Posts tagged tech

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.

On Twitter:

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.

On Facebook:

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.

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. 

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. 

How to Remember Anything (runtime ~20 minutes)

For those who have never seen it: a totally useful Ted Talk by science journalist Joshua Foer (who is also the founder of the absolutely awesome Atlas Obscura). He talks about covering the U.S. Memory Championships where he learned how humans can train their brains to remember a lot in a little bit of time. But more importantly, he talks about why we ought to strengthen our memory in an age when one can outsource the storage of most information to the web.

Related: Last year, Clive Thompson published a fascinating book about how technology is changing the way we think (mostly for the better). Maria Popova reviewed it on Brain Pickings, covering some of his most important observations, namely: the difference in transparency between traditional public storehouses of information (i.e.: the public library) and modern storehouses (i.e.: the web). And in this context, we wrote a bit about the perils of algorithmic curation.

War on Anonymous: British Spies Attacked Hackers

NBC News reports that British intelligence engaged in a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack on Anonymous:

A secret British spy unit created to mount cyber attacks on Britain’s enemies has waged war on the hacktivists of Anonymous and LulzSec, according to documents taken from the National Security Agency by Edward Snowden and obtained by NBC News.

The blunt instrument the spy unit used to target hackers, however, also interrupted the web communications of political dissidents who did not engage in any illegal hacking. It may also have shut down websites with no connection to Anonymous.

According to the documents, a division of Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the British counterpart of the NSA, shut down communications among Anonymous hacktivists by launching a “denial of service” (DDOS) attack – the same technique hackers use to take down bank, retail and government websites – making the British government the first Western government known to have conducted such an attack.

Writing in Wired, McGill University’s Gabriella Coleman says the British government tactics are an extrajudicial danger that affects us all:

Whether you agree with the activities of Anonymous or not — which have included everything from supporting the Arab Spring protests to DDoSing copyright organizations to doxing child pornography site users — the salient point is that democratic governments now seem to be using their very tactics against them.

The key difference, however, is that while those involved in Anonymous can and have faced their day in court for those tactics, the British government has not. When Anonymous engages in lawbreaking, they are always taking a huge risk in doing so. But with unlimited resources and no oversight, organizations like the GCHQ (and theoretically the NSA) can do as they please. And it’s this power differential that makes all the difference

…But here’s the thing: You don’t even need to believe in or support DDoS as a protest tactic to find the latest Snowden revelations troubling. There are clearly defined laws and processes that a democratic government is supposed to follow. Yet here, the British government is apparently throwing out due process and essentially proceeding straight to the punishment — using a method that is considered illegal and punishable by years in prison.

FJP: Read that last line again. So, for example, a hacker fined $183,000 and put on probation for participating in 1 minute of a DDoS attack. And here’s a search across the FBI’s Web site for its prosecutions for DDoS attacks.

Who Controls The Media? Who Controls The FJP?
Let’s take this in order: Who controls the media?
If we’re talking traditional, corporate media it typically looks like this:
GE Owns: Comcast, NBC, Universal Pictures.
News-Corp Owns: Fox, Wall Street Journal, New York Post.
Disney Owns: ABC, ESPN, Pixar, Miramax.
Viacom Owns: MTV, Nickelodeon, BET, Paramount.
Time Warner Owns: CNN, HBO, Time, Warner Brothers.
CBS Owns: 60 Minutes, Showtime, NFL.com.
They all own way more than this, and I’d also add Clear Channel to the equation since it owns the majority of radio stations throughout the United States.
But you can’t talk about “owning the media” without talking about who owns cellular and Internet pipes. That includes companies like AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Verizon and Time Warner Cable.
Online sources remain remarkably diverse despite reliance on upstream providers. People can reach and enjoy them despite the depth and breadth of overall marketshare of the properties mentioned above. That said, recent Network Neutrality rulings threaten our ability to access, interact with and enjoy this online diversity. Take, for instance, this AT&T patent application that would let it discriminate against online content and gives us access (or blocks access) accordingly:

A user of a communications network is prevented from consuming an excessive amount of channel bandwidth by restricting use of the channel in accordance with the type of data being downloaded to the user. The user is provided an initial number of credits. As the user consumes the credits, the data being downloaded is checked to determine if is permissible or non-permissible. Non-permissible data includes file-sharing files and movie downloads if user subscription does not permit such activity.

