ROFLhighlights, as told through sentence fragments

May 4, 2012 § Leave a comment


I’ll be updating with UPDATES probably spread over a few posts per day. i.e. short posts will become longer posts, as things worth mentioning are mentioned.

Zittrain Keynote: ROFLpeople? This tribe. This phenomenon. What is it? Am I one? Maybe sort of. But when I was a kid, COMPUTERS. Other embarrassing things. Nerds and their connection to memes. That lone wolf, the out group, MEMES. They’re bad, and we’re good. Here’s to us being good. This zone as a space of retreat, separation. But with the shit we do, there’s real life. Relating to these things. Establishing connection to the world via memeshit. Thanks, Know Your Meme! FFFFFFUUUUUUU- shirts, Hot Topic. People don’t like it when you try too hard. Unstaged is what makes a meme. A wonderful moment. Authenticity, a real person implicated in the meme. Inadvertant success. Winning the internet lottery! This is good? Y/N. William Tecumseh Sherman! Respecting robots.txt. I prefer it not be accessible through search engines. Case studies: Star Wars Kid, Privileged Denying Dude. Bizarre laws of physics — when you volunteer yourself up, especially for profit or #winning, you fail. Tide goes in, tide goes out. You can’t explain that. Thanks to burgeoning political awareness, ok to make memes based on THE WORLD. You can explain that. There are other avenues for expression that have been made fluid by the phenomenon of the internet meme. “Can’t send attachments in outlook, bans the internet.” Wow this backdrop. Is that talking about HPV? Dead cells make no tumors. Cancerous mutations. But seriously, let’s talk about Anon’s support of Wikileaks. Are people doing this because they’re serious? Or clearly ironic. YES. LOIC. Charging lasers. Ghost Busters, serious but flipping people off as they did what they did. HBGary, Anon strikes back. DID YOU THINK THE BEES WOULD NOT DEFEND IT? I don’t even understand, but it’s funny. Memes extending out to realm of action. Performance art? Or real conflict. FUN TILL IT GOT SERIOUS. Downfall videos about Hitler, about memes? Um. Memes can be a powerful force, brings serious down to earth. As soon as it involves politics, an ethical dilemma, there’s an element of permanence…….harder to just have fun. I don’t know? The Menudo question, aging out. What will happen with the new class? Putting away childish things. Hmm. Irony? Counterculture, against the unfunny cynicism of our mainstream institutions. Reactionary. I love how Patrick Stewart is like, “What the Fuck?”

Well Then.

May 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

Choose your own ROFLcon

I’m sitting in a lecture hall at MIT waiting for Jonathan Zittrain’s keynote. The room is packed, I can hear echoes of that goddamn Rickroll kid out in the hallway (dude that wasn’t funny in 2010), and am trying to make sense of the ROFLteam’s goodbye announcement. This will probably be the most important thing that happens all weekend. More to come.

See post title.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong.

September 27, 2011 § 7 Comments

Yes, F8 was last week; 4 day-old video is old. But I’ve been BUSY, and have been waiting for the dust to settle regarding Zuck’s handful of proposed changes. The rundown can be found here, and makes for some pretty scary reading. I’m not talking about the redesign or any of the surface shit (YO DAWG I HERD U LIKE FACEBOOK) — I’m talking about what these changes mean, at least in terms of the open Web. Or what currently passes as the open Web.

Because ultimately that’s what we’re talking about — the tl;dr version of Zuck’s presentation is that Facebook wants to become an internet. No, I take that back. Facebook doesn’t want to become an internet, they already are something of an internet. They want to fortify their borders to such an extent that they become THE internet. Everything you could possibly want, it’ll all be there. You’ll be able to read what your friends are reading or listen to what your friends are listening to or, hell, even think what your friends are thinking, in one convenient location. And what fun it will be, you’ll now be able to know everything there is to know about their boring asses, and they’ll be able to know everything there is to know about your boring ass. Even better, it’ll be archived dating back TO WHEN YOU WERE FUCKING BORN, and even better than that, it’ll all be monetized so you’ll be fed the appropriate advertisements for every click you ever make, isn’t that great???

I’m going to say no, SO MUCH NO, I could not possibly convey the degree of no in my heart. My first objection is summarized here, a response to Eli Pariser’s discussion of “filter bubbles” — online slop-troughs where content is provided for you, based on whatever the nice algorithm thinks you might like next. This is what Facebook is shooting for, except from fifteen different angles including news, music, movies and real-world activities. Counterargument: The same sort of thing happens when users are allowed to roam free, are you saying that having interests is BAD?  Response: Yes, obviously, we go to websites that reflect our existing interests, aesthetic and political affiliation, thereby ensconcing ourselves in an online echo-chamber in which we’re the greatest and they (whoever the “they” is) are all ass-face Philistines. But these echo-chambers are metaphorical, not literal — our respective solar system is comprised of a number of different planets, at least could be.

On New Facebook, the echo chamber will be an actual walled place where unseen overlords can –and not just can but will, per the giddy promise of better and more targeted advertising– monitor all on-site activities (not that they aren’t already doing this, but with much less fanfare), with the unintended side effect that Facebook will have access to, and will therefore be able to control, all flows of information. Due to. If they control the walls. They’ll necessarily control the plumbing. And the faucets. And the water. Counterargument: You’re assuming Facebook has malicious intentions. Just because they could shut off certain faucets doesn’t mean they will. Response: Even if Facebook remains politically neutral and commits itself to protecting free expression evenly, without arbitrarily (/strategically) picking sides (i.e. DEATH TO TROLLS but the KKK’s cool), they’ll still be mining users’ data and farting out press releases praising how awesome it is to be shamelessly commoditized. In other words, what they’re admitting to is bad enough.

