democracy’s fourth wave?

In 2011, the international community watched as a shockingly unlikely community of citizens toppled three of the world’s most entrenched dictators: Ben Ali in Tunisia, Mubarak in Egypt, and Qaddafi in Libya. This movement of cascading democratization, commonly known as the Arab Spring, was planned and executed not by political parties, but by students, young entrepreneurs, and the rising urban middle class. International experts and the popular press have pointed to the near-identical reliance on digital media in all three movements, arguing that these authoritarian regimes were in essence defeated by the Internet. Is that true? Should Mubarak blame Twitter … Continue reading

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damascus it is

On 26 February 2013 TV2 of Denmark needed a backdrop for a report on the current conflict in Syria. As it seems someone at the station searched the web for a suitable picture and hit upon a beautiful vista of the old city of Damascus. But the picture shows Damascus as it most probably has looked during the time of the ↑third crusade (1189-1192). Above that the picture doesn’t depict anything from the empirical world, but is a still from the computer game ‘↵Assassin’s Creed‘ (Ubisoft Montreal 2007). Quite tell-tale is the wooden beam attached to the minarett at the … Continue reading

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technoscience leaving modernity?

The ideas and practices of Artificial Life research, and the interactions between these ideas and practices, are the topics of this thesis. How can the study of life, which ALife researchers see as pregiven by Darwinian evolution, be combined with the study of the artificial, which they see as “man made”? What implications do the combination of “artificial” and “life” have on how they practise their science? We will see that this combination makes Artificial Life a blend of a traditional naturalistic science and what they themselves sometimes call a postmodern science. (↑Risan 1997: ↑Introduction) In their introduction Varela and … Continue reading

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wireless devices 1906

Kip W ↑unearthed the above wonderful, stunningly up-to-date ↑Punch cartoon (Williams 1955: 164) by artist ↑Lewis Baumer (1870-1963), which first was published in 1906! It’s great historical evidence for how early in the development of a given technology people not only speculate about the future trajectory of said development, but also think about possible social consequences of it. WILLIAMS, RONALD EARNEST. 1955. A century of Punch cartoons. New York: Simon and Schuster. via ↑entry at ↑boingboing … Continue reading

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the coming war on general computation

The copyright war was just the beginning  The last 20 years of Internet policy have been dominated by the copyright war, but the war turns out only to have been a skirmish. The coming century will be dominated by war against the general purpose computer, and the stakes are the freedom, fortune and privacy of the entire human race.     The problem is twofold: first, there is no known general-purpose computer that can execute all the programs we can think of except the naughty ones; second, general-purpose computers have replaced every other device in our world. There are no … Continue reading

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anthropologist of search

↑Daniel M. Russell works at Google and this is how he describes what he does there: ‘I study the way people search and research. I guess that makes me an anthropologist of search.’ Back in June this year he spoke at the ↑Investigative Reporters & Editors conference in Boston. ↑John Tedesco, an investigative reporter for the San Antonio Express-News was there, took extensive notes, and posted them at his weblog: ↑How to solve impossible problems: Daniel Russell’s awesome Google search techniques. via ↑entry at ↑boingboing … Continue reading

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space by movement

My physical inbox today was graced by the presence of the newest issue (60/2012) of the ‘Berliner Blätter: Ethnographische und ethnologische Beiträge’ [Berlin leafs: Ethnographic and Anthropological Contributions], a German language anthropology journal. It bears the title: ‘Räume durch Bewegung: Ethnographische Perspektiven auf eine vernetzte Welt’ [Space by Movement: Ethnographic Perspectives upon a Networked World]. The editors of said issue, ↑Beatrix Hoffmann and ↑Hansjörg Dilger—who did a truly fine job—sent me the specimen, because it contains a short contribution by yours truly. Here’s the abstract, taken from the issue’s introduction: Alexander Knorr erläutert in seinem Beitrag Möglichkiten ethnografischer Forschung unter … Continue reading

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the patent problem

↑Steven ↑Levy, author of ‘↑Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution‘ (1984), among others, has written a comprehensive article, published at Wired, on the complex of problems comprising patents, the patent wars, and patent trolls. Along a suspenseful storyline, and by using some fine metaphors from the cold war and beyond, he makes the matter perfectly clear and understandable. That’s traditionally been the spirit in which large companies have built their patent stockpiles, as a purely defensive measure. They were dissuaded from suing one another because they knew their target likely had patents that covered similar territory and they could be … Continue reading

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players unleashed

Players Unleashed is a thought provoking and well-argued reconstruction of the history of digital games and the role of player modifications to such artifacts. Focusing on the wide-ranging universe of mods for the best selling game The Sims, Sihvonen presents a cogent and persuasive argument for the importance of such activities, and in doing so helps us understand the vital role that players have claimed in the development and evolution of digital games. (Mia Consalvo) SIHVONEN, TANJA. 2011. ↑Players unleashed! Modding The Sims and the culture of gaming. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. … Continue reading

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science as servant

A 1946 advertisement for the ↑Bendix Corporation, scanned and put online by Paul Malon—↑click for larger versions, in order to be able to read all of the small text, too. The slogan ‘Creative engineering makes science your obedient servant’ not only perfectly sums up the immediate post-war era stance of absolute belief in technological feasibility, but also unmistakingly voices where science’s proper place in society should be. I maintain that the understanding of said era is quintessential for understanding our contemporary world: In present day society, the term ‘science’ has great potency. Not only is ‘science’ more or less equivalent … Continue reading

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