robinsonmeyer   40

Who Is Logan Paul, and What Happened in His Video That Was Taken Down? - The Atlantic
“In every step but the filming of the dead body, this is not the system breaking, but the system functioning as intended.”
theatlantic  robinsonmeyer  technology  culture  youtube 
january 2018 by beep
Robinson Meyer en Instagram: “The Greenlandic flag is all over the place, used (to my foreigner’s eye) with some combination of the pride of 🇺🇸 and the affection of 🇨🇦.…”
"The Greenlandic flag is all over the place, used (to my foreigner’s eye) with some combination of the pride of 🇺🇸 and the affection of 🇨🇦. One of its meanings is “come in, we’re having a party,” so you see it on dinner candles at the hostels and on balloons for a seven year old girl’s birthday party. When flying it, you’re supposed to lower it by 8pm—standard sunrise/sunset rules don’t apply, I guess, in a place where a solar day can last for more than 2,000 hours. I really admired the flag before visiting, so to see it used so widely and so warmly is a delight."
greenland  flag  flags  welcome  2017  robinsonmeyer  symbols  meaning 
july 2017 by robertogreco
Are We as Doomed as That New York Magazine Article Says? - The Atlantic
"Over the past decade, most researchers have trended away from climate doomsdayism. They cite research suggesting that people respond better to hopeful messages, not fatalistic ones; and they meticulously fact-check public descriptions of global warming, as watchful for unsupported exaggeration as they are for climate-change denial.

They do this not because they think that climate change will be peachy. They do it because they want to be exceptionally careful with facts for such a vital issue. And many of them, too, think that a climate-changed world will look less like a starved wasteland and more like our current home—just more unequal and more impoverished.

What does that world look like? We got a fairly good look late last month, actually, when a new consortium of economists and scientists called the Climate Impact Lab published their first study in the journal Science. Their research looks at how global warming will afflict Americans economically, on a county-by-county level. It tells a frightening but much more mundane story.

Climate change, they say, will not turn us into idiots before broiling us in our sleep. Instead, it will act as a kind of ecological reverse Robin Hood, stealing from the poor and giving to the rich. It will impoverish many of the poorest communities in the country—arrayed across the South and Southwest, and especially along the Gulf Coast—while increasing the fortunes of cities and suburbs on both of the coasts.

“This study—the climate equivalent of being informed that smoking carries serious risk of lung cancer—should be enough to motivate us,” says Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist and professor of political science at Texas Tech University. “The NYMag article is the climate equivalent of being told that everyone in the world’s life will end in the most grisly, worst-case possible scenario if we keep on smoking.”

The Climate Impact Labs’ accounting is a much likelier view of what is “much more likely to occur than the doomsday scenario,” she added.

Other communicators reject Wallace-Wells’s approach for a third reason: He glosses over the many reasons that climate advocates now have hope. Many of these criticisms came not from researchers but from other climate communicators. “Through combo of exaggeration and hopelessness, [the NYMag piece] turns away those in the middle we need to persuade. It makes action harder,” tweeted Ramez Naam, a technologist and novelist. “We’ve made huge climate strides. Business-as-usual used to mean six or seven degrees Celsius or warming. Now it looks like three to four, and [it’s] trending down.”

Chuck Wendig, another novelist, called the story irresponsible. “It leans very hard on the EXTINCTION PORN angle, and almost not at all on the BUT HERE'S WHAT WE DO angle,” he said on Twitter.

I’m not so sure about this last angle. I have been writing about climate change nearly full-time for several years now. I don’t think journalists should frame the truth to better inspire people—that’s not our job.

But I vacillate considerably on the doom versus no-doom question. Consider what Wallace-Wells writes about climate change and war:
Researchers like Marshall Burke and Solomon Hsiang have managed to quantify some of the non-obvious relationships between temperature and violence: For every half-degree of warming, they say, societies will see between a 10 and 20 percent increase in the likelihood of armed conflict. In climate science, nothing is simple, but the arithmetic is harrowing: A planet five degrees warmer would have at least half again as many wars as we do today. Overall, social conflict could more than double this century.

That final sentence is simplistic; we cannot wield careful social science conclusions like an abacus. It is also too certain: While Burke and Hsiang have found links between conflict and climate change, another group of researchers from Oslo have found far weaker connections. They observe a link between natural disaster and war only when a country is divided by ethnicity.

Yet this is worrisome by itself. Consider the world that climate scientists say is more realistic: a place where sea levels cause mass migration within and without the developed world; where the economy is never great but isn’t in shambles either; where voters fear for their livelihoods and superpowers poke at each others’ weaknesses.

Does that world sound like a safe and secure place to live? Does it sound like a workable status quo? And how many small wars need to start in that world before they all fuse together? Who needs planet-killing methane burps when nine different countries have 15,000 nuclear weapons between them? In short, there are plenty of doomsday scenarios to worry about. They don’t need to be catastrophic on their face to induce catastrophe."
2017  accuracy  reporting  climate  environment  future  climatechange  sustainability  inequality  robinsonmeyer  davidwallace-wells  science  communication  journlism  dystopia  doom  doomsdayism  exaggeration 
july 2017 by robertogreco
“The Climate March's Big Tent Strategy Paid Off”, by Robinson Meyer for The Atlantic
> “It’s important to affirm to ourselves that this is a huge community,” she told me. “It also sends a message to the corporations that really run things that people care. Even in Appalachia, now, the power companies are moving to renewables. Marches like this continue that pressure.”
politics  theatlantic  climatechange  robinsonmeyer 
may 2017 by beep
Why We Loved Vine So Much - The Atlantic
"Few of the core features we think of as “Twitter” were invented by people employed by Twitter. None of the founders invented the 140-character message, the constraint that gives the service its verve; instead, they adopted it as a technical aspect of SMS texting. Nor did anyone at Twitter invent the @-reply. Not the hashtag or the retweet, either—all were first created by users, then borrowed by the company as an official feature.

