Interview in Buzzfeed

I spoke with Charlie Warzel at Buzzfeed tech about structural racism and the recent problems at Reddit:

Stamping out hate on Reddit is roughly as easy as stamping out hate anywhere, which is to say it’s nearly impossible. “You can’t treat this kind of hate or structural violence as a bug — it’s a feature in the system,” David Banks, a social scientist who has written extensively about Reddit’s ability to foster hate, told BuzzFeed News. “Structural violence exists in the site because it exists in society, and so it will keep showing up. So relying on reporting and flagging and tagging to get rid of this will never fix the issue for good.”

Read the full story here.

Writing for a Popular Audience

I'll be hosting a brown bag discussion at my home institution, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, on November 6, 2013 from 1-3PM in Sage Labs 3510 on writing for a popular audience. I plan on covering the following topics:

  1. Theory in under 1000 words
  2. How to Write about Current Events
  3. Venues & Audiences
  4. Examples of different venues & their intended audiences
  5. Writing Publicly as a PhD 
  6. Pitching your Work to an Editor
  7. CVs, Hiring & Tenure 
  8. Twitter and the Writing Process
  9. Where your Work goes in Social Media
  10. Blogging under imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy & talking to the press
  11. Q&A

If you're in the area it'd be awesome if you showed up. Equally awesome would be written stories and anecdotes about your own experiences. I'm especially interested in the experiences of women and people of color who are blogging on the regular. 

Resources

Indicator Venues worth watching: Gawker, New York Times' Technology Section, and The Verge.

My essay: "You Won't Believe What This Web Site Does to the Liberal Left!

Examples of personal web sites that are heavily cited: danah boyd's "apophenia" , Zeynep Tufekci's "Technosociology", and Nathan Jurgenson

Places that accept unsolicited submissions or are open to pitches: JacobinN+1 , The New InquiryThe State, Cyborgology, and Sociological Images.

Aggregators and news sites: The Daily Dot, OWNI.eu, Huffington Post, The Civic Beat, The Browser. Arts & Letters Daily, The Daily Dish, Digg, and Metafilter.

Tools for reading and collecting existing content: Instapaper, Readability, Feedly, Digg Reader, and Buffer

Writing with Twitter: Jessie Daniels's "From Tweet to Blog Post to Peer-Reviewed Article: How to be a Scholar Now" and Rob Horning's "The taste of circulation"

Just Publics @365 Fall MediaCamp Workshops on Twitter for Academics 

David's presentation slides

Star Trek Into the Endless War on Terror

For Christmas in 2004 I received every episode of the original series on VHS. Each tape contained two episodes separated by the kind of cheesy music you might expect from a local news daytime talk show in 1992. I watched all 30 or so tapes, multiple times, sometimes with my high school English teacher during lunch after he had finished sneaking a cigarette in his beat up Civic. I have fond memories of eating turkey sandwiches and laughing at William Shatner’s fighting style. But what was more important (to us anyway) than the unchoreographed fight sequences were the literary parables. I see no exaggeration or hyperbole when people describe Star Trek as a philosophy or a religion, but I see it much more as a political orientation. The crew might go where no one has gone before, but the show rarely strayed from the very basics of the human condition. Star Trek holds a mirror to the society that produced it, and J.J. Abrams’ trek is most certainly a product of the Endless War on Terror.

Read more on Cyborgology

Cable News is Dead, Long Live Cable News

The very fact that your eyes rolled (just a little bit) at the title tells you that it is absolutely true. So true its obnoxious to proclaim it. Perhaps cable news died when CNN made a hologram of  Jessica Yeller  and beamed her into the “Situation Room” just to talk horse race bullshit during the 2008 election. Or maybe it was as far back as 2004 when Jon Stewart went on Crossfire and shattered the fourth wall by excoriating the dual hosts for destroying public discourse. The beginning of the end might be hard to pinpoint, but the end is certainly coming. Fox News had its lowest ratings since 2001 this year, but still has more viewers than CNN & MSNBCNEWSWHATEVERITSCALLEDNOW combined. Even if ratings weren’t a problem, credibility certainly is. Imagine if CNN stopped calling themselves the “Most Trusted Name In News” and used the more accurate, “A Little Over Half of Our Viewers Think We’re Believable.” By now it is clear that the zombified talking heads of cable news are either bought and sold, or just irrelevant. Cable news channels’ hulking, telepresent bodies have been run through and left to rot on the cynical barbs of political bloggers and just about anyone at a comedy shop’s open-mic night. This last series of screw-ups in Boston (hereherehere and unless it was avant-garde electronic literature, here) begs the question if cable news channels can even tell us what’s going on anymore. Cable news is dead, but something keeps animating the corpse.

Read more on Cyborgology

Against the Minority Report Computer

Who decided the Minority Report computer was the goal of 21st century interfaces? Why does anyone think its a good idea? Could you imagine doing a spreadsheet on that thing? And why the hell are they using physical media to transport information? What is so alluring, exactly, about this gigantic computer that requires two (two!) Nintendo Powergloves to operate and can only receive data (apparently) through physical media drives the size of VHS tapes? The resolution looks awful and, since the screens are transparent, I can only assume your computer always has to be up against a blank wall. But none of those things are nearly as important as the human element it ignores. The computer has no soul. Its a sterile interface meant to catch murders (or frame people as such), not share family photos. The obsession with the Minority Report computer is a betrayal of everything that is human about computers. 

Read more on Cyborgology

Sherlock: A Perspective on Technology and Story Telling

A few weeks ago, I challenged Kurt Anderson’s claim that cultural progress and innovation had stagnated in the last twenty years. Anderson, I contend, has ignored new mediums (the Internet), re-invented genres (hip-hop, electronic music), and new cultural stereotypes (geek chic, hipsters).But what ties all of these things together is the central thesis that consumer technologies are just as much cultural artifact as clothes or music. No where is this more obvious and brilliantly executed than in BBC One’s updated interpretation of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries. Set in present day London, “Sherlock” is a reinterpretation of the most famous Holmes mysteries and does an excellent job of translating the Victorian source material into a modern drama. That translation includes dress, idiomatic expressions, and vehicles- but it also includes cell phones, restrictions on smoking, and the War on Terror. Sherlock is a uniquely 21st century show that could not have taken place in the early 2000s or the 90s.

 

[SPOILER ALERT: details about the first episode of Sherlock"A Study In Pink" are discussed below. The ending is not totally given away, but major story details are revealed.] Read More on Cyborgology.

Who does Mike Judge, David Byrne, and Kevin Kelly Agree with- Latour or Winner

Image c/o 20th Century Fox™It is an unfortunate reality of teaching that students, who act out and behave inappropriately, get the most attention from the instructor. Their rambunctiousness puts all eyes on them (and this is usually the student’s aim) thereby winning the zero-sum game of gaining recognition from the powers of legitimation and authority.  Just as the teacher must stop the class in order to cease the distractions provided by a rowdy student, the reader of any edited volume on technology and society is forced to respond to Bruno Latour’ s claims. Specifically, in Bijker & Law’s Shaping Technology/Building Society (1994), one is forced to spend less time considering the historically nuanced analyses made by the Social Construction of technology (SCOT) theorists, so as to devote enough time to figure out what, exactly, Latour means when he says, “In spite of the constant weeping moralists, no human is as relentlessly moral as a machine, especially if it is (she is, he is, they are) as ‘user friendly’ as my Macintosh Computer (P. 232).”