Blog posts tagged "culture"

Cure for Cure for Pain

January 16th, 2005

Where is it written that all coffee shops must play Cure for Pain? If you are 1369 in Central Sq. a few streets down from Mark Sandman Square, and Mark Sandman used to sit at your bar, and scribble lyrics, then you’re in the clear. Other wise cut it out! I used to like Morphine.

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Netflix Friends, Privacy, and the Network

January 10th, 2005

One of the things I’ve always kind of liked about Netflix is the curtain of privacy it tosses around your viewing habits. It isn’t like you can rent porn on Netflix, but still you are alone with your tastes and indiscretions. Netflix is in a position to collect incredibly accurate information about viewing habits, because both renting and rating are done in private. Netflix Friends changes that dynamic.

With Netflix Friends you can see what your friends are watching and share your favorite movies with them.

Renting and in particular rating are once again performative acts. There is a real value there, and in services like Audioscrobbler, or All Consuming, or 43 Things, and even the undirected social network sites like Orkut or Friendster, and yet …

I mean, I already maintain a blog, do I really want to share what I’m listening to, what I’m reading, what I’m watching, what I’m working on, and who I know? I don’t know. I just know that even though I’m flirting with Netflix Friends, I am very aware of the virtual clinking of coins, as I barter a little more privacy for a little more leveraged access to the network.

(I also predict that Netflix will over the next 6 months see an increasing disconnect between what people rate high, and what they watch, the Masterpiece Theater vs. Jerry Springer syndrome, and an associated degradation in the quality of their data.)

When Nielsen used log-books to gather information on the viewing habits of their sample families, the results were heavily skewed to Masterpiece Theater and Sesame Street. Replacing the journals with set-top boxes that reported what the set was actually tuned to showed what the average American family was really watching: naked midget wrestling, America’s Funniest Botched Cosmetic Surgeries and Jerry Springer presents: “My daughter dresses like a slut!”

update: tom is already experiencing the “social” side of it all.

Writers Bloc

May 27th, 2004

I’ve made a handful of passing references over the years to the genre I call “New Wave Socialist Scottish Sci-Fi” of which the principle proponents are Iain Banks and Ken Macleod, but also Charlie Stross, and (though he comes from a bit farther south) China Meiville. While there is some obvious accuracy to the moniker, I mostly used it to amuse myself, and as a way to speaking about this group of authors who are currently producing some of the most interesting, amusing, creative and yet relevant literature anywhere.

However reading Stross’ blog this evening, I found that there is significant truth to my turn of phrase. Checkout the Edinburgh Writers Bloc. They’ve got a whole movement going on up there. (no word on whether they do their readings in balaclavas)

p.s. it’s worth clicking through to read the related entries on this post.

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Zero Knowledge on a Budget

April 8th, 2004

My security culture is lousy, besides some basic self-censorship about what I talk about here on LM a quick Google search can find almost anything you wanted to know about me.

That said I find two websites have become an important part of my daily toolkit.

  • DodgeIt – free, receive-only email. No set up. Check via the web or RSS
  • BugMeNot – community maintained database of website logins, with a simple bookmarklet interface
And they work great together!

Are there other tools people are using?

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Raising Them Right

January 30th, 2004

I went and saw Tony Kushner speak tonight. He was pleasantly all over the place with a lot of readings (which he does very well), and I’m sure other pieces of the night will get written about later.

However I want to discuss almost the first things he said, which stuck with me. He was discussing Brundibar, his recent collaboration with Maurice Sendak to translate the libretto of the same name written in 1938 as opera for children and performed most famously 55 times in the Terezin concentration camp.

He described the story thusly,

“2 children go into town to buy milk, they see a teenage boy with an organ grinder busking, they decide to sing, the boy, who is a transparent parable for Hilter chases them off. Later they get 300 school children to march on the square, they chase on the bully, sing, and people shower them with coins. Good, solid Eastern European Socialist fairy tale.
That tickled my fancy, it comes as no surprise to anyone who is read Kushner’s work that he is avowedly political, but in this country we tend to think of politics as something for grown ups (or not to be discussed at all, but I’ll address that some other time). Or at least most of us do, Cory Doctrow was apparently raised on Marxist re-interpretations of Conan stories starring a gender diverse trio, and noted sociologist and Marxist Eric Olin Wright has put up a page of audio recordings of Marxist bed time stories.

So now you know what to bring to the next baby shower you attend.

Kushner closed his story by noting he felt compelled to add an epilogue in which Brundidar, in verse, promises he’ll be back some day. Kushner said this was so that “no child reading the book could sleep that night” with a wicked chuckle. But if you take the whole story as elementary school agitprop then the update seems like an accurate reflection of the times. After all if the 20th century taught us anything it taught us that the Revolution is not, as Marx had hoped, inevitable.

Linguistic convergence?

February 1st, 2003

I’ve noticed an odd phenomena. When searching Google I consistently see results from projects I’m involved in, people I know, and of course, myself.

A certain percentage of this can be written off to specialized interests. The overwhelming amount of search results I get which point to IMC archives is understandable, for example.

What I don’t understand is why a relatively generic query like “tar over ssh”, would return a message from the LUG at my alma matter(which didn’t exist when I went there), in a thread between 2 people I know well. Thats just odd. And this happens a lot. I’m going to start keeping track, but it happens all the time. (note: I’ve probably destroyed Google’s usefulness for searching for “tar over ssh” now by mentioning it)

I don’t know that many people, a very small number in fact, and even if they all produce content hyperactively, shouldn’t they be drowned out in a sea content? Whats going on?

My thought is perhaps we’re seeing the effect of Google having a language based interface. I search in English, and therefore I’m much more likely to get English results back. Most of the people I know speak English. On the Net however this doesn’t proscribe the field much. I think perhaps it needs to be broken down beyond that, I don’t just speak English, I speak a vernacular informed by age, class, education, social environment, etc. My word choices are a product of culture. For example Mako and Josiah from the above thread have both had significant impacts on the Linux culture I was raised in. Could even my 3 word query display a language bias? If I was a product of a different linguistic micro-culture would I have said “pipe” instead of “over”, asked for “remote” instead of “ssh”, re-ordered the terms?

And if perhaps Google was a taxonomy engine, building a search tree of structured data, and my queries were made in a precise, perhaps numerical, language, then would this convergence disappear? Would it work nearly as well then? A response from my culture after all brings a number of advantages, no one suggested using a tape drive instead, or buying F-Secure.

Some Other Possibilities.

  • Aidan is fast to point out humans are expert pattern makers, and inclined to see patterns where none (of significance) exist. Perhaps I only notice the occurrence when something unusual happens, and this convergence is a false pattern?
  • That for all the millions of internet users, content is created by a mind blowingly small percentage. That a given individual really can know a statistically significant percentage of the population.