RECENTLY, I came across a great find in a Vermont antiques store: an old black-and-white photograph of a female pilot on a mountaintop, her aviator glasses pushed up on her forehead, revealing a satisfied, wind-burned face, the wings of her plane just visible behind her. But the best part of the discovery was the slow realization that she was holding the camera herself. It was, for lack of a better word, a “selfie.”
For all their virtual accomplishments, gamers aren\’t feted for their real-world usefulness. But that perception might be about to change, thanks to a new wave of games that let players with little or no scientific knowledge tackle some of science\’s biggest problems. And gamers are already proving their worth.
In 2011, people playing Foldit, an online puzzle game about protein folding, resolved the structure of an enzyme that causes an Aids-like disease in monkeys. Researchers had been working on the problem for 13 years. The gamers solved it in three weeks.
A year later, people playing an astronomy game called Planet Hunters found a curious planet with four stars in its system, and to date, they\’ve discovered 40 planets that could potentially support life, all of which had been previously missed by professional astronomers.
On paper, gamers and scientists make a bizarre union. But in reality, their two worlds aren\’t leagues apart: both involve solving problems within a given set of rules.
Valley of the Blahs: How Justin Bieber’s Troubles Exposed Twitter’s Achilles’ Heel [blogs.nytimes.com]
Twitter seems to have reached a turning point, a phase in which its contributors have stopped trying to make the service as useful as possible for the crowd, and are instead trying to distinguish themselves from one another. It’s less about drifting down the stream, absorbing what you can while you float, and more about trying to make the flashiest raft to float on, gathering fans and accolades as you go.
How did this happen?
A theory: The psychology of crowd dynamics may work differently on Twitter than it does on other social networks and systems.
There is a new ubiquitous media brand on Twitter.
No, I\’m not talking about Pierre Omidyar\’s First Look Media or BuzzFeed or The Verge, or any other investor-backed startup.
I\’m talking about @HistoryInPics, which, as I discovered, is run by two teenagers: Xavier Di Petta, 17, who lives in a small Australian town two hours north of Melbourne, and Kyle Cameron, 19, a student in Hawaii.
They met hustling on YouTube when they were 13 and 15, respectively, and they\’ve been doing social media things together (off and on) since. They\’ve built YouTube accounts, making money off advertising. They created Facebook pages such as \”Long romantic walks to the fridge,\” which garnered more than 10 million Likes, and sold them off. More recently, Di Petta\’s company, Swift Fox Labs, has hired a dozen employees, and can bring in, according to an Australian news story, 50,000 Australian dollars a month (or roughly 43,800 USD at current exchange rates).
But @HistoryInPics may be the duo\’s biggest creation.
In 350 B.C., Aristotle was already wondering what could make content—in his case, a speech—persuasive and memorable, so that its ideas would pass from person to person. The answer, he argued, was three principles: ethos, pathos, and logos. Content should have an ethical appeal, an emotional appeal, or a logical appeal. A rhetorician strong on all three was likely to leave behind a persuaded audience. Replace rhetorician with online content creator, and Aristotle’s insights seem entirely modern. Ethics, emotion, logic—it’s credible and worthy, it appeals to me, it makes sense. If you look at the last few links you shared on your Facebook page or Twitter stream, or the last article you e-mailed or recommended to a friend, chances are good that they’ll fit into those categories.
Aristotle’s diagnosis was broad, and tweets, of course, differ from Greek oratory. So Berger, who is now a professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, worked with another Penn professor, Katherine Milkman, to put his interest in content-sharing to an empirical test.
A group of supporters has raised more than $25,000 in the internet currency Dogecoin to let the Jamaican bobsleigh team attend the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
On Sunday, news broke that the team had qualified for the Winter Olympics for the first time since 2002. The two-man sled will be piloted by Winston Watt, a 46-year-old Jamaican-American who also competed in 2002, with Marvin Dixon as the brakeman.
But Watt revealed that, even after putting his own money up to fly the team to his training session, there wasn\’t enough money to send the two to Russia. As a result, he turned to donations, launching a PayPal account to pay for the estimated $40,000
Grass-roots activists increasingly use online petitions to promote local causes [washingtonpost.com]
Since the Internet’s early days, optimists have predicted that the technology would be a huge plus for democracy by dramatically expanding opportunities for direct engagement with the public.
Now, part of that dream is being fulfilled. Grass-roots activists in our region (and elsewhere) are increasingly using online petitions as a fast, effective way to recruit supporters and pressure authorities.
The Web appeals promote all kinds of causes, from the high-minded to the mundane, and the trend is toward local campaigns. Ordinary citizens are finding such petitions especially valuable in pushing issues that otherwise might escape public attention.
One such advocate is Matt Landon, 21, a surf shop manager in Ocean City. He started an online petition on Change.org in late August to oppose a plan to allow fishermen to drive trucks on the beach during the offseason.
The City Council killed the plan in less than a week as the petition quickly drew more than 900 cyber-signatures.
The media world gets weirder every day, but this moment still stands out as something of a stunner – the kind of thing that merits a place on the eternal timeline of “How the Internet Flipped the Media World on Its Head.”
Tony Scott – known as A. O. Scott to those who read his film criticism in The Times – is at home on Saturday morning. He picks up his print edition of The Times, planning to do the crossword puzzle. But first he leafs through the paper, and there on Page C7 is a full-page advertisement – almost all white space except for 75 characters. It’s his tweet from a few days before. Actually, no, it’s not his full tweet, but a part of his tweet, mocked up to look like a full tweet. (At the bottom of the page is a reference to Mr. Scott’s list of best pictures of the year, which puts “Inside Llewyn Davis” in the No. 1 spot.)
Evgeny Morozov on Why Our Privacy Problem is a Democracy Problem in Disguise [@evgenymorozov for MIT Technology Review]
The invisible barbed wire of big data limits our lives to a space that might look quiet and enticing enough but is not of our own choosing and that we cannot rebuild or expand. The worst part is that we do not see it as such. Because we believe that we are free to go anywhere, the barbed wire remains invisible. Worse, there’s no one to blame: certainly not Google, Dick Cheney, or the NSA. It’s the result of many different logics and systems—of modern capitalism, of bureaucratic governance, of risk management—that get supercharged by the automation of information processing and by the depoliticization of politics.
The more information we reveal about ourselves, the denser but more invisible this barbed wire becomes. We gradually lose our capacity to reason and debate; we no longer understand why things happen to us.
Pretty much everyone (myself included) has been reading Google+ wrongly. Because it bears many superficial resemblances to social networks such as Facebook or Twitter – you can \”befriend\” people, you can \”follow\” people without their following you back – we\’ve thought that it is a social network, and judged it on that basis. By which metric, it does pretty poorly – little visible engagement, pretty much no impact on the outside world.
If Google+ were a social network, you\’d have to say that for one with more than 500 million members – that\’s about half the size of Facebook, which is colossal – it\’s having next to no wider impact. You don\’t hear about outrage over hate speech on Google+, or violent videos not getting banned, or men posing as 14-year-old girls in order to befriend real 14-year-old girls. Do people send Google+ links all over the place, in the way that people do from LinkedIn, or Twitter, or Facebook? Not really, no.
There\’s a simple reason for this. Google+ isn\’t a social network. It\’s The Matrix.
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