Twitter and politics

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This was one of the most interesting moments on the web I have experienced in years. I was watching a high quality live broadcast of the last Presidential debate in a window above realtime responses in Twitter.
The quality of the conversation is not always the best but it’s pretty clear how important services like twitter can be for debate, critique and fact-checking of political candidates. These a great tools for democratic journalism.
I’ll be monitoring twitter election night as well.


[Bits] Fear and American Politics

Identity, Policy & Character in Politics – America Idol Trumps All.
Deep down millions of Canadians and Americans “know” that something terrible is on its way. Middle and working class know that they in particular are going to be in the eye of the hurricane. No Golden Parachutes for them. Like Germans in 1931, they want to feel safe. Like Germans in 1931 they seek a Father and a Mother figure who will make it all go away. They want simple answers even if they know that they are wrong. Also, Why do the working class want to vote Republican or Conservative here in Canada?
The Palin-Whatshisname Ticket.
But race is just one manifestation of the emotion that defined the Palin rollout. That dominant emotion is fear — an abject fear of change. Fear of a demographical revolution that will put whites in the American minority by 2042. Fear of the technological revolution and globalization that have gutted those small towns and factories Palin apotheosized.
And, last but hardly least, fear of illegal immigrants who do the low-paying jobs that Americans don’t want to do and of legal immigrants who do the high-paying jobs that poorly educated Americans are not qualified to do.
From Hype to Fear in American Politics.
When the economy is doing reasonably well, the debate is dominated by hype — by the claim that America’s prosperity is truly wondrous, and that conservative economic policies deserve all the credit.
But when things turn down, there is a seamless transition from “It’s morning in America! Hurray for tax cuts!” to “The economy is slumping! Raising taxes would be a disaster!”
But there’s a powerful political faction in this country that understands very well that any real change will create losers as well as winners.
American Fear: The Causes and Consequences of High Anxiety.
Why, then, are twenty-first-century Americans more fearful than their counterparts sixty- five years ago or across the Atlantic? The “roots of American fear,” Stearns suggests, lie in traditions extending back to the colonial period of “fears attached to race and Evangelical fears associated with God’s wrath” (p. 74). He also invokes the post–World War II proliferation of science fiction scenarios of alien invasion and global annihilation, along with “the contemporary American sense of the strangeness of death” (p. 88). But the underlying cause is a “new fear culture” that began to take shape by the 1920s and that manifested itself most powerfully in childrearing advice and practices (p. 93). No longer taught to master their fear through courage, Americans were now socialized to avoid it or, when avoidance was not possible, to vent it. Meanwhile, an earlier sense of fatalism gave way to beliefs that most risks are preventable (as seen in changes in tort law and insurance practices)—beliefs that heightened Americans’ fears “when their expectations are contradicted” (p. 137). They were “left less emotionally prepared than desirable for unexpected intrusions” of fear and “more open to manipulations that either prolonged fear or promised decisive remediation” (p. 110). This “new socialization” combined with “decades of war-level alerts”—Stearns retraces the red scares, the nuclear threat, and a series of Cold War crises—to produce a populace prone to emotional overreaction (p. 198). Too much fear, in turn, has generated distorted psyches and policies. Via The Journal of American History.
Update 09/16: Jeffrey Zeldman’s A modest proposal is worth linking to. Imagine, discussing the the real issues and weighing each candidates resume and views on these issues. Revolutionary! Excerpt: “If you’re selling toothpaste, your claims must be vetted by legal and medical professionals. But not if you’re selling a candidate.
If you’re selling a candidate, not only can you lie about his record, but more to the point, you can lie about his opponent”.


Political blogs vs. Obamedia

I just spent a couple hours procrastinating by reading a number of American political blogs with leanings toward the Republican political spectrum. I won’t say conservative because though many label themselves conservative, the values and opinions they express are anything but.
With the exception of Drudge (which I think is funny like the Onion) and the Huffington Post (which i guess is ‘liberal’ and funny like the Onion) I never read sites such as these.
It’s their community’s which are especially illuminating. So here off the top of my head a short list of memorabilia:

