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Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 06/07/2021 - 9:50pm in

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Humanity Is Sloppily, Awkwardly Lumbering Toward Consciousness

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 21/06/2021 - 10:18pm in

Listen to a reading of this article:

https://medium.com/media/4971b99f093a511a66b45c1e069e8d8a/href

Humanity is becoming more conscious.

It is. This is not a popular thing to say in the more cynical and pessimistic corners of the internet, but it’s true.

I’m not referring to anything “out there” or “spiritual” when I make this assertion. I’m talking about a mundane reality that is easily verifiable by casual observation, if you just look past all the headlines and narrative chatter to see the big picture as a whole.

Humans are becoming more and more aware of what’s going on, both in our world and in ourselves, as our ability to network and share information with each other becomes greater and greater. Because of the ubiquitousness of smartphones and social media, things like police brutality and the abuse of Palestinians are no longer regarded as mere verbal assertions made by their victims but as concrete realities which must be addressed. The most viral posts of the day on apps like Twitter, Reddit and TikTok are routinely just people making relatable observations about their feelings and psychological tendencies and what it’s like to be human.

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These things matter. Seeing into each other and around our world all the time like this, in a way we never could before the internet, can’t help but change things. It’s a consistent rule throughout history that every positive change in human behavior has been preceded by an expansion of consciousness, whether it’s becoming collectively conscious of the injustices of racial discrimination or individually conscious of the motives and consequences of our self-destructive behavior. Increasing consciousness is always a movement toward health.

And a movement toward health absolutely is what’s been happening. The young today are the kindest, most sensitive and most awake generation that has ever lived, no matter what the bitter old farts say about them. My kids are having conversations with their friends that are vastly deeper and more tuned-in than I was having with my own friends at their age. The independent content that people are creating without the authorization of the cultural filters in New York and Hollywood can take your breath away every single day if you know where to look, while the movies from the eighties which once enthralled us are today virtually unwatchable because of how shallow and artless they are compared to what we’re now used to seeing.

It’s happening in a weird, sloppy, awkward way, like an infant learning to walk, but it is clearly happening. It’s happening through an internet whose origins are rooted firmly in the US war machine, it’s happening through billionaire-owned social media platforms with extensive ties to powerful governments, it’s happening through technologies that are the fruits of all the most exploitative tendencies of global capitalism, but it’s happening.

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It’s happening in spite of all the best efforts of the corporate powers who control the mass media and the government agencies which collaborate with them in doing so. It’s happening in spite of all the mountains of government secrecy which the powerful use to keep the public from becoming conscious of what they’re up to. It’s happening in spite of an entire globe-spanning empire having a vested interest in the public not becoming conscious of the realities of their world and doing everything they can to keep things distorted and unseen. It’s happening against all odds, but it’s happening anyway.

This is very odd, and this is where it does start to look a little “out there”. We know that there are forces in our world which have a vested interest in keeping things hidden and unconscious, yet the light of consciousness keeps expanding. These powerful forces should be able to prevent this, but they aren’t. Even their own infrastructure is used to expand public awareness of their ugly behaviors. The light of consciousness is creeping faster and faster toward them, along wires they themselves laid out. This means this movement is happening in a way they don’t understand, and that it is much, much bigger than they are.

Because of the internet, humanity has probably changed more in the last 25 years than it did in the previous 2500. Practically overnight, we transformed into a completely new species. A species whose brains are networked in real time around the world to a steadily increasing number of other brains in a steadily increasing number of ways with a steadily increasing amount of intimacy. Outwardly an individual human looks very much like an individual human looked prior to the internet, but as a collective we’re mentally a completely different kind of animal than we used to be.

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The powerful people who’ve been poisoning our world with ecocide, oppression, exploitation and war clearly believe they’ll be able to ride this radical transformation and remain in power with the status quo perfectly intact; if they didn’t believe this the internet would’ve been shut down before it even got off the ground. But I don’t see how they can stay in control of this headlong plunge into rapidly expanding consciousness we’re experiencing; harnessing the forces that are at play here would be like trying to surf on a tsunami, like trying to hang glide through a tornado.

There are aspects of humanity which the CIA doesn’t understand, which the plutocrats can’t control, which the manipulators can’t anticipate. Something is brewing here, and we’re almost at the boiling point. I don’t know if it will be enough to save us from all the existential hurdles our species faces in the near future; I just know that we are rapidly becoming a conscious species, and consciousness and dysfunction cannot coexist. We won’t need to wait long to find out which one wins out.

