April 15, 2009
the new BMW pizza boy's car
BMW's new car really resonates with Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash; it would be a great vehicle to delivery pizzas for the Mafia in, don't you think? :-)
Twitter and Morality
Thanks to my student Liz for this link:
I think that Twitter per se is a strange focus for this concern, which is far broader and implicated in many forms of contemporary media. In the online world, many different surfing habits and affordances of information exposure move at a speed and a casualness that if worrisome. I'm not even sure that Twitter would rank very high on the list though.
March 5, 2009
Craiglist and Prostitution
Watching the documentary film 24 Hrs on Craigslist, we (students and I) always wonder how that amount of illegal activity, especially in the sex area, can happen. Apparently in Cook County, IL, the sheriff is starting to wonder the same thing:
"Craigslist to be sued for sex ads"
April 23, 2007
Wikipedia & Virgina Tech
The New York Times today published the most positive piece on Wikipedia I think I've seen. It is impressive how a totally ad hoc community of editors and writers can come together to work so hard and quickly that they produce an article which becomes a main reference in climate of rapidly changing news. Looking through the last 500 changes, I saw a few cases of vandalism, but fewer than normal, it seemed to me.
February 5, 2007
The Value of Virtual Worlds
As reported in the Los Angeles Times on Saturday, EBay has banned the sale of virtual objects from MMORPGs like Everquest and World of Warcraft (but not Second Life). It will be interesting to see what scholars of these virtual worlds, like Edward Castronova, who is cited in the article, discover about the effects on the games and also on the prices of such objects on various other virtual-commerce sites (v-commerce?") as the instantaneous source of valuable market information that is EBay goes away.
May 27, 2006
An eBay dilemma
Here's a problem for the tit-for-tat sociologists: I'm in the middle of an eBay dispute, my first ever, really. I bought some audio recoding equipment nearly a month ago from a guy in Canada who appears to run a small business making this stuff and selling it on eBay. His feedback is very high, and people say nice things about his products. The problem is that I've been waiting nearly a month for it to arrive. I paid immediately after "winning" the make-an-offer-style auction, but he took 9 business days to get the thing to the post office, and it still hasn't arrived. In the process of tracking down the reason for delay, we both forgot that the $24 shipping charge I paid included a hidden $12 extra for a set of cables. He refunded it thinking it was an overcharge, and I thanked him, suggesting that I would leave him positive feedback for his fairness and good communication. Well, apparently he misinterpreted that as a threat, and preemptively warned me that he would respond to negative feedback with negative feedback and starting making charges about some failure to follow his payment instruction that are clearly discredited by our email history. That is, if I complain about the trully excessive delay in shipping, he will retaliate, even though I totally fulfilled my end of the transaction. Both of us, could, of course, post explanatory notes with any less-than-positive feedback, but here's the dillemma, custom-made for rat-choice theorist: He has 1050 feedbacks, 99.6% positive. I have 60, 100% positive. My potential negative feedback - which I have never left, for anyone despite a couple of borderline cases - even though merited, would hurt him far less than his wholly unfair retaliation to me. What to do...? And this from a Canadian? Aren't they supposed to be friendlier up there? 'S always been my experience. :-) (I sent back the mistaken refund, by the way.)
February 9, 2006
"Dead Hacker" is Public Figure say German Courts
A story in Speigel (English online edition, click here) reports that Wikipedia won the lawsuit filed by the parents of the famous (that's the point, I think) hacker Tron ("Boris F.", in the German media). The parents alleged breach of privacy, and Wikipedia argued that the volume of Google hits to Internet sources that reveal his full name make him a public figure. Seems right, except that the Internet affords instant public figure status to anyone who gets famous voluntarily or not. Just another area of life made interestingly blurry by the Net.
The Spiegel article says the German Wikipedia site was shut down by court order pending the outcome of the trial, but the English Wikipedia entry denies this, saying that only a German domain that pointed to the German Wikipedia was served with a notice.
Interesting that Boris Floricic, the late Tron's father, owns a trademark on his son's pseudonym. Also weird is that, according to a German dicussion forum, Dad argued to the court that his rights as now the only Floricic in Germany are violated by the Wikipedia mention of his son's surname. Huh?
Spiegel does an interesting thing, by the way: each story has a Technorati/"blogs discussing this story" link at the bottom.
February 4, 2006
I caught the tail end of a CNN Headline News report late last night in which the anchor, in HN's new, Anderson Cooper-like breathless tones, expressed incredulity that minors using myspace.com were "only a few clicks away" from hard-core pornography. Um, is anyone ever more than a few clicks away from hard-core pornography on the Internet? Sometimes you don't even have to click; it comes to you! The amazing thing is that in 2006 some parents thought a site like myspace, with a lot of adolescent members, would somehow be "safe."
