Media

Media

Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet

Today, I submitted a comment on the FCC website concerning proceeding 14-28, Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet.

I wrote

To the extent that the FCC is accepting comments on Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet via the Internet itself, it would seem that the Internet is a core part of our democratic process that should be protected against discrimination or allowing one group of persons perferred access above and beyond another group of persons. As such, it seems obvious that the Internet must be considered a common carrier and any efforts to give one group of persons perferred access such as faster delivery of packets, is determinental to our democracy.

For more information about submitting comments, see How To Tell The FCC Exactly What You Think About The Proposed Net Neutrality Rule.

The FCC has extended the filing deadline since the amount of comments they were receiving crashed their website.

Diversity of Stories

Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit. Another busy, rocky month comes to an end and we roll full force into summer mode. Last night, I stopped at the town pool to swim laps. So far this summer, I’ve swum over five miles in the town pool. On the way home, I stopped at the library and picked up a collection of short stories by Chimamanda Adichie. I mentioned her in my previous post.

She gave a TED Talk, The danger of a single story about misconceptions that can arise from hearing a single story, or single type of story. While she focused on literature, it just as easily apply to any medium. Perhaps the simplest example is the warped view people get from a diet of one cable talk news show or another. To some, this is old news as people promote studies showing that viewers of specific cable news channels are more misinformed than others.

Other’s criticize older institutions of journalism that tell us telling us “That’s the way it is” and that they print “all the news that’s fit to print”. That’s the way it is, from a particular cultural framework, it’s all the news that a certain set of editors embedded in their cultural constructs found was fit to print.

Yesterday, Google News and Facebook, using their algorithms to find things I’d be most interested in, showed me stories about the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision. Being interested in media, I’ve often looked at how different outlets select what stories get covered and none of this is new.

Thirty two years ago, I went to the big anti-nuclear rally in Central Park. Afterwards, I walked home to my apartment in Little Italy. In my mind, the rally was the top news story of the day. Then, I walked past a hearse outside of an East Village funeral home, with the hearse outside and the family mourning. For them, there was much bigger news.

With this in mind, I read one of Chimamanda Adichie’s short stories last night. It was about a young woman whose brother was arrested. This morning, I glanced at the headlines in Global Voices.

One of the stories that repeatedly showed up on my computer yesterday was about Facebook manipulating news feeds to study the effects on users’ emotions. It appears to have been completely legal, within the terms of service, but people question the ethics. Most of this has been around the ideas of tests on human subjects, something that is done more and more online. Yet it ties back to the larger story of how information is selected for us to view.

Recently, on Facebook, a friend posted a card which said something like, “Being creative is like having 2847 tabs open in your browser 24/7”. I had just written about closing tabs in my browser, and strongly related to this. A friend shared a link he had written a few years ago about this, The Great Media Garbage Patch.

Content is King—for a day. But eventually it takes its place among the flotsam and jetsam. Today’s treasure is tomorrow’s trash.

Kind of like Life…and Death. And new birth. The circle of life. Every new campaign (or book or poem or blog) is a challenge and a dare—to make a mark, however brief, in the face of unplanned obsolescence.

And so, another month begins. The big stories of last month are rapidly becoming the flotsam and jetsam of this month. Perhaps I’ll view this month from the vantage point of the town pool, mingled with thoughts of Nigerian short stories and see who Facebook shows this story to.

Little Brother

Recently, a friend posted on Facebook a link to Cory Doctorow’s post on BoingBoing, Why I'm sending 200 copies of Little Brother to a high-school in Pensacola, FL.

The principal of Booker T Washington High in Pensacola FL cancelled the school's One School/One Book summer reading program rather than letting all the kids go through with the previously approved assignment to read Little Brother, the bestselling young adult novel by Cory Doctorow. With Cory and Tor Books' help, the teachers are fighting back.

Before I learned that I’m supposed to be embarrassed to read young adult novels, I downloaded it for free.

At the top, Cory has “THE COPYRIGHT THING”. It is chock full of great quotes:

Universal access to human knowledge is in our grasp, for the first time in the history of the world. This is not a bad thing.

As to why he gives away his ebooks, he says,

For me -- for pretty much every writer -- the big problem isn't piracy, it's obscurity… I'm more interested in getting more of that wider audience into the tent than making sure that everyone who's in the tent bought a ticket to be there.

Well, I’m glad to help with that. Perhaps this blog post will encourage a few more people to check out Cory’s writing.

Yet the quote that has particularly jumped out at me is this:

If you're not making art with the intention of having it copied, you're not really making art for the twenty-first century.

Of course, I wonder what people who advocate not making art, just making something think about this final quote.

From Punch Cards to Cat Videos

“Do Not Fold, Bend, Mutilate or Spindle” The old phrase about computer punch cards in the sixties came to my mind Thursday as I attended OMMA Video as part of Internet Week in New York City. As experts talked about buying online video advertisements, based on increasingly sophisticated demographic information and programmatic buying, I had to wonder if the concern about being reduced to a number had far surpassed the greatest fears of those fifty years ago who protested the depersonalization that computers with their punch cards had brought.

Now, I understand the argument that improved targeting doesn’t depersonalize advertising, instead it makes it more specific, more personalized, but my mind drifts to the work of Martin Buber’s “I and Thou”. Increasingly, our interactions have become transactional. They are losing the personal touch, the “I and thou”, the chance for transformation.

Perhaps that is because everything is becoming more and more about the numbers. We focus on ROIs, KPIs and how all of this ultimately relates to our “net worth”. At one point, I tweeted, “The talk about data, measurement and automation makes me think of Wittgenstein: Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”

In contrast to all of this, the keynote speakers touched on something else, creativity. The first speaker, Mike Monello, CCO of Campfire, referenced Spreadable Media, Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture, by Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford, and Joshua Green. It sounds like I book I need to get.

