: How did the Egyptian government turn off the Internet?"

Christopher Beam, January 28, 2011, Slate
"As protesters take to the streets in Egypt, the government has reportedly shut down the Internet. How does that work? Does Egypt's Internet have an on/off switch?"

The Anti-Social Network

By helping other people look happy, Facebook is making us sad.
Libby Copeland, January 26, 2011, Slate

Social networking under fresh attack as tide of cyber-scepticism sweeps US

Twitter and Facebook don't connect people – they isolate them from reality, say a rising number of academics
Paul Harris,, 22 January 2011

How Video Games Can Make Us Heroes

Michael Agger, January 24, 2011, Slate
"The real world is uninspiring and dull in contrast. We rarely have the chance to feel heroic when working at our jobs or going about our daily business. 'We are starving, and our games our feeding us,'" McGonigal writes.

When my kids unplugged

Susan Maushart, January 22, 2011, Salon
"At ages fourteen, fifteen and eighteen, my daughters and my son don't use media. They inhabit media. And they do so exactly as a fish inhabits a pond. Gracefully. Unblinkingly. And utterly without consciousness or curiosity as to how they got there." See also The Winter of Our Disconnect

Music by Numbers

Virginia Heffernan, December 3, 2010, The New York Times Magazine
"… Pandora reduces a human pastime around which people design their whole emotional lives — chess, music — to a set of flow charts. Just the idea of that hurts a little. Kasparov named the feeling exactly. There is a spiritual exhaustion that descends when what is traditionally an experience with another mind (a musician, a chess player, a conductor, a D.J.) turns out to be an encounter with a machine. This dissonance is a sci-fi set piece. It’s a meeting with a Cylon — creepy, enfeebling."

Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted

Malcolm Gladwell, October 4, 2010, The New Yorker
"Shirky considers this model of activism an upgrade. But it is simply a form of organizing which favors the weak-tie connections that give us access to information over the strong-tie connections that help us persevere in the face of danger. It shifts our energies from organizations that promote strategic and disciplined activity and toward those which promote resilience and adaptability. It makes it easier for activists to express themselves, and harder for that expression to have any impact. The instruments of social media are well suited to making the existing social order more efficient. They are not a natural enemy of the status quo. If you are of the opinion that all the world needs is a little buffing around the edges, this should not trouble you. But if you think that there are still lunch counters out there that need integrating it ought to give you pause."

Gladwell's piece caused a bit of a stir. In reply …

What Malcolm Gladwell Missed About Online Organizing and Creating Big Change

by Ben Brandzel
"Gladwell examines the grassroots tactics that have historically triggered major political change, and the organizing structures that made these tactics possible. He concludes that online organizing has no role in facilitating comparable activism today. 'The instruments of social media are well suited to making the existing social order more efficient,' Gladwell writes. As he argues, all Internet-enabled activism only 'makes it easier for activists to express themselves, and harder for that expression to have any impact.'"

Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction

By Matt Richtel
"On the eve of a pivotal academic year in Vishal Singh’s life, he faces a stark choice on his bedroom desk: book or computer?"

Long Live the Web: A Call for Continued Open Standards and Neutrality

By Tim Berners-Lee
"The Web as we know it, however, is being threatened in different ways. Some of its most successful inhabitants have begun to chip away at its principles. Large social-networking sites are walling off information posted by their users from the rest of the Web. Wireless Internet providers are being tempted to slow traffic to sites with which they have not made deals. Governments—totalitarian and democratic alike—are monitoring people’s online habits, endangering important human rights."

Brains Like To Keep It Real

Text and images may be king on the Internet, but people in a position to buy seem to prefer the real thing
Catherine Clabby
"Experiments by neuroeconomist Antonio Rangel and his colleagues suggest that the old pop song chorus — 'Ain’t nothing like the real thing, baby'— might have it right"

Little Brother is Watching

"In George Orwell’s 1984, that novel of totalitarian politics whose great mistake was to emphasize the villainy of society’s masters while playing down the mischief of the masses, the goal of communications technology was brutal and direct: to ensure the dominance of the state. The sinister 'elescreens' placed in people’s homes spewed propaganda and conducted surveillance, keeping the population passive and the leadership firmly in control. In the face of constant monitoring, all people could do was sterilize their behavior, conceal their thoughts and carry on like model citizens." — Walter Kirn, The New York Times Magazine.

Robot Teaches Himself to Shoot Bow and Arrow

Wanted to share. Read the article, it goes along with some of the things we were talking about in class.

Film Version of Zuckerberg Divides Generations

David Carr
"'When you talk to people afterward, it was as if they were seeing two different films,' said Scott Rudin, one of the producers. 'The older audiences see Zuckerberg as a tragic figure who comes out of the film with less of himself than when he went in, while young people see him as completely enhanced, a rock star, who did what he needed to do to protect the thing that he had created.'"

Heard Any Good Books Lately, Zelda?