Ironically, when I searched for myspace on cnn.com, I forgot to check the "seach cnn" button, and the search brought me a whole series of ad links for myspace.com. Whoops!
February 3, 2006
Everything2: Wikipedia with attitudes
For those who like their encyclopedia entries with a bit of attitude and an unpredictable degree of bias, they might like Everything2. I do. Dating back to 1999, it's been around a lot longer than the Wikipedia (b. January 15, 2001). Each entry here has a single author who maintains his or her rights. Many are encyclopedic in genre, but the site also accepts essays, poetry, whatever. Many entries have a distinct point of view, as opposed to Wikipedia's number 1 rule: Neutral Point of View. It was started by the software developer who started Slashdot: "News for Nerds. Stuff that Matters." It includes a Slashdot-like system for ranking users and posts, but the site warns against taking it too seriously. (Introduction apge is here.)
Everything2 has the following self-definition, culled from various of its own pages:
The web is distributed hypertext covering infinite subjects.
everything2 is localized hypertext covering infinite subjects.
everything2 is the web's schizophrenic little brother.
E2 is really two things: the premiere instantiation of the Everything System, a nice database-driven postboard/weblog thingie which works like a Wiki only more so; and a pretty highly structured (in a low-key way) society of folks who like writing (actively and passively), pathos and (particularly) hypertext.
The Everything Web System is Another Dumb Perl-MySQL Web Content-Management System
One rises through the ranks from Initiate to Novice, etc. up to Pseudo-God and then - in a nice twist - Pedant, this highest authority on the site!
This adds up to a pleasant and amusingly self-deprecating self-representation typical of the tone throughout the site.
Compare, for example, entries from the two sites on a topic that caught my eye when randomly clicking out from some "write-up" on Everything2 I'd stumbled across via a Google search: Anne-Sophie Mütter.
The Wikipedia entry has been edited by apparently twenty separate individuals over the last eighteen months, with no apparent controversy (there is no discussion page at all), and the gradual accretion of images, facts, and a few corrections.
It runs as follows:
Anne-Sophie Mutter (born June 29, 1963) is a German violinist.
Born in Rheinfelden in Baden, Germany, she started playing the piano at age five. Shortly thereafter, she began playing the violin, studying with Erna Honigberger and Aida Stucki.
After winning several prizes, she was exempted from school to dedicate herself to her art. When she was 13, conductor Herbert von Karajan invited her to play with the Berlin Philharmonic. In 1977, she made her debut at the Salzburg Festival and with the English Chamber Orchestra under Daniel Barenboim.
At 15, Mutter made her first recording of the Mozart Third and Fifth Violin Concertos with von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic. The same year, she was named Artist of the Year.
In 1980, she made her American debut with the New York Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta. In 1985, at the age of 22, she was made an honorary fellow of the Royal Academy of Music (London) and head of its faculty of international violin studies. In 1988, she made a grand tour of Canada and the United States, playing for the first time at Carnegie Hall. In 1998 she played and recorded for CD and DVD the complete set of Beethoven's Violin Sonatas, accompanied by Lambert Orkis; these were broadcast on television in many countries.
Though her repertoire includes many classical works, Mutter is particularly known for her performances of modern music. A number of pieces have been especially written for or dedicated to her, including Witold Lutoslawski's Partita, Krzysztof Penderecki's Second Violin Concerto and Wolfgang Rihm's Gesungene Zeit ("Time Chant"). She has received various prizes, including several Grammys. She also owns two Stradivarius violins (The Emiliani of 1703, and the Lord Dunn-Raven of 1710).
She is married to the pianist and conductor André Previn.
The Everything2 entry, written by Gritchka, is as follows:
A German violinist with a warm, passionate, but precise tone.
Born on 29 June 1963 in Rheinfelden, she took up learning the violin at the age of five, and at the age of six won first prize in the Jugend Musiziert (Young Musician) competition, the youngest ever winner. She also won a prize as a pianist; then she won the same prizes in 1974, and was asked if she'd mind awfully not entering again. Her tutors included Henryk Szeryng.
She was taken up as a protégée (and of course prodigy) by Karajan in 1976. She made her Salzburg and London débuts the following year.
In new music, she is especially associated with the composer Witold Lutoslawski. Recently she has regularly paired with the pianist Lambert Orkis for many recitals and recordings of modern music, in a project called "Back to the Future".
