MonthJanuary 2014

Mindful Cyborgs: Globalization, Writing and Japan

A quick catch-up episode in which Chris Dancy talks about his trip to Japan and the effects of globalization, and I talk a bit about the cognitive experience of writing. Here’s a taste:

One of them being this writer Arnon Grünberg who I think has actually might have been on Wired. I’m not sure. No. Where was it? Actually, it was New York Times. He is writing a book while he is connected to a bunch of sensors hundreds of sensors on his head, on his body and the book will be read by people wearing similar sensor. So, they have a bunch of volunteers to see if they can sync the feelings of what he wrote and what people experienced and I thought quite profound that we have almost a shared biological experience with the writing.

It was on November 29th. So, just couple of weeks ago in New York Times. Thoughts?

KF: That’s really interesting. I’d be curious to see what they find. I find the writing and reading are radically different experiences for me. So, I wouldn’t really expect the writer and the reader to really have synchronized experiences but I’m definitely curious to see how that plays out.

CD: I’ve never written fiction. So, if you’re like typing out a scene, I’m sure a lot of our listeners maybe aren’t writers, maybe some of them aren’t writers, professional, but when you’re doing science fiction and you’re in a really dramatic scene, you don’t get excited or you’re just seeing it and typing how it feels almost like you’re a court recorder or how does that work for you?

KF: Well, for me most of it . . . every writer’s different. I guess for me most of it is I already know what I’m going to write before I start typing it. So, by the time I’m trying to describe it, I think I’m a little bit more detached from the emotion of it and then the other thing to keep in mind is that. I don’t know what the saying is “75% of writing is rewriting” or whatever. Most of the time that you spend you spend on something is going to be revising it over and over again. So, I don’t know by the time you’re done, a lot of the visceral or emotional impact that you would expect to get from reading something is kind of worn off and you’re just sort of sick of reading the same sentence over and over again trying to figure out how to improve it.

CD: That’s really interesting.

KF: There are writers who don’t really know . . . I know that there are definitely a lot of writers who don’t really know what’s going to happen in a scene when they sit down and write it. I imagine that that would be kind of a different . . . they would be working in a very different state from me but I would still expect most of their time to be spent on rewriting and I would also expect . . . I would still expect like that feeling of sort of channeling creativity to be different from just reading it but again we’ll have to see how it plays out.

Download and Full Transcript Mindful Cyborgs: Episode 19 – Review, Musings, and Catch Up

Open Source, 3D Printable Brain Scanner, Brought to You by DARPA

Open BCI, an Open Source, 3D Printable Brain Scanner

My colleague Bob McMillan reports:

Conor Russomanno and Joel Murphy have a dream: They want to create an open-source brain scanner that you can print out at home, strap onto your head, and hook straight into your brainwaves.

This past week, they printed their first headset prototype on a 3-D printer, and WIRED has the first photos.

Bootstrapped with a little funding help from DARPA — the research arm of the Department of Defense — the device is known as OpenBCI . It includes sensors and a mini-computer that plugs into sensors on a black skull-grabbing piece of plastic called the “Spider Claw 3000,” which you print out on a 3-D printer. Put it all together, and it operates as a low-cost electroencephalography (EEG) brainwave scanner that connects to your PC.

Full Story: Wired: These Guys Are Creating a Brain Scanner You Can Print Out at Home

On Race and Sexual Violence in the Works of Alan Moore

Let’s get something out of the way upfront: I don’t think Alan Moore is a racist, homophobe or misogynist. But some of his works — particularly League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Neonomicon — have issues. Although it might seem silly to go after Moore when there are much worse offenders both in comics and other media (not to mention actual rapists), Moore’s work is a good case study of how even the most well intentioned, progressive writers can screw-up matters of race, gender and sexuality. And because he is perhaps the most highly regarded writer in comics, there’s a trickle down effect from his work. Moore refuses to listen to his critics, but maybe other writers can learn from his mistakes.

Last week Pádraig Ó Méalóid published an interview with Alan Moore in which he asked a few questions about sexual assault in his comics in general and specifically about his inclusion of Golliwog in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier.

Moore’s response is long and vitriolic, and misses the point entirely.

I can understand why Moore is so bothered by accusations of racism and sexism. He’s an old hippie who has put more consideration to identity politics and representation into his work than most comic writers of his or any other generation. He’s taken other creators to task for their sexism and homophobia. But even though he’s written some strong women and minority characters, he can and does get it wrong sometimes, and his reaction here is disappointing — not least of all because of the rhetorical style he employs.