Charles McGrath
(As we have talked in class about print culture and reading aloud …)
"A MAN sits down at a gray metal desk one morning and tries to boot up a computer from the Flintstone age, one with a screen that looks like an old cathode-ray TV set. Nothing happens, so he pulls out a paperback and begins to read aloud. The book is 'The Great Gatsby,' but this guy apparently skipped 10th-grade English when it was assigned. He reads slowly, haltingly, stumbling over pronunciations, getting the emphasis all wrong."

Does the Digital Classroom Enfeeble the Mind?

Jaron Lanier
"So we face a quandary: How do we use the technologies of computation, statistics and networking to shed light — without killing the magic? This is more than a practical question. It goes to the heart of what we are after as humans"

Learning by Playing

"And as the clock wound down and the students hollered and the steam radiator in the corner let out another long hiss, Doyle's little blue self rounded a final corner, waited out a passing robot and charged into the goal at the end of the maze with less than two seconds to spare. This caused a microriot in the classroom. Cheers erupted. Fists pumped. A few kids lay back on the floor as if knocked out by the drama. Several made notes on their graph paper. Doyle leaned back in his chair. Had he taught anything? Had they learned anything? It depended, really, on how you wanted to think about teaching and learning." — Sara Corbett

Print vs. Digital

The trouble with Google Books
"Nunberg, a linguist interested in how word usage changes over time, noticed "endemic" errors in Google Books, especially when it comes to publication dates. A search for books published before 1950 and containing the word "Internet" turned up the unlikely bounty of 527 results. Woody Allen is mentioned in 325 books ostensibly published before he was born."

Social Media Blackout

"On Monday, information technology officials at Harrisburg will block access to those popular social media tools from computers using the campus network. They will also disable the wiki and chat features in the university’s Moodle-based learning management system. The barriers will remain in place for one week. Students, who will be asked to write essays reflecting on their time in social-media exile, will not be the only ones affected. Faculty and staff will also be unable to visit the sites — at least not through the campus network."

Nicholas Carr Podcast

IT Conversations posted a podcast interview of Nicholas Carr author of What the Internet is doing to our Brains. Check it out for a sneak peak at the book before it's actually time to read it!

Know Your Meme

For those of you who do not know the ugly underbelly of the Internet, this site should prove very useful. "Know Your Meme" does "scientific" research to understand the effect memes (savvy Internet jokes that have become popular) has on the rest of web users, their origin, and does a basic analysis of meme culture. Standing Cat continues to consider the significance of cats on the Internet. Check it out for a good laugh and educate yourself on Internet culture.

Facebook Tragedies and Social Media Implications

Hello all. I found this article today relating to the murder of three teenagers in Colombia. Big deal right? Colombia is filled with gangs and drug lords. This case is particularly interesting though because the teens were part of a kill list along with 66 other people. I'm sure you all heard earlier this year the sad story of Phoebe Prince, an Irish student who had recently moved to America, being bullied at school and on Facebook to the point that she committed suicide. Does this reflect a change in users of Facebook or society as a whole? Should we try to implement new social norms on social networks to prevent/report such abuses? And if so, should we take any/every seemingly cruel or snarky comment as serious? The way we use social media and how we view its benefits is forever changing and this could have negative connotations for Facebook (similar to how it did for MySpace). This is particularly true for young, naive users. We then need to consider whether or not to put an age limit (again) on social networking sites. Feel free to respond to this post with your thoughts and comments on this issue. I'd love to hear what you guys have to say on the issue.

Could There Be an End to Facebook?

Doubtful, but a couple of kids from NYU are releasing a pretty good competitor (or so it seems) on September 15. Diaspora is an open source site that should make it easier to control content sharing. For those of you who don't know, an open source website enables you to host your own domain (like Wordpress). What's most likely going to happen is Diaspora will form into what could be termed "cliques" - people will branch off into their own social networks based on things they like/what benefits they expect to receive from a social network.

Facebook Suicide

If you ever get tired of being a part of the world of Web 2.0 pull a Stan Marsh and go to Suicide Machine to commit virtual suicide.

Stone Knives

I made reference in Thursday's class to my cell phone as a "stone knife" and confessed a Star Trek reference. And so: "'Stone knives and bearskins' was a colorful term employed by Spock to describe the 1930s technology he was forced to use to construct a tricorder interface. Vital information was locked within Spock's tricorder: How had Leonard McCoy changed history? Spock was eventually able to construct an appropriate circuit, but retrieved two separate recordings: one in which Edith Keeler lived, and one in which she died. At that point, the improvised interface erupted in sparks and flame, ruining his chance to learn which of the recordings represented McCoy's alteration, and which the correct timeline. (TOS: 'The City on the Edge of Forever')"

Getting Stupid Counterpoint

An interesting counter-argument to the notion that the Internet is making us stupid (see Carr above) — "Mind Over Mass Media" by Steven Pinker: "PowerPoint, we’re told, is reducing discourse to bullet points. Search engines lower our intelligence, encouraging us to skim on the surface of knowledge rather than dive to its depths. Twitter is shrinking our attention spans … But such panics often fail basic reality checks."

The Anonymity Catch

WARNING - A lot of the content in this post may be disturbing/obscene to some of you, so just be aware.