The company didn’t quite invent the six-second looping video. It bought the startup that did—Vine—in October 2012, right before it was to launch. But it can get credit for introducing the world to a form unlike any other online: Vines were too weird a thing for users to generate themselves.

When Vine debuted early in 2013, Twitter boasted that its brief videos were the visual equivalent of a tweet. How the student excelled the master. Twitter is where you joke about sports and whine about politics. It is always wordy—and thus inescapably political.

Vine? Vine is art.

Joyful, astonishing, frenetically blissful art. Like the 14-line sonnet or the 12-bar blues, the six-second loop accepted its defining constraint and therefore transcended it. Those six seconds could show you anything—a tiny Japanese owl, two teenagers joking in Tulsa, a water bubble on the International Space Station—but they were always six seconds. The curtain always slammed down, and you were always sent back to the beginning again.

This made every Vine an experiment in form. Some had a beginning, a middle, and an end. Some rebelled against any clear point: They started by showing you something crazy and the craziness persisted right through to the end. And the best ran along next to you as you tried to figure out what was happening: You began watching, you thought you saw the joke, then the premise of the whole Vine would shift to reveal a new joke, and then—wham—you were back where you began.

This weird formalism is one reason why Vine—the social network—could have only happened when it did. Only the flood of venture capital that followed from Facebook’s mass popularity, only the lack of good investment options after the global financial crisis, only the hundreds of investors looking to spot the next Google, could have produced a little app as strange as Vine. (Think about it: For a time, a whole planetary class of bankers and hedge-fund managers invested their money not in better ways to mine a rock or ship a box across the ocean, but in inventing new tools of expression. How world-historically weird.) And only a generation of teens and young adults newly empowered with smartphones—a wacko device with a web connection, a video camera, and a link to the whole staggering breadth of global pop culture—could have produced Vine, a medium that requires a willingness to show off to friends and strangers, a freedom to look a little silly or stupid, and hours and hours of waiting-around time to workshop ideas."
robinsonmeyer  vine  2016  twitter  video  socialmedia  community 
october 2016 by robertogreco
How Instagram Opened a Ruthless New Chapter in the Teen Photo Wars - The Atlantic
"Rob’s Brother: Instagram is, hey, here’s a big thing I just did. While Snapchat is more, hey, here’s what I’m doing, plus check out this silly product that let you poop better.

Rob: Do you find people use Instagram messaging at all?

Rob’s Brother: It’s only ever if you want to share a dank meme with somebody. It’s just a dank meme messenger. Have you ever heard of a Finsta?

Rob: No. Or, I heard you use that term when I was at home, and I looked it up.

Rob’s Brother: It’s like a personal Instagram that’s private, and it’s only got like 25 followers. It’s not for the likes, and it’s not for anyone else to see. And you post, like, very personal things on it.

Rob: So it’s like people using a private Twitter? So Finsta is like you and your 19 best friends?

Rob’s Brother: You and your 40 best friends. I think generally if someone’s in your grade, and they want to follow your Finsta, you accept them, but there isn’t that much on a Finsta, honestly. If you’re not their friend, it’s not that interesting.

Rob: I mean, what do they complain about? Their parents..?

Rob’s Brother: Yes. Correct. It’s mostly complaining and bad selfies. Roasting teachers. They’re generally not that interesting. I feel like they’re almost the equivalent of a diary.

Rob: I mean, I know adults who have private locked Twitter accounts and they use it mostly for complaining about work or family stuff.

Rob’s Brother: Yeah, it’s mostly for complaining. And people with Finstas don’t want people to see them complaining because A, if you don’t know them, it translates as whininess, and B, if you do know them, you have a chance of being mean to somebody. The other appeal of a Finsta is that your parents can’t find you on a Finsta. I don’t have a Finsta.

Rob: Of course you don’t have a Finsta.

Rob’s Brother: I honestly don’t. I think one of the illuminating posts I saw on a Finsta was “Sorry for not spamming…” Literally, he thinks people have the expectation that he will post every hour on his Finsta about little minor things in his life. He’s like, sorry I haven’t been posting six posts a day. Isn’t that interesting?"
socialmedia  teen  youth  instagram  snapchat  robinsonmeyer  photography  2016  finsta 
september 2016 by robertogreco
How to Write a History of Writing Software - The Atlantic
"Isaac Asimov, John Updike, and John Hersey changed their writing habits to adapt to word processors, according to the first literary historian of the technology."



"There are three things I really like about that story and why I feel like it’s the best candidate for quote-unquote “first.”

One, it defamiliarizes our sense of what word processing is. It’s not a typewriter connected to a TV set. The key thing turns out to be the magnetic storage layer. The other thing thing I like about it is—there’s a term I use in the book, “suspended encryption.” That captures that dynamic of word processing: You’re writing, but there’s a kind of suspended animation to it. The text remains in its fluid, malleable state, until such time as you commit it to hard copy.

The other thing I like about the story is that it captures that gendered dynamic, that social dimension of writing. It’s not just the author alone at his typewriter. It’s really a collaborative process, there is a gender dimension to it, and there’s something very human about it, I think."