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Columbia Journalism Review Profile of Evgeny Morozov

The Columbia Journalism Review has a good profile of Evgeny Morozov. I had no idea that he was so young, or that he’d undergone a conversion a few years back:

He began writing about the political situation in Belarus for Transitions, a Prague-based NGO that encouraged the adoption of new media by independent journalists in the former Soviet bloc. In 2006, Transitions hired Morozov as its first director of new media, a job that had him traveling widely—at age 22—to train journalists and bloggers throughout Eastern Europe.

“Thinking that you are living through a revolution and hold the key to how it will unfold is, I confess, rather intoxicating,” Morozov would later write. Much of his work from this period is preserved, and it’s fascinating to watch a YouTube video from 2007 that shows a chubby kid holding forth in a thick accent about how digital media might transform the sclerotic and indecent politics of his region. Asked by a peppy interviewer what he sees as the “most innovative” development of recent years, the young Evgeny rattles off a list of possibilities that makes him sound a lot like the “cyber-utopians” he would soon make a career out of skewering. “Definitely crowdsourcing,” he says. “Definitely applying the logic of the open-source software movement to broader ideas, to broader processes.” Another video from the same conference shows him giving a buzzword-filled presentation called “Putting Community at the Core of Innovation in New Media.”

Here’s Morozov today, talking about the guy in that video: “I was 23 and in a room with people in their 40s and 50s, all of them editors and journalists, and I was talking some nonsense and they were all buying it. The degree to which both sides were unaware of just how stupid the entire setup was just makes you very scared.”

Full Story: The Columbia Journalism Review: Evgeny vs. the internet

I find Morozov really difficult for reasons I can’t quite explain. I think the big issue is that he’s so hyperbolic. It’s not enough to pick apart someone’s ideas, they need to be potrayed as not just wrong but as a dangerously stupid and/or fraudelent. But I think Morozov does this because, generally, the people and ideas he criticizes receive hyperbolic praise. He’s trying to counteract some of that. Still, the fire and brimstone routine doesn’t come off well in my opinion — especially given how moderate his opinions actually are as he reveals in his more sober moments.

See also:

My own confessions of a recovering solutionist

Evgeny Morozov: How the Net aids dictatorships

Compassionate Takedown of Pickup Artististry

ACLU, Insane Clown Posse File Lawsuit Challenging FBI Gang Designation

From a press release from the ACLU:

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, along with the Detroit music duo Insane Clown Posse (ICP), filed a federal lawsuit today on behalf of Juggalos, or fans of ICP, claiming that their constitutional rights to expression and association were violated when the U.S. government wrongly and arbitrarily classified the entire fan base as a “hybrid” criminal gang. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of four Juggalos and the two members of ICP.

“The Juggalos are fighting for the basic American right to freely express who they are, to gather and share their appreciation of music, and to discuss issues that are important to them without fear of being unfairly targeted and harassed by police,” said Michael J. Steinberg, ACLU of Michigan legal director. “Branding hundreds of thousands of music fans as gang members based on the acts of a few individuals defies logic and violates our most cherished of constitutional rights.”

Full Press Release ACLU, Insane Clown Posse File Lawsuit Challenging FBI Gang Designation

Previously:

Juggalos, media scares, and the West Memphis 3

The Military Gang Complex

Art Spiegelman Interview by Molly Crabapple

spiegelman-molly-crabapple

Molly Crabapple interviews Art Spiegelman, creator of Maus and the Garbage Pale Kids:

What do you think about comics as a medium for journalism?

I’m impressed by what’s been happening in it. Because of Photoshop we all know that photographs lie every second that they open up their mouths. You can’t really trust a photograph. It could have just as easily been a photoshopped collage. So, it’s probably more plausible to trust an artist. You get to feel whether you trust them or not.

The problem with it is that [comics are] slow. You can’t do what a video camera can do. A video camera is like a vacuum cleaner. You suck it in and then you spit it out on the night’s news; cutting for the most intense images. But the person holding the camera could never have really seen what he was seeing. And the person seeing it on the news has it as part of the barrage.

Artists tend to have to reveal more of themselves even when they try to be as scrupulous as Joe Sacco. http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2013/11/joe-sacco-the-great-war-interview.html It has a place insofar as concentrating on something has a place. We’re living in an ADD universe. The computer encourages that second-to-second dopamine rush as you go from click to click. What’s valuable about comics and print is they actually are a venue where you end up spending time.

Full Story: Vice: THE HORROR OF THE BLANK PAGE: A CONVERSATION WITH ART SPIEGELMAN

See also: The Future of Journalism Is … Comics?