__________________________

The best way to get around the internet censors and make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at my website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following me on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud or YouTube, or throwing some money into my tip jar on Ko-fi, Patreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy my books. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here.

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Internet Down – Learning infrastructure literacy from infrastructure failure

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 18/06/2021 - 1:15am in

With level of internet use at record highs and the instability of internet services recently effecting millions across the globe, including scholarly publishers, Jean-Christophe Plantin discusses how much we actually know about the communication infrastructure on which many of us rely heavily in our daily lives. He suggests that moments of failure and outage,  provide opportunities both … Continued

Knowledge Exchange Showcase - Understanding Visitor Engagement of Free Heritage Sites Using Social Media

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 15/07/2019 - 9:13pm in

Kathryn Eccles (Oxford Internet Institute), gives a talk on her Knowledge Exchange research project on using social media data to understand visitor engagement at heritage sites. Kathryn Eccles, Oxford Internet Institute

Dr Kathryn Eccles has been a Research Fellow in Digital Humanities at the Oxford Internet Institute since 2008. Kathryn is currently the PI of the Cabinet project, which has developed an interactive, mobile-optimised digital platform to support and encourage object-based learning.

Kathryn’s research interests lie primarily in the Digital Humanities, ranging from the re-organisation of cultural heritage and higher education in the digital world and the impact of new technologies on Humanities scholarship and scholarly communication, to broader debates surrounding the human and social aspects of innovation and technological change. In 2014, Kathryn was appointed as the University of Oxford’s first Digital Humanities Champion, in which capacity she played a leading role in developing the cross-University Digital Humanities strategy, advocating for Digital Humanities within the University and externally. Building on the University’s strengths in Digital Humanities, Kathryn continues to develop and contribute to training provision for all career stages and facilitates the embedding of digital practices and methodologies into Humanities teaching and research.

Nothing is Pure. Everything is Complicated.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 06/04/2018 - 7:40pm in

People have a strange vision of me. I’m going to set a few things straight real quick.

I was an anarchist pacifist two years ago, I was an anarchist pacifist two months ago, I’m an anarchist pacifist right now, and I probably will be one until I go to my grave. I didn’t get fired for what I believe or what I’ve done, because none of that ever really came up. I got fired because of the language I used when I was working with Anonymous in 2011-12, and because I believe in engaging with racists instead of shunning them. On a personal level, my friends can tell you, it’s not just racism. I’m not an easy friend. I confront a lot of difficult topics head on, and I can be in turns comforting and challenging. If I am worried you are going to far with drugs or alcohol, I will tell you. If I think your relationship is fucked up, you’ll understand why I think that. If I think the road you are going down leads to dark ruin, a wasted life, and only makes the people who ruined you more powerful, well, weev, you know that’s what I think.

I don’t give up on people. I have in the past. I told my dad he was a failure as a father in a mall in Northern California, and the next time I saw him, I was identifying his body. I told Aaron we needed to be apart, and when I could have warned people that he would try to kill himself I was 6000 miles away. I have lost so many people, and I will lose more, but it will never again be because I didn’t try. And that’s true of this whole damn world. We may lose it, but not because I didn’t try.

I am not a conservative. Conservatism in an age of calamities can only be about death, and I have had enough of death. I’m not a proper lefty. The left as I know it doesn’t afford enough agency to people who came up hard. To my mind, “everything is systemic, nothing is personal” is as bankrupt as “everything is personal, nothing is systemic.” Everything is both, all the damn time. You have to live with that, you have to live with no easy answers. I am much more persuaded by lefists who work their politics in the street, taking care of people in need, like trying to shut down prisons, instead of cheering when the bad guys get put in them. I am more persuaded by conservatives who practice hospitality and Christian charity towards all, including people who aren’t like them, because that’s what hospitality and Christian charity means.