"Meyer: There is a material history you can read from a typewriter. I think you mention the example of Lawrence Rainey, a scholar of T.S. Eliot, being able to decode The Waste Land’s compositional history by looking at his typewriter. And I remember there being anxiety around writing software, and the future of that kind of scholarship. Did writing this history make you buy into the anxiety that we won’t be able to preserve contemporary literary work?

Kirschenbaum: So much of writing now, and that includes literary writing, that includes novels and poetry that will become culturally resonant and important—all of this happens now digitally. And that was something that I was interesting in writing about, writing the book. What I found is that there were often very surprising examples of evidence remaining, even from these early days of word processing history.

There’s a kind of paradox at the heart of this. As you know, we’ve all lost files, or had important stuff disappear into the [digital] ether, so there’s all that volatility and fragility we associate with the computer. But it’s also a remarkably resilient medium. And there are some writers who are using the actual track-changes feature or some other kind of versioning system to preserve their own literary manuscripts literally keystroke by keystroke."



"Meyer: You talk a little bit about looking at different paths for word processing after Word. You go into “austerityware,” which is your phrase for software like WriteRoom, which tries to cut down on distractions. Is there any prognosticating you feel like you could do about what’s catching on next?

Kirschenbaum: I do think we’re seeing this interesting return to what instructors of writing for a long time have called free writing, which is just about the uninhibited process of getting stuff out there, doing that sort of initial quick and dirty draft. What’s interesting to me is that there are now particular tools and platforms that are emerging with that precise model of writing in mind.

The one that’s gotten the most attention is the one I write about at the end of the book. At the time I was writing, it was called the Hemingwrite, but now it’s called Freewrite. It’s essentially a very lightweight, very portable keyboard, with a small screen and portable memory. It reminds me of the way a lot of writers talk about their fountain pens—these exquisitely crafted and engineers fine instruments for writing. The Freewrite aspires to bring that same level of craft and deliberation to the fabrication of a purpose-built writing instrument.

So, you know, in a sense, I think we’re going to see more and more of those special-purpose writing platforms. I think writing might move away from the general-purpose computer—we’ll still do lots of writing of all sorts at our regular laptop, but it might be your email, your social media. For dedicated long-form writing, I think there may be more and more alternatives."



"Meyer: One thing I love about the book are all the office pictures—the pictures from ’80s offices, especially. There is a sense looking at the images that the desks are retrofitted writers’s desks, rather than the kind of generic surface-with-a-laptop setup that I think a lot of people work at now.

Kirschenbaum: The visual history of all of this is really interesting. One of the hard thing was trying to figure out is, what is a literary history of word processing, how do you go about researching it? Maybe by going to the archives, but you also do it by looking at the way in which computers really were represented in the kind of imagery I was looking at earlier. You look at the old office photographs. You see a picture of Amy Tan sitting with a laptop and you try to figure out what kind of laptop it is, and lastly you do it by talking to people. It was the oral histories I did that were the best research for the book."
robinsonmeyer  wordprocessing  software  history  isaacasimov  johnupdike  writing  howewrite  computing  matthewkirschenbaum  lendeighton  ellenorhandley  johnhersey  jerrypournelle  sciencefiction  scifi  thomaspynchon  gorevidal  charlesbukowski  rcrumb  tseliot  lawrencerainey  trackchanges  typing  typewriters  freewrite  writeroom  hamingwrite  evekosofskysedgwick  howwework  howwewrite  amytan 
june 2016 by robertogreco
What's in the UN Paris Climate Deal? - The Atlantic
"In some ways, the most hopeful news out of Paris—the new 1.5 degree goal—is also the least realistic. Recent science has indicated that warming to two degrees, still the stated international red line, might be catastrophic, creating mega-hurricanes and possibly halting the temperate jet stream which waters American and European farmland.

From that perspective, 1.5 degrees is an encouraging, ambitious goal. But it’s also a promise that costs negotiators nothing while indicating great moral seriousness.

Because here’s the thing: The math still doesn’t work. 2015 is the hottest year on measure. Because of the delay between when carbon enters the atmosphere and when it traps heat, we are nearly locked into nearly 1.5 degrees of warming already. Many thought the world would abandon the two degree target at Paris due to its impracticality.

In order to slide under the 1.5-degree target, global emissions have to peak in the next five or six years. (Emissions slowed this year, mostly due to China’s economic downturn, but they are expected to rise again soon as India adds industrial capacity.) The world has to completely stop emitting carbon around 2060. Can it be done?

Now we find out. If climate change worries you, think about not only how you vote, but also how you spend your civic attention and how you communicate your concern to policy-makers. Think too about how you’re supporting those already affected by it.

To my mind, climate is our great story. No other narrative envelopes all of humanity in quite the same way, forcing answers about the ethics of food, of oil, of technology, of economic security, of democratic republics and command capitalism, of colonialism and indigenous peoples, of who in the world is rich and who in the world is poor.

We live in the middle of history. Nations still bicker over borders, flaunt weapons of mass death, and abhor refugees in their midst. Today they tried, miraculously and inadequately, to care for their common good."
robinsonmeyer  climatechange  climate  policy  2015  capitalism  economics  oli  energy  borders  weapons  refugees  humanity  anthropocene  colonialism  decolonization  hope 
december 2015 by robertogreco
The Decay of Twitter - The Atlantic
"Do other things get smooshed on Twitter? Definitely. The public and the private smoosh, as do the personal and professional. I’d even argue that subjectivity and objectivity get smooshed—consider the Especially Serious Journalists who note that “RTs are not endorsements.” But understanding Twitter as an online space that, for a long time, drew its energy from the tension between orality and literacy, and that—in its mid-life—has moved more decisively toward one over the other, works for me as a model of its collapse.

