Joho the BlogFebruary 2010 - Page 3 of 4 - Joho the Blog

February 12, 2010

[berkman] Berkman Buzz

The Berkman Buzz for the week:

  • Chilling Effects asks, “Who Dat Trademark Belong To?”

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  • Doc Searls strips new new journalism practices back to basics:

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  • Miriam Meckel holds us up to the looking-glass, that we might see how sulky we are:

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  • Judith Donath explores our virtual (dis)honesties with Jeremy Bailenson:

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  • Harry Lewis considers legislative changes to what matter is in Massachusetts:

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  • CMLP gnaws on the FBI’s call for ISPs to have to log and retain more and more:

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  • OpenNet Initiative updates us on Germany’s abandonment of a Net filtering law:

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  • Weekly Global Voices: “Pakistan: PTA Blocks President’s ‘Shut-Up’ Video”

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  • Publius: “Understanding our Knowledge Gaps: Or, Do we have an ICT4D field? And do we want one?”

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  • Micro-post of the week: Christian Sandvig gets illocutionary with Fernando Bermejo:

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[ahole] Radio Berkman, and Hubspot TV interview on Cluetrain, blogging ‘n’ stuff

The latest is up. I interview Mary L. Gray about the blurring of the distinction between online and offline among rural gay youth. (Liveblogged her talk here.)

Here‘s a video interview of me by Mike Volpe at Hubspot TV. We talk about the Cluetrain, the State Dept.’s Web 2.0 efforts, and about whether companies should blog as companies. Also: The Superbowl as an impediment to pizza.

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February 11, 2010

Unidentified flying objects

For the past few months, we’ve had these tiny black flies in our kitchen. They’re smaller than a pencil point and they seem to bite. They might be black flies (as a name, not a description), but the Internets say that black flies don’t bite indoors. In any case, they’re mighty — and mite-y — annoying. There always seems to be one and only one in the air, as if organized by some pestiferous Strategic Air Command.

Black fly
Black fly
Black fly
Black fly

Based on these photos of a slightly dead one, does anyone know what they are and what we can do about them?



February 10, 2010

[2b2k] Not throwing everything out

I talked yesterday with David Miller, my literary agent and friend. David is the first reader of my drafts (my wife is the first listener) because he has a wonderful head for structure and flow, he understands how books work as an experience for readers as well as how ideas develop in them, he cares about the quality of the book first and foremost, and he’s frank.

David has read drafts of the first two chapters and does not think I have to throw them out entirely. They need more narrative connection and more examples (Examples, my old nemesis. We meet again). And, David suggests, they need a prologue or preface that will set up the book’s problem. David says it needs something like the distinction between the kitchen’s silverware drawer and its miscellaneous drawer in Everything Is Miscellaneous, which gave the reader an easy way of formulating the issue in her mind.

The challenge, of course, is figuring out what that central issue is. I’ve thrashed among several alternatives, each of which would provide a different way of structuring the book. If the book is about the problem that there’s too much to know (which is, after all, the title), then the preface should illustrate that point. If it’s about the growth of networked expertise, then I should present a contrast between the old and new ways of being an expert. If it’s about the restructuring of knowledge, then the preface should give an example of traditional knowledge and new knowledge. If it’s about the socializing of knowledge, then … etc., etc.

I have three times in the past month given a 10-15 minute talk that has gone over pretty well, and that could serve as a setup. It starts with the data-information-knowledge-wisdom pyramid, gives its history, and critiques it on a couple of grounds. It ends by saying that the real problem with it is that it continues our traditional strategy for knowing a world that is too big to know: reducing the field of what’s to be known. But, in a networked world, not only do we have tools available that handle far greater capacity, all that’s available to be known is visible. (I’ve written about this here and here.) The old reductive strategy just isn’t enough any more. I like this way of setting it up, but I agree with David Miller that it still needs a preface, if only because the DIKW pyramid is not as well known as I think it is.

So, I’ve been thinking that I’ll begin it with the contrast between two cases: Darwin unearthing a stubborn fact about barnacles, and the uses wrings out of an endless series of answers to trivial questions about your preferences and experiences. (I had the chance to interview Caterina Fake for an hour last week.) The contrast is between the small world of hard-won facts, and the endless world of tiny, easy facts — nonce facts? — jotted down at 12 per minute. I want the reader to see not only that there are many more facts now, but that the basic role and structuring of facts (and knowledge) have changed.

I’m not convinced Darwin vs. Hunch is the right contrast to draw. My book is not about promoting the particular way of knowing that uses. The book is not about algorithmic combing of huge databases. That’s just one technique for dealing with a knowledge overflow. I’m more interested in the fact that we generate the knowledge overflow, and change our ideas about what a fact is, because we’re now able to do something with facts much smaller than they used to be. So, I have to try to keep the reader from thinking that this is a book about learning without models or about the virtues of massive databases. But, I won’t know how it goes until I write it.

