Resources

Stare Into The Lights My Pretties

“Facebook decides which killings we’re allowed to see”

Minutes after a police officer shot Philando Castile in Minnesota, United States, a live video was published on Facebook of the aftermath. Castile was captured in some harrowing detail and streamed to Facebook by his girlfriend Diamond Reynolds, using the live video tool on her smartphone. She narrates the footage with a contrasting mix of eerie calm and anguish. But the video was removed from Facebook due to, as company says, a “technical glitch.” The video has since been restored, but with a “Warning — Graphic Video,” disclaimer.

Now an article has come out commenting on how Facebook has become the “de-facto platform” for such “controversial” videos, and that there’s a pattern in these so called glitches–as they happen very often time after “questionable content” is streamed.

It has long been obvious to anyone paying attention that Facebook operates various nefarious controls over all aspects of how information is displayed and disseminated on their network, not just with advertising and the filter bubble:

“As Facebook continues to build out its Live video platform, the world’s most popular social network has become the de-facto choice for important, breaking, and controversial videos. Several times, Facebook has blocked political or newsworthy content only to later say that the removal was a “technical glitch” or an “error.” Nearly two-thirds of Americans get their news from social media, and two thirds of Facebook users say they use the site to get news. If Facebook is going to become the middleman that delivers the world’s most popular news events to the masses, technical glitches and erroneous content removals could be devastating to information dissemination efforts. More importantly, Facebook has become the self-appointed gatekeeper for what is acceptable content to show the public, which is an incredibly important and powerful position to be in. By censoring anything, Facebook has created the expectation that there are rules for using its platform (most would agree that some rules are necessary). But because the public relies on the website so much, Facebook’s rules and judgments have an outsized impact on public debate.”

Is the future of screen culture watching on fast-forward?

Make note of the screen culture symptoms: lack of linear narrative, increase in speed, shorter attention span, skimming, less engagement with content/meaning, “efficiency”, increase in scatterbrain, etc. Also, the descriptions about how this behaviour effects the perception of reality.

“I watch television and films in fast forward. This has become increasingly easy to do with computers (I’ll show you how) and the time savings are enormous. […] I started doing this years ago to make my life more efficient.

[…]

As I’ve come to consume all my television on my computer, I’ve developed other habits, too. I don’t watch linearly anymore; I often scrub back and forth to savor complex scenes or to skim over slow ones. In other words, I watch television like I read a book. I jump around. I re-read. Sometimes I speed up. Sometimes I slow down.

I confess these new viewing techniques have done something strange to my sense of reality. I can’t watch television in real-time anymore. Movie theaters feel suffocating. I need to be able to fast-forward and rewind and accelerate and slow down, to be able to parcel my attention where it’s needed.

[…]

We risk transforming, perhaps permanently, the ways in which our brains perceive people, time, space, emotion. And isn’t that marvelous?”

Infrared system to disable smartphone camera and video functions

Apple has been awarded a patent for a system that prohibits smartphone users from taking photos and videos inside music venues or movie theatres, etc.

“It outlines a system which would allow venues to use an infrared emitter to remotely disable the camera function on smartphones. According to the patent, infrared beams could be picked up by the camera, and interpreted by the smartphone as a command to block the user from taking any photos or videos of whatever they’re seeing. The patent also outlines ways that infrared blasters could actually improve someone’s experience at a venue. For example, the beams could be used to send information to museum-goers by pointing a smartphone camera at a blaster placed next to a piece of art.”

“The patent also raises questions about the sort of power that this technology would be handing over to people with more nefarious intentions. Its application might help police limit smartphone filming of acts of brutality, or help a government shut off filming in certain locations.”

The Outrage Machine

This short video explores how the online world has overwhelmingly become the popular outlet for public rage by briefly illustrating some of the many stories of everyday people which have suddenly become public enemy number one under the most misunderstood of circumstances and trivial narratives. With the web acting like a giant echo-chamber, amplifying false stories and feeding on the pent-up aggression of the audience watching the spectacle, The Outrage Machine shows how these systems froth the mob mentality into a hideous mess, as a good example of where the spectacle goes and how its intensity has to keep ratcheting up in order maintain the audience attention, in a culture of dwindling attention spans, distraction and triviality.

