Artificial Nostalgia and the Decline of a Culture

A few months ago I not­ed the curi­ous phe­nom­e­non of new wave Chi­nese cen­sor­ship, where young peo­ple raised in a heav­i­ly cen­sored soci­ety have to learn about for­bid­den events (like Tianan­men) so they can con­tin­ue to sup­press it on the Chi­nese inter­net. They are, in essence, hav­ing to cre­ate new mem­o­ries for them­selves so they…

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Health Surveillance Is Terrifying And Avoidable, If We Want

A few years ago, the social the­o­rist Shoshana Zuboff wrote a series of papers about what she called “sur­veil­lance cap­i­tal­ism.” The basic idea, she wrote, was “an emer­gent log­ic of accu­mu­la­tion in the net­worked sphere,” which was lead­ing to the inex­tri­ca­ble link­age of cap­i­tal­ism as an eco­nom­ic sys­tem and the per­va­sive, vio­lat­ing use of sur­veil­lance…

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Memories Speak

When Nabokov wrote his auto­bi­og­ra­phy Speak, Mem­o­ry, in 1966, he took an usu­al path few have been able to fol­low. In address­ing the mem­oir to the very idea of mem­o­ry itself (Nabokov appar­ent­ly want­ed the title to be more explic­it — Speak, Mnemosyne – but his pub­lish­er told him no one would buy a book if they could­n’t…

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On Being Afraid

New year, new us, what­ev­er. I’ve not writ­ten much on here the last two years. There are a num­ber of rea­sons for that, but the most impor­tant one is fear. I have faced enor­mous per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al upheaval as a result of my pub­lic writ­ing — even though I would self-describe as hav­ing nev­er real­ly…

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From Hagiography to Obloquy

There’s a broad­er con­text to this, one I feel too fatigued to delve into at the moment, but I want to take note of this New York Review of Books essay on Edward Snow­den that just might be the first piece of skep­ti­cal jour­nal­ism about him from a pres­tige New York out­let in near­ly five years.…

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How Russia Used Social Media Marketing Techniques for Propaganda

Jonathan Albright, a pro­fes­sor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions at Elon Uni­ver­si­ty, has writ­ten a mas­sive analy­sis of how Russ­ian social media accounts are still being under­count­ed and prob­a­bly under-ana­­lyzed. To sum­ma­rize his post very quick­ly: there is an addi­tion­al ecosys­tem of Russ­ian pro­pa­gan­da on ser­vices like Insta­gram that have not been includ­ed in most dis­cus­sions of Rus­si­a’s…

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An Unavoidable Wave of Internet Regulation

On Twit­ter, the blue “ver­i­fied” check­mark next to a per­son­’s account is meant to be a sym­bol of trust. It says that the ser­vice has ver­i­fied the per­son­’s iden­ti­ty because they are of pub­lic inter­est and at risk of imper­son­ation. While Twit­ter used to have staff indi­vid­u­al­ly ver­i­fy accounts in an opaque process, last year…

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America Is a Cyberpunk Dystopia

The women tar­get­ed by Gamer­Gate have final­ly come out with their books about the hor­ror — and it makes for har­row­ing read­ing. Zoë Quinn, whose ex-boyfriend start­ed the entire mess, is remark­ably san­guine about the nev­er-end­ing death threats. “It bare­ly even reg­is­ters when it hap­pens any­more because I’m used to it now” Her expe­ri­ences, espe­cial­ly…

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Dirty Underwear, and Other Practical Considerations in Space

Space colonies are cool: they are a sta­ple of our pop­u­lar cul­ture, our lit­er­a­ture, even our polit­i­cal sci­ence. And it seems like every­one these days wants to build one, from nation­al gov­ern­ments to inter­na­tion­al con­sor­tia to bil­lion­aires with a sav­ior com­plex. But the messy real­i­ty of actu­al­ly liv­ing in one of these places is some­thing…

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