Joho the BlogJanuary 2009 - Page 3 of 7 - Joho the Blog

January 20, 2009

A small note

I am delighted to note that I have removed the following from this page’s sidebar. Forever:

Americans against Bush

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Couch Potwitter

I seem to be tweeting away in my eagerness to see the last of Bush and the first of the rest of us. Not to mention That One.

I tweet as dweinberger. Also, you can search for the tag #inaug09 to find a whole bunch o tweeters.

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January 19, 2009

danah boyd is very, very close to becoming dr. danah boyd

danah boyd has posted her doctoral dissertation online. Here is the abstract. (I haven’t yet read the dissertation, but I’m pretty confident it’s great.)

“Taken Out of Context: American Teen Sociality in Networked Publics”

Abstract: As social network sites like MySpace and Facebook emerged, American teenagers began adopting them as spaces to mark identity and socialize with peers. Teens leveraged these sites for a wide array of everyday social practices – gossiping, flirting, joking around, sharing information, and simply hanging out. While social network sites were predominantly used by teens as a peer-based social outlet, the unchartered nature of these sites generated fear among adults. This dissertation documents my 2.5-year ethnographic study of American teens’ engagement with social network sites and the ways in which their participation supported and complicated three practices – self-presentation, peer sociality, and negotiating adult society.

My analysis centers on how social network sites can be understood as networked publics which are simultaneously (1) the space constructed through networked technologies and (2) the imagined community that emerges as a result of the intersection of people, technology, and practice. Networked publics support many of the same practices as unmediated publics, but their structural differences often inflect practices in unique ways. Four properties – persistence, searchability, replicability, and scalability – and three dynamics – invisible audiences, collapsed contexts, and the blurring of public and private – are examined and woven throughout the discussion.

While teenagers primarily leverage social network sites to engage in common practices, the properties of these sites configured their practices and teens were forced to contend with the resultant dynamics. Often, in doing so, they reworked the technology for their purposes. As teenagers learned to navigate social network sites, they developed potent strategies for managing the complexities of and social awkwardness incurred by these sites. Their strategies reveal how new forms of social media are incorporated into everyday life, complicating some practices and reinforcing others. New technologies reshape public life, but teens’ engagement also reconfigures the technology itself.

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American patriotism

Yesterday I had to explain to my startled children why their dad just about jumped out of his seat with joy when Pete Seeger showed up on stage. To those not of a particular generation and of a particular swipe through that generation, it is indeed a mystery…

I was born in 1950 to parents who agreed more about politics than anything else. My father was a WWII vet and a graduate of Harvard Law who, rather than going into private practice, went to work as a lawyer for the New York State Labor Relations Board. He believed working people needed the power of unions to fight exploitation. And he was right.

My mother was a folksinger — she taught guitar but did not have enough confidence, or I imagine, my father’s support, to perform — starting in the early 1950s, before the the pop acculturation of that form. Folk music back then was a mix of art, anthropology and politics. During an era of smooth, mass market, commercial singers — think of a Perry Como Christmas Hour — the folklorists were out in the fields, preserving the raw, bottom-up songs of the least among us. Folk music stood in the fields against the great lawn mower of commercial entertainment.

A labor lawyer and a folksinger. My parents were the very definition of what others called “commie symps” (communist sympathizers). Pink, not red. They had no love for Russia, but they also saw America’s sins for what they were: Racist, misogynist (my mother but not my father was something like an early feminist), crass, bullying, and sexually obsessed with atomic bombs. They believed in America’s stated principles and promise, and had the ACLU membership cards to prove it. But they had also lived through a time when lynchings went unpunished, and Joseph McCarthy had twisted the legislature around his accusatory finger.

Pete Seeger was of my parents’ generation. In our household, he was the example of what a patriot looks like. A man of the people. Someone who had suffered for his political views in the McCarthy years. A hero who had stayed true to his ideals. A person who felt connected to the worst off, who appreciated their culture and who worked for their aspirations. A quiet person who never boasted. A character who never bowed to fashion or the expectations of others. A singer happiest in a small circle of like souls. Someone whose life and songs celebrated the greatest of America’s democratic ideals: The ineffable value of the ordinary person.