She is quite a gift to a record producer, being stunningly beautiful, but unlike some whose name mae not be mentioned, she is one of the most solidly talented of all violinists around, and the business with the dark flowing dresses and bare arms is just a bonus for the viewers. From watching her perform, I would say she gets quite as excited by the music as we her audience do.
Mutter is reticent about her private life; I believe her husband Dr Detlef Wunderlich died in a car crash, leaving her with a young child. (News! On or about 1 August 2002 she married the ageing conductor André Previn in a secret ceremony in Germany; his fifth marriage, the lucky swine.) She is a guest teacher at the Royal Academy of Music in London.
"Ten years from now, thirty years from now, I want more or less to be doing the same thing. Just better."
Updated 18 August 2001 to the spiky strains of the Prokofiev sonata in D major
This entry has no references, other than internal links to term-related stories, although many pages do include them. It's hard to assess the factual value of the piece, a common complaint about the Wikipedia. Wikipedia entries can be judged by the amount of behind-the-scenes activity and the quality of the meta-debate on the discussion page. On Everything2, you take your chances. It's often amusing writing, at least.
Un «blog»? - sacre bleu!
The Internet seems finally to have worn down the official French insistence on inventing "French" words for new(ish) things named by pesky English words that infiltrate French culture, "le weekend," par example. I had not been to the Le Monde website before tonight, when I noticed that the menu headings included, among "actualités" et "perspectives", "blogs" and "chats," (which did not refer to felines), "newsletters," and - most strangely for me - "Le Desk," which seems to be a kind of web portal to extra online content. I didn't cough up the € to see. Since not too long ago one could be fined for writing "le parking," do these words in Le Monde mean the French grammarians have given up?
February 1, 2006
Grand Theft Auto
Joel Stein, writes in his January 31column in the L.A. Times :
On Thursday, the city [Los Angeles] sued the firm that makes the video game "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" over a hidden sex scene that can be unlocked by hacking into the computer coding. The city believes that parents who simply wanted to buy their boys a wholesome cop-shooting, hooker-killing, car-stealing game were unfairly duped.
January 20, 2006
Well, we do it for the Chinese...
Today's news that Yahoo and Microsoft responded to supoenas for Internet search records while Google has decided to fight (the L.A. Times story) made me think about the anonymizer websites some organizations were putting up for the Chinese when Google searches were blocked by the Chinese government and Chinese citizens risked trouble because of what they sought out on the Internet. Why is no one proposing these for Americans? Or rather, for the world, as protection against the American government? I remember a couple of sites, one in Denmark, I think, where about ten years ago one could connect through to hide traces of one's activities. A proxy running SSL and--accountably--vaporizing all traces of connections would do the trick. Why aren't civil liberties and human rights groups setting such proxies up? Why aren't Americans asking for them?
Why did encryption never really catch on for email, for that matter? People demanded it for their Amazon.com and bank transactions, but free and simple encryption software for emails has been out there for a long time without widespread adoption. I've installed multiple versions, but I never had anyone to send encrypted mail to and hardly anyone ever sent one to me, except to see if it worked. This article, among many, explains public key encryption and makes the analogy to the mail: we seal our letters and expect privacy with our mail not because we're criminals, but because we can. Now the reasons to do so online are a little more urgent, I'd say.
There was also a time when some privacy activists would add "spook words" to emails, words that supposedly attract and waste the attention of Carnivore/Echelon-type data mining. Swamping the Internet with communications with these words would shut down the endeavor. Maybe. I did this for a few weeks in the early 1990s. If everyone Googled--wait, Yahoo'd--"bomb instructions" at least once a day, would that discourage government deep sea fishing through our privacy?
I doubt it. Why don't we seek out what the Chinese and other censored populations get: anonymizing proxies. Congress gets upset when US companies capitulate to Chinese censorship. Some of the same techniques and habits to work around censorship should also put government data mining out of business, along with the significant attendant threats to privacy and civil liberties. I suppose a few innocent Americans will need to be caught up in the nets because of unlucky patterns of Internet use before this catches on.
July 30, 2005
Here's a screen shot from my student Jennifer of her laptop in the early dawn hours in Maui as she participated in our mid-morning class discussion in Cambridge, yours truly on the left.
Don't nobody else get any ideas (!), but this worked okay (no video on our end, unfortunately, but the audio was clear in both directions). Of course, for the purposes of our class (the anthropological investigation of cyberspace) it was an excellent opportunity. Next time, though, I want my college to send ME to Hawaii and I'll beam in on my class.
