'Inadvertent Algorithmic Cruelty' by Web Rebecca on meyerweb

"I didn’t go looking for grief this afternoon, but it found me anyway, and I have designers and programmers to thank for it.  In this case, the designers and programmers are somewhere at Facebook.

I know they’re probably pretty proud of the work that went into the “Year in Review” app they designed and developed, and deservedly so—a lot of people have used it to share the highlights of their years.  Knowing what kind of year I’d had, though, I avoided making one of my own.  I kept seeing them pop up in my feed, created by others, almost all of them with the default caption, “It’s been a great year! Thanks for being a part of it.”  Which was, by itself, jarring enough, the idea that any year I was part of could be described as great.

Still, they were easy enough to pass over, and I did.  Until today, when I got this in my feed, exhorting me to create one of my own.  “Eric, here’s what your year looked like!”

A picture of my daughter, who is dead.  Who died this year.

Yes, my year looked like that.  True enough.  My year looked like the now-absent face of my little girl.  It was still unkind to remind me so forcefully."


Read the full article here.

'The Other Big Brother' by FRANK PASQUALE in The Atlantic

"Since the Edward Snowden revelations, anti-surveillance activism has focused on the watchful eye of the public sector. Advocates have forced reforms onto the Congressional agenda, and have made bulk data collection a major political issue, meriting selfies from Rand Paul and cautious defenses of the status quo from his fellow presidential candidates.

But there are other forms of oppressive surveillance that barely get any attention from politicians, even though they also spark widespread outrage. Consider recent efforts by an employer to force a worker to keep an app on her phone that reported her location—24/7, on the clock or off—to her boss. Or Esther Kaplan’s exposé earlier this year of UPS’s treatment of its workers: Under constant scrutiny, many are risking injury, or others’ safety , to shave seconds off their delivery times. 

These are not isolated cases. Employers are monitoring keystrokes, tones of voice, and faces, all in the name of predictive analytics. Doubt it can get worse? Just talk to the traders who report to managers on what they do and eat and drink, so their job performance can be correlated to certain regimes of exercise and nutrition—some of which will almost certainly become recommended, then mandatory, once optimal patterns are found."

Read the full article here.

'State of the Art: The Next Revolution In Photography Isn't Photography' by David Schonauer in AI-AP

"The next revolution in photography is here. 

But the result may not be photography.

Recently, photo consultant Stephen Mayes, formerly the head of the New York office of the VII photo agency and currently executive director of the Tim Hetherington Trust, penned a provocative essay at Time’s LightBox blog looking at photography’s future. The medium, he noted, is not dead, as many have claimed.

Rather, it’s just “gone.”

“Just as there’s a time to stop talking about girls and boys and to talk instead about women and men so it is with photography; something has changed so radically that we need to talk about it differently, think of it differently and use it differently,” Mayes writes. “Failure to recognize the huge changes underway is to risk isolating ourselves in an historical backwater of communication, using an interesting but quaint visual language removed from the cultural mainstream.” "

Read the full article here.

'When a Snuff Film Becomes Unavoidable' by ROBINSON MEYER in The Atlantic

"In the past 12 months, both Twitter and Facebook have begun auto-playing videos when they appeared in a user’s feed. If a video comes across your feed, or you accidentally open it in a tab or tap a link on your phone, the video pops up and just starts playing. You do not have the option to figure out the video’s context, and choose whether to press play: On both Twitter and Facebook, the footage just starts rolling. Oftentimes, that video is an ad, so you close it or ignore it and go on with your life.

But on Wednesday, the video that was auto-playing in everyone’s feed showed the murder of two people. It’s impossible to tell how many people saw the video (though Facebook’s version of the video was shared 500 times before it was taken down), but user reports suggest that thousands and thousands of people witnessed—without being warned ahead of time or knowing what they were getting themselves into—a brief, vivid, and unmistakable snuff film."

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'Virginia Shooting Gone Viral, in a Well-Planned Rollout on Social Media' by Farhad Manjoo in The New York Times

"In one sad sense there was nothing new, or even very unusual, about the televised killing of two journalists in Virginia on Wednesday morning.