Similarly, you can’t talk about owning and influencing the media without paying attention to how our technology companies operate within the ecosystem. Namely, how our interaction with information and communication is mediated by the code created by the likes of Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple. As CUNY’s Lev Manovich has written:

Software has become a universal language, the interface to our imagination and the world. What electricity and the combustion engine were to the early 20th century, software is to the early 21st century. I think of it as a layer that permeates contemporary societies. If we want to understand today’s techniques of communication, representation, simulation, analysis, decision making, memory, vision, writing, and interaction, we must understand software.

So, that is more or less who controls American media.
Second question, who controls Future Journalism Project?
Ask a question, get an answer: meet the power behind the throne.
Most days though it’s me and Jihii. — Michael

Who Controls The Media? Who Controls The FJP?

Let’s take this in order: Who controls the media?

If we’re talking traditional, corporate media it typically looks like this:

  • GE Owns: Comcast, NBC, Universal Pictures.
  • News-Corp Owns: Fox, Wall Street Journal, New York Post.
  • Disney Owns: ABC, ESPN, Pixar, Miramax.
  • Viacom Owns: MTV, Nickelodeon, BET, Paramount.
  • Time Warner Owns: CNN, HBO, Time, Warner Brothers.
  • CBS Owns: 60 Minutes, Showtime, NFL.com.

They all own way more than this, and I’d also add Clear Channel to the equation since it owns the majority of radio stations throughout the United States.

But you can’t talk about “owning the media” without talking about who owns cellular and Internet pipes. That includes companies like AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Verizon and Time Warner Cable.

Online sources remain remarkably diverse despite reliance on upstream providers. People can reach and enjoy them despite the depth and breadth of overall marketshare of the properties mentioned above. That said, recent Network Neutrality rulings threaten our ability to access, interact with and enjoy this online diversity. Take, for instance, this AT&T patent application that would let it discriminate against online content and gives us access (or blocks access) accordingly:

A user of a communications network is prevented from consuming an excessive amount of channel bandwidth by restricting use of the channel in accordance with the type of data being downloaded to the user. The user is provided an initial number of credits. As the user consumes the credits, the data being downloaded is checked to determine if is permissible or non-permissible. Non-permissible data includes file-sharing files and movie downloads if user subscription does not permit such activity.

Similarly, you can’t talk about owning and influencing the media without paying attention to how our technology companies operate within the ecosystem. Namely, how our interaction with information and communication is mediated by the code created by the likes of Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple. As CUNY’s Lev Manovich has written:

Software has become a universal language, the interface to our imagination and the world. What electricity and the combustion engine were to the early 20th century, software is to the early 21st century. I think of it as a layer that permeates contemporary societies. If we want to understand today’s techniques of communication, representation, simulation, analysis, decision making, memory, vision, writing, and interaction, we must understand software.

So, that is more or less who controls American media.

Second question, who controls Future Journalism Project?

Ask a question, get an answer: meet the power behind the throne.

Most days though it’s me and Jihii. — Michael

Shoot Footage, Playback on ipad, Scan ipad, Animate

ANIMAL:

To create the video for Gabriel Garzón-Montano’s “Everything Is Everything,” filmmakers Santiago Carrasquilla and Joe Hollier shot footage, played it back on an iPad, scanned the iPad screen, then animated those individually-scanned frames together. The resulting clip occupies a pleasing middle space between analog and digital, with warm, inviting shots interrupted by disarming glitches and splashes of color. The song, a laid-back, funky R&B cut — and not a Lauryn Hill cover — is pretty damned good as well.

Understanding and Defining News Literacy
The Berkman Center recently published a series of research and practice briefs about news literacy as part of their Why News Matters network, which is very worth checking out. 
H/T to EdWeek for alerting us to the briefs which include:

1) "The Challenges of Defining ‘News Literacy’ " seeks to stimulate a discussion about approaches to defining, framing, and understanding core concepts such as ‘news’ and ‘news literacy’. The brief draws on our growing body of research into everyday youth behaviors, and identifies key competencies for youth to become empowered, informed, connected citizens.

2) "Mapping Approaches to News Literacy Curriculum Development: A Navigation Aid" helps build the capacity of our community of practitioners to develop and teach news literacy curricula. We provide a concise summary of approaches to news literacy, current methods of reaching youth through instruction, as well as a roadmap for innovative curriculum design.