This tension also explains, to me, why the more visual social networks have stayed fun and vibrant even as the text-based ones have not. Vine, Pinterest, and Instagram don’t traffic in words, which can be reduced to identity-based magnum opi, but in images, which are a little harder to smoosh. Visual conversations have stayed chatty, in other words."



"In the final paragraphs of this article, let me assert something I have very little data to support: At some point early last year, the standard knock against Twitter—which had long ceased to be “I don’t want to know what someone’s eating for lunch”—became “I don’t want everyone to see what I have to say.” The public knows about conversation smoosh, and that constitutes, I think, a major problem for Twitter the Company. New products like Moments—which collects tweets, images, and video into little summaries—are not going to fix that.

I’m not sure anything can fix it, honestly. But I wonder if Twitter can’t arrange a de-smooshing, at least a little bit, by creating more forms of private-ness on the site. Separating the private and the public could, in turn, delineate “speech-like” and “print-like” tweets. Twitter’s offered locked accounts for a long time, but it has always been default public. (For a few early years, a pane on Twitter.com displayed every tweet.) Making it so an individual tweet’s publicness can be toggled on or off might help users feel more comfortable spending time there. And pushing new users toward secret accounts that can toggle individual tweets public might even allay some of their fears.

Or maybe nothing can be done. No one promises growth forever. Communities and companies of all sizes fall apart. And some institutions that thrive on their tensions for many years can one day find them exhausted, worn out, limp, their continued use driven more by convenience and habit than by vibrancy and vigor."
robinsonmeyer  2015  twitter  socialmedia  bonniestewart  walterong  secondaryorality  orality  literacy  internet  web  communication  online  communities  community  visibility  surveillance  contextcollapse  context  instagram  text  conversation  chattiness  vine  pinterest 
november 2015 by robertogreco
Here's the First 'Blue Marble' Image of Each Continent - The Atlantic
"When DSCOVR’s archive was released to the public on Wednesday, many other Earthlings finally got a chance to see how their home is one among many. Below is the first “Blue Marble”-style image of China, Japan, Australia, and eastern Asia. It was captured on August 3, 2015, at 3:39 UTC."
robinsonmeyer  via:yayitsrob  bluemarble  space  earth  wholeearth  sparkfile 
october 2015 by sha
Not Doomed Yet: A New Newsletter About Climate Change - The Atlantic
"I remember the first time I learned about climate change. I was sitting at a fancy restaurant with my parents, reading a science magazine under the table. (I think it was Kids Discover, which—with its full-page photos, friendly writing, and cartoonish illustrations—ranked up there with the Klutz books as ’90s edutainment par excellence.) In the bottom half of a page, there was an info box: Scientists had identified something called the greenhouse effect, which could make disastrously extreme weather more common and the planet too hot to inhabit. I remember looking around the table, anxiously, before stammering out a question to my parents: Did they know about this? Humanity breaking the planet, and adults were doing nothing about it?

I have lost count of the number of people who have identified climate as “the political issue of the 21st century.” It ranks up there for me. Food, water, protection from the elements: It feels insufficient to say that climate touches everything, because it in fact permeates us. Physically, materially, existentially, the climate determines what it feels like to have a human body in this biosphere. And that means that every consideration of the future—of security personal, economic, and international—winds back to climate.

When I consider whether to have children, I think about climate change. When I consider where I want to live, I think about climate change. When I stand on the beach and play catch with my younger brothers and wonder what their young adulthood will be like, I think of refugees and resource wars—and, thus, climate change.

Even my current career, as a technology reporter, was inflected by the climate: When I first got into technology in the mid-2000s, I was partly drawn to it because I thought all that new wealth—and all that new expertise in handling data—might flow toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change, a phenomenon without a mind, is engrained in every texture of my every ordinary day.

And I want to follow it better. So I’m starting this."

[See also: https://tinyletter.com/not-doomed-yet ]
robinsonmeyer  climatechange  news  2015  newsletters  science  future  policy  environment 
september 2015 by robertogreco
The Best Technology for Fighting Climate Change? Trees - The Atlantic
"Between now and 2050, forests are one of our "most promising" geo-engineering tools."



"When people talk about technologies that might offset climate change, they often evoke not-yet-invented marvels, like planes spraying chemicals into the atmosphere or enormous skyscrapers gulping carbon dioxide from the clouds.

But in a new report, Oxford University researchers say that our best hopes might not be so complex.

In fact, they are two things we already know how to do: plant trees and improve the soil.

Both techniques, said the report, are “no regrets.” They’ll help the atmosphere no matter what, they’re comparatively low-cost, and they carry little additional risk. Specifically, the two techniques it recommends are afforestation—planting trees where there were none before—and biochar—improving the soil by burying a layer of dense charcoal.

Between now and 2050, trees and charcoal are the “most promising” technologies out there, it said.

It also cautioned, however, that these so-called “Negative Emissions Technologies” or NETs should only be seen as a way to stave off the worst of climate change.

“NETs should not be seen as a deus ex machina that will ‘save the day,’” its authors wrote. NETs should instead be seen as one of several tools to meet the international goal of avoiding climate change greater than 2 degrees Celsius. Another crucial tool is reducing emissions.

It’s a solution that makes sense, as forest management is one of the oldest ways that humans have shaped their environment. Before the arrival of Europeans, Native communities in the Americas had been burning forest fires for millennia to support the growth of desirable plants like blueberries and to manage ecosystems. British communities have long practiced coppicing, a tree-cutting technique that keeps forests full of younger trees.

