whatknows :: do you?

August 26, 2008

Eulogizing Theory

Filed under: Academic — Jed @ 1:12 pm

How does one produce “truth”?

Today gnovis ran an article of mine considering this very question. It all started when I stumbled across an issue of Wired with a headline proclaiming “The End of Theory”. Evocative titles always seem to get me to buy magazines, but this one seemed to have some personal relevance and worth the $4.95. I suppose the gnovis article was inevitable. Here is a taste:

As we rush to reconstruct our physical lives in online spaces, digital worlds like Facebook and Second Life have largely forgone the potential freedoms of digital environments. When Anderson asserts that we should focus on what people are doing, he forgets Althusser’s Marxist response that “ideology is material” and as such, never offers a problem that is outside of material’s ability to respond. No wonder all of this data analysis is working. We are just measuring predefined user behavior in a digital world, a world we insisted on digitizing.

It is a fun piece, so I hope you will check it out.

August 21, 2008

New Media, Technology & Democracy: gnovis releases a special issue

Filed under: Academic — Jed @ 1:01 pm

gnovis Journal LogoThis week gnovis published a special issue on “New Media, Technology, and Democracy“. With the elections just months away, the editor Brad Weikel (or “sleepcamel” on his blog) was right when he said that now is the perfect time to reflect on the intersection of technology and politics.

There are a number of fantastic articles, but I was particularly delighted to see my friend Tatyana Varshavsky’s article published. In the editor’s words:

Tatyana Varshavsky’s “Creating Community Through the Arts: Cultural Engagement, Democracy, and the Role of Civil Society” brings a valuable perspective to the discourse of civic engagement, examining the relationship between cultural and community engagement, and a broader notion of citizenship. By stepping out of the normative model of the Big Media / Big Politics spectacle, Varshavsky offers an inspiring view of civic engagement, at once pragmatic and idealistic, which would give even Robert Putnam a glimmer of hope.

August 17, 2008

Email vs. Google – Which do you use more?

Filed under: Technology — Jed @ 11:57 pm

You are on a desert island. You have the option of an email account or Google, which do you choose? Well, that’s a no brainer. You choose email and send someone a letter so you can get off the stupid island. But what if that island was Manhattan?

Earlier this month, the Pew Internet & American Life Project released the latest statistics frequency on search engine use. In case you are curious, here is how it stacks up (click for a full-size version):

Despite where you live, apparently we all feel like we are on our own island of sorts. And believe it or not, search engine use has only recently been gaining on email. The Pew offers two explanations for the increased populatity of search engines (and let’s just ignore the absurdity of considering Google as unpopular).


August 16, 2008

“Social media, I just don’t get it.”

Filed under: Academic,Technology — Jed @ 4:54 pm

I was having dinner with a colleague earlier this week who in a hushed and slightly embarrassed voice admitted that she just didn’t understand Twitter. Normally I would have assured her that Twittering is not a social requirement, but in her case, it was part of her job. Twitter, Blogs, Facebook – these are the bread and butter of an emerging professional class of “social media consultants.” Maybe it is a D.C. thing. After admitting to her that I am more confused about these jobs than the technologies they rely on, I happily agreed to help get her up to speed.

Internet culture, however, is incredibly memetic. I suppose this makes Dawkins the philosopher of choice for contemporary geekdom, but it also means that the distinction between popular and unpopular, in and out, can be dizzying.

Point and case: This video from CrunchGear. Somehow they managed to capture the simultaneous love, disdain, and absurdity of Twitter. And it only took Hitler to pull it off.

August 10, 2008

Why do we read Missed Connections?

Filed under: Academic,Technology — Jed @ 4:46 pm

“I have to admit something. Sometimes I like to read the missed connections section in the paper, just for fun. And I really like them. Is that so bad?”

Without fail, every time I tell someone new that I am doing a research project on Missed Connections, they quickly interrupt me to exclaim how much they love reading these little messages. It is funny, I certainly can relate to how they feel, but I frequently am so “down in the trenches”, if you will, that I miss the beautiful potential embedded in each post.

While stumbling around the net this weekend I ran across a video that seemed to tug on this very point. An episode of Val’s Art Diary, this video gets right to the heart of the matter, and gives one artist’s interpretation of this suspended form of romance. In her words:

Every couple you talk to has a story of them meeting, and it is usually is a pretty random thing… what if your moment already happened and none of you did anything about it? It seems to me that as much as we like to shape our lives, somethings are simply beyond our control.

I hope you enjoy the video as much as I did.

August 6, 2008

Bush’s Legacy: “Comic”?

Filed under: Personal — Jed @ 4:40 pm

My friend Tim from Utah has been visiting this week. Last night in the midst of John Stewart, he asked the following question: “How do you think history will treat President Bush?”

Compared to my Media and Politics focused peers at CCT I am a totally poli-wuss. All the same we compared notes, exchanged ideas, and then quickly agreed that we had no idea. Will history blame Bush for the last 8 year or will he fade into presidential obscurity over time?

Imagine my delight when I found the following clip this morning. Perhaps our problem was with the term “presidential”.