"Tubes explores not just the Internet’s history, but more importantly, its physicality, its infrastructure—trying to understand the question of why the Internet is laid out the way it is. The book easily belongs in the growing canon of essential books about Silicon Valley and the Internet as a whole"
Over the 20 years the internet has exploded into the primary communication tool for a large part of the population. If you’re under 40 you almost certainly use the internet to ‘connect’ and ‘engage’ or any other buzz word you like, with other people. It’s what the internet is really good at: letting you easily and quickly have conversations with people thousands of miles away.
So, how is that going to effect social isolation over the next 50 years? I work for a charity that works with social isolation support groups that work with elderly people to prevent, and counter, older people being stuck in alone, with nobody to talk to. Many have physical problems that prevent them getting out of the house, some have mental health issues and it’s a massive problem for people aged from 50 to 90. They’ll often not talk to anyone for days or even weeks at a time which has serious effects on people’s quality of life.
The groups try to combat this by holding meetings, picnics, dances etc. all provided by volunteers. They have drivers who will go around and pick up older people with mobility problems and one group even have volunteers hosting tea parties at their houses and inviting local older people in. They even encourage people to use Skype and other tools to talk to distant family. They do amazing work and really make a difference to these people’s lives.
It got me thinking about me. I’m 23, but in 50 years I’m going to be like some of these people. Of course, there’s many factors which contribute to social isolation (income, health etc.) but I could be in the same situation. My question is how the internet will affect that. Most of my friends live 2-300 miles away from me and I speak to them primarily over the web and I wonder whether because we’re used to this kind of communication that we won’t feel the same isolation. Can we, as a generation, avoid social isolation through the fact that we’re always connected?That includes this forum post, reddit comments, Twitter, Facebook and whatever communication revolutions occur over the next 50 years.
Of course there’s a lot to be said about actually sitting down and being with someone IRL. There’s having fun on Skype or on Xbox Live and there’s sitting with your friends in person. Can technology overcome this? Video is certainly going to increase its usability through ‘appliance’ devices like the iPad or through your TV. How is that going to affect our ability to connect? Now, an older person can use the phone to talk to someone but there’s still massive loneliness - is that going to be the same for all this technology? Is there simply no substitute for physical interaction?
Technology will advance so much in that time that perhaps we, today’s cutting edge youth, will be left behind and feel as confused and worried about technology as some of today’s older people are today?
There’s lots of question marks here because I don’t know the answers. There’s certainly been studies carried that suggest positive effects on older people who use technology to connect with their families but it’s hard to predict the future of an entire generation.
What I do know though, is that technology has the promise to make a lot of these issues less damaging. As we develop easy to use, universally cheap products for current and future older people that they can shop on, talk to their friends and family with and, of course, read reddit AMAs on then we might just go a step towards reducing social isolation and improve the lives of millions of people.
'That said, the game is designed to be played in that persistent, multiplayer world, so players won’t be able to gleefully destroy a city and then go back to an earlier save file as if nothing ever happened, for instance.'
Goddamn there better be a way to make random cities to destroy. Isn’t that 90% of SimCity?
A great look at the sins of ‘skeumorphism’, the design philosophy that looks to emulate real world design when creating digital user interfaces. The prime example is Apple’s iBooks app, above, which with its faux page turn animations and leather bounding gives the user a sense of familiarity, but also intrinsically limits the functionality by relying on obsolete metaphors.
Tom Hobbs writes:
'We need to design UIs that are stripped down as much as they can be. This means avoiding superfluous and gratuitous ornamentation, both visually and through how they move. But this doesn’t just mean focusing on “raw” elements that just support function. It is not simply a case of stripping everything back to the point of a handful of elements for the sake of being minimal; that would be simplistic. As with film, there’s an opportunity to delight by incorporating elements that are there purely to serve emotive purposes. This is why the philosophy “just enough is more” is rather more important than just simply “less is more.”'
'Over the past decade, the power of A/B testing has become an open secret of high-stakes web development. It’s now the standard (but seldom advertised) means through which Silicon Valley improves its online products. Using A/B, new ideas can be essentially focus-group tested in real time: without being told, a fraction of users are diverted to a slightly different version of a given web page and their behaviour compared against the mass of users on the standard site. If the new version proves superior — gaining more clicks, longer visits, more purchases — it will displace the original; if the new version is inferior, it’s quietly phased out without most users ever seeing it. A/B allows seemingly subjective questions of design — colour, layout, image selection, text — to become incontrovertible matters of data-driven social science.'
'Anonymous does matter, but just not in the way that we think. Over the years its supporters have reveled in this notion of being an “Internet Hate Machine,” a mysterious clique of super hackers, and political protestors — all of which are only part of the true story. What fascinated me most about Anonymous, and what fascinates me to this day, is the sub-culture that it ultimately comes from. Putting the vast amounts of e-drama to one side, there is a profound social acceptance between people in the online worlds of Anonymous and 4chan, that you won't find in the real world of office politics and traffic lights. There is an extraordinary ability to spontaneously organize events and hype out of thin air. As Sabu once said, it also gives a voice to people who otherwise wouldn't have one.'
An amazing look at the work of Timothy O’Sullivan, one of the first people to photograph the expanding American West after the Civil War.
How would geopolitical theories address a zombie apocalypse? That’s the question asked here by Daniel W. Drezner.