In other words, humanity has been “geoengineering” with trees for a very long time. The authors of the Oxford report add that afforestation will need global support in order to be successful.

“It is clear that attaining negative emissions is in no sense an easier option than reducing current emissions,” it says (emphasis mine). “To remove CO2 on a comparable scale to the rate it is being emitted inevitably requires effort and infrastructure on a comparable scale to global energy or agricultural systems.”"
trees  climatechange  2015  robinsonmeyer  geoengineering  plants  history  soil  forests 
april 2015 by robertogreco
With Its $10,000 Watch, Apple Has Lost Its Soul — The Atlantic
"But now that they’re here and confirmed: The prices grate. And they grate not because they’re so expensive, but because they’re gratuitously expensive. The Apple Watch Sport (which starts at $350) and the high-end Apple Watch Edition have the same innards. Their internal computer is the same; they will have the same effect on a user’s life. The only difference is that Apple is manufacturing a status symbol with the Edition. Instead of telling users to pay up because they’ll get a better quality experience, it’s telling them to pay up because they can, and because a more expensive watch is inherently preferable.

To many commentators, this is unsurprising. It’s good business sense, really. Apple has made its world-devouring profits by ratcheting up profit margins on iPhones. There is no better target for these massive margins than the super-rich.

But high margins do not a luxury brand make. It’s a mockable commonplace in tech criticism that “Apple wouldn’t do this if Jobs were still CEO.”

I don’t know if that’s true and I’m not interested in the question. But I do know Apple has been chameleonic over its lifetime, and it stopped being dwarfed by Evil Empire Microsoft long ago. I know it’s now a big, mainstream American company. I know that it has always had a profit-motive, and that making high-quality, mass-market products was just a strategy.

But I know too which kind of consumer pays $10,000 just to have a nice watch which will be obsolete in a year. They are not a misfit or a rebel."
apple  class  economics  robinsonmeyer  2015  inequality 
march 2015 by robertogreco
The Smithsonian's Cooper Hewitt: Finally, the Museum of the Future Is Here - The Atlantic
"When I visited, I talked to the Labs team in their office and then toured the then not-quite-finished mansion. We talked about the museum first—the physical one we were in. Unlike leaders of other New York museums, who are investing in events, Chan (and the Cooper Hewitt generally) believe the heart of the museum is in its collection and its visitors. In other words: its stuff and its people.

“They don’t want to have the burden of this preservation forever,” he said of the increasingly event-focused Museum of Modern Art, 40 blocks south. “The beauty here is: We’re the Smithsonian. We don’t have a choice. No matter what other staff in this building might say, we don’t have a choice but to keep all this stuff forever.”

The museum will forever be committed to its stuff. But it has to have a more enlivening presence, he believes, than placards and shelves. Cope held up his smartphone at one point and pointed at it."



"Notice the trick the Labs team has completed. The API seems to be first for users and developers. It lets them play around with the collection, see what’s there. As Cope told me, “the API is there to develop multiple interfaces. That’s the whole point of an API—you let go of control around how people interpret data and give them what they ask for, and then have the confidence they’ll find a way to organize it that makes sense for them.” But who is doing the most work around the collection—the most organizing, the most-sensemaking? It’s the museum itself.

“When we re-open, the building will be the single largest consumer of the API,” said Chan.

In other words, the museum made a piece of infrastructure for the public. But the museum will benefit in the long term, because the infrastructure will permit them to plan for the near future.

And the museum will also be, of course, the single largest beneficiary of outsider improvements to the API. It already talks to other APIs on the web. Ray Eames’s page, for instance, encourages users to tag their Instagrams and Flickr photos with a certain code. When they do, Cooper Hewitt’s API will automatically sniff it out and link that image back to its own person file for Eames. Thus, the Cooper Hewitt’s online presence grows even richer.

The Cooper Hewitt isn’t the only museum in the world with an API. The Powerhouse has one, and many art museums have uploaded high-quality images of their collections. But the power of the Cooper Hewitt’s digital interface is unprecedented. There’s a command that asks for colors as defined by the Crayola crayon palette. Another asks if the snack bar is open. A third mimics the speech of one of the Labs members. It’s a fun piece of software, and it makes a point about the scope of the museum’s vision. If design is in everything, the API says, then the museum’s collection includes every facet of the museum itself. "



"Even if things do work, the model turns museum websites into museums themselves, catalogs of once-snazzy apps built for special occasions before being discarded forever. Exhibits go away, but those apps never do. A museum’s website—the primary face of the museum to the world—winds up looking like a closet of old prom dresses.

When Bill Moggridge became the Cooper Hewitt’s director in 2010, he wanted the museum to make its digital infrastructure more thoughtfully. Moggridge, it should be noted, is a legend. He helped design the first laptop computer. He founded the world-famous firm IDEO. And he invented the term “interaction design.” Moggridge died in 2012, not living to see the renovation project he began.

Moggridge created Chan’s position and hired him for it. And while Chan could have kept outsourcing projects to big outside firms, he instead lobbied for funding and hire a staff. The museum’s digital work was too important. It had to have in-house experts. “There's a lovely phrase we use a lot,” Cope said. “The guy who invented the Perl programming language talked about Perl as being there to make easy things simple and hard things possible.”

“That’s how we try to think about this. Not everyone’s gonna understand what we’ve built or the potential of what we’ve built right away. It’s gonna take some of the curators longer than others to figure it out. But the minute they get it, they should be able to turn around and be like, 'What if…? Can we do…?'—and if it’s easy, it should be live in 15 minutes.”"



