When most people think of Internet surveillance, they imagine government bureaucrats monitoring their emails and Google searches. In a March 2014 study, MIT professor Catherine Tucker and privacy advocate Alex Marthews analyzed data from Google Trends across 282 search terms rated for their “privacy-sensitivity.” The terms included “Islam”, “national security”, “Occupy”, “police brutality”, “protest”, and “revolution.” After Edward Snowden’s leaks about NSA surveillance, Tucker and Marthews found, the frequency of these sensitive search terms declined—suggesting that Internet users have become less likely to explore “search terms that they [believe] might get them in trouble with the U.S. government.” The study also found that people have become less likely to search “embarrassing” topics such as “AIDS”, “alcoholics anonymous,” “coming out,” “depression,” “feminism,” “gender reassignment,” “herpes,” and “suicide”—while concerns over these more personal terms could have as much to do with startling Google ads, the notable decrease observed in the study suggests the increased awareness of surveillance led to a degree of self-censorship.
In other words, people are doing their best to blend in with the crowd.
Barbecues, mainly. And this is part of it. Calling the dogs in, all limbs and sinew, the vermicular homebound patterns they weave in the scorch of the grass. The glint of the grill in the sun’s fire ellipse, its entirety as it bends toward hyphenate unyielding horizon. I like to soak the mesquite chips for at least half an hour. Then there’s the marinade for the brisket, or the dry rub, the laying on of hands. A replication of primeval violence. In your fingertips the harm of generations, the wish to make right, the failure to cleanse and absturge. Raw matter. Chile ancho, dried chipotles, paprika and salt, pulverized plant and rock, the sad spice and crumble of the earth’s red crust. I put the beef in a plastic bag for two hours before my guests come.
As my MegaBus (25 quid, bought the night before) sank into the darkness of Calais, I realised that I never, ever want to be an islander. The world is bigger than that, even if you hate flying. Britain is a great country, but alone, it’ll drift away into the Atlantic. In getting lost in Europe, I rediscovered my own dream of a continent, and in doing it by coach, I was reminded that this is a place people still take great risks to be a part of. I saw the sadness in the eyes of those yanked off by border control, and elation in others when Reina Sofia, or the Eiffel Tower, or Westminster Bridge, eased into view. These are the people who want to be part of this continent, and they probably deserve to be. Much more than the miserable fucks who’d be happier living above a Nag’s Head in the Falklands or some other egg ‘n’ chips stalag state.
What did I learn? That coaches are cheap, service stations are shit everywhere and the dream of Europe is still out there. You just have to be willing to find it.
“Nor do the young trust the institutions or people they live with. Research by the Pew Research Centre, a think-tank, finds that just 19% of “millennials” in America agree that “generally speaking, most people can be trusted.” For the baby-boomer generation, the equivalent figure is 40%. Some 22% of French 15- to 24-year-olds say that they believe society’s problems can only be fixed by revolutionary action, up from just 7% of the same age group in 1990. In many countries young people are bothering less and less to vote at elections. Instead, notes Costas Lapavitsas, a political scientist at the University of London, it is older people who are leading populist political movements such as the National Front in France or the Tea Party in America. Young people, he despairs, seem to have swallowed what he calls “neoliberalism”. Faced with economic crisis, they prefer to put their heads down and push through, rather than try to find collective solutions.”—The staid young: Oh! You pretty things | The Economist
“The universal scope of the camera and the saturation of our lives with the photos we take also means that ‘taking pictures’ is now no more meaningful a term than ‘writing’. Hence Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook or WhatsApp photo sharing are no more all ‘photos’ than Word, Indesign, Wordpress and twitter are all ‘text’. Photos are no longer a category.”—Imaging — Benedict Evans
“Have you ever played Maximum Happy Imagination?”
“Sounds like a Japanese game show.”
Kat straightens her shoulders. “Okay, we’re going to play. To start, imagine the future. The good future. No nuclear bombs. Pretend you’re a science fiction writer.”
Okay: “World government… no cancer… hover-boards.”
“Go further. What’s the good future after that?”
“Spaceships. Party on Mars.”