Monello spoke about the reason people share content, to elevate their status, to define their community, and to strengthen bonds. It seems like this returns us closer to Buber. He spoke about putting the audience in the middle of the story, breaking down the fourth wall between the advertiser and the consumer and noted that people look for experiences, not content.

All of this comes to mind as I think about my campaign for State Representative. People are tired of politics, of the strategists that carefully run the numbers and craft messages to appeal to the largest demographic. I’ve been getting into discussions about this on Facebook recently.

For example, Whitney Hoffman, whom I met through Podcamp years ago, is running for State Representative. Recently, she wrote,

there seems to be a big gap between what politicians think folks need to know and what's effective, and how voters feel about it. For example, direct mail is a staple of politics, and data typically shows direct mail has a 1% conversion rate in retail, but very few people I talk to pay much attention to the glossy information that comes in the mail, and often toss it right away.

I had a great discussion with Whitney about this. It does seem like things like yard signs, bumper stickers, campaign websites, and direct mail, have little impact, other than showing that you’re a credible candidate. It is the same old politics by the numbers. But what we really need is politics that people will want to share, to define our communities and strengthen our bonds.

When people talk about content that gets shared online, they typically talk about cat videos. Cat videos make us feel good. Jane McGonigal talks about looking at pictures of cute animals in terms of building emotional resilience. It seems like there is an ever increasing need for emotional resilience, especially if you are at all politically active. So, the question that I asked of Whitney, and that I ask here is, how do we build emotional resilience into political discourse? Instead of sending out glossy direct mail, how can candidates reach out with messages that makes us emotionally stronger and builds our communities? What are the cat videos of your campaign?

And when she wrote about rescuing a dog, she gained enlightenment

It is the last Saturday evening of March and the rain is coming down. Kim is downstairs, watching television, unwinding after more social interaction today than an introvert feels comfortable with. Fiona is on the living room couch, cuddling the cat and watching something on her smartphone. I am writing, trying to make sense of the past few weeks.

I’m not sure if I’d describe part of March as being either lion like or lamb like. If anything, March has been like a senile lion, at times dangerous, at times, somewhat peaceful, but always trying. It has been another month where I haven’t gotten to write as much as I normally would like.

Friday, I watched parts of TEDxPhilly livestreaming on my computer. There were lots of bright people saying inspiring things, but does it matter? My thoughts drifted to Benjamin Bratton’s TEDx talk, New Perspectives - What's Wrong with TED Talks? Are TED (and TEDx) talks really just placebo politics? Are they a distraction from the real hard work of changing the world?

At home, Friday evening, I read various news stories about the closing of North Adams Regional Hospital. This was the hospital closest to the town I grew up in. I’ve slowly been learning the details of what led up to this, but I still have a very incomplete picture and uncertainty about what it means for the people of Northern Berkshire County going forward.

This morning, I headed off to the West Haven Funeral Home for a memorial of Bridget Albert. She was a local reporter and an animal rescuer. As I walked into the funeral home, the old feelings about how contrived funeral homes seem came back to me; the wide halls that you can carry caskets in, the large rooms with enough folding chairs for six dozen people, the front of the room with the casket and fresh flowers, instead of the large screen television that seems to grace most large family rooms. The flowers will soon wilt and be discarded. Those who mourn will slowly pick the pieces and find a new normal.

I’ve been to more than my share of funeral homes over the past decade and I looked around this one. Sure, there were the requisite flowers, but there were pictures of rescued animals as well. I glanced around at the crowd. Instead of the distant relatives standing awkwardly in groups around the room, this crowd was made up of people deeply involved in the local community. There were members of various boards and commissions. There were people from various animal rescue organizations. There were local reporters. Yeah, some of them may have watched TED talks, but often they were too busy making sure that the local community they lived in worked as well as possible.

I feel like I straddle these worlds. I sit on boards and commissions, support animal rescue activities, and write about local events when I get time, but I also have my digital life. I took part in a Thunderclap this morning to encourage people to sign up for health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Over a hundred people participated and the message went out to over a hundred thousand people. Did it make a difference? We’ll see.

I read through Facebook posts, and final got around to watching Upside: Anything is Possible; an advertisement by Ford appealing to those who try to make the world better, in contrast to the self-absorbed character in the Cadillac ad. Yes, Pashon Murray, like Bridget Albert, is the sort of role model we should be looking for.

Tomorrow, I’ll head up to TEDxSomerville where Miranda will be speaking. Will the people there be promoting role models like Pashon and Bridget? Will they be offering placebo politics? How can we think more deeply about the issues?

A while ago, a friend posted on Facebook wall a link to 20 Crucial Terms Every 21st Century Futurist Should Know. One of the terms that was discussed was ‘Repressive Desublimation’ based on the work of Herbert Marcuse.

pop culture encourages people to desublimate or express their desires, whether those are for sex, drugs or violent video games. At the same time, they're discouraged from questioning corporate and government authorities

Is this another way of talking about the placebo politics that Bratton talked about? I think so.

It is tempting to wander off on thoughts about how this relates to Godel’s second incompleteness theorem or Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, systems change, and the possibility of the created understanding the mind of the creator. But these thoughts, as well, may end up distracting us from the daily tasks around us of making the world better.

So, I’ll wrap this up, finish clearing the table, head off to bed, and hope my mind will be clear for tomorrow.

A monk told Joshu, “I have just entered the monastery. Please teach me.”
Joshu asked, “Have you eaten your rice porridge?
The monk replied, “I have eaten.”
Joshu said, “Then you had better wash your bowl.”
At that moment the monk was enlightened.

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