"The team has accomplished so much largely by accepting imperfection. When the Labs launched the API, it was missing a lot of information. Cope called the quality of its metadata at launch “incredibly spotty,” before Chan clarified, “it’s terrible.”

But that was on purpose. Better to put the museum’s grand imperfection and incompleteness out in the world and let people make of it what they will, the team decided, then wait for it to be perfect. “It was a tactical play to say, don’t obsess about that stuff, because its what people do with it that matters,” said Chan.

“We could spend the next 50 years trying to make that data perfect and it still would not ever be perfect. There was 70 years of collecting that had different documenting standards. Museums only started collecting policies in the eighties and nineties. How can you retrospectively fix everything? It just can’t be done. So let’s move on and figure out what we want to do with it,” he said.

This attitude—popularized by Steve Jobs with the phrase, “Real artists ship”—extends to how the team thinks through media production, too. “I can’t sit on a video for six months, making these minute edits. I have to pitch it out door, so we can say: This interview got this many views, this thing got this many views, let’s keep going with this,” said Shelly.

The Labs’s work, as a whole, is an investment in a particular idea of cultural democracy. It’s a view where imperfect speech can always—and will always, and should always—be augmented by further speech. It trusts in the discourse over the perfection of the original work."



"And perhaps already, the Labs team believes, that digital information will be inextricable from the physical object. The Cooper Hewitt has long collected napkin sketches of famous logos and inventions. If it wants to collect the rough thoughts of today, it will have to work fast, because napkins last longer in files than sketch files do on iPads.

“To collect a Nest absent of any data, what does that tell you?,” asked Cope.“It tells you it’s a beautiful piece of industrial design. Well, maybe the museum should start thinking about some way of keeping that data alongside the object, and maybe it doesn’t need to be privileged in the way the object is.”"
robinsonmeyer  2015  cooper-hewitt  museums  collections  archives  internet  web  sebchan  aaronstraupcope  billmoggridge  design  interaction  api  data  digital  online  objects  things  applications  software  unfinished  imperfection  democracy  culture  culturaldemocracy  infrastructure  visitors  events 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Clocks Are Too Precise (and People Don't Know What to Do About It) - The Atlantic
"No big deal, but abolishing leap seconds could unmoor us from the sun forever."



"But wouldn’t abandoning the sometimes-second eventually divorce the Earth from the sun? This is one of the reasons why Canada, China, and Britain all cling to the leap second, or, at least, did at the last global meeting.

Matsakis thinks such a link has already been lost.

“​We don’t have a connection,” he told me. “We lose the connection twice a year when we go on daylight saving time.”

By the end of this century, the accumulated gap between UTC and what-should-be-the-solar-time would only be about one minute.

“What will happen is that in about 1,000 years, instead of the sun being overhead at noon, it will be overhead at 1 p.m. But by then society will have shifted.”

Hence the Chaucer. “Almost no one can read Chaucer,” Matsakis says, but we don’t freak out about it. Instead, we understand language to be one of those systems that has shifted imperceptibly over the centuries. In 600 years, when scholars translate texts from before the 21st century, they will just know that—in addition to translating or annotating monetary values so they make sense for contemporaneous readers—“noon” needs to become “1 p.m.”

Such a slow shift over time would be worth it, Matsakis said, for all the network failures it would prevent.

“You would [think it was worth it] too if you were one of the people stranded in Australia when Qantas Airlines went down,” he told me.

He recalled how American railroad companies only invented timezones after crashes forced them to. (Between 1831 and 1853, there were 97 railroad crashes—often because two trains, scheduled at close intervals on the same length of crowded track, disagreed about the time.) And perhaps it would be the same for the leap second."
time  clocks  robinsonmeyer  leapseconds  2015  precision  demetriosmatsakis  science  astronomy  physics  history 
january 2015 by robertogreco
The Artist Endures - The Atlantic
"What’s more, the idea that 10,000 hours of practice makes someone an expert may not even be psychologically valid. A recent meta-analysis found that while practice correlated with skill, it did not at all explain it. “Deliberate practice left more of the variation in skill unexplained than it explained,” wrote one of that study’s authors in Slate. We know so little about this idea because it’s so relatively recent: The first research suggesting a “10,000 Hour Rule” existed was published in 1993, and the rule itself only became popularized with the 2008 release of Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers.

And look what happened: In six years, the idea became such a part of the cultural atmosphere that Deresiewicz can treat it like it’s timeless. But it’s not—it’s new, as much a part of the changing artistic firmament as the compulsion to have a website.

But that doesn’t mean its meaningless. The “10,000 Hour Rule” caught on because it invited readers to a cultural meritocracy. It discredited the un-American idea that in-born talent drives careers, instead suggesting that any discipline, any craft or art, could be accessible to anyone through hours upon hours of practice. Maybe that’s true: We just don’t know. Likewise, I don’t know whether true cultural democracy is coming.

But I do know one thing. The value of any discipline, whether craft or art, is not extracted solely by experts. In his essay, Deresiewicz approves of how Gertrude Stein once scolded Picasso for writing poetry. I have also heard Picasso was a terrible poet, but I really don’t know, and I can’t hazard whether some iambic innovation would have spurred him to paint differently.

