Empire produces cyber-gladiators

The first thing I thought when I saw this IndieGoGO campaign was, “Oh, great, now we have gladiators.” For indeed, everything about this smacks of spectacle, and the appropriation of cultural legacies to serve the collapsing core. So much of this reminds me of “The Hunger Games,” and Ancient Rome. It also speaks to the proliferation of a culture of combat, the continued militarization of everyday life, the socialization of young men for aggression, and therefore preparation for war, and all the downstream consequences like violence against women.

The other thing I saw in was a culture of rich “wankers” buying this stuff—wankers being not only British slang, but a term used by cyclists to denote people with all the best equipment, but no cycling skill. How to countervail these tendencies, augmented by the digital?

Google’s Waze is a ‘stalking app,’ claim US police – The Next Web

Waze Screenshot

Do you use Waze? Do you think these concerns are well–founded?

In 2013, Google acquired Waze, which combines GPS navigation with a social community, for $966 million. It offers free real-time traffic guidance and warnings about issues including congestion, car accidents, speed traps, traffic cameras, construction work, potholes and unsafe weather.

The complaints against Waze were triggered by Sergio Kopelev, a reserve deputy sheriff in Southern California, who believes the user-submitted reports about officers’ locations make it a danger to police.

Kopelev says he had not heard about Waze until late last year when his wife began using it. He then began thinking about how the app could be used to target officers.

Another officer, Sheriff Mike Brown of Bedford County, Virginia, who is also chair of the National Sheriffs Association’s technology committee, told The Guardian, that the police-reporting feature, which he deems a “police stalker,” is dangerous.

Both men raised their concerns during a meeting of the organization in Washington. They referred to the Instagram account of Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who is accused of fatally shooting two NYPD officers last month. He posted a Waze screenshot along with messages threatening police. However, investigators do not believe he used Waze to ambush the men.

via Google’s Waze is a ‘stalking app,’ claim US police – The Next Web.

Scholars Sound the Alert From the ‘Dark Side’ of Tech Innovation – Technology – The Chronicle of Higher Education

Drone by Jonathan Nackstrand / AFP / Getty Images

Jonathan Nackstrand / AFP / Getty Images

Given the detailed description of the event, I don’t think this was a gathering of mere Luddites. I’m glad to see The Chronicle publish this report, given that it also came out this week with a special supplement on “digital learning” that was mostly complementary. Technology is full of wonder, but what are its implications not only for academic freedom, but more importantly for learning.

Companies, colleges, and columnists gush about the utopian possibilities of technology. But digital life has a bleaker side, too. Over the weekend, a cross-disciplinary group of scholars convened here to focus attention on the lesser-noticed consequences of innovation.

Surveillance. Racism. Drones. Those were some of the issues discussed at the conference, which was called “The Dark Side of the Digital” and hosted by the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee‘s Center for 21st Century Studies. (One speaker even flew a small drone as a visual aid; it hit the classroom ceiling and crashed.)

After a week of faculty backlash against online education, including the refusal of San Jose State University professors to teach a Harvard philosophy course offered via edX, the down sides of digital learning emerged as a hot topic, too.

via Scholars Sound the Alert From the ‘Dark Side’ of Tech Innovation – Technology – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

This Is The World’s First Entirely 3D-Printed Gun (Photos) – Forbes

This has serious public health and safety implications. Cutting–edge technology threatens already precarious gun laws.

Eight months ago, Cody Wilson set out to create the world’s first entirely 3D-printable handgun.

Now he has.

Early next week, Wilson, a 25-year-old University of Texas law student and founder of the non-profit group Defense Distributed, plans to release the 3D-printable CAD files for a gun he calls “the Liberator,” pictured in its initial form above. He’s agreed to let me document the process of the gun’s creation, so long as I don’t publish details of its mechanics or its testing until it’s been proven to work reliably and the file has been uploaded to Defense Distributed’s online collection of printable gun blueprints at Defcad.org.

via This Is The World’s First Entirely 3D-Printed Gun (Photos) – Forbes.

Can the public solve Marathon bombings? Web users crowdsource to offer plenty of theories – Boston.com

Boston Marathon

Boston Marathon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is an interesting test of claims made about the power of social media.

Amateur sleuths have taken to the Internet in an effort to find out who planted the deadly bombs that exploded Monday at the Boston Marathon, uploading photos from the moments before and after the explosions and analyzing them for clues on who may be responsible.

via Can the public solve Marathon bombings? Web users crowdsource to offer plenty of theories – Boston.com.

Do you think the public can or should help?

The Google Glass feature no one is talking about — Creative Good

Google glasses at #NASASocial being sported by...

Google glasses at #NASASocial being sported by @niket (Photo credit: Fifth World Art)

I’m glad that someone has identified the privacy implications of the newest “cool” technology. We should not go blithely into what’s cool and hip.

The really interesting aspect is that all of the indexing, tagging, and storage could happen without the Google Glass user even requesting it. Any video taken by any Google Glass, anywhere, is likely to be stored on Google servers, where any post-processing (facial recognition, speech-to-text, etc.) could happen at the later request of Google, or any other corporate or governmental body, at any point in the future.