It’s an interesting and comic look at the political theory and how even something insane and outlandish can be addressed in realist, liberal or neoconservative terms.
The film opens at the Russian modeling audition where Nadya is discovered, picked out of a seemingly endless lineup of almost identical pale, bird-limbed preteens. Nadya gives different numbers for her age depending on what the agents want to hear. In fact, she is just 13. “They like them young,” Arbaugh notes of the Asian fashion market. “Really, really young.” Nadya comes from a grim village, and her family doesn’t have much money. Nadya’s family and entire town see her modeling opportunity as a great boon, and they honor her with ceremonies, parties, and a bittersweet send-off. But once she lands in Tokyo, the fantasy abruptly shatters. She’s dropped in the largest city in the world with no guide and no translator. She speaks neither Japanese nor English, the language most often employed by the international fashion industry. Eventually, she finds her way to the agency-rented apartment, a closet-sized hovel she shares with another teenage model. She has no contacts, no cash, and no way to communicate. Though Nadya is tall and lovely, she is clearly a child. Desperate and helpless, she even pleads with the filmmakers to help her; one of them eventually provides her with a working phone, on which she sobs to her mother and begs to come home, like a terrified child at summer camp. The conditions are so bad that her flat-mate purposely eats until she gains two centimeters around her hips, violating her contract and getting sent home early. The cold, robotic feel of digital video adds to the grimness of Nadya’s circumstances, both in Siberia and the alienating urban efficiency of Tokyo. The merciless lighting and clinical cinematography make Nadya and the other models look like waxen figurines, all blue veins and skin shining tight over skeletons.
The jobs Nadya’s agency promised are in truth only auditions, and only one of them pans out to an actual photo session. Nadya’s contract sounds like something out of the old Hollywood studio system, or a major-label record deal. The company invests an enormous amount of money up front for scouting, travel, lodging, auditions, and even the shoots themselves, which the model must pay back, plus interest, from her pittance earnings before she gets to keep a dime. Intertitles reveal that Nadya left Tokyo not with the financial blessings her family hoped for, but with thousands of dollars of debt and exactly one addition to her portfolio to show for it. At one point, the filmmakers try to corner the Japanese representative of Nadya’s agency, asking how, exactly, they can run a business that drags hundreds of Russian girls to Japan and back with almost no product to show for it. The agent gives a vague non-answer about girls willing to do anything to get photos for their “books.” Clearly, the truth is that these modeling agencies are little more than extortion machines. No body-image horror, no sexual favors, no drugs; just the simple and terribly common transfer of money from the less powerful to the more powerful.
Exposing this corruption would be fodder enough for a documentary even if the agency and the fashion industry were faceless monsters. Instead, Redmon and Sabin have Ashley Arbaugh. At the beginning of the film, Arbaugh comes across as thoughtful and conflicted. She seems to cringe at the objectification her job requires, yet also captivated by the beauty of the girls she finds. Never once does she seem completely comfortable with her task. When we get glimpses of a video diary Arbaugh kept when she herself modeled in Asia, we can see why. Exhausted, bloodless, defeated, sometimes weeping, she expresses an alienation and hopelessness that perfectly echoes Nadya’s current feelings. If anything, Arbaugh in flashback is even more sympathetic, because she was older than Nadya and better able to express herself. Why, then, does Arbaugh continue to work as a scout? Is she another victim, older and slightly more wary, but still at the mercy of the machine?
Fascinating piece: 10,000 words on Solid State Drive; today I’m reminded how infinitely complex the universe’s complexities are.
intelligencesquared: "Good Riddance to the mainstream media"
A debate over that statement with individuals such as David Carr and Michael Wolff. Featured in the NY Times documentary posted earlier. Very news nerdy, but very interesting.
bbciplayer: Storyville: Deadline
An incredibly interesting and thoughtful documentary on the running of the New York Times. A look at its past, its role and its ability to survive in the digital media age.
For UK folks you can watch the entire thing on the BBC iPlayer for free, otherwise there doesn’t seem to be a free version available online. Still, well worth looking for if you can.
Entire Tamriel Landmass built into Skyrim.
I didn’t know if this was posted yet on tumblr, so I thought I’d do it. The landmass of almost all of the provinces in Tamriel, has been put into Skyrim. All which are inaccessible(without console commands) and which serve absolutely no purpose in the game. Why are they there? I personally don’t know. But take a look at the effort Bethesta put into these seemingly pointless landmasses.
At the south-eastern most part of Skyrim lays Stendarr’s Beacon.
If you’ve looked at a map of Tamriel, you’ll know this is the closest place in Skyrim, to Morrowind.
If you travel directly North East of Stendarr’s Beacon, you’ll end up finding a path to your right, in between two huge mountains.
I noticed how beautiful the path really looked. It seemed quite enthralling actually for some reason.
The path is nestled between two mountains, decorated with trees, and at the end of it some type of gateway, or arch.
But, that open archway is the end of the road. The game doesn’t allow you to go any further. I find it strange, that there’s an area like this leading from Skyrim to Morrowind. Nowhere in the lore was this stone wall mentioned. And why would it be an open arch like that? Why not closed? Why is there a space at all between these mountains if we can’t go any further? As you can see there are still trees and foliage beyond this wall, but you aren’t able to access it without console commands.
So, I went into No-clip like the BAMF I am and travelled down this path.
Landmass photos below.