So, when Pete Seeger came out on stage in his rainbow Smurf hat, to sing before our new president, our new black president, I lost it. What my parents would have thought. What Pete Seeger must be thinking. But most of all, the proof of how steeply history can arc.

Pete Seeger: American patriot.

[Note: This post is also up at Huffington. Feel free to comment there.]

words and music by Woody Guthrie

[Note the second-to-last verse, the one that begins “As I was walkin’ – I saw a sign there.” It’s a lot of people’s favorite — dw]

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California, to the New York Island
From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me

As I was walking a ribbon of highway
I saw above me an endless skyway
I saw below me a golden valley
This land was made for you and me


I’ve roamed and rambled and I’ve followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
And all around me a voice was sounding

This land was made for you and me


The sun comes shining as I was strolling
The wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
The fog was lifting a voice come chanting
This land was made for you and me


As I was walkin’ – I saw a sign there
And that sign said – no tress passin’
But on the other side …. it didn’t say nothin!
Now that side was made for you and me!


In the squares of the city – In the shadow of the steeple
Near the relief office – I see my people
And some are grumblin’ and some are wonderin’
If this land’s still made for you and me.

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January 18, 2009

Heavens, I’m a flutter

Obama’s letter to his daughters in Parade Magazine this morning wasn’t particularly well done. But I choked up. I’m watching Bruce Springsteen at the concert right now. I’ve never particularly liked him, and I’m not knocked out by this. But I’m on the verge of tears again. Jon goddamn Bonjovi just made me cry.

I’m in a bad way.

I don’t need any reminders about the troubles we face or Obama’s flaws and weaknesses. I know he’s just a guy with two legs and an empty pair of pants when he wakes up. Really I do.

But for months I’ve felt, well, a surge. I can’t even tell you what the feeling is. All I know for sure is that it makes my throat tight and my cheeks wet. And it’s too much to be attributed to one skinny young guy. And certainly it’s not all directed at him.

But don’t you feel it too? It’s as if we’ve been given permission, let go, released. Let’s not say from what. Not today.

Into what? Not sure. But it’s been there all along, waiting.

At least, that’s what it feels like to me.

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January 17, 2009

Leadership and the Interregnum

I hope someday an historian writes a book called The Interregnum that looks at the period between the election and inauguration of Barack Obama. Not since the Cuban Missile Crisis had us huddled waiting for events to resolve have I had such a palpable sense of history. But now, instead of parsing every car horn as the start of a nuclear siren, I am ready for hope.

The stew of emotions is rich.

Hope itself is encompassing. It isn’t even an emotion. It’s a full-body experience, including cognition, anticipation, dedication, and spirit. In this case, hope is social. It’s not me trusting looking into the eyes of my Maker. It’s us relying on us.

Then there’s patriotism. I’ve always been more interested in the reasons that justify patriotism than in patriotism itself. But now I’m proud of how we are responding to this person we improbably elected.

There’s fear. I want my children to have the same opportunities I’ve been privileged to have. That is far from guaranteed. It isn’t even likely.

But The Interregnum will make for compelling reading most of all because it is the story of two people who could not be more different as people and as leaders.

Although I’ve been furious at President Bush for years, I had no idea I’ve actually been holding some back. I didn’t think I had any more to give. But then George Bush began his round of farewells.

Whatever someone says s/he is is exactly what that person is not. If your boss says, “I’m all about honesty,” then your boss is a liar. “For me, accountability is the main thing” means your boss is a swindler.

Bush told us he is all about compassion.

As Bush has put forward his self-explanation and justification in this past week, it’s become clear how incapable he is of seeing things from someone else’s point of view. With millions of refugees created in Iraq, he says his mistake was in posing in front of that “Mission Accomplished” sign. In the face of Katrina’s refugees, Bush thinks his mistake was not arriving on scene for his photo opp earlier. As Jon Stewart said, “You have no idea why people are angry at you, do you?”

I don’t think this is due to narcissism on Bush’s part. I think it’s part and parcel of his lack of intellectual curiosity. He’s a tiny man on a vast stage who simply can’t think past himself and what he sees at the moment. It doesn’t matter how large the stage becomes, his tiny circle of light never expands.