Remember when people were kind of creeped out by that car Google drove around to take pictures of your house? Most people got over it, because they got a nice StreetView feature in Google Maps as a result.

Google Glass is like one camera car for each of the thousands, possibly millions, of people who will wear the device – every single day, everywhere they go – on sidewalks, into restaurants, up elevators, around your office, into your home. From now on, starting today, anywhere you go within range of a Google Glass device, everything you do could be recorded and uploaded to Google’s cloud, and stored there for the rest of your life. You won’t know if you’re being recorded or not; and even if you do, you’ll have no way to stop it.

And that, my friends, is the experience that Google Glass creates. That is the experience we should be thinking about. The most important Google Glass experience is not the user experience – it’s the experience of everyone else. The experience of being a citizen, in public, is about to change.

Just think: if a million Google Glasses go out into the world and start storing audio and video of the world around them, the scope of Google search suddenly gets much, much bigger, and that search index will include you. Let me paint a picture. Ten years from now, someone, some company, or some organization, takes an interest in you, wants to know if you’ve ever said anything they consider offensive, or threatening, or just includes a mention of a certain word or phrase they find interesting. A single search query within Google’s cloud – whether initiated by a publicly available search, or a federal subpoena, or anything in between – will instantly bring up documentation of every word you’ve ever spoken within earshot of a Google Glass device.

This is the discussion we should have about Google Glass. The tech community, by all rights, should be leading this discussion. Yet most techies today are still chattering about whether they’ll look cool wearing the device.

Oh, and as for that physical design problem. If Google Glass does well enough in its initial launch to survive to subsequent versions, forget Warby Parker. The next company Google will call is Bausch & Lomb. Why wear bulky glasses when the entire device fits into a contact lens? And that, of course, would be the ultimate expression of the Google Glass idea: a digital world that is even more difficult to turn off, once it’s implanted directly into the user’s body. At that point you’ll not even know who might be recording you. There will be no opting out.

via The Google Glass feature no one is talking about — Creative Good.

In Smart MobsHoward Rheingold asked

Will self-organized, ad hoc networks of computer wearers, mediated by privacy–protecting agents, blossom into a renaissance of new wealth, knowledge, and revitalized civil society, or will the same technological-social regime provide nothing more than yet another revenue stream for Disinfotainment, Inc.?

The privacy–protecting agents are missing. There is no opt-out. Given this week’s decision by the Supreme Court to toss out the lawsuit over NSA warrantless wiretapping, the possibilities extend beyond revenue, entertainment, and information.

Work is Becoming More Like Prison As Some Workers Forced to Wear Electronic Bands That Track Everything They Do Including Bathroom Breaks | Alternet

This is Taylorism on digital steroids. Life imitates art.

The Irish Independent reports that grocery giant TESCO has strapped electronic armbands to their warehouse workers to measure their productivity, tracking their actions so closely that management knows when they briefly pause to drink from a water fountain or take a bathroom break. These unforgivable lapses in productivity impact workers performance score, which management then apparently uses to terrify them into working faster.

via Work is Becoming More Like Prison As Some Workers Forced to Wear Electronic Bands That Track Everything They Do Including Bathroom Breaks | Alternet.


“Napster, Udacity, and the Academy” – Clay Shirky

Clay Shirky

Clay Shirky (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve just been reading a thread on an academic listserv about Coursera. This led me to the following post by Clay Shirky about massively open online courses or MOOCs. Can you get your University education for free? Will services like Udacity and Coursera change higher education the way Napster changed music?


A massive open online class is usually a series of video lectures with associated written materials and self-scoring tests, open to anyone. That’s what makes them OOCs. The M part, though, comes from the world. As we learned from Wikipedia, demand for knowledge is so enormous that good, free online materials can attract extraordinary numbers of people from all over the world.

via » Napster, Udacity, and the Academy Clay Shirky.


Now you can have your own drone

What if everyone could have one?

Sure, an AR.Drone 2.0 will afford you 720p HD video recording in the skies for just 300 dollars, but how does 1080p with 11 megapixels of sensor sound in comparison? That’s exactly what Lehmann Aviation is offering on its new LFPV civil UAV.

Source: vimeo.com via Richard on Pinterest

Will ‘Mad Men’ Be the New Steampunk?

Punch cards

For more than a few years, Steampunk has been a geek æsthetic that’s gained greater currency recently. Will it have to move over with the appearance of “Mad Men“?

Google Search is a thoroughly modern tool, having launched in 1997, but a new website is taking Internet users back in time for a vintage twist on the search engine.

Called “Google60,” the site enables visitors to search “Mad Men-style.” It features a 1960s aesthetic, complete with old-school punch cards.

via MashableGoogle Search ‘Mad Men’-Style Using Punch Cards.

I remember punch cards. We used them when I was an undergraduate. By the time I got to grad school there was one novelty machine behind the Help Desk. But more importantly, the terminal–based computing we did in SPSS resembling Fortran still behaved like punch cards. It was line-based programming and very intolerant of syntax errors. Jobs were submitted to queue and their results were received back.

By contrast, Steampunk offers creativity, whimsy, and even a little romance, just like today’s software environment. It’s hard to see “Mad Men” gaining currency except in contrast to the current era. What do you think?