  • Russia wants Obama to win the election so they can run all over him
  • Obama is a pussy. Anyone not tough enough or who doesn’t advocate war is a pussy
  • If off-shore drilling will save me 2 cents a tank where is the downside? (unless you live on the coast of course)
  • Hummer’s seem to be a necessary accessory
  • Liberals all want to spit on the constitution
  • Lots and lots of tough aggressive talk – like I remember conversations in high school or while drunk
  • Lots of black and white thinking. Us and them. Liberal or Conservative. Against us or with us.
  • The media is run by liberals who are against ‘us’
  • Though proven ineffective torture is ok and desirable
  • The Republican leadership can do no wrong
  • It’s not the administrations fault ‘things’ (always see this word and never clear points) have gone the way they have
  • Obamedia
  • Liberalism is a mental disorder
  • There is a fight to take America back … from Americans (wtf?)
  • It seems anyone with an education is branded dumb and elitist. Especially if they went to an ivy league university

My uncle back home, who is one of my favourite people in the world, had similar thinking. He never voted on the issues or the person on the ballot but has fallowed the Liberal party religiously for as long as I can remember. But he was neither aggressive, nor violent, and was generally very kind to people regardless of their political or racial make-up. The kind of thinking I read was so utterly narrow that I can see how fractious debates in the have become.


Issue 8: The Loop as a Temporal Form

Looks like some good reading for a few idle moments this weekend. Nice early 90’s web aesthetic!

As a form, the loop contradicts the linear structure we typically associate with time. The common-sense formulation understands time as a progression forward from moment to moment to moment, with a clear division of past, present and future. Yet many theories contradict this apparent truism. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, for example, organize time into chronos and aeon. Greg Hainge, a contributor to this issue, writes that the latter continually and simultaneously divides the event into the already-there and the not-yet here, while failing to settle on either. This describes a loop folding back on itself, while not returning to its place of origin. Elsewhere, Jacques Derrida uses this failure of origins to structure a system of ethics grounded in an attempt to elude the eternal return of the same. While Deleuze, Guattari and Derrida insist on this failure in their use of the loop as a temporal form, Sigmund Freud understands time in terms of telos and its failure. In other words, absent a forward progression through, for example, mourning, the individual is doomed to circle back repeatedly to the lost object. Both formulations of the loop, one that either returns or does not return to its origins, are at work in this issue’s articles.

Issue 8: The Loop as a Temporal Form.


Jessey Meng and Toilet Gate

You just can’t make this stuff up. The Mainland Chinese forums are ablaze with indignation that someone would make a joke at their shoddy toilet facilities. From Reuters:

Enraged Chinese Internet surfers have called for a public apology from a Taiwanese model after she poked fun at the mainland’s public toilets and their users on a Taiwan chat-show, local media reported Thursday.
“Many mainland toilets don’t have doors and even when they do, most people don’t even shut the door!” Meng said.
She regaled the host with a story about a toilet in a Chinese city where she had seen “hundreds of pale bottoms all lined up in a row.”

Old news is sometimes good news. Found via my referrer logs.


Image of the Environmental Cost of War

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BEIRUT: At least 10,000 tons of heavy fuel oil have been spilled into the Lebanese sea, causing an environmental catastrophe with severe effects on health, biodiversity and tourism, environmentalists and the Environment Ministry said Wednesday. Two weeks ago, Israeli bombs targeted the Jiyye power station, located on the coast 30 kilometers south of Beirut. Part of the oil in storage tanks has been burning ever since and the other part is leaking into the Mediterranean.

I always find it amazing the power of an image to relay a message – especially in times of ‘war’ (which seems to be never ending – wars are an economy onto themselves). While we can sometimes manage to see imagery of the human suffering that always accompanies the barbarism of modern conflict, photos such as these help in a small way to illuminate the other effects that only those living there experience.
(The photo is from BBC News; the excerpt is from the Lebanese paper, the Daily Star.)


This Global Phenomenom Called ‘Internet’


A CBC report from 1993 on a global phenomenon called ‘Internet’. Do you remember what it was like to be online back in 1993? I remember being a moderator of a hugely popular bbs hosted on dana.edu servers. Community spaces were much different then, surprisingly more restrained, and likely partially because of the ‘magic’ of the experience the relationships were far closer than anything I have experienced since.
YouTube is my new television.
Heres the link to the original CBC archive page.


The Ringtone only Teens Can Hear

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When I originally mentioned the Teen Buzz ringtone, I did so as I thought it was a creative way of circumventing adult authority by using the very tool used against them. A company called Compound Security Systems had developed what they call a “Mosquito ultrasonic teenage deterrent”, designed to drive kids away from malls, stores and other places where teens congregate and annoy paying customers. Well this idea has become very viral, the general news media has picked up on it, people are sharing the file via p2p, and even Compound Security Systems is selling thee own version. In a sign of my advancing age I downloaded a copy and couldn’t hear a thing.
Here is a copy of the Teen Buzz ringtone in mp3 format.