The public made me into a boogyman, and then people cheered when the Times accidentally mugged my career. I didn’t apologize for that, and I’m not going to apologize for doing what I believe is right and effective. But none of that had anything to do with what I was hired for by the Times. All I was going to do there is explain to the world how the internet works, and how it works on humans. It’s not a complicated mission, but one the world needs, and one I can do. So I’m going to keep working on it. I’m also going to keep opposing racism, sexism, hatred, the wars declared and undeclared, all the dehumanizing bullshit I see from the entire political spectrum. I’m going to keep loving the people the gods put in my path. I’m going to keep loving humanity and our pearl of a planet until they lay me in its belly. I don’t think I’m ever going to be persuaded that the nation-state is very good for us, or at least, I think we can do better.

I believe in the humanity of all humans, which seems ridiculous to have to say, but all across the political spectrum, so many of you don’t. I’m sorry you didn’t find an easy world at the beginning of the 21st century, but you didn’t. Nothing is pure. Everything is complicated.

And I think that’s why people hate me: because I don’t fit, I am full of impurity and complication, and my story doesn’t let you ignore that in me, or the world. I am never going to be easy to label, and I’m always going to make people uncomfortable. And many people would rather bleed than be uncomfortable. I will love you, and I will not be cool about it. I will never, ever, ever settle for your unjust and hateful world.

If you do want to know what I think about racism, here’s a few pieces from the last nine years. There’s be more, but this isn’t what I’m payed to write about. I’m a technology writer, and it’s rare I get paid to write anything else. So most of this was written for love, not money.

Living Without Shame is a Political Act

We Have to Build the Future Out of the Past

Looking back to Obama’s night

White Privilege: Updating the invisible Knapsack

Count

https://medium.com/@quinnnorton/the-problem-with-white-shunning-56b67cc2d726

https://medium.com/@quinnnorton/black-men-please-play-pokemon-go-c99a61a05aa5

https://medium.com/message/looking-past-our-racist-assumptions-to-see-africa-f5bddab648ea

https://medium.com/message/how-white-people-got-made-6eeb076ade42

https://medium.com/message/whiteness-3ead03700322

https://medium.com/message/while-you-are-all-briefly-worried-about-black-men-getting-shot-by-police-800843a478af

Joke

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 01/12/2017 - 3:00pm in

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Joke

Surgery

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 17/10/2017 - 3:00pm in

Surgery

Nobel

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 06/10/2017 - 3:00pm in

Nobel

Vlog

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 03/10/2017 - 3:00pm in

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Vlog

Never Mind the Privacy: The Great Web 2.0 Swindle

Published by Matthew Davidson on Wed, 01/03/2017 - 1:43pm in

The sermon today comes from this six minute video from comedian Adam Conover: The Terrifying Cost of "Free” Websites

I don't go along with the implication here that the only conceivable reason to run a website is to directly make money by doing so, and that therefore it is our expectation of zero cost web services that is the fundamental problem. But from a technical point of view the sketch's analogy holds up pretty well. Data-mining commercially useful information about users is the business model of Software as a Service (SaaS) — or Service as a Software Substitute (SaaSS) as it's alternately known.

You as the user of these services — for example social networking services such as Facebook or Twitter, content delivery services such as YouTube or Flickr, and so on — provide the "content", and the service provider provides data storage and processing functionality. There are two problems with this arrangement:

  1. You are effectively doing your computing using a computer and software you don't control, and whose workings are completely opaque to you.
  2. As is anybody who wants to access anything you make available using those services.

Even people who don't have user accounts with these services can be tracked, because they can be identified via browser fingerprinting, and you can be tracked as you browse beyond the tracking organisation's website. Third party JavaScript "widgets" embedded in many, if not most, websites silently deliver executable code to users' browsers, allowing them to be tracked as they go from site to site. Common examples of such widgets include syndicated advertising, like buttons, social login services (eg. Facebook login), and comment hosting services. Less transparent are third-party services marketed to the site owner, such as Web analytics. These provide data on a site's users in the form of graphs and charts so beloved by middle management, with the service provider of course hanging on to a copy of all the data for their own purposes. My university invites no less than three organisations to surveil its students in this way (New Relic, Crazy Egg, and of course Google Analytics). Thanks to Edward Snowden, we know that government intelligence agencies are secondary beneficiaries of this data collection in the case of companies such as Google, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft. For companies not named in these leaks, all we can say is we do not — because as users we cannot — know if they are passing on information about us as well. To understand how things might be different, one must look at the original vision for the Internet and the World Wide Web.