Filmmaker and author Jon Ronson also recently wrote a book about this topic too, which is quite good. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. His TED talk is essentially a 17 min overview:

And a longer presentation with interview and Q&A from earlier this year:

“My name is Siri. I really can’t wait until some other app controls your phone.”

Summary: Short article basically speaking to how culture is transmitted, with an underpinning comment about how ubiquitous technology trumps real life relationships, even in small ways, such as real-life people’s names.

“I’ve become slow to respond to my name in public spaces for fear I’ll turn and smile at a stranger scowling into their phone. In protest, I’ve never used the feature and forbade my parents from using it on their iPhones.

“OMG, Siri like the iPhone,” should be engraved on my tombstone.

At worst, people air their grievances against Apple to me.”

Put It in The Robot

Stare Into The Lights My Pretties

“From Uber To Eric Schmidt, Tech Is Closer To the US Government Than You’d Think”

“Alphabet’s [Google] executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, recently joined a Department of Defense advisory panel. Facebook recently hired a former director at the U.S. military’s research lab, Darpa. Uber employs Barack Obama’s former campaign manager David Plouffe and Amazon.com tapped his former spokesman Jay Carney. Google, Facebook, Uber and Apple collectively employ a couple of dozen former analysts for America’s spy agencies, who openly list their resumes on LinkedIn.

These connections are neither new nor secret. But the fact they are so accepted illustrates how tech’s leaders — even amid current fights over encryption and surveillance — are still seen as mostly U.S. firms that back up American values. Christopher Soghoian, a technologist with the American Civil Liberties Union, said low-level employees’ government connections matter less than leading executives’ ties to government. For instance, at least a dozen Google engineers have worked at the NSA, according to publicly available records on LinkedIn. And, this being Silicon Valley, not everyone who worked for a spy agency advertises that on LinkedIn. Soghoian, a vocal critic of mass surveillance, said Google hiring an ex-hacker for the NSA to work on security doesn’t really bother him. “But Eric Schmidt having a close relationship with the White House does…”

Why movie trailers now begin with five-second ads for themselves

Emphasis added.

“Jason Bourne takes off his jacket, punches a man unconscious, looks forlornly off camera, and then a title card appears. The ad — five seconds of action — is a teaser for the full Jason Bourne trailer (video), which immediately follows the teaser. In fact, the micro-teaser and trailer are actually part of the same video, the former being an intro for the latter. The trend is the latest example of metahype, a marketing technique in which brands promote their advertisements as if they’re cultural events unto themselves.

[…]

“Last year, the studio advertised the teaser for Ant-Man with a ten-second cut of the footage reduced to an imperceptive scale. […] But where previous metahype promoted key dates in a marketing campaign—like official trailer releases and fan celebrations—the burgeoning trend of teasers within trailers exist purely to retain the viewer’s attention in that exact moment. The teaser within the trailer speaks to a moment in which we have so many distractions and choices that marketers must sell us on giving a trailer three minutes of our time. This practice isn’t limited to movie trailers, though. Next time you’re on Facebook, pay attention to how the popular videos in your newsfeed are edited. Is the most interesting image the first thing you see? And does that trick get you to stop scrolling and watch?”

“New website lets anyone spy on Tinder users”

“Tinder isn’t as private as many of its users think, and a new website which aims to exploit that is causing concern among users of the dating app.

“Swipebuster” promises to let Tinder users find out whether people they know have an account on the dating app, and even stalk them down to their last known location.

The website charges $4.99 (£3.50) to let someone see whether the target is using Tinder, and can narrow down results by first name, age, gender and location.

But it doesn’t do so by hacking into Tinder, or even by “scraping” the app manually. Instead, it searches the database using Tinder’s official API, which is intended for use by third-party developers who want to write software that plugs in with the site. All the information that it can reveal is considered public by the company, and revealed through the API with few safeguards.

Although the site seems targeted at those who want to catch cheating partners on the app, its developer says he had a different motivation in mind, telling Vanity Fair that he wanted to highlight oversharing online.

“There is too much data about people that people themselves don’t know is available,” the anonymous developer said. “Not only are people oversharing and putting out a lot of information about themselves, but companies are also not doing enough to let people know they’re doing it.”