(Why Darwin on barnacles? Mainly because I want to begin with a snarky remark about Thoreau from a comment he made in 1852, which is when Darwin was working on barnacles, busy postponing publishing his evolutionary theory.)


February 9, 2010

[berkman] Mary Gray Beyond online-offline

Mary Gray, in the Communication and Culture dept. at Indian U., is giving a talk falled “Beyond online/ofline: information access, public spaces, and queer youth visiblity in the rural U.S.” She’s going to focus on a piece that did not make it ionto her book: Youth, Media, and Queer Visibility in Rural America. Why don’t policy analysts think about sexuality except in order to contain it?

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

Her argument is that LGBTQ youth who are negotiating their identities rely on blurring the online and offline. They work out their identities collectively. To do that, they have to be not just visible to one another, but are socially recognizable. They are combatting digital inequalities that structure their access to media, and fighting broader politics of visibilty that frame them as necessarily out of place as if they;re not supposed to be there. For the main part, the media present rural communities as inhospitable to LGBTQ youth.

What’s it like for LGBTQ youth? There are very few studies. But, literature and pop culture frames sexualities and genders and individual mental health issues, as struggles. And they frame rural communities as more hostile than urban environments. They frame LGBTQ-identifying youths as expecting to move to the big city.

Mary did 19 months of ethnographic field work in rural Kentucky and environs (= Appalachia). She worked with 34 young people in depth, and inteviewed 100+ others. She did not start with youths already on line. She used inter-disciplinary approaches, a “kitchen sink” approach that used whatever worked.

There are three assumptions in LGBTQ culture about how visible LGBTQ youth are supposed to be…assumptions that organize legislative action, etc. The first is that there’s a critical mass of LGBTQ folk. Second, there’s a donor base for legislative action. Third, there are accessible “safe” places that are anonymous and low risk — i.e., I can work out my identity in those spaces. “If I run into my boss there, it’s likely we have something in common.” These three form the narratives about LGBTQ life. None of these structures exist in rural places. Rural life is therefore positioned as lacking. Most important, familiarity, not anonymity, is the default in rural communities.

They thus have different strategies for working out their identity, relying on allies and legibility as “locals.” They have to rely on pooled resources; in Ky they are too poor to use money to mobilize. And instead of being able to take advantage of anonymity and self spaces, they build their own “boundary publics,” temporarily occupying public spaces (e.g., Drag at Wal-Mart after the stores have closed, or public parks far away). This is where digital media comes into place; it expands their sense of publicness and visibility. E.g., the photos from drag at Wal-Mart are posted and become central to their identity. Queer identity is crafted collectively, Mary says. Coming up with the grammar for expressing oneself is a highly social process. She’s interested in how situated those grammars are. (She says she’s riffing off Habermas’ public sphere stuff.)

DiMaggio and Hargattai (2001) define digital inequality in a way helpful to Mary’s work. Five dimensions: Equipment access, autonomy of use, skill, social support, and purposes for which the tech is employed. Imagine that we acknowledged how central digital media are to LGBTQ youth’s search for identity…

She gives examples of the five dimensions: Often in her study there was no home access, and if there is, it’s not private. The computers in schools were heavily monitored (by federal and state mandate). Overall literacy was in question. The social support was limited and varied by “power proximities; e.g., the local librarian is a key to access, sometimes repositioning monitors so people can’t see what you’re browsing. Finally, the Net is not presented to LGBTQ youths as designed for them to explore their sexuality.

This is why boundary publics are so important to LGBTQ youths. An example: A public picnic center. A photo of it with a gay rights flag is on the Net, mixing the offline and online. E.g., Queercore at the Methodist Church SkatePark. It was a safe cover for them, protected from parents and peers. The music payed there was streamed online. E.g., AJ’s FTM (female to male) J0urney, a Web site documenting his transition. It had updates, a gallery of testosterone effects, surgery pictures, doctors and prices, links, guestbook, and recordings of the effect of testosterone on his voice. “All of these components both establish his visibility locally, make his queerness a local phenomenon, and also create a sense of belonging.” This counters the lack of a visible community, Mary says. He relied on this boundary public to create a sense of authenticity. It is a space where he can work out the etails of his transition outside of the gaze of his local community.

Conclusions. New media were not about escape but about creating local belonging. These boundary model mpas the entanglements of digital media but also of public visibility. You can’t understand them without understand why a public coming out is so important to LGBTQ youths. They’re not only struggling about coming out, but they also lack info about being visible. And, pollicy analysts ought to be studyhing “:the nexus among media, sexual and gender politics, and broader structures of social inequalities.”