Death on TV has occurred with frightening regularity ever since the advent of the medium: Jack Ruby’s shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, in 1963; and the Sept. 11, 2001, fall of the World Trade Center. The prospect of death appearing suddenly on our screens is as common as it is ghoulish.

Yet in another way, the video of the Virginia shootings posted by Bryce Williams, whose real name is Vester Lee Flanagan and who is thought to be the gunman who killed two of his former co-workers at the television station WDBJ, is a frightful twist in an age of online sharing and ubiquitous video documentation."

Read the full article here.

'On Instagram, the Summer You’re Not Having' by VALERIYA SAFRONOVA in The New York Times

" “People try to create their most desirable selves online,” said Max Wedding, 24, who has been stuck working one full-time and two part-time jobs in Portland, Ore., this summer and has watched longingly as his friends and family made time for long and short trips away. “They want to create a self that looks like it’s having as much fun as possible. The mundane middle ground is lost.”

A study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General in February measured the emotional effects of Facebook use, finding that passively using the platform (scrolling through your feed and looking at people’s posts the way you would on Instagram) enhances envy, which in turn makes people feel worse over all."

Read the full article here.

'Shall I Compare Thee To An Algorithm? Turing Test Gets A Creative Twist' by Joe Palca in NPR

"A machine with superhuman intelligence is a staple of science fiction. But what about a machine with just ordinary human intelligence? A machine that's so human-like in its behavior that you can't tell if it's a computer acting like a human, or a real human?

That's what a Turing Test is designed to explore. The test is named for the British computer scientist Alan Turing, who first proposed it. (He's the guy the movie The Imitation Game was about.) Essentially, it involves making a program that does something a human might do — in a way that's indistinguishable from what an actual human would produce."

Read the full article and listen here.

'Teaching Machines to Understand Us' BY Tom Simonite in MIT Technology Review

"Facebook and other companies, including Google, IBM, and Microsoft, have moved quickly to get into this area in the past few years because deep learning is far better than previous AI techniques at getting computers to pick up skills that challenge machines, like understanding photos. Those more established techniques require human experts to laboriously program certain abilities, such as how to detect lines and corners in images. Deep-learning software figures out how to make sense of data for itself, without any such programming. Some systems can now recognize images or faces about as accurately as humans.

Now LeCun is aiming for something much more powerful. He wants to deliver software with the language skills and common sense needed for basic conversation. Instead of having to communicate with machines by clicking buttons or entering carefully chosen search terms, we could just tell them what we want as if we were talking to another person. “Our relationship with the digital world will completely change due to intelligent agents you can interact with,” he predicts. He thinks deep learning can produce software that understands our sentences and can respond with appropriate answers, clarifying questions, or suggestions of its own."

Read the full article here.

'For Mobile Messaging, GIFs Prove to Be Worth at Least a Thousand Words' by MIKE ISAAC in The New York Times

"Lucy Dikeou, a 21-year-old senior at Stanford University, has long used English and the pictorial images known as emoji to text on her iPhone. A few months ago, she started messaging with a third language: GIFs.

When Ms. Dikeou recently wanted a friend to stop sending her pictures of food, she responded with a GIF — an animated image known as a graphical interchange format — of Christina Aguilera rolling her eyes, waving her hand and soundlessly mouthing “PLEASE STOP.” Ms. Dikeou’s mobile messages are now often textless, replaced by clips of Harry Potterapplauding, or excited toddlers opening birthday presents. Her favorite one features the ensemble cast of “Seinfeld” elatedly dancing, which she sent upon hearing that a friend was coming into town.

“I’m able to express these really complex emotions in the span of two seconds,” said Ms. Dikeou, who had never sent the clips with her phone before October, when she downloaded Riffsy, a mobile keyboard app designed to transmit the animated images."

Read the full article here.

'The Female Gaze of Sally Mann and Kim Kardashian West' by NAOMI SKWARNA in Hazlitt

"My father was a photographer, which meant the house I grew up in contained more pictures than words. Before I could read, I built careful forts using the high-gloss monographs of Yousuf Karsh and Edward Stieglitz, whose portraits of Georgia O’Keeffe fixed me, in my precarious position, with an indelible gaze. There was little escape—Ansel Adams prints patterned the hallway to my bedroom, making the hardwood passage feel like a path cut deep into the Yosemite cliffs.