But the argument that Swipebuster is made to highlight privacy breaches on Tinder’s part seems questionable when one looks at the website itself. Under a headline reading “Find out if they’re using Tinder for only $4.99”, the site says nothing about privacy or expectations thereof, instead offering only a walkthrough for users who want to pay for its services. An animated gif showing the process ends with an image of the supposed target superimposed with the word “Busted”.

“How entitled children are making their parents’ lives hell”

“Sons are smashing windows, furious they’re asked to stop playing computer games. Doors are hanging off hinges having been slammed so hard in a fit of pique. Teenagers are holding knives to their mother’s throat, or threatening to kill themselves.

This is the pointy end of entitlement, the defining characteristic of this generation of children.

[…]

Mental health issues predicted

Kids who grow up insulated from difficulty and disappointment are also likely to struggle in adulthood if they don’t get into their first preference for uni, miss out on a job, or are dumped by the love of their life.”

Stare Into The Lights My Pretties

Google Glass user treated for internet addiction caused by the device

Thanks to Antonietta for the link.

“Scientists have treated a man they believe to be the first patient with internet addiction disorder brought on by overuse of Google Glass.

The man had been using the technology for around 18 hours a day – removing it only to sleep and wash – and complained of feeling irritable and argumentative without the device. In the two months since he bought the device, he had also begun experiencing his dreams as if viewed through the device’s small grey window.

The existence of internet addiction disorder linked to conventional devices such as phones and PCs is hotly debated among psychiatrists. It was not included as a clinical diagnosis in the 2013 update to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the official reference guide to the field, and many researchers maintain that its effects are merely symptoms of other psychological problems.

But Dr Andrew Doan, head of addictions and resilience research at the US navy’s Substance Abuse and Recovery Programme (Sarp) and co-author of the paper on the patient, published in the journal Addictive Behaviours, says people are clearly suffering from problems related to internet addiction, and it is only a matter of time before the research and treatments catch up.

“People used to believe alcoholism wasn’t a problem – they blamed the person or the people around them,” Doan said. “It’s just going to take a while for us to realise that this is real.”

The patient – a 31-year-old US navy serviceman – had checked into the Sarp in September 2013 for alcoholism treatment. The facility requires patients to steer clear of addictive behaviours for 35 days – no alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes – but it also takes away all electronic devices.

Doctors noticed the patient repeatedly tapped his right temple with his index finger. He said the movement was an involuntary mimic of the motion regularly used to switch on the heads-up display on his Google Glass.

He said he was “going through withdrawal from his Google Glass”, Doan explained, adding: “He said the Google Glass withdrawal was greater than the alcohol withdrawal he was experiencing.”

He said the patient used Google Glass to improve his performance at work, where he was able to quicken his job of making inventories of convoy vehicles for the navy.

By the time the patient checked into the facility, he was suffering from involuntary movements, cravings, memory problems and dreaming as if he was wearing the glasses. When he was not wearing them he felt irritable and argumentative …”

Stare Into The Lights My Pretties

Another surveillance app for parents

“When Matthew Whisker picks his children up from their north shore childcare centre he doesn’t automatically have to ask how their day went – he already knows.

The Neutral Bay father has an app which alerts him to the daily activities and achievements of his children Harry, 11 months, and Lulu, five, almost immediately via his smart phone.

The app is being trialled in three Sydney centres operated by Only About Children, with plans to roll it out more widely later this year. Victoria’s Woodland Education has developed a similar app which also alerts parents to the real-time minutiae and milestones of their children’s lives, including what they had for lunch and if they soiled their nappies.

But experts have questioned whether young children need to have their lives documented in such detail and how it might affect normal interactions between parents, kids and carers.

Only About Children’s chief operations officer, Kathryn Hutchins, said the group, which has 31 centres in NSW, Victoria and Queensland, developed the app in response to parental demand.

‘‘We want to capture the moments working parents may want to see but don’t have the opportunity to because they are at work,’’ she said. ‘‘For example, if your child is just learning to walk, there will be a photo that shows that activity.’’

Educators carry a small handset tablet, photographing the children and writing short descriptions of what they are doing before uploading the content. The parent then gets a push notification, alerting them to the status update.”

Addiction by Design

Natasha Dow Schull, Cultural Anthropologist from MIT talking on addiction and slot machines.