May 9, 2005
Scolds on the Internet
I don't what bugs me more these days, spammers or scolds. Many online communities maintain order through informal mechanisms of reputation and shaming instead of technical or administrative means. This is especially true in forums, mailing lists, and Usenet newsgroups. Once upon a time, off-topic postings, flames wars, or inept or excessive quoting were the worst problems such communities confronted. In an era of slow dialup connections, it made sense to spend some energy flexing your symbolic capital in such communities to keep the traffic down. As new users ("newbies") found these communities and starting asking the same old questions over and over, they found themselves subjected to sometimes nasty little "read the faq" and "search the archives first" messages. Nowadays the legitimate traffic in many online communities has grown so large that most people use flags and filters anyway to limit their view to what interests them, and the extra bandwidth consumed by a few off-topic posts pales in comparison to the virtual tonnage of spam. Still, text-based online communuties are still favorite haunting grounds of both recreational "trolls," who start arguments and hit sore spots just for the fun of it, and recreational scolds, who like to act like one more newbie question or possibly off-topic message is just more than they and their long-suffering friends can handle.
As someone who's moved out of the newbie category in most areas, I'm not often the target for the latter anymore, but I do witness it a lot. (I also continue to see and enjoy personally lots of kind assistance and patient advice.) But every once in while I get in an exchange like this one:
I was having trouble getting off a list that was filling my inbox with dozens of messages a day. The unsubscribe link wasn't working, and my emails to the list manager were going unanswered. Finally, in desperation, I posted this to the list itself:
I know this is really rude to post to the list, but for two weeks now I have not been able to raise the human list owner to remove me from the mailing list. The ezmlm program keeps saying I'm not subscribed under this email; the messages keep coming to it anyway. This is a busy list and I don't want to be on it anymore at that address. So, if the list owner is reading messages but not his/her list-owner mail, please check your mail, contact me, or just remove me, please!
The moderator saw it, removed me, and sent me a nice email suggesting what the problem might have been. Then, I got the following snarky email, privately, from someone else:
I am not the moderator but I will remind you this is a professional list
at the bottom of the message is the unsubscribe instructions.
> To unsubscribe, e-mail: email@example.com
We expect members to be likewise professional and responsible.
Certainly someone from a top lawtwister school can handle a small
Ok, so maybe a little resentment at my Ivy League email address (it was sent from my old Cornell address, actually). A little anti-Americanism, given the ESL-sounding English in the message? These I can cheerfully overlook. But still, give me a break! This person probably got thirty email viagra ads, witnessed half a dozen useless, troll-inspired flame wars, and fought browser pop-ups all day, and he had time to zing me for a request for help that I apologized for in advance? And he didn't even read my message before firing off his little zinger, obviously. Even in communities known for being kind and inviting to newbies, like the SuSE Linux newsgroups, for instance, this kind of sniping is seen all the time.
(I now know what the problem was, and it was sort of my fault, to be honest. I'm on about thirty lists, and this one works a little differently from most in a way that's not well documented.)
April 27, 2005
Anthropologists at Microsoft
Blogger David Weinberger reports on the work of two anthropologists he met at a recent Social Computing Symposium at Microsoft: Here's what they talked about.
Thanks for the link, Shimon!
April 14, 2005
Since this version of this blog is just beginning, and kind of with a bang (see my question for AAA candidates, I suppose I should introduce myself first. This is the very beginning of my blog at AnthroBogs.org. I am John Norvell, a Visiting Lecture on Anthropology at Harvard University and soon to be visiting Assistant Professor at Pitzer College, where my wife, Lêda Martins, has just begun a tenure-tack job. Although my dissertation and one major area of research is on urban life, racial and ethnic identity, and the ethnography of the middle classes in Brazil, my current research focuses on online communities and software developers. My professional web site is currently at www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~norvell/.
I am the founder/organizer/whatever of this site at present. What I hope to do with the site is to attract as many anthropological bloggers as possible here, aggregate their posts together with those of anthropologists/bloggers blogging elsewhere, and stimulate as much interaction as possible. This blog, Motes and Theories on Anthropology (so-named for the moment, anyway) will be my own blogged record of teaching, research, and career issues as an anthropologist. Please see the (hopefully) ever evolving home page of AnthroBlogs (www.anthroblogs.org) to see who is blogging so far and for info on how to sign up for one of your own. I also intend to blog about the AnthroBlogging experience at AnthroBlog Blog.
(Changed 6/1/05 to remove reference to Public Anthropology, our erstwhile sponsor.)