Bush provides us with the final and perfect exemplar of how our American idea of leadership, in politics and business, has gone wrong. We’ve taken leadership as a personality trait. Bush thinks he’s a leader because he made unpopular decisions and stuck by them. Leadership to him is a matter of character. If that’s all leadership is, then we’re better off without leaders — people empty of anything except a random resolve to do something and then keep doing it.

What’s missing is the idea that leaders need to be responsive to the reality of the world, the reality of the conflicting needs of the led, and the reality of suffering. Leaders may sometimes need to draw a clear line, but they must always recognize that the simplicity some decisions require masks an awful complexity.

In the interregnum, Bush has revealed himself as a buffoon blind to the tragedy he has hosted, while Obama has been showing us what leadership is about by bringing us to what is best in ourselves — as individuals, and, most of all, together.

I am ready for release from the shame and anger of the Bush years. I am so ready for the interregnum to end. [Tags: ]


January 16, 2009

Ethanz: Are print ads crazy?

Ethan, in a long, careful, and superb speculative piece, wonders if newspapers have been propped up by the fact that advertisers couldn’t tell just how over-priced the ad space in newspapers has been:

Basically, there are two ways to explain the disparity in online and offline ad cost. One is to argue that paper ads are, for some combination of reasons, ten to a hundred times more effective than online ads. The other is to argue that advertisers are better at pricing online ads than offline ads.

So, if we lose the irrational pricing of offline ads, how are newspapers going to support expensive, investigative journalism? Or, as Ethan puts it.

What if the model that brought us Upton Sinclair and Woodward and Bernstein – impression advertising – can’t bring us into the future because it’s based on uneven distribution of information and bad math?

And Ethan’s answer is: We don’t know yet.

Great, provocative piece.

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January 15, 2009

Broadband herring

Harold Feld is very happy that the stimulus package includes “only” $6 billion for broadband to underserved areas. He puts it this way:

There’s an old Jewish joke about how a Frenchman, a Pole, and Jew saved Napoleon’s life. Napoleon asks what they want as a reward. The Frenchman says his family were aristocrats before the revolution and he wants his family lands restored. “Granted,” says the Emperor. The Pole says he wants Poland liberated and her pre-partition borders restored. “Granted,” says Napoleon. The Jew says: “I want a real nice piece of herring.”

Napoleon stares, turns in disgust to one of his attendants, and says “get this man a nice piece of herring from the kitchen and then get him out of my sight.”

The Frenchman and the Pole turn to the Jew and laugh “You could have asked for anything! You idiot, that’s the Emperor of France! And you asked for a nice piece of herring!”

“Ha,” answered the Jew. “You think you’re so smart? I’m actually gonna get my herring.”

That’s about how I feel about the broadband stimulus package. Sure, I’d love to have had the feds build fiber out to every home. But I always knew that wouldn’t happen. Worse, I figured that any HUGE pot of money would invariably end up chock full of goodies for incumbents with zippo oversight. ….

But a reasonable set of grant proposals, properly targeted, can do a boatload of good. Consider Mark Cooper’s community hotspot approach, for example, or the work of ongoing projects such as the Mountain Area Information Network in rural North Carolina or the Lawndale Community Wireless Network in Chicago or any of thousands of projects in hundreds of communities working to bridge the gap between connectivity and digital exclusion…

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Nature Magzine sets up collaborative education space

Nature Magazine, which should be the stodgiest of the stodgiest, continues to show an admirable flexibility (stopping short of doing the full open access Monty). It’s now created Scitable, “a collaborative learning space for science undergraduates.” It’s got articles, online class tools, teacher collaborative tools, student collaborative tools, discussion areas, consultable experts… I haven’t yet gone through it all.

This initial implementation focuses on genetics. Nature is planning on expanding the topics.

On top of all that, it’s great to contemplate how blase we’ve become about the primordial value of collaborative tools. Collaboration is the new greed.

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I twittered a pun last night of which I am oddly proud: “If I ever ran into Heisenberg, I wouldn’t know if I should wave or point.”

JohnJoseph twittered back this rim shot.

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