“Star Trek. Transporters. You can go anywhere.”
“I pause a moment, then realize: “I can’t.”
Kat shakes her head. “It’s really hard. And that’s, what, a thousand years? What comes after that? What could possibly come after that? Imagination runs out. But it makes sense, right? We probably just imagine things based on what we already know, and we run out of analogies in the thirty-first century.”
“Egon Ronay announced late in life that the gastropub was now to Britain what the bistro had long been to France: a place of reliable cooking to be found across the country. The argument may be seriously flawed given the French bistro is now about as reliable as a 1972 Austin Princess, but it’s certainly true that gastropub food has codified. Just as the French bistro is likely to have a menu of frisée and lardon salad, steak frites and apple tart, so the British gastropub will offer a terrine, risotto and something involving beetroot and goat’s cheese to start; a sea bass dish, pork belly and rib eye for mains; and a chocolate fondant, crème brûlée and lemon tart to finish.”—The Parkers Arms: restaurant review | Jay Rayner | Life and style | The Observer
“The last line of intellectual defense within the generally fucked world of fad nutrition, from gluten-free to antioxidant-rich, is that, even if the science doesn’t validate the fad’s claims and even if the anecdotes fall apart under scrutiny, the given fad has to be at least better than eating “normally.” It might not be a health miracle but, hey, it’s something, right? Part of that line of reasoning is the mistaken belief, pushed enthusiastically by “natural” foods marketers and the ever-growing army of nutrition would-be experts, that the common diet is bereft of nutrients and healthfulness generally.”—Fad Nutrition Gives Consumers a Fake Sense of Health | Motherboard
Incredibly, a “new type of rock cobbled together from plastic, volcanic rock, beach sand, seashells, and corals has begun forming on the shores of Hawaii,” Science reports.
This new rock type, referred to as a “plastiglomerate,” requires a significant heat-source in order to form, as plastiglomerates are, in effect, nothing but molten lumps of plastic mixed-in with ambient detritus. Hawaii with its coastal and marine volcanoes, offers a near-perfect formational landscape for this artificially inflected geology to emerge—however, Patricia Corcoran, one of the discoverers of these uncanny rocks, thinks we’ll likely find them “on coastlines across the world. Plastiglomerate is likely well distributed, it’s just never been noticed before now, she says.”
Westerners misrepresent Dubai as tacky. This is wounded pride. Dubai is Versailles, not Vegas. It is frozen money. At night, when even the palms twinkle, the city has a heart-soaring grandeur. It looks like the sound of Daisy Buchanan’s voice.
Dubai’s skyscrapers are our era’s pyramids. Slaves built the original pyramids, but tourists visit just the same.
The current mythology of big data is that with more data comes greater accuracy and truth. This epistemological position is so seductive that many industries, from advertising to automobile manufacturing, are repositioning themselves for massive data gathering. The myth and the tools, as Donna Haraway once observed, mutually constitute each other, and the instruments of data gathering and analysis, too, act as agents that shape the social world. Bruno Latour put it this way: “Change the instruments, and you will change the entire social theory that goes with them.” The turn to big data is a political and cultural turn, and we are just beginning to see its scope.
But what do you do when you realize that all that data is not enough? From the Boston bombings to Malaysian Airlines flight 370, we know that data black holes exist. Even when there were direct tip-offs about the Tsarnaevs, the data didn’t set off the right red flags. These moments demonstrate why the epistemic big-data ambition — to collect it all — is both never-ending and deeply flawed. The bigger the data gets, the more small things can be overlooked. The risk of being seduced by ghost patterns in data increases with the size of the data sets. Meanwhile, two brothers carry bomb-laden backpacks to a marathon finish line, and a Boeing 777 disappears.
What we didn’t anticipate was how giving up ownership sells the community instead.
Building an online community is like throwing a big party. You build the house, decorate it, and send out some invites. But it’s the people that show up that make it special.
When you sell the house, you’re not just selling a house. You’re selling everyone inside.
We now know that online communities have a very difficult time surviving that transition. For years, YouTube was the rare exception, but even they’ve had trouble in the last couple years as Google tried to cram Plus down everyone’s collective throats.