When I found Sally Mann’s work—its arrestingly private views of family, of bodies, of something too subjective to name—my understanding of the way a photograph bore through the eye, inward, proved useless. Here were photographs so technically familiar, yet completely alien in terms of how and what they showed: the bracing intimacy of a mother’s connection to her child. A wife’s perspective of her husband’s ailing body. She was the photographer who made me realize I’d only ever looked at pictures taken by men."

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'Becoming more self-aware in the age of narcissism' by MICHAEL ALLEN FOX in The Independent

"The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates reportedly adopted the motto “Know thyself” to guide his search for a life of enlightenment and wisdom. This “commandment” has been passed on by various thinkers over time. But do we ever really know ourselves? And do others perhaps have a better awareness of us than we do?

Many psychologists and social commentators maintain that an intense focus on self is the order of the day, the popularity of social media and “selfies” being cited as evidence to back up their claim.  Yet if this is true, the situation is not caused by new technology alone, but by what makes this technology seem so attractive."

Read the full article here.

'Everything Wrong (Including Yes, Journalistically) With The HONY Gay Schoolboy Photo' by Meg Handler in BagNews

"I never thought I’d agree w Rush Limbaugh on, well, anything, but I also find this viral Humans of New York photo, and the accompanying caption, not only questionable, but unethical. With that, and on the heels of Hillary Clinton inserting herself in the comment thread of the HONY photograph, I want to address how the public engages with photographs. There is a code of ethics in Photojournalism. Rule #3 of the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) Code of Ethics reads:

”Be complete and provide context when photographing or recording subjects. Avoid stereotyping individuals and groups. Recognize and work to avoid presenting one’s own biases in the work.”

Brandon Stanton, the photographer behind “Humans of New York,” does not consider himself a photojournalist, and therefore does not abide by the same rules a press photographer does. There’s a very important similarity, though, between Stanton and photojournalists. They are both communicating human experiences to the general public."

Read the full article here.


"My relationship with Instagram began innocently enough. I was a normal girl from a random suburb with 100 followers on Instagram. Then I met some people who had a ton of followers, got tagged in a picture with them, and found myself with seven thousand new “friends” practically overnight. My newfound following praised me constantly in the comments section of my posts, created fan accounts, and publicly speculated about what my occupation could be—they usually assumed I was a model, DJ, some sort of socialite, or a Kardashian. In reality, I was a dance student with no money. With the unwarranted praise from total strangers came an unsavory responsibility: in order to maintain the status I had achieved, I’d have to continue portraying a very specific image of myself.

I remember a time pre-Instagram, before curating aspirational online identities was a thing. Then there’s the younger generation who was born into the Internet Age. Take my sister, for example – she’s smart, hilarious, and a good, loyal friend. She only has 200 followers. For a 17 year old in 2015, that’s not good enough—for her generation, self-worth is directly proportionate to number of followers. I’ll admit, my self worth rocketed when my number of followers did, but I always felt uncomfortable with the level of narcissism involved to consciously maintain the image I subconsciously created. I was aware that my confidence wasn’t something I earned on my own. So much for self-worth, right?"

Read the full article here.

'Were All Those Rainbow Profile Photos Another Facebook Study?' by J. NATHAN MATIAS in The Atlantic

" “This is probably a Facebook experiment!” joked the MIT network scientist Cesar Hidalgo on Facebook yesterday. “This is one Facebook study I want to be included in!” wrote Stacy Blasiola, a communications Ph.D. candidate at the University of Illinois, when she changed her profile.

“It's not an experiment or test,” Nevius told me of the rainbow feature. “Everyone sees the same thing.”

But all this raises a serious question: Is Facebook doing research with its “Celebrate Pride” feature? Facebook's data scientists have attracted public scrutiny for conducting experiments on its users: tracking their moods and voting behavior. Much less attention has been given to their ongoing work to better understand collective action and social change online."

Read the full article here.

