News 02.10.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 02.10.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 02.10.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 02.10.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Are popular songs today happier or sadder than they were 50 years ago? In recent years, the availability of large digital datasets online and the relative ease of processing them means that we can now give precise and informed answers to questions such as this. A straightforward way to measure the emotional content of a text is just to count how many emotion words are present. How many times are negative-emotion words – ‘pain’, ‘hate’ or ‘sorrow’ – used? How many times are words associated with positive emotions – ‘love’, ‘joy’ or ‘happy’ – used? As simple as it sounds, this method works pretty well, given certain conditions (eg, the longer the available text is, the better the estimate of mood). This is a possible technique for what is called ‘sentiment analysis’. Sentiment analysis is often applied to social media posts, or contemporary political messages, but it can also be applied to longer timescales, such as decades of newspaper articles or centuries of literary works.

The same technique can be applied to song lyrics. For our analysis, we used two different datasets. One contained the songs included in the year-end Billboard Hot 100 charts. These are songs that reached wide success, at least in the United States, from The Rolling Stones’ ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ (in 1965, the first year we considered) to Mark Ronson’s ‘Uptown Funk’ (in 2015, the last year we considered). The second dataset was based on the lyrics voluntarily provided to the website Musixmatch. With this dataset, we were able to analyse the lyrics of more than 150,000 English-language songs. These include worldwide examples, and therefore provide a wider, more diverse, sample. Here we found the same trends that we found in the Billboard dataset, so we can be confident that they can be generalised beyond top hits.

Read the rest of this article at: aeon

News 02.10.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 02.10.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

When the prime minister of the day describes you as a “career psychopath”, your chances of preferment in the political world may not seem rosy. When associates of a leading minister refer to you as “that jumped-up oik”, you may sense you’re not winning friends in high places. When a senior official in the department where you are employed calls you “a mutant virus”, you may feel less than wholly accepted. And when a prominent MP in the party you work for denounces you as “an unelected foul-mouthed oaf”, it may seem that the game is up. Furnished with these testimonials, some downsizing of career ambitions may appear to be in order.

But Dominic Cummings has never played by the rules, and now, as Boris Johnson’s de facto chief-of-staff, he has become perhaps the most powerful unelected political figure in the country. He thus has an exceptional opportunity to put his ideas into practice. But what are his ideas? Commentators seem vaguely aware that, although he studied history at university, he has dabbled in more than one scientific discipline over the years, but no one, it appears, has really tried to take the measure of Cummings as a serious thinker.

There has, of course, been no shortage of comment on the various roles he has played in British political life in the last couple of decades. He came to the fore as a special adviser to the Tory politician Michael Gove between 2007 and 2013 (ie both before and during Gove’s tumultuous years as secretary of state for education); he attracted further attention as the chief administrative mastermind behind the successful leave campaign in the 2016 referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU; and when Boris Johnson became prime minister in July 2019, Cummings was installed as his chief aide, directing operations from within Downing Street.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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During the 2016 Presidential primary, spark Neuro, a company that uses brain waves and other physiological signals to delve into the subliminal mind, decided to assess people’s reactions to the Democratic candidates. The company had not yet launched, but its C.E.O., Spencer Gerrol, was eager to refine its technology. In a test designed to uncover how people are actually feeling, as opposed to how they say they are feeling, spark Neuro observed, among other things, that the cadence of Bernie Sanders’s voice grabbed people’s attention, while Hillary Clinton’s measured tones were a bore. A few months later, Katz Media Group, a radio-and-television-ad representative firm, hired Gerrol’s group to study a cohort of undecided voters in Florida and Pennsylvania. The company’s chief marketing officer, Stacey Schulman, picked spark Neuro because its algorithm took into account an array of neurological and physiological signals. “Subconscious emotion underlies conscious decision-making, which is interesting for the marketing world but critically important in the political realm,” Schulman told me. “This measures how the body is responding, and it happens before you articulate it.”

Neuromarketing—gauging consumers’ feelings and beliefs by observing and measuring spontaneous, unmediated physiological responses to an ad or a sales pitch—is not new. “For a while, using neuroscience to do marketing was something of a fad, but it has been applied to commerce for a good ten years now,” Schulman said. Nielsen, the storied media-insight company, has a neuromarketing division. Google has been promoting what it calls “emotion analytics” to advertisers. A company called Realeyes claims to have trained artificial intelligence to “read emotions” through Webcams; another called Affectiva says that it “provides deep insight into unfiltered and unbiased consumer emotional response to brand content” through what it calls “facial coding.” Similarly, ZimGo Polling, a South Korean company that operates in the United States, has paired facial-recognition technology with “automated emotion understanding” and natural language processing to give “insights into how people feel about real-time issues,” and “thereby enables a virtual 24/7 town hall meeting with citizens.” This is crucial, according to the C.E.O. of ZimGo’s parent company, because “people vote on emotion.”