Teens Using Ringtone only Teens Can Hear

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“They can receive calls and texts during lessons without teachers having the faintest idea what is going on”
Creative thinking! “Teen geeks have retro-fitted a sound called the Mosquito alarm — normally only heard by people under the age of 20 and developed as an irritant to drive teens away from hangout spots at malls — and made it a ringtone. Now all the kids in class can hear cell phones, which have been banned in most classrooms, but the teachers can’t. The ring tone is called Teen Buzz, and it’s spreading like wildfire via SMS and Bluetooth.” Via Rawfeed.


The Effects Of Mobile Telephones On Social And Individual Life

“Whatever it is called, and wherever it is used, this simple, accessible technology alters the way in which individuals conduct their everyday lives. It has extensive implications for the cultures and societies in which it is used; it changes the nature of communication, and affects identities and relationships. It affects the development of social structures and economic activities, and has considerable bearing on its users’ perceptions of themselves and their world.
This report is informed by the interests, themes, and methodologies of several areas of study, including psychology, social psychology, sociology, anthropology, cultural studies and philosophy. While such interdisciplinary approaches are common to many studies of the cultural effects of technological change, few of the models and hypotheses developed in relation to other new communications technologies can be applied to the mobile without the risk of obscuring what is truly novel in the wireless world. The mobile needs a fresh start and an open mind. ”
Read the Motorola study authored by Dr Sadie Plant (.pdf file).


Pew Internet & American Life Project – Artists, Musicians and the Internet

“The first large-scale surveys of the internet’s impact on artists and musicians reveal that they are embracing the Web as a tool to improve how they make, market, and sell their creative works. They eagerly welcome new opportunities that are provided by digital technology and the internet.
At the same time, they believe that unauthorized online file sharing is wrong and that current copyright laws are appropriate, though there are some major divisions among them about what constitutes appropriate copying and sharing of digital files. Their overall judgment is that unauthorized online file-sharing does not pose a major threat to creative industries: Two-thirds of artists say peer-to-peer file sharing poses a minor threat or no threat at all to them.
Across the board, among those who are both successful and struggling, the artists and musicians we surveyed are more likely to say that the internet has made it possible for them to make more money from their art than they are to say it has made it harder to protect their work from piracy or unlawful use.”
Read the Research Report


Culture of fear and blindness

I’ll be saying a little prayer tonight that Americans have abandoned their political zealotry, done some thinking, and decided that the last four years were a mockery of their country.
I wanted to record my thoughts about this event but somehow now words escape me. The US isn’t my country and yet no country or person can escape the effects of this election. How a man such as this could have such popular support and can get away with such obvious lies is a mystery. One must just open their eyes and see. Perhaps that is one of the gifts of the power base that surrounds him. The ability to frame all thinking around the context of their choosing. They must be the most masterful of propagandists.
Bush once said something to the effect that he will be remembered in history, let’s hope he is remembered as a hiccup, a mistake, and not a representative of what America believes. I had a feeling from the beginning that he would be a two term president, I hope that I was wrong, for the sake of America and the world.


Cell Phone as Rosery

“Londoners create invisible mobile phone booths, while Parisians talk in the middle of the pavement and people from Madrid share their phone with friends.

These are some of the findings from a Surrey university study into mobile phone use in three European cities.

Despite differences of approach, all of them had one thing in common, they all loved their mobile phones.

Like a rosary, the mobile has this function of keeping the mind busy. People are cuddling their phones because it promotes well-being from touching a familiar object.”

Read City Dwellers ‘Cuddle’ Mobiles.


The Semantic Web is Closer Than You Think

“While there is a lot of talk these days about the Semantic Web being the crack-addled pipe dream of a few academic naifs, in reality it’s a lot closer to realization than you might be thinking. Now I want to be clear about this point: I’m not suggesting that we stand on the brink of a fully achieved, widespread Semantic Web. I am suggesting that some of the major pieces of the puzzle are now or will soon be in place. OWL, along with RDF, upon which it builds, are two such very major pieces of the Semantic Web puzzle.”
Link: The Semantic Web is Closer Than You Think