My colleague Alex Goldman told me he thinks of this as “a mesmerizing stock ticker of the world’s perversions.” — PJ Vogt, On the Media. A Porn Site Shows You Strangers’ Searches in Real Time.
How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations -
Via Glenn Greenwald / The Intercept:
One of the many pressing stories that remains to be told from the Snowden archive is how western intelligence agencies are attempting to manipulate and control online discourse with extreme tactics of deception and reputation-destruction. It’s time to tell a chunk of that story, complete with the relevant documents…
…Among the core self-identified purposes of [the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group] are two tactics: (1) to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets; and (2) to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable. To see how extremist these programs are, just consider the tactics they boast of using to achieve those ends: “false flag operations” (posting material to the internet and falsely attributing it to someone else), fake victim blog posts (pretending to be a victim of the individual whose reputation they want to destroy), and posting “negative information” on various forums…
The broader point is that, far beyond hacktivists, these surveillance agencies have vested themselves with the power to deliberately ruin people’s reputations and disrupt their online political activity even though they’ve been charged with no crimes, and even though their actions have no conceivable connection to terrorism or even national security threats. As Anonymous expert Gabriella Coleman of McGill University told me, “targeting Anonymous and hacktivists amounts to targeting citizens for expressing their political beliefs, resulting in the stifling of legitimate dissent.” Pointing to this study she published, Professor Coleman vehemently contested the assertion that “there is anything terrorist/violent in their actions.”
Read through for source documents demonstrating how this done.
All About the #Selfies
Right now, there are more than 79 million photos on Instagram that fall under #selfie. This is not counting #selfies (7 million photos), #selfienation (1 million photos), #selfiesfordays (400,000 photos) or the countless number of photos with no hashtag at all. You might be thinking: “Finally, we’ve reached peak #selfie!” But according to a new study, only 3-5 percent of photos on Instagram fall into the category…
…In its short lifespan, the selfie has gone from pop culture phenomenon to academic lab rat. For obvious reasons, these photos are a psychological research goldmine, but there’s been little done in the way of objectively looking at the photos’ content to see how it might reflect the actual world we live in. Selfiecity looks at the trend through a window, not a microscope. Instead of zeroing in on a single narrow element, the Selfiecity project is broken down into a few broad areas: main findings, contextual essays and interactive data visualizations. “We wanted to look at this phenomena from different perspectives,” Manovich explains.
Selfiecity analyzes Instagram data for visual cues like head position, emotional expression, gender and age, in order to get a clearer picture of how (and how often) people actually take selfies in different cultures. “The idea was to confront the generalizations about selfies, which are not based on data, with actual data,” says Manovich. “We wanted to look at what the actual patterns are.”
So, check Selfiecity, it’s mesmerizing.
And then, perhaps, check #SELFIE (Official Music Video), a techno ode to all things selfie, crowdsourced “from so many amazing and funny ppl.”
Image: Selfies in New York, via Wired.
Beethoven, Original Punk
Via The Atlantic:
The popular image of [Beethoven] is one of heroism, severity, and backs aching for the lash as musical commandments are delivered from on high. Few works in the history of art are as bracingly intense as a goodly chunk of Beethoven’s piano sonatas, for instance, to say nothing of the late-period string quartets, music that, frankly, the 19th century wasn’t ready for. The opening four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony might as well be a stand-in for the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water, such is their uncompromising primacy. Beethoven’s work, as people tend to think of it, is music that just keeps coming at you, an ever-advancing sea that no coast can withstand.
Most of the time, that is. But there was also the occasion when Beethoven, in the midst of a personal—and odd—life crisis, opted to create a work to please madcaps, jesters, and wiseasses alike.
I’m talking about the Eighth Symphony. It’s arguably Beethoven’s most overlooked, coming as it does before the world-beating Ninth, and clocking in at a rapid 26 minutes. It was the last symphony from Beethoven’s middle period, receiving its premiere 200 years ago on February 24, 1814, in Vienna. And it is absolutely bonkers, mad, brave, cheekily pugnacious, punchy, and akin to what Lear’s Fool, Samuel Beckett, and a young Mozart might have come up with if those three ever got together to have a musical bash.
Beethoven’s 8th, 200 years old today.
Read on about his infatuation with a newly created technology called the metronome, deafness and his frustration with his brother’s love affair.
How to Create a Well-Balanced Blog
A new graphic by Column Five Media + LinkedIn Marketing Solutions uses the increasingly popular media-as-food analogy to offer tips to brands (but really, everyone) on what sort of content to publish on their blogs, when and how. Image is a screenshot from the original infographic, which you can read about and see in its entirety here.
The way I rose in journalism was, well, first, I leapt at the opportunity to do an internship at ABC News, but that could have been anywhere. The more important thing is that once I got there, I always brought ideas to the table. Diane Sawyer met with all the interns at the beginning of the summer and said, if you have ideas, send them to me. So I would go online and look at what was going on in the world and send her my ideas. I emailed her very politely and very gratefully and said, “Thank you so much for meeting with us. Here are five ideas.” She wrote back and said, “Thank you. These don’t really work.” So I tried again and sent other ideas, and after a while some of them started to get on TV! That was pretty cool.
So eventually when I applied for a job at ABC, they all remembered me as the girl who had all these great ideas and got them on TV, you know? I got recognized just for trying to make something out of nothing and putting myself out there and really respectfully and politely writing emails to a lot of people and sending them my ideas. —
Lara Setrakian, founder of Syria Deeply, in an excellent interview with Rookie Magazine’s Anaheed Alani. Good reading for all you aspiring journos.
Bonus: Advice & answers to readers from the FJP archives.
