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In the News 09.10.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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In the News 09.10.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 09.10.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 09.10.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

‘Our Minds Can Be Hijacked’: The Tech Insiders Who Fear A Smartphone Dystopia

Justin Rosenstein had tweaked his laptop’s operating system to block Reddit, banned himself from Snapchat, which he compares to heroin, and imposed limits on his use of Facebook. But even that wasn’t enough. In August, the 34-year-old tech executive took a more radical step to restrict his use of social media and other addictive technologies.

Rosenstein purchased a new iPhone and instructed his assistant to set up a parental-control feature to prevent him from downloading any apps.

He was particularly aware of the allure of Facebook “likes”, which he describes as “bright dings of pseudo-pleasure” that can be as hollow as they are seductive. And Rosenstein should know: he was the Facebook engineer who created the “like” button in the first place.

A decade after he stayed up all night coding a prototype of what was then called an “awesome” button, Rosenstein belongs to a small but growing band of Silicon Valley heretics who complain about the rise of the so-called “attention economy”: an internet shaped around the demands of an advertising economy.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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Frances McDormand’s Difficult Women

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At 7 p.m. in Paris late last year, Frances McDormand was marching from the Right Bank to the Left at an extraordinary pace. “I’m practicing my route,” she said, speeding off in the wrong direction before stopping short.

“Which way is the river?” she asked, scanning the narrow boulevards snaking in every direction.

I pointed left, and she took off so swiftly that I had to run to catch up. When I did, she was cursing under her breath at her faulty inner compass. She has lived most of her life in Manhattan. She likes grids.

The route she was practicing began at the Centre Pompidou, where she was performing with the experimental theater company the Wooster Group, of which she has been a member for nearly two decades. It ended at a friend’s apartment off the Boulevard St.-Germain. The rest of the company was lodged in the Marais, and McDormand had been concerned about the state of their accommodations. She likes to be sure that her co-stars are comfortably situated and has been known to inspect and then personally redecorate cast quarters in advance of their arrival. On one of the Wooster Group’s previous Paris tours, the hotel was less than clean, and though no one could call McDormand high maintenance, she has no patience with squalor. “We’re avant-garde. It doesn’t mean we have to be unhygienic.”

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

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The World’s Most
Improbable Green City

To plunge headlong into the audacity of Dubai—the sprawling efflorescence of concrete, glass, and steel that has sprung up over the past three decades on the scorched sands of Arabia—you could start by going skiing. Smack in the middle of the flat city, the slope looks like a silver spaceship impaled in the ground floor of the Mall of the Emirates. Inside, you can window-shop at Prada, Dior, and Alexander McQueen before pushing through the glass doors of Ski Dubai. Passing a mural of the Alps, you zip up your parka, pull on your gloves. You begin to marvel then at what air-conditioning can do, when pushed to its limits.

The souvenir T-shirt I bought bears a cartoon of a Celsius thermometer. “I went from +50 to -8,” it said. It didn’t feel quite as cold as minus eight (14°F) on the slope, but the temperature outside can get close to 50 (122°F) in summer. The humidity is stifling then, because of the proximity of the sea. Yet it rarely rains; Dubai gets less than four inches a year. There are no permanent rivers. There is next to no soil suitable for growing crops.

Read the rest of this article at: National Geographic

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Is Good Taste Teachable?

Taste presents an age-old quandary: It is notoriously hard to define. Discussions on the topic often fade into unhelpful aphorisms like “to each her own” or “live and let live.” After all, what is too much chintz to one person is comfortable and cozy to another. My favorite abstract painter may leave you cold or, in that proverbial art jab, look like the work of a toddler.

The subject becomes even more delicate as we discover that décor and art preferences aren’t entirely subjective. Sociologists tell us there’s a strong social component; notions of elegance have roots in class dynamics. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but it can also reveal socioeconomic status. Our homes reflect, at least, as much about our peers as ourselves.

Still, as Justice Potter Stewart said of pornography, most of us know poor taste when we see it. Intuitively, something just feels off. And researchers have nixed the idea that the more you’re exposed to an image, the more you like it, as might happen with a pop song. Bad art, it turns out, never really grows on you.

In a study published in 2013 in the Journal of Aesthetics, for example, participants rated Thomas Kinkade — whose mass-produced artwork graces many doctors’ offices — worse with repeated views, while appraisals of an admired, English Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais remained constant. People didn’t rate the artist, whose works hang in Tate Britain any higher the more they saw him. Thus, for all its slipperiness, there seems to be some accounting for taste. But how does one cultivate aesthetic judgment? Can you learn to spot beautiful things?

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

Does Even Mark Zuckerberg Know What Facebook Is?

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Mark Zuckerberg had just returned from paternity leave, and he wanted to talk about Facebook, democracy, and elections and to define what he felt his creation owed the world in exchange for its hegemony. A few weeks earlier, in early September, the company’s chief security officer had admitted that Facebook had sold $100,000 worth of ads on its platform to Russian-government-linked trolls who intended to influence the American political process. Now, in a statement broadcast live on Facebook on September 21 and subsequently posted to his profile page, Zuckerberg pledged to increase the resources of Facebook’s security and election-integrity teams and to work “proactively to strengthen the democratic process.”

To effect this, he outlined specific steps to “make political advertising more transparent.” Facebook will soon require that all political ads disclose “which page” paid for them (“I’m Epic Fail Memes, and I approve this message”) and ensure that every ad a given advertiser runs is accessible to anyone, essentially ending the practice of “dark advertising” — promoted posts that are only ever seen by the specific groups at which they’re targeted. Zuckerberg, in his statement, compared this development favorably to old media, like radio and television, which already require political ads to reveal their funders: “We’re going to bring Facebook to an even higher standard of transparency,” he writes.

This pledge was, in some ways, the reverse of another announcement the company made earlier the same day, unveiling a new set of tools businesses can use to target Facebook members who have visited their stores: Now the experience of briefly visiting Zappos.com and finding yourself haunted for weeks by shoe ads could have an offline equivalent produced by a visit to your local shoe store (I hope you like shoe ads). Where Facebook’s new “offline outcomes” tools promise to entrap more of the analog world in Facebook’s broad surveillance net, Zuckerberg’s promise of transparency assured anxious readers that the company would submit itself to the established structures of offline politics.

It was an admirable commitment. But reading through it, I kept getting stuck on one line: “We have been working to ensure the integrity of the German elections this weekend,” Zuckerberg writes. It’s a comforting sentence, a statement that shows Zuckerberg and Facebook are eager to restore trust in their system. But … it’s not the kind of language we expect from media organizations, even the largest ones. It’s the language of governments, or political parties, or NGOs. A private company, working unilaterally to ensure election integrity in a country it’s not even based in? The only two I could think of that might feel obligated to make the same assurances are Diebold, the widely hated former manufacturer of electronic-voting systems, and Academi, the private military contractor whose founder keeps begging for a chance to run Afghanistan. This is not good company.

Read the rest of this article at: New York Magazine

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M. // Top images: @brothervellies; @ritzparis; @purpurpurpur

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