Q: [doc] What percentage of U.S. is LGBTQ?
A: Tough question. 2-10% maybe. It doesn’t think of identity as something constructed. It estimates the number of people who have had same sex encounters. It’s less about numbers than about pushing for increasing youth’s sense of sexual possibilities. I know I’m pushing against the grain.

Q: What’s Drag at Wal-Mart?
A: They dress up and go to Wal-Mart. Why W-M? “Because all the drag attire is right there.” It’s open 24 hours. And they have friends who work there.

Q: [judith] What role does Wal-Mart play in the life of straight kids?
A: Often their straight friends were shopping in other aisles. They had a good sense of who’s going to harass them. There was no stranger danger. They’d plan it around football games so the footballers would be away.

Q: [momin] I have a preconception that rural, conservative places would try to suppress both queer expression and identity, but I’d like to know if this is accurate. What, if any, kind of pushback or resistance do queer rural face, either explicit and implicit? You mentioned the librarian who made the enormously important decision to turn the computer…
A: We vastly overestimated the hostility of rural places. It’s certainly violent, but differently violent that young people face in urban centers. They know it’s risky, so they’re constantly reworking this line of familiarity. “Hey, you’ve known me all my life,” or “That’s just Dale.” The kids who have the hardst type come from outside the community, and there’s a lot of class stratification; middle class kids were on the whole more protected, because their parents are powers in the own. Working clas kids had the brunt of violence directed at them. So, no, it’s not across the board awful.

Q: [bacy] How does this compare to the experience of sexual identity creation in urban areas, especially where kids face the digital divide?
A: I did a study in SF. I was struck by the similarities in marginalization, the resources used (e.g., libraries)…The idea that coming out LGBTQ as central to one’s identity has racist elements in it.

Q: [dong] Is there an online boundary public beyond individual blogs?
A: I’ve structured the rubric of boundary publics that resists the separation of offline and online. I want to say that the online/offline distinction has lost its effectiveness. But you ask a good question. Seeing what MySpace and Facebook do might get me to change my theory.

Q: [me] What does the online bring?
A: Planting a flag that creates a type of materiality to their presence. It’s the equivalent of a standing building only for them. Second, for a number of them, it allows them to participate in the narrative of what counts as an authentic LGBTQ person. They’re bombarded with representations of LGBTQ life in a rural context that end in tragedy. The use of the online allows them to produce a narrative that says that life’s not so bad there.

Q: [sandvig] Ernie Wilson says we should focus on production: if you’re online, are you consuming or production? How common was production in the rural communities you studied? Are people referring to a few productive sites? Or is everyone collaborating?
A: When I did this work, it was harder to make your own website. Usually, there were one or two leaders in the community making the site, and you were sending a photo.
A: [danah boyd] For a long time, the obsession about filtering was about a particular kind of content. Now we want to control certain kinds of production, with the idea that if you put up content, you’d be putting yourself at risk. The rural kids have no models of proxy servers; the rural kids generally don’t.

Q: Talk more about what you learned with the long history of queer folks communicating across distances>
A: See Martin Meeker’s book, Contacts Desired. We don’t have a lot of archives of rural communications.
Q: Maybe look at ‘zine culture.

A: Interesting. Often the circulation was among urban populations. There’s endless work to be done.

Most of these young people are actively constructing distinctions between off- and on-line. I’m blurring them. What are the moments when they’re reproducing the distinction? When is it important to them to feel that a boundary public is on or off line. I’m trying to fuse them to see the spaces they’re moving through, but I’m using distinctions that they may not draw.


February 7, 2010

Cloud capitalism’s threat to cloud culture

Charlie Leadbeater has a terrific post on the threats posed by the fact that The Cloud (as in “cloud computing”) too often actually is a recentralizing of the Net by profit-seeking companies.

The easiest example cited by Charlie is Google Books, which provides a tremendous service but at the social cost of giving a single company control over America’s digital library. The problem here isn’t capitalism but monopolization; an open market in which other organizations could (the pragmatic “could,” not the legal or science fiction “could”) also offer access to scanned libraries would create a cloud of books not solely controlled by any single company. (The Google Books settlement threatens to rule out competition because without an equivalent agreement with publishers and authors, any other organization that scans and provides access to books runs the strong risk of being sued for copyright infringement, especially when it comes to books whose copyright holders are hard to find. The revision of the Settlement is less egregiously monopolistic.)