I am not Picasso, though, and neither are you. And in the world I’d like to live in, everyone—whether they’re a famous painter or a CPA—would feel as though they can explore the breadth of human expression, whether through writing poetry or learning about Chinese pottery or even researching historical pickling methods. If cultural democracy comes, my guess is it will not look like 100 million specialists. It will appear as a society of curious minds, captivated by human traditions and inspired to improve upon them, interested in the many places in the world where humans have spent their attention—and hungry to invest more."
robinsonmeyer  2014  art  williamderesiewicz  craft  practice  internet  malcolmgladwell  advice  democracy  culture  creativity  attention  specialists  specialization  generalists  meritocracy  joirodreamsofsushi  gertrudestein  pablopicasso  dilettantes  innovation  imagination 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Pics or It Didn't Happen: The New Crisis of Connected Cameras - The Atlantic
"Networked lenses have, in short, marvelous potential. But cameras that are everywhere and connected to everything else have graver consequences, too—consequences we’re just beginning to suss out.

And I think it’s this, the import and ethics of networked lenses, that we’re wrestling with in story after story. Networked images are simply different than the products of film cameras. They’re easier to edit and slipperier to steal. Networked pictures get away from you, via black hat Torrenting, social media drag-and-dropping, or illicit iCloud downloading.

And even if not every lens in every story is truly networked, we’re still talking about the same technological advances. The smartphone camera is part of a global proliferation of photography, generally. The cheap sensor in your flip phone and the cheap sensor in your surveillance camera are, if not twins, then cousins.

Networked lenses require further serious thinking, but here are some questions that to me seem particularly unresolved. We only have the beginning of provisional propositions here, and analogies that we’re struggling to extend and apply, but here are some key questions.

What should you watch? This summer alone, it hasn’t been hard to find digital images or video of Ray Rice punching Janay Palmer unconscious; of masked ISIS militants executing not only James Foley but also Steven Sotloff; of St. Louis Police shooting and killing mentally ill Kajieme Powell; of Michael Brown’s lifeless body; and of the bodies of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 victims.

In each of those cases, I have seen exhortations not to watch the video, not to look at the images.

Sometimes these appeals are argued from a place of respect. “The intent of the ISIS video is to strip James Foley of his humanity, to turn him into a symbol,” writes Margaret Eby. “We can pay tribute to him best by refusing to participate in the twisted one-act play, this allegory that his killers have scripted for us.”

Sometimes this respect becomes a call for consent: Did Jamay Palmer permit the video of her abuse to become public? If not (and it sure seems not), then the average viewer shouldn’t see it.

And sometimes these entreaties are paired with an appeal to the viewer’s mental health. Not only should you abstain from watching a video because it’s disrespectful to the victim, but you should also avoid it because it’s bad for you. Watch too many of these—watch even just one—and you will be worn down, made a little less hopeful. Yes, it’s your duty to know about the monstrosities committed by humans, but you risk losing something vibrant in yourself if you watch a document of every new one.

I’ve seen all of these arguments sketched by different readers—but I’ve seen all of them contested, too.

How should the media treat the products of networked lenses? In 2002, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was kidnapped and executed. Film of the murder was uploaded online, but, as Eby writes, that was “before the reign of social media, when images and videos did not automatically embed in your timelines, unbidden.” (The Internet as a whole was just much slower then too, and video content more time-consuming to obtain and download.)

Still, some journalists made the video available. “This is the the single most gruesome, horrible, despicable, and horrifying thing I've ever seen,” wrote Stephen Mindich, the publisher of alt-weekly the Boston Phoenix, before he linked to the video.

This year, New York tabloids placed images from the beginning of the Foley video on their front-cover. Even The New York Times embedded a still. Should they have? Just yesterday, The Intercept’s Peter Maass argued that he thought more Americans should watch the execution videos in their entirety.

And this goes beyond snuff films, too: Should the media show images of Michael Brown’s body? Should it screen-cap Ray Rice punching Janay Palmer? Should it embed Instagrams of Flight 17 victims?

If not, should it give readers a way to access these videos? Or are we unwise to ask these questions: Perhaps films like these should always be handled case-by-case. Yesterday, a roommate of mine said he thought images from the Foley video should be shown, but not any that depicted the murder weapon.

What do the product of networked lenses do, once you add them to a situation? We know something about the violence the American press should and shouldn't depict—there have long been rules, however loose, about those sorts of things. But we know less about how to handle and assess the consequences of showing, or not showing, those images when they’re available elsewhere. Are we preparing to bomb ISIS because of the horror of the images of the Foley and Sotloff murders? Should the press account for that somehow?

Or return again to the NFL’s suspension of Ray Rice. Though it was public knowledge that Rice knocked his girlfriend unconscious, he was only suspended two games for it. But he received an indefinite suspension once TMZ released video of the incident. Why is that—because everyone could see his violence now? Because the assault was shown to be as bad as it was?

What may different kinds of people do with a networked lens? What should they do? I’m thinking of two different events here, both since July.

The first: Black protesters in Ferguson were barred by cops of taking pictures of arrests. The First Amendment protects citizens’ right to film cops.

The second: Recent security breaches have allowed users to steal photos from various female celebrities, a tranche which included nude pictures they had taken of themselves. On Twitter, New York Times columnist Nick Bilton tossed off:

"Put together a list of tips for celebs after latest leaks: 1. Don't take nude selfies 2. Don't take nude selfies 3. Don't take nude selfies"

— Nick Bilton (@nickbilton) September 1, 2014

This struck me (and many others) as almost victim-blaming: Shouldn’t the real injunction be, don’t steal other people’s property and don’t sexually harass anyone? Who are we to tell women what they can or cannot do with their phones and networked cameras?