3) "Youth News Perceptions and Behaviors Online: How Youth Access and Share Information in a Chicago Community Affected by Gang Violence" takes an on-the-ground approach to news readership and examines the everyday information needs of youth living in Chicago. The brief draws upon focus group interviews that raise new questions about how youth online behaviors are affected by community violence.

4) “Evaluation in Context: Reflections on How to Measure Success of Your “WNM” Program" is a thoughtful roadmap for organizations and programs to implement a data-driven evaluation cycle. Written by Youth and Media mentor Justin Reich, with the support of the YaM team, this practice brief encourages nonprofits, as learning organizations, to critically and impartially examine and improve their self-efficacy as they work towards meaningful objectives.

Image: Why News Matters’ news personality quiz, one of a number of quizzes and challenges on the site.
Bonus: Some posts on news literacy from the FJP archives.

Understanding and Defining News Literacy

The Berkman Center recently published a series of research and practice briefs about news literacy as part of their Why News Matters network, which is very worth checking out. 

H/T to EdWeek for alerting us to the briefs which include:

1) "The Challenges of Defining ‘News Literacy’ " seeks to stimulate a discussion about approaches to defining, framing, and understanding core concepts such as ‘news’ and ‘news literacy’. The brief draws on our growing body of research into everyday youth behaviors, and identifies key competencies for youth to become empowered, informed, connected citizens.

2) "Mapping Approaches to News Literacy Curriculum Development: A Navigation Aid" helps build the capacity of our community of practitioners to develop and teach news literacy curricula. We provide a concise summary of approaches to news literacy, current methods of reaching youth through instruction, as well as a roadmap for innovative curriculum design.

3) "Youth News Perceptions and Behaviors Online: How Youth Access and Share Information in a Chicago Community Affected by Gang Violence" takes an on-the-ground approach to news readership and examines the everyday information needs of youth living in Chicago. The brief draws upon focus group interviews that raise new questions about how youth online behaviors are affected by community violence.

4) “Evaluation in Context: Reflections on How to Measure Success of Your “WNM” Program" is a thoughtful roadmap for organizations and programs to implement a data-driven evaluation cycle. Written by Youth and Media mentor Justin Reich, with the support of the YaM team, this practice brief encourages nonprofits, as learning organizations, to critically and impartially examine and improve their self-efficacy as they work towards meaningful objectives.

Image: Why News Matters’ news personality quiz, one of a number of quizzes and challenges on the site.

Bonus: Some posts on news literacy from the FJP archives.

Journalism Entrepreneurship 101

Takeaways from Dan Gillmor's media entrepreneurship training program for journalism educators. Useful for everyone.

The Most Difficult Game Ever Created

The Old News: QWOP is the hardest game to play, ever. It was created in 2008 by former Cut Copy bassist Bennett Foddy. And you can play it online here.

The New News: For all you New Yorkers, it’s also part of  the current Indie Games Exhibit at the Museum of Moving Image, which is an awesome interactive exhibit with 24 other games you can play through March 2. Go.

We want the best news product in the world, but we don’t want journalists working for us.

Jason Calacanis, founder of the recently launched Inside.com, a news service designed to serve human-curated news digests to readers on mobile devices.

Bits Blog:

The start of Inside is the latest instance of mobile apps, including Circa and Yahoo’s News Digest, turning to people to help filter the din created by endless streams of content found online. Graham Holdings, the education and media company that used to be the Washington Post Company before it sold the newspaper to Jeff Bezos, released Trove last week, an overhaul of its Social Reader app that now combines human curation and algorithms to present news stories.

FJP: It sounds like an interesting trifecta of ambitions, which Calcanis discusses in an interview with Nieman Lab, excerpted below.

01. Like Netflix, it will  learn your preferences and serve you accordingly.

Nobody’s figured out mobile news. The great thing about mobile it’s going to be a magnitude bigger than the web. Now that we’re in people’s pockets and we’ve learned what they want to do, we’re going to be able to really optimize people’s experience to get them to the great stuff. If they want all of the news, they can go to the all-update feed. If they want news just tailored to them, I think over the next year or two we’re going to really be able to know, hey, Staci really likes media stories and she’s really into The New York Times and she really likes these five entrepreneurs and this is her favorite baseball team — and these are the five or six types of stories she doesn’t want. She doesn’t want Kim Kardashian in her feed, because she’s voted her down twice, so we’ve never going to show it again in my topics.