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

News 02.10.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Everyone knows that we live in a time of constant acceleration, of vertiginous change, of transformation or looming disaster everywhere you look. Partisans are girding for civil war, robots are coming for our jobs, and the news feels like a multicar pileup every time you fire up Twitter. Our pessimists see crises everywhere; our optimists insist that we’re just anxious because the world is changing faster than our primitive ape-brains can process.

But what if the feeling of acceleration is an illusion, conjured by our expectations of perpetual progress and exaggerated by the distorting filter of the internet? What if we — or at least we in the developed world, in America and Europe and the Pacific Rim — really inhabit an era in which repetition is more the norm than invention; in which stalemate rather than revolution stamps our politics; in which sclerosis afflicts public institutions and private life alike; in which new developments in science, new exploratory projects, consistently underdeliver? What if the meltdown at the Iowa caucuses, an antique system undone by pseudo-innovation and incompetence, was much more emblematic of our age than any great catastrophe or breakthrough?

The truth of the first decades of the 21st century, a truth that helped give us the Trump presidency but will still be an important truth when he is gone, is that we probably aren’t entering a 1930-style crisis for Western liberalism or hurtling forward toward transhumanism or extinction. Instead, we are aging, comfortable and stuck, cut off from the past and no longer optimistic about the future, spurning both memory and ambition while we await some saving innovation or revelation, growing old unhappily together in the light of tiny screens.

The farther you get from that iPhone glow, the clearer it becomes: Our civilization has entered into decadence.

The word “decadence” is used promiscuously but rarely precisely. In political debates, it’s associated with a lack of resolution in the face of threats — with Neville Chamberlain and W.B. Yeats’s line about the best lacking all conviction. In the popular imagination, it’s associated with sex and gluttony, with pornographic romances and chocolate strawberries. Aesthetically and intellectually it hints at exhaustion, finality — “the feeling, at once oppressive and exalting, of being the last in a series,” in the words of the Russian poet Vyacheslav Ivanov.

But it’s possible to distill a useful definition from all these associations. Following in the footsteps of the great cultural critic Jacques Barzun, we can say that decadence refers to economic stagnation, institutional decay and cultural and intellectual exhaustion at a high level of material prosperity and technological development. Under decadence, Barzun wrote, “The forms of art as of life seem exhausted, the stages of development have been run through. Institutions function painfully. Repetition and frustration are the intolerable result.” He added, “When people accept futility and the absurd as normal, the culture is decadent.” And crucially, the stagnation is often a consequence of previous development: The decadent society is, by definition, a victim of its own success.

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

News 02.10.20 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In 2012, a small group of young men, former supporters of the libertarian Republican congressman Ron Paul, started a blog called The Right Stuff. They soon began calling themselves “post-libertarians,” although they weren’t yet sure what would come next. By 2014, they’d started to self-identify as “alt-right”. They developed a countercultural tone – arch, antic, floridly offensive – that appealed to a growing cohort of disaffected young men, searching for meaning and addicted to the internet. These young men often referred to The Right Stuff, approvingly, as a key part of a “libertarian-to-far-right pipeline”, a path by which “normies” could advance, through a series of epiphanies, toward “full radicalisation”. As with everything the alt-right said, it was hard to tell whether they were joking, half-joking or not joking at all.

The Right Stuff ’s founders came up with talking points – narratives, they called them – that their followers then disseminated through various social networks. On Facebook, they posted Photoshopped images, or parody songs, or “countersignal memes” – sardonic line drawings designed to spark just enough cognitive dissonance to shock normies out of their complacency. On Twitter, the alt-right trolled and harassed mainstream journalists, hoping to work the referees of the national discourse while capturing the attention of the wider public. On Reddit and 4chan and 8chan, where the content moderation was so lax as to be almost non-existent, the memes were more overtly vile. Many alt-right trolls started calling themselves “fashy”, or “fash-ist”. They referred to all liberals and traditional conservatives as communists, or “degenerates”; they posted pro-Pinochet propaganda; they baited normies into arguments by insisting that “Hitler did nothing wrong”.

When I first saw luridly ugly memes like this, in 2014 and 2015, I wasn’t sure how seriously to take them. Everyone knows the most basic rule of the internet: don’t feed the trolls, and don’t take tricksters at their word. The trolls of the alt-right called themselves provocateurs, or shitposters, or edgelords. And what could be edgier than joking about Hitler? For a little while, I was able to avoid reaching the conclusion that would soon become obvious: maybe they meant what they said.

I spent about three years immersing myself in two worlds: the world of these edgelords – meta-media insurgents who arrayed themselves in opposition to almost all forms of traditional gatekeeping – and the world of the new gatekeepers of Silicon Valley, who, whether intentionally or not, afforded the gatecrashers their unprecedented power.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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