The Daggers of Jorge Luis Borges

Ostensibly a review of Professor Borges: A Course on English Literature, this essay is a great overview of how Jorge Borges’ politics affected his work:

Throughout his life, Jorge Luis Borges was engaged in a dialogue with violence. Speaking to an interviewer about his childhood in what was then the outlying barrio of Palermo, in Buenos Aires, he said, “To call a man, or to think of him, as a coward—that was the last thing…the kind of thing he couldn’t stand.” According to his biographer, Edwin Williamson,1 Borges’s father handed him a dagger when he was a boy, with instructions to overcome his poor eyesight and “generally defeated” demeanor and let the boys who were bullying him know that he was a man.

Swords, daggers—weapons with a blade—retained a mysterious, talismanic significance for Borges, imbued with predetermined codes of conduct and honor. The short dagger had particular power, because it required the fighters to draw death close, in a final embrace. As a young man, in the 1920s, Borges prowled the obscure barrios of Buenos Aires, seeking the company of cuchilleros, knife fighters, who represented to him a form of authentic criollo nativism that he wished to know and absorb.

The criollos were the early Spanish settlers of the pampa, and their gaucho descendants. For at least a century now, the word has signified an ideal cultural purity that, according to its champions, was corrupted by the privatization of the pampa and, later, by the flood of immigrants from Italy and elsewhere in Europe that took place in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Borges spent much of his twenties attempting to write a full-length epic poem that would mythologize this “innumerable Buenos Aires of mine,” as he called it—a work that would, in Borges’s words again, “converse with the world and with the self, with God and with death.” He saw it as a way to reflect the city’s essence, as Joyce had done with Dublin, a way to establish a lasting cultural identity that Argentina did not yet possess in the world. His aim, in part, was to enshrine the urban descendent of the criollo, with his ubiquitous dagger and supposedly honorable outlaw ways. Eventually he would abandon the project—Borges was never able to conquer the long form; and though his cultural vision, as it later developed, would be much broader, the romance of the criollo would continue to animate his imagination. Some of his finest fiction—including the stories “The South,” “The Dead Man,” and “The Intruder,” to name just a few—was kindled by the dagger.

Full Story: The New York Review of Books: The Daggers of Jorge Luis Borges

My Short Story About Precarity and 3D Printed Drugs Now Available in Print

Membrane cover

Last month Dreadful Cafe published my first short story, “The Faraday Bag,” in their anthology Membrane. Now the print edition is out. Amazon is selling it for $22.50 right now.

Read an excerpt of my story here.

You can also still buy the DRM-free electronic edition from Dreadful Cafe for just $5, or buy it for the Nook or Kindle for $6.

Forget Mega-Corporations, Here’s The Mega-Network

blade-runner-skyline< I explain my concept of "mega-networks" over at TechCrunch:

We live in the age of cryptocurrency heists, Chinese moon landings, eco-disasters and electronic cigarettes. Sounds like something out of a cyberpunk novel.

Well, a cyberpunk novel without the brain implants, but don’t worry, those are coming, too. But one big cyberpunk theme that hasn’t come to pass is the rise of mega-corporations — those huge multinational conglomerates, like Robocop‘s OCP, that owned everything from baby food companies to police departments.

Corporations are arguably more powerful today than ever before. But the economy isn’t dominated by a handful of megalithic conglomerates. it consists of hundreds or thousands of smaller, more specialized firms. Our cyberpunk future-present is dominated instead by a new power structure: the mega-network.

Full Story: TechCrunch: Forget Mega-Corporations, Here’s The Mega-Network

See also: Mindful Cyborgs: The End of the Firm as We Know It

Physicists Fail to Find Time Travelers on Social Media

The Atlantic reports:

Robert Nemiroff and Teresa Wilson, two researchers at Michigan Technological University, thought they might. In a study released online last week, the two scoured Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and a few other websites to find “prescient information”—that is, tweets and statuses about current events posted before the events became current. The only way someone could write such a post, they reasoned, is if they were visiting… from the future. […]

The study, alas, turned up no time travelers. But that doesn’t quite mean anything. The authors admit that the study might have failed for many reasons: Time travelers might not have the ability to physically adjust the past; they might not have posted about the events the authors were looking for; they might have posted about the events but not turned up in a search. Time travelers might have also read the study or this news story about it, and been sure to making avoid any careless mistakes.

Full Story: The Atlantic: Can Physicists Find Time Travelers on Facebook?

You can also read the full paper, which hasn’t been peer reviewed yet, on Arxiv

(Thanks Skry!)

For more on the difficulties in using social media for academic research see my recent Wired piece on the lack of peer review of social data.

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