'A lesson in media literacy' by İBRAHIM ALTAY in Daily Sabah

"Media has commercial activities and its products are part of a work plan. Therefore, media organizations have to make a profit. With this in mind, several other questions pop up. Who pays for products of the media? Which economic actors or structures support this business? How are producers, writers, directors, reporters, cameramen and editors affected by economic relations?

When we start to find answers to these questions, only reality becomes apparent to us. Inevitably media is both ideological and manipulative. Media workers are aware that the content and its message they produce has an ideological background and they make their preparations accordingly. All of us indeed live in the same world, but we all look at it from different perspectives in order to make sense of it. This interpretation gives birth to assumptions and values, with all of us viewing the world with subjective criteria. Unfortunately, media has a large part in it."

Read the full article here.

'Consumer Groups Back Out of Federal Talks on Face Recognition' by NATASHA SINGER in The New York Times

"A central component of President Obama’s effort to give consumers more control over how companies collect and share their most sensitive personal details has run aground.

Nine civil liberties and consumer advocate groups announced early Tuesday morning that they were withdrawing from talks with trade associations over how to write guidelines for the fair commercial use of face recognition technology for consumers.

In the last 16 months, the two sides had been meeting periodically under the auspices of the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, a division of the Commerce Department. But the privacy advocates said they were giving up on talks because they could not achieve what they consider minimum rights for consumers — the idea that companies should seek and obtain permission before employing face recognition to identify individual people on the street."

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'The History and Magic of Instant Photography' by Michael Archambault in PetaPixel

"In the digital age, there is a demand for instant gratification; however, is it possible that the perfect solution for the modern individual is an analog one? Instant film was a product introduced during the late 1940s and remains a popular option for instant physical prints to this day. Hold up your camera, press a button, and minutes later you have a fully processed physical image. And to think that it all started with a little girl’s simple question…"

Read the full article here.

'Edward Snowden: The World Says No to Surveillance' by EDWARD J. SNOWDEN in The New York Times

"MOSCOW — TWO years ago today, three journalists and I worked nervously in a Hong Kong hotel room, waiting to see how the world would react to the revelation that the National Security Agency had been making records of nearly every phone call in the United States. In the days that followed, those journalists and others published documents revealing that democratic governments had been monitoring the private activities of ordinary citizens who had done nothing wrong.

Within days, the United States government responded by bringing charges against me under World War I-era espionage laws. The journalists were advised by lawyers that they risked arrest or subpoena if they returned to the United States. Politicians raced to condemn our efforts as un-American, even treasonous.

Privately, there were moments when I worried that we might have put our privileged lives at risk for nothing — that the public would react with indifference, or practiced cynicism, to the revelations.

Never have I been so grateful to have been so wrong."

Read the full article here.

'Google Images campaign wants search engine to stop seeing white skin as 'default' ' by Andrew Griffin in The Independent UK

"A campaigner and artist has launched a new site that hopes to make Google’s image search results more diverse.

At the moment, a search for most generic body parts — like “cute baby” or “arm” — shows people and bodies that are almost entirely white. But as part of a project named World White Web, Johanna Burai hopes to change that."

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'Computational Aesthetics Algorithm Spots Beauty That Humans Overlook' in MIT Technology Review

"One of the depressing truths about social media is that the popularity of an image is not necessarily an indication of its quality. It’s easy to find hugely popular content of dubious quality. But it’s much harder to find unpopular content of high quality.

That’s largely because popularity is governed by a power law: a small proportion of content receives a large proportion of attention while the vast majority of content shares the rest. Take the picture-sharing website Flickr, which hosts some 200 million pictures. Of these, 166 million have five favorites or less.

That’s a large number of unpopular pictures! It’s easy to imagine that there must be many photographic gems hidden within this long tail of unpopularity. But how to reveal it?

Today, we get and answer thanks to the work of Rossano Schifanella at the University of Turin in Italy and Miriam Redi and Luca Maria Aiello at Yahoo Labs in Barcelona. These guys have taught a machine vision algorithm to recognize beauty and then allowed it to trawl through the long tail of unpopular Flickr images looking for gems that nobody has noticed. And the results are impressive."

Read the full article here.