How to send email using RealBasic

It took a bunch of googling (thanks!) and some experimentation, but the following seems to work on a Mac (snow leopard) to send email programmatically, using RealBasic:

Dim mail as EmailMessage
Dim SMTPSocket1 as SMTPSocket

// create an instance:
SMTPSocket1 = new SMTPSocket

// The name of an available SMTP server:
SMTPSocket1.address = “”
// The port number of the server:
SMTPSocket1.port = 25
// Your username for the server, if nec.
SMTPSocket1.Username=”[email protected]
// Your password:

// Create a new message:
mail = New EmailMessage
// The address you want it to come from:
mail.fromAddress= “[email protected]
mail.subject= “Your Subject”
// The message:
mail.bodyPlainText = “Testing. Testing. Is this thing on?”
// Alternatively, encode message in HTML:
mail.BodyHTML = “<u>Testing</u> Is this thing <blink>on</blink>?”
// If you want a header:
mail.headers.appendHeader “X-Mailer”,”REALbasic SMTP”

// The address you’re sending it to:
mail.AddRecipient “[email protected]
// cc someone:
mail.addCCRecipient “[email protected]

// Add it to list of messages:
SMTPSocket1.messages.append mail
// Send message:

// Wait for the sending to be done if you’re going to send another
while SMTPSocket1.BytesLeftToSend > 0

Please correct any boneheaded errors I’ve made. Thanks.

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February 6, 2010

After press conferences, what?

After watching President Obama at the Republican Caucus, it’s clearer than ever that press conferences need to go the way of press releases. They are just too constricted for the opportunities and temper of the new connected age. The reporters are too interested in getting headlines, and would rather appear fair and balanced than chase down the truth. We do better, it turns out, when the President is questioned by people who can acknowledge that they really, really disagree with him.

So, what do we replace press conferences with? Or, more realistically, what can we supplement them with?

We know that Question Time in the British Parliament works well in Britain. But, it’d be good for democratic reasons to open it up to The People. Also, why should you have to disagree with the President to press him on an issue?

The problem, of course, is deciding who among us gets to ask a question. So, how about if questions were awarded to people who participate in particularly constructive ways , on any side of an issue, in the comments section of the White House blog (once comments are allowed)? This would be a mighty incentive for engaging civilly in the comments section.

But, then we’d need a way to decide who to pick. If it’s done algorithmically (e.g., have two buttons: I like this comment and I disagree with this comment), it can be gamed. If it’s done by human editors at the White House, it’s subject to charges of favoritism. So, how about if two or three known and respected people in their communities were chosen to select questioners from among the commenters; these people would represent different political views. New selectors would be chosen for each Presidential Q&A session.

Obviously, I don’t know exactly how to do this. But, in the Age of the Web it seems clear to me that we need to supplement press conferences with forums that replace objectivity with transparency, timidity with passion, and professionals with all of us.


February 5, 2010

[berkman] Berkman Buzz

The weekly Berkman Buzz … some of what Berkpeople have been blogging about:

Ethan Zuckerman finds a box of rubber duckies in the forest.

John Palfrey provides a view into Joel Reidenberg’s “Transparent Citizens” talk.

OpenNet Initiative reviews the past year in Internet filtering and surveillance.

Judith Donath reflects on the complexities of deception.

Internet & Democracy discusses a recent DDOS attack.

Weekly Global Voices: “Russia: Anti-Government Protest Covered By Bloggers, Ignored By Media

CMLP unpacks a decision on anti-SLAPP in Massachusetts, on journalism versus activism.

Dan Gillmor broadens the mission of journalism education.

ProjectVRM makes the pile higher.

Christian Sandvig: “Ich bin kein Erving Goffman!”

Doc Searls returns to Borg’s Woods.

As a non-ethnographer, I learned a lot from Christian Sandvig’s frank and amusing post about how scholars choose topics. He urges his colleagues to study large, important organizations even though they’re hard to penetrate.

And Dan Gillmor lays out the post-print journalism school curriculum, not so incidentally indicating how journalism as a profession and an institution is being redefined.

Also, John Palfrey‘s live bloggage of Joel Reidenberg’s talk on transparency’s effect on the legal system was very helpful – and provocative – for those of us who missed the talk.

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[ahole] Cyberutopianism, technodeterminism, Web exceptionalism

In the spirit of my Be A Bigger A-hole Resolution, here’s a video of my talk at Reboot this summer. It leads to “Is the Web moral” segment, based on a talk I gave at the Drupalcon a few months before.

In it, I claim to be a cyberutopian (gosh the Web is wonderful) and a Web exceptionalist (the Web is way different from what came before), but not a technodeterminist (the exceptional goodness of the Web won’t happen by itself.)

[Later that day:] Ok, fine, if I’m going to stay true to my Resolution: I’m going to be on today at 4pm EST, talking mainly about cluetrainy marketing stuff, I think, although I hope we also touch on some other stuff as well. (I think I’m going to start prefacing the titles of this a-holic posts appropriately.)


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