02. The company wants to be Google-proof.

To make a Google-proof company, I wanted to have a killer brand that people would remember and come to like — a product so compelling that it has a repeatable effect. The problem at Mahalo or eHow is you use it for two hours to get your baking recipe, then you don’t use it again for two months — then you use it again for putting up curtains. You really rely on people going to Google.

With news, people will go directly to a site, which makes it impervious to Google. And the app ecosystem is also impervious to Google. They can’t control apps even though they have a big footprint in Android, nor have they shown a propensity to control the app ecosystem on Android. I think they would get a revolt on their hands if they did.

03. All this curation will be of strictly original content, to cut out the middle men and help great journalism get discovered.

We don’t see ourselves as the destination. We see ourselves as the curator of the best journalism in the world, so we’re very specifically only linking to the original journalist. We’re training our curators to understand The Huffington Post or Business Insider, which might do 70 to 80 percent aggregation of other people’s content and 20 to 30 percent original, and how to know the difference. So if Business Insider pulls a quote from The New York Times story and we find it on Business Insider, we’re actually going to wind up linking to The New York Times. We see ourselves as an antidote to the sort of middleman role and people rewriting other people’s content. We’re going to really actually do the work to figure out who came up with the original story.

 Play with it here.

NSA, British Intelligence is Tracking You on Angry Birds
Via ProPublica:

When a smartphone user opens Angry Birds, the popular game application, and starts slinging birds at chortling green pigs, spy agencies have plotted how to lurk in the background to snatch data revealing the player’s location, age, sex and other personal information, according to secret British intelligence documents.
In their globe-spanning surveillance for terrorism suspects and other targets, the National Security Agency and its British counterpart have been trying to exploit a basic byproduct of modern telecommunications: With each new generation of mobile phone technology, ever greater amounts of personal data pour onto networks where spies can pick it up.
According to dozens of previously undisclosed classified documents, among the most valuable of those unintended intelligence tools are so-called leaky apps that spew everything from users’ smartphone identification codes to where they have been that day.

Read through for the details.

NSA, British Intelligence is Tracking You on Angry Birds

Via ProPublica:

When a smartphone user opens Angry Birds, the popular game application, and starts slinging birds at chortling green pigs, spy agencies have plotted how to lurk in the background to snatch data revealing the player’s location, age, sex and other personal information, according to secret British intelligence documents.

In their globe-spanning surveillance for terrorism suspects and other targets, the National Security Agency and its British counterpart have been trying to exploit a basic byproduct of modern telecommunications: With each new generation of mobile phone technology, ever greater amounts of personal data pour onto networks where spies can pick it up.

According to dozens of previously undisclosed classified documents, among the most valuable of those unintended intelligence tools are so-called leaky apps that spew everything from users’ smartphone identification codes to where they have been that day.

Read through for the details.

Internet governance is too important to be left just to governments.
Patricia Lewis, Research Director, International Security at Chatham House to The Guardian. Independent commission to investigate future of internet after NSA revelations.
Write the President, Email the World
What would you do with a 50-hour free AOL trial?
Via @itsWanda.

Write the President, Email the World

What would you do with a 50-hour free AOL trial?

Via @itsWanda.

The choice is not whether to allow the NSA to spy. The choice is between a communications infrastructure that is vulnerable to attack at its core and one that, by default, is intrinsically secure for its users. Every country, including our own, must give intelligence and law-enforcement authorities the means to pursue terrorists and criminals, but we can do so without fundamentally undermining the security that enables commerce, entertainment, personal communication, and other aspects of 21st-century life. We urge the US government to reject society-wide surveillance and the subversion of security technology, to adopt state-of-the-art, privacy-preserving technology, and to ensure that new policies, guided by enunciated principles, support human rights, trustworthy commerce, and technical innovation.

An Open Letter from US Researchers in Cryptography and Information Security.

As TechDirt points out, “One of the things that’s been glaring about all of the investigations and panels and research into these [surveillance] programs is that they almost always leave out actual technologists, and especially leave out security experts. That seems like a big weakness, and now those security researchers are speaking out anyway. At some point, the politicians backing these programs are going to have to realize that almost no one who actually understands this stuff thinks what they’re doing is the right way to go about this.