Also, and this is VERY important, that fucking dog is in violation of Facebook’s terms of service and should be put down immediately.

Which is another thing — everything Facebook does comes back to “authentic online identity,” which first of all assumes that “authentic identity” is a thing that exists, either online or in real life, and secondly, that it’s something people would want or should strive for. Personally, and besides being technologically verifiable (I blog, and therefore I’m an idiot), I don’t know what my particular “I” means, authentically or otherwise, and I’m not sure anyone else does either. But that’s Waking Life metaphysical shit. The fact that Facebook has such a strong –let’s say– vested interest in the existence “authentic identity,” at least in terms of its user-base, strikes me as somewhat significant. I mean I don’t know about you, but when someone else stands to make billions off my investment in a particular series of abstract nouns, I tend to get a little suspicious.

I’m reminded here of Jonathan Zittrain’s analysis of hardware lockdown, which he argues threatens the vitality and possibly even existence of an open Web. And consequently is something we should seriously guard against — a conclusion I’d argue is every bit as applicable to software.

In conclusion, I’m going back to Friendster. Also. THIS WHOLE THING. I need to go watch X-Files.

“There’s Something Here That Appeals to Everyone…Due to the Strict Guidelines Set Forth By Disney”

September 1, 2011 § 2 Comments

We report, you decide.

Jonathan Zittrain, The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It (2008)

You guys the Internet is in trouble! We’re Wile E. Coyote headed right the fuck off a cliff. Or maybe that’s not the best metaphor (ahem according to your humble editor), maybe the best metaphor (ahem according to your humble editor) is that the Wild West is giving way to Celebration, FL (AHEM YOUR HUMBLE EDITOR SAYS SEE ABOVE LOL). Granted, the Wild West could be dangerous and disorienting, but Celebration is so much worse, stifling and completely predictable in ways that should make us pine for the days when at any moment we could be shot in the face! Because equal to the risk of getting shot in the face was the possibility of finding gold I tell you PRECIOUS GOLD! To return to our regularly scheduled program, early PCs and the early Internet may have been somewhat volatile (clearinghouses for bad/malicious code etc) but at least they were generative. With good reason, since their trajectories were never established; this allowed for a robust sort of flexibility and inherent potentiality. Unfortunately the very qualities that made the early iterations of these technologies so amazing also caused, and continue to cause, anxiety for those users who look at unpredictability as a liability. As a consequence, more and more people are opting for sterile appliances that allow for minimal or nonexistent post-hoc tinkering, either via third party software or jailbreak-type hackery. These pastures might be safer but they are by no means greener, since the resulting institutional lockdown (I’M LOOKING AT YOU, APPLE) stifles the collaborative and creative spirit that drives innovation, in many cases the very innovations from which people are now running!

tl;dr Lockdown –both within technical and content layers– sucks way more than having a bunch of bullshit running wild. That said, and given the implications of so much free-range bullshit (namely future/further lockdown) we simply must do something about all this bullshit.

Reflections on this fine analysis 

Goddammit, all roads lead back to Facebook. Well for me they do, due to HATRED (remember, kids, the opposite of love isn’t hate, the opposite of love is indifference). In this case, I couldn’t help but apply Zittrain’s crusade against lockdown to Faceblah’s pushback against trolls and trolling behaviors, which clearly meet the criteria for generative social patterns — FB trolling flew under Zuckerberg’s radar for months & from the very beginning was highly productive, highly inclusive, extremely open-ended and wildly impactive. Just as Zittrain predicted, the influx of trolls lead to an even greater influx of failtrolls, who made it impossible for Facebook to ignore what was happening. In response, Facebook began to fight back, perfectly mirroring Zittrain’s schema: they attempted to preempt trolls by tweaking the registration process, altered their terms of use, group creation and privacy policies, and began deploying who-knows-how-far-down-the-rabbit-hole protective algorithms as well as the so called “Hate and Harassment Team” to spy on, suss out and ban offending accounts. Initially, this resulted in naught but more trolling, an outcome written in Zittrain’s stars — give a troll a set of laws and five minutes later I’ll show you a pile of broken laws. Give a troll a self-regulated, non-hysterical community and five minutes later I’ll show you a troll-free zone.

Which isn’t to say that Facebook doesn’t have every right to police itself in whatever ways deemed necessary — as a taxpaying (lol jk) American citizen it can do what it wants. But it is to say that this kind of lockdown, though perhaps successful in mitigating a particular threat, also places “normal” users in much tighter strictures. I mean sure, after Facebook began waving the b&hammar like a drunken panoptic cyclops, there was a sharp reduction in conspicuous trolling. But all new accounts are now required to provide a cell phone number, and are being monitored by god knows how many algorithms (and actual human eyeballs). The fact that hate groups –the KKK being the most obvious example, but also individual bigots, like the idiots who celebrated Hurricane Irene as a sign that God and Jesus are mad about gay marriage– are still allowed to do and say whatever they please challenges the efficacy of these policies. At the very least, Facebook’s apparently selective concern seems to be less about responding to real-life hate (i.e. bigotry proudly proclaimed by real people on real profiles) and more about restricting behaviors that give Facebook bad press. That’s a lot of power in a very limited number of hands, especially considering that those same hands are primarily motivated by profit margins.

In conclusion, I have to side with Zittrain on this one.

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