I'm sure that by this stage of life you all know the Internet is both a magical and frightening place. What was once a beacon for free speech has now become a place where you have to censor yourself (as evident by the way we all obsess over red cups in Facebook photos). One place that Internet users could go to without being censored was 4chan. (WARNING - Content is explicit and obscene. DO NOT LOOK AT THIS IN CLASS!) 4chan is an anonymous posting site that originally began as a place for lovers of Japanese anime and manga to mingle and discuss/post photos. The BBC recently posted an article that gives a good overview of the site and reveals some opinions of the site and its users. Be sure to listen to the interview with "moot" as well.

Back to the point - the anonymity of 4chan caused what began as an innocent forum to expand to a haven for the Internet's basest of users and those with an edgy sense of humor. It is the start of many of the internet's most popular memes (lolcats and RickRolling). It also, however, is the cause of some of the Internet's cruel jokes (linking Justin Beiber YouTube videos to porn) that can affect children. As a result 4chan has been the target of a lot of scrutiny most recently with their attacks on the Cat Bin Lady and a Croatian girl throwing puppies in a river. For Cat Bin Lady, 4chan users uncovered her identity and prank called her and sent death threats. The puppy killer's identity is still unknown, but 4chan is on the hunt. Is 4chan then a hero or a villain? They appear to be the torch of justice against animal abusers (check out Mashable and MSNBC) in these instances, but they still troll the Internet constantly wreaking havoc. But is it really havoc or just an exercising of free speech? Well obviously it's free speech because people are saying more or less whatever they feel without repercussions because their identity is concealed, but at the same time isn't it cowardly to hide behind the ambiguous "Anonymous?" I do not know, and even if I did would my opinion really matter? That's what is so fun about the Internet, and to that extent, 4chan. No one's opinion really matter because there are so many. The only time opinions really matter are when you let them. Same with content. Sure 4chan is obscene, but if you go to the website it's your choice and no one elses. In that sense, you have to censor the content you absorb, which happens to anyone who reads online newspapers (my guess is the majority of you just skim the headlines, much like myself).

"Anonymous" is both a blessing and a curse to the Internet. Anonymous can put things in a new light or be as offensive and racist as they please. It's like digging for gold only to find that most of what you're getting is loose rock. Again this is for your consideration. My main question to all of you at the end of this is "Is Anonymous the last saving grace for true free speech, and if so what is the good, the bad, and the ugly that it will bring forth as a result?"

Editing Reality published an article (more like an opinion/blog piece) about editing reality. We see it all the time on reality TV - even the notorious Jersey Shore is edited to the extreme. This can be used with regards to our online identity as well. Remember that photo of you with a Chicken-Biskit box? Probably don't want to, but the Internet does and based on search results, it might be the only thing anyone else remembers about you too. Search engines edit the persona we portray on the Internet. Google (at least from my perspective since they are the largest search engine in the world) is the key to this. Every thing you do on the Internet can be traced back to you. It is this fear of being able to delete, and hide our dirty laundry that is unnerving and causes us to be proactive and attempt to edit ourselves. The problem with this is that you have that friend who doesn't care or is unaware of the social stigma associated with publishing online content that is damning. So that friend of yours who puts that picture of you with the Chicken-Biskit box has tainted your online image. I've had friends that have done that and had to tell them to take them down, but it's already out there! This happens to everyone (except maybe the Pope) and we have to remember that we can't control our image on the Internet. I'm of the opinion that it doesn't matter what image you have on the Internet. Everyone will have damaging photos, comments, opinions floating around and at some point this society that tells us what's right and wrong will begin to accept that everyone does something stupid and in the digital era it's inevitable it will be captured and published. Well…that's my take on it. What's yours? Will it all just become part of our culture - making mistakes, having them out there, and moving past them? or will we continue to fight the red cups and try to control the inevitable editing of our image?

Spam and Hackers

Well, you guys may have thought I forgot about you, but I have not. I've just been a little busy. Anyway, today at work I stumbled upon an article that widened my eyes a bit at just how vulnerable we are online.

Harvard University's website was hacked by spammers. Yep. Their website showed that they were selling generic Cialis. We know this obviously is not true. No reputable institution would sell questionable drugs to consumers, but still, the account was compromised.

The author of the article says that we need to stop relying solely on algorithms and start relying more on people because there is nothing like the human touch. Humans are better at filtering out spam than our mechanized counterparts. Do you guys agree? Are humans really better and therefore in an essence smarter (that's my interpretation at least, please feel free to disagree) than the algorithms? I can't help but think of Google and the trust we put into it. I rely on Google for most everything - my email, my calendar, my searches -Everything! Who doesn't? But should we be trusting it so much, knowing that it too is vulnerable to attack. I mean, the Chinese are desperately seeking a way to destroy the online behemoth through hacking. I just had to use it then to find out how to spell "behemoth." It's even a verb! Here is an example, "I Googled the spelling of behemoth." I love/hate my own pessimism at times, but these are things to keep in mind. There is the chance that the way we use the Internet and the level of trust we put in it will change if it hasn't already.

Eric Kambach: E.M. Forster's "The Machine Stops"

I first read this in Shoshana Knapp's Topics in Speculative Fiction class a year ago.