The News Feed is perhaps the world’s most sophisticated mirror of its readers’ preferences—and it’s fairly clear that news isn’t one of them. We simply prefer stories that fulfill the very purpose of Facebook’s machine-learning algorithm, to show us a reflection of the person we’d like to be, to make us feel, to make us smile, and, most simply, to remind us of ourselves. —
Derek Thompson, The Facebook Effect on the News, The Atlantic.
Thompson uses data from the BuzzFeed Partner Network (a conglomeration of popular sites) to compare the type of content that goes viral three different ways: Twitter, Search Traffic and Facebook.
It’s a blend of news, like terrorist attacks and music shows, and evergreen silliness with Ryan Gosling and Kim Kardashian.
In Search Traffic:
Just about all of them arguably count as “news.” They describe recent events, whether it’s a bikini sighting, terrorist explosion, or celebrity death.
Of the 20 most viral stories on BuzzFeed’s network, only seven deal with recent events. Only three deal with what you might call national news stories: the Miss America Pageant, Netflix technology, and the Video Music Awards (not quite A1 fare, but news, nonetheless). But the vast majority of these stories aren’t really news, at all. They’re quizzes about your accent, lists of foods and photographs, funny reminders of what life feels like as you age. For lack of a better term: They’re entertainment.
How much you need to make to buy a house in the Bay Area.
New York? $66,167.27
Los Angeles? $72,126.90
And on and on. Research by HSH.
A Quarter of Americans Think the Sun Goes Around the Earth
So goes a survey released Friday (PDF) by the National Science Foundation.
Before laughing at US ineptitude, NPR reports that a similar 2005 survey conducted in the European Union showed 34% of respondents answering the question incorrectly.
As those with loved ones go out with loved ones, consider something. Say, a Global Love Index quantifying love around the world.
Want that in map form? Got you covered. Data runs something like this:
In 2006 and 2007, Gallup asked people in 136 countries whether they had experienced love the previous day. The researchers found that on a typical day, roughly 70 percent of the world’s population reports feeling love. The world leader in love turned out to be the Philippines, where more than 90 percent said they had experienced love, and the world’s laggard Armenia, where only 29 percent of respondents did.
Image: Percent of People Feeling the Love, via The Atlantic. Select to embiggen.
Whenever these cases surface, they’re accompanied by a discussion about whether or not we can or should appreciate the work of artists and writers who are accused of doing terrible things. It’s a question without any satisfying categorical answer, which I suppose is why it generates so much copy. The nuances are endless: does it matter if the artist in question is alive or not? If he or she is dead, does it matter how long? Is there a difference between music that has words and music that doesn’t? Between loving a movie made by an alleged sex offender and loving a work of theology written by one? How on earth do we weigh all of this? —
Stephanie Krehbiel, The Woody Allen Problem, Religion Dispatches Magazine.
For those who have been looking for insight on how to think about Woody Allen in light of Dylan Farrow’s testimony against him and his subsequent letter of rebuttal, here is a useful point made by Roxan Gay in Salon:
Lately, we’ve been referring to to our social-media-saturated era as “the age of outrage.” I think what’s going on is more complex than that. We don’t get to hide from the truth anymore. We don’t get to hide from the possibility of multiple truths. This is the age of knowing, of Pandora’s box blown wide open. This is the age of being unable, or unwilling, or having fewer opportunities to look away. This is the age of being confronted with what we are willing to do in the name of what we believe.
And in that light, it’s useful to think about an analogous case and read Krehbiel’s piece, which is quoted above. It tells the story of respected theologian John Howard Yoder and his own version of the Woody Allen conundrum. And it’s a fascinating explanation of Mennonite pacifism, masculinity, and why people can struggle to condemn sexual violence despite a body evidence.
But King didn’t give readers an accurate picture—he gave them a partial and exaggerated one. He has the thickest Rolodex in the business, but he talked to only four people, and his colleagues talked to eight. In a league as large and diverse as the NFL, 12 is not a definitive sample. The SI stories offered no counterbalancing opinion or analysis, so the message was clear: This is the NFL party line. No one will talk on the record. And if anyone does, don’t trust him. —
Stephen Fatsis, How Sports Illustrated Botched the Michael Sam Story, Slate.
Background: Sports Illustrated published a piece by Pete Thamel and Thayer Evans on how the news that NFL prospect Michael Sam is gay will affect his draft stock. The “eight NFL executives and coaches” they spoke with predicted Sam’s fall to bigotry in the league. None of these sources were identified. Slate breaks it down.
Issue 1: Not a reasonable reflection of reality.
…the issue here isn’t the ungrounded and outdated opinions of a few off-the-record soothsayers. It’s about whether they deserved a platform in the first place, and whether the conclusions drawn from their words were a reasonable reflection of a broader reality.
Then Peter King posted a column in which he too gave his sources cover on the assumption that they wouldn’t talk otherwise.
Issue 2: Not okay to grant anonymity based on assumption.
King assumed they wouldn’t comment on the record so he granted anonymity up front? Maybe my journalistic principles are stuck in the ’50s, but that’s a newsroom no-no. You grant anonymity to get information or to understand background and context. You don’t let a source trash someone anonymously. King wrote that anonymity “would give the best information possible.” But he didn’t give information, only blind, unchallenged opinion. If his sources had spoken on the record and said something mealy-mouthed or had outright lied, King would have performed a journalistic service far greater than letting them shiv Michael Sam in his pursuit of “the truth.”
FJP: The ethics of using anonymous sources is pretty clear. Once you agree to providing anonymity, you stick to it or you’ll find yourself in a lawsuit. But the wisdom of knowing when to grant a source anonymity is far more difficult to come by. Here’s an interesting take on it from the Times, whose readers’ number 1 complaint is anonymous sources.
Related: Texas sports anchor Dale Hansen telling it like it is.