Yet with the state of online security as dismal as it is, maybe Bilton’s tweet constitutes good advice. We shouldn’t bar anyone from doing anything with their camera, but until we improve cultural consideration of and respect for women, maybe we can say, affirmatively but respectfully, that taking nude selfies constitutes a certain kind of potentially worthwhile risk.

What underlies both of these incidents might be obvious: Existing oppressions, whether misogyny, racism, or otherwise, practically limits how networked lens can be used. Yet this must inform how we consider the products and circumstances of any Internet-connected camera.

And above all these questions, there’s an ultimate one: What happens when you change a camera into a networked lens?

And: What happens when you add a networked lens to a situation?

Who gains power: the people holding the camera or the people being filmed? (Some argue that cop bodycams would in fact empower the police. After all, who has time to review all that footage?) Whose behavior changes, and how much? What can we expect will happen to the images that result? (Will they disappear into a database forever? If so, what can be done to them there? How will that affect us?)

We don’t know the answer to these twinned questions—but we’re learning a little more every day.

This is not all to say every issue today is a networked lens issue. NSA surveillance as a whole isn’t, I think. But the agency’s mass-facial recognition is. Labor on the whole isn’t, but workplace surveillance is. Urban planning isn’t, but public security cameras deployed en masse are. Scope this all the way up and you have Google Earth.

At the close of his piece, Mod quotes Sontag: “While there appears to be nothing that photography can’t devour, whatever can’t be photographed becomes less important.” Mod spins that, riffing, “Whatever can’t be networked becomes less important.” And whatever is networked can send us to war."
2014  robinsonmeyer  cameras  mobile  phones  photography  web  internet  culture  networkedculture  craigmod  behavior  ethics 
september 2014 by robertogreco
The end of Big Twitter - Text Patterns - The New Atlantis
"This is exactly right. I have found that my greatest frustrations with Twitter come not from people who are being nasty — though there are far too many of them — but from people who just misunderstand. They reply questioningly or challengingly to a tweet without reading any of the preceding or succeeding tweets that would give it context, or without reading the post that it links to. They take jokes seriously — Oh Lord do they take jokes seriously. And far too often they don’t take the time to formulate their responses with care and so write tweets that I can’t make sense of at all. And I don’t want to have to deal with all this. I just want to sit here on the porch and have a nice chat with my friends and neighbors.

But wait. I’m not on the porch anymore. I’m in the middle of Broadway.

So I’m doing what, it seems to me, many people are doing: I’m getting out of the street. I’ll keep my public account for public uses: it’ll be a place where I can link to posts like this one, or announce any event that’s of general interest. But what I’ve come to call Big Twitter is simply not a place for conversation any more.

I don’t like this change. I made friends — real friends — on Twitter when it was a place for conversation. I reconnected with people I had lost touch with. Whole new realms of knowledge were opened to me. I don’t want to foreclose on the possibility of further discovery, but the signal-to-noise ration is so bad now that I don’t think I could pick out the constructive and interesting voices from all the mean-spiritedness and incomprehension; and so few smart people now dare to use Twitter in the old open way.

Big Twitter was great — for a while. But now it’s over, and it’s time to move on. I’m just hoping that some smart people out there are learning from what went wrong and developing social networks that can strengthen the signal and silence the noise."

[More here: http://text-patterns.thenewatlantis.com/2014/09/more-on-twitter.html

"1) I had forgotten, but this piece by Robinson Meyer and Adrienne LaFrance got at many of the issues I talk about, and did it some months ago.

2) I keep hearing from people that they like Big Twitter just fine. Awesome! Then they should keep using it. (This is a genre of response that has always puzzled me. You see it when people say that they’re having trouble with a piece of software or a web service, and others reply “It’s working great for me!” How is that relevant, exactly? If I tell you I broke my arm are you going to tell me that your arm is just fine?) As I said, I want to spend more time in my living room and less time on the street. If you prefer being in the street, that’s definitely what you should do.

3) Some folks are worried that they won’t know what’s going on in the world — or in some particular corner of it — if they leave Twitter. But consider this: if it’s knowledge you want, then one of the best services Twitter provides to you is linkage: links that take you to places on the open web where ideas are developed at some length. So instead of relying on Twitter to mediate that, why not use an RSS reader and subscribe to a bunch of worthwhile sites? Cut out the middleman, I say. Plus, by using RSS you liberate yourself to some degree from dependence on proprietary services and get back to the open web. As Brent Simmons recently commented,
My blog’s older than Twitter and Facebook, and it will outlive them. It has seen Flickr explode and then fade. It’s seen Google Wave and Google Reader come and go, and it’ll still be here as Google Plus fades. When Medium and Tumblr are gone, my blog will be here.

The things that will last on the internet are not owned. Plain old websites, blogs, RSS, irc, email.


And when I say “use RSS” I mean “use it in its original, open form”: technically speaking, Twitter is little more than proprietary RSS.

4) The past few months have been for me a season of cutting back and cutting down. In addition to my general-if-not-absolute absence from Big Twitter, I stopped reading the New York Times, and have reworked my RSS feeds to feature less news-of-the-moment and more stuff that could have longer-term value. I’ve been reading more books and longer articles. This has all been good.

5) Finally, one interesting (to me) bit of self-reporting: I have missed Big Twitter at certain moments, and most of them have occurred when I’ve thought of something to say that I think is funny. I want to tweet my witticism and then sit back and wait for retweets and faves. That’s pathetic, of course; but good for me to know."]
alanjacobs  twitter  2014  convresation  frankchimero  marcoarment  news  rss  understanding  misunderstanding  bigtwitter  provatetwitter  robinsonmeyer 
september 2014 by robertogreco

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