The Web was a victim of its own early success. The Internet was designed to be "peer-to-peer", with every connected computer considered equal, and the network which connected them completely oblivious to the nature of the data it was handling. You requested data from somebody else on the network, and your computer then manipulated and transformed that data in useful ways. It was a "World of Ends"; the network was dumb, and the machines at each end of a data transfer were smart. Unfortunately the Web took off when easy to use Web browsers were available, but before easy to use Web servers were available. Moreover, Web browsers were initially intended to be tools to both read and write Web documents, but the second goal soon fell away. You could easily consume data from elsewhere, but not easily produce and make it available yourself.

The Web soon succumbed to the client-server model, familiar from corporate computer networks — the bread and butter of tech firms like IBM and Microsoft. Servers occupy a privileged position in this model. The value is assumed to be at the centre of the network, while at the ends are mere consumers. This translates into social and economic privilege for the operators of servers, and a role for users shaped by the requirements of service providers. This was, breathless media commentary aside, the substance of the "Web 2.0" transformation.

Consider how the ideal Facebook user engages with their Facebook friends. They share an amusing video clip. They upload photos of themselves and others, while in the process providing the machine learning algorithm of Facebook's facial recognition surveillance system with useful feedback. They talk about where they've been and what they've bought. They like and they LOL. What do you do with a news story that provokes outrage, say the construction of a new concentration camp for refugees from the endless war on terror? Do you click the like button? The system is optimised, on the users' side, for face-work, and de-optimised for intellectual or political substance. On the provider's side it is optimised for exposing social relationships and consumer preferences; anything else is noise to be minimised.

In 2014 there was a minor scandal when it was revealed that Facebook allowed a team of researchers to tamper with Facebook's news feed algorithm in order to measure the effects of different kinds of news stories on users' subsequent posts. The scandal missed the big story: Facebook has a news feed algorithm.  Friending somebody on Facebook doesn't mean you will see everything they post in your news feed, only those posts that Facebook's algorithm selects for you, along with posts that you never asked to see. Facebook, in its regular day-to-day operation, is one vast, ongoing, uncontrolled experiment in behaviour modification. Did Facebook swing the 2016 US election for Trump? Possibly, but that wasn't their intention. The fracturing of Facebook's user base into insular cantons of groupthink, increasingly divorced from reality, is a predictable side-effect of a system which regulates user interactions based on tribal affiliations and shared consumer tastes, while marginalising information which might threaten users' ontological security.

Resistance to centralised, unaccountable, proprietary, user-subjugating systems can be fought on two fronts: minimising current harms; and migrating back to an environment where the intelligence of the network is at the ends, under the user's control. You can opt out of pervasive surveillance with browser add-ons like the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Privacy Badger. You can run your own instances of software which provide federated, decentralised services equivalent to the problematic ones, such as:

  • GNU Social is a social networking service similar to Twitter (but with more features). I run my own instance and use it every day to keep in touch with people who also run their own, or have accounts on an instance run by people they trust.
  • Diaspora is another distributed social networking platform more similar to Facebook.
  • OpenID is a standard for distributed authentication, replacing social login services from Facebook, Google, et al.
  • Piwik is a replacement for systems like Google Analytics. You can use it to gather statistics on the use of your own website(s), but it grants nobody the privacy-infringing capability to follow users as they browse around a large number of sites.

The fatal flaw in such software is that few people have the technical ability to set up a web server and install it. That problem is the motivation behind the FreedomBox project. Here's a two and a half minute news story on the launch of the project: Eben Moglen discusses the freedom box on CBS news

I also recommend this half-hour interview, pre-dating the Snowden leaks by a year, which covers much of the above with more conviction and panache than I can manage: Eben Moglen on Facebook, Google and Government Surveillance

Arguably the stakes are currently as high in many countries in the West as they were in the Arab Spring. Snowden has shown that for governments of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance there's no longer a requirement for painstaking spying and infiltration of activist groups in order to identify your key political opponents; it's just a database query. One can without too much difficulty imagine a Western despot taking to Twitter to blurt something like the following:

"Protesters love me. Some, unfortunately, are causing problems. Huge problems. Bad. :("

"Some leaders have used tough measures in the past. To keep our country safe, I'm willing to do much worse."

"We have some beautiful people looking into it. We're looking into a lot of things."

"Our country will be so safe, you won't believe it. ;)"

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