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The Art of Statistics by David Spiegelhalter
May 6, 2019 | Financial Times | Review by Alan Smith.

The Art of Statistics, by Sir David Spiegelhalter, former president of the UK’s Royal Statistical Society and current Winton professor of the public understanding of risk at the University of Cambridge.

The comparison with Rosling is easy to make, not least because Spiegelhalter is humorously critical of his own field which, by his reckoning, has spent too much time arguing with itself over “the mechanical application of a bag of statistical tools, many named after eccentric and argumentative statisticians”.

His latest book, its title,
books  book_reviews  charts  Communicating_&_Connecting  data  data_journalism  data_scientists  Hans_Rosling  listening  massive_data_sets  mathematics  statistics  visualization 
5 weeks ago by jerryking
How Spotify’s algorithms are ruining music
May 2, 2019 | Financial Times | Michael Hann.

(1) FINAL DAYS OF EMI, By Eamonn Forde, Omnibus, RRP£20, 320 pages
(2) SPOTIFY TEARDOWN, By Maria Eriksson, Rasmus Fleischer, Anna Johansson, Pelle Snickars and Patrick Vonderau, The MIT Press, RRP£14.99, 288 pages
(3) WAYS OF HEARING, By Damon Krukowski, The MIT Press, RRP£14.99, 136 pages

In April, the IFPI — the global body of the recording industry — released its latest annual Global Music Report. For the fourth consecutive year, revenues were up, to a total of $19.1bn, from a low of $14.3bn in 2014. Nearly half those revenues came from music streaming, driven by a 33 per cent rise in paid subscriptions to services such as Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal...... It is worth remembering that 20 years ago, the IFPI reported global music revenues of $38.6bn. Today’s “booming” recording industry is less than half the size it was at the turn of the century.....The nadir for the recording industry coincided with the first shoots of its regrowth. ....In August 2007, the British record company EMI — the fourth of the majors, alongside Universal, Sony and Warner — was bought by private equity firm Terra Firma (Guy Hands, the fund’s founder and chairman) for $4.7bn; a year later, a Swedish company called Spotify took its music streaming service public. The former was, perhaps, the last gasp of the old way of doing things — less than four years after buying EMI, Terra Firma was unable to meet its debts, and ceded control of the company to its main lender, Citigroup. Before 2011 was out, the process of breaking up EMI had begun...EMI’s demise was foreshadowed before Hands arrived, with a blaze of hubris in the early 2000s. Forde, a longtime observer and chronicler of the music business recounts the “disastrous and expensive” signings of that era......Handspreached the need to use data when signing artists, not just the “golden ears” of talent scouts; data are now a key part of the talent-spotting process.

* to qualify as having been listened to on Spotify, a song has to have been played for 30 seconds.
* hit songs have become increasingly predictable, offering up all their pleasures in the opening half-minute. Their makers dare not risk scaring off listeners.
* for all the money that the streaming services have generated for the music industry, very little of it flows back to any musicians except the select few who dominate the streaming statistics,

.......On Spotify, music consumption has been reorganised around “behaviours, feelings and moods” channelled through curated playlists and motivational messages......The data Spotify collects enable the industry to work out who its market is, where it lives, what else they like, how often they listen to music — almost anything, really. It’s the greatest assemblage of information about music listeners in history, and it has profoundly altered the industry: it has made Spotify music’s kingmaker......when an artist travels abroad to promote a new album, the meeting with the local Spotify office is more important than the TV appearances or the newspaper interviews. ...Spotify enables artists to plan their band’s set lists so they can play the most popular song in any given city.............So what? What does it matter if one model of music distribution has been replaced by another.....It matters because Spotify has profoundly changed the listener’s relationship with music....Older musicians often wax about how, when you had to buy your own music as a kid, you listened to it until you liked it, because you wouldn’t be able to afford a new album for another month. Now you simply skip to the next one, and probably don’t give it your full attention. Without ownership, there’s no incentive to study...........Faced with the impossibly wide choice of Spotify, it becomes easier to return to old favourites — easier than when flicking through your vinyl or CDs, because the act of looking through your own music makes things you had not thought of in years leap out at you. Spotify actually makes people into more conservative listeners, a process aided by its algorithms, which steer you towards music similar to your most frequent listening.....The theme of Krukowski’s book is that the changes in the way the music industry works have been about controlling and eliminating excess noise. That’s in a literal sense and in a metaphorical one, too. Streaming has stripped music of context, pared it back to being just about the song and the moment....but noise is the context of life. Without noise, the signal becomes meaningless......The world of the old EMI was one of both signal and noise; where myths and legends could be created: The Beatles! Queen! The Beach Boys! Pink Floyd! It was never all about the signal. The world of Spotify is one of signal only, and if you don’t appreciate that signal within the first 30 seconds of the song...all may be lost
abundance  algorithms  Apple_Music  books  book_reviews  business_models  curation  cultural_transmission  data  decontextualization  EMI  gatekeepers  Guy_Hands  hits  indoctrination  iTunes  legacy_artists  music  music_catalogues  music_labels  music_industry  music_publishing  noise  piracy  platforms  playlists  royalties  ruination  securitization  signals  songs  Spotify  streaming  subscriptions  talent  talent_scouting  talent_spotting  Terra_Firma  Tidal  transformational 
6 weeks ago by jerryking
Imperialism After Empire | Boston Review
"On nearly every page of How to Hide an Empire, [Daniel] Immerwahr reveals a facet of U.S. empire and how it was forgotten or suppressed. Empire offered 'zones of experimentation' for larger-than-life figures such as architect Daniel Burnham and General Douglas MacArthur. ... In the first half of the book, Immerwahr explains how the United States expanded westward, grabbed tiny island possessions in the Caribbean and the Pacific, eventually defeated the Spanish, invaded and occupied areas throughout the Western hemisphere, and took control of Alaska and Hawaii. He then explores the territories that remain: American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Marianas, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and over 800 military bases full of bombs, bullets, and Burger Kings. About 4 million people live in U.S. colonial possessions today, with almost no voice in Washington, D.C. While being attentive not to minimize this fact, Immerwahr also explains in the second half of the book how—and why—the United States “decolonized” so much of its territory in the middle of the twentieth century. At the end of World War II, for example, before Alaska and Hawaii became states, before the Philippines gained independence, and while U.S. troops occupied much of Germany, other parts of Europe, Japan, and Korea, there were more people “under U.S. jurisdiction” outside the mainland United States than within it. [However,] Immerwahr’s case is undermined by the fact that the imperial logic of capitalism thrives even as holding territory is no longer essential. This shift suggests a need to reinterpret the meaning of empire, or at least to be open to its ambivalences and mutations."
imperialism  book_reviews  capitalism  book_commentary 
6 weeks ago by jbushnell
America’s Messiah Complex | The New Republic
The author of the review seems altogether too close to idea that if the US isn't specially virtuous, then it is uniquely vicious.
books:noted  book_reviews  something_about_america  lives_of_the_messiahs  psychoceramics 
6 weeks ago by cshalizi
In ‘Stony the Road,’ Henry Louis Gates Jr. Captures the History and Images of the Fraught Years After the Civil War
April 18, 2019 | The New York Times | By Nell Irvin Painter.

Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow
By Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Illustrated. 296 pp. Penguin Press. $30.

Vergangenheitsbewältigung = coming to terms with the past — and it carries connotations of a painful history that citizens would rather not confront but that must be confronted in order not to be repeated.
20th_century  African-Americans  bigotry  books  book_reviews  Henry_Louis_Gates  historians  history  Jim_Crow  John_Hope_Franklin  KKK  lynchings  memorabilia  racial_politics  Reconstruction  stereotypes  torture  white_nationalism  white_supremacy  imagery  Vergangenheitsbewältigung  W.E.B._Du_Bois  iconic 
8 weeks ago by jerryking
Anne Harrington’s Mind Fixers: Review - The Atlantic
Harrington's book on cerebral localization of mental functions was great, so I have high hopes for this (even dividing through for the reviewer's pre-occupations).
book_reviews  history_of_science  psychiatry  harrington.anne 
10 weeks ago by cshalizi
An Impeccable Spy — a thrilling biography of Stalin’s secret agent
March 22, 2019 | Financial Times | by Victor Sebestyen.

An Impeccable Spy: Richard Sorge, Stalin’s Master Agent, by Owen Matthews, Bloomsbury, RRP£25, 448 pages

He was defeated by a problem spies have faced from the Battle of Actium to modern-day Iraq. Often leaders hear only what they want to hear and act on information they find politically useful to them. As such this is a highly relevant book for today.

Richard Sorge was the Soviet spy who stole one of the biggest secrets of the second world war: the precise details of Hitler’s invasion of the USSR in June 1941. Through brilliant espionage “tradecraft” that involved penetrating the highest military and political levels in Germany and Japan, Sorge supplied Moscow with the battle plans of Operation Barbarossa weeks before it happened.

History is full of what ifs. Sorge and his spy ring might have changed the direction of the war. But Stalin would not believe Hitler was planning to invade. Though he was also receiving similar warnings from other Soviet sources, as well as British and US ones, the most suspicious of men would not see he could be betrayed.

The Soviet leader distrusted Sorge, convinced his most able and loyal agent was a traitor on the verge of defecting. Stalin relied more than most dictators on secret intelligence but seldom trusted his spies — especially if they told him something he didn’t want to hear.
biographies  books  book_reviews  espionage  Joseph_Stalin  Nazis  security_&_intelligence  spycraft  WWII 
12 weeks ago by jerryking
Book Review: Mapping Society: The Spatial Dimensions of Social Cartography by Laura Vaughan | LSE Review of Books
"In Mapping Society: The Spatial Dimensions of Social Cartography – available to download here for free – Laura Vaughan offers an analysis of how maps have both described and shaped social phenomena. This is a scholarly and thoroughly researched book that unpicks the context behind many of the foremost examples of social cartography, finds Inderbir Bhullar, and reveals how the layout of cities can exacerbate or ameliorate social ills."
to:NB  books:noted  book_reviews  maps  visual_display_of_quantitative_information  statistics  to_teach:data_over_space_and_time  track_down_references 
february 2019 by cshalizi
Fool Britannia | by Hari Kunzru | The New York Review of Books
“The English, whose opinions have been formed by the shallow charmers and their enablers, seem fundamentally unable to conceive of a relationship with Europe that is not one of either subjection or domination.”
Fintan_O'Toole  Brexit  NYRB  2019  book_reviews 
february 2019 by Preoccupations

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