By CHRIS BARANIUK // Dec 4, 2013 - Comments
One week ago, the Attorney General's Office (AGO) released a statement regarding a Twitter user who had broken a legal injunction against publishing identifying details about convicted murderer Jon Venables.
The case was brought by Attorney General Dominic Grieve and the AGO, in their statement, described the breach as follows:
"Below and alongside the usual image of Venables as a child were different images of an adult male. These were accompanied by a tweet saying: ‘Its on bbc news about the jon venables pic on twitter saying its been removed eerrrm no it hasn't'. He then argued with other Twitter users who warned him of the consequences." [...]
By CHRIS BARANIUK // Oct 26, 2013 - Comments
Imagine it's 1813. Two hundred years ago today. And for whatever reason, you want to disappear. You pack your bag, you hire a coachman in the night and the following morning you walk into a town with a false name, and start over.
OK. It might not have been quite that simple, but two centuries later, it definitely isn't. Your ability to slip through the net of surveillance has all but vanished. Means of identification, for one thing, have become dramatically more powerful and prevalent.
This weekend, a feature of mine is being published as the cover story in the latest issue of New Scientist. The headline is, "The End of Anonymity". Within, I explore some of the reasons behind anonymity's demise. [...]
By CHRIS BARANIUK // Oct 23, 2013 - Comments
A video of a beheading has been expunged from Facebook. Again. Now unlikely to return after an embarrassing spate of indecision, the footage's banishment seems to encapsulate the troubled relationship human communities have historically had with depictions of graphic violence.
In short, we don't like it. Facebook, for a moment, attempted to defend the short-lived return of the video to its pages by playing what it thought would be a trump card: it was for the good of the community. People were engaging with a piece of shocking media in order to understand the terrible truth about violence and also to condemn it.
But as Liat Clark shrewdly comments in her assessment of the situation for Wired.co.uk, it's at this very point that Facebook's logic gets awkwardly tangled: "So Facebook is allowing beheadings and such like so we can all universally agree, murder is wrong. Doesn't really seem all that necessary, does it?" [...]
By CHRIS BARANIUK // Oct 7, 2013 - Comments
Ten years ago, Stephanie Tuszynski set out on a mission that concerned the internet, sociology and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Tuszynski, an American Culture Studies PhD candidate at the time, wanted to find out what it was that drew members of an online Buffy fan group, The Bronze, together. But she also wanted to discover what the community meant to them. Why was it important? Why did they keep going back? Was it even a 'real' community?
From the opening comments in the dissertation that resulted three years after Tuszynski began her study, it's clear that she felt it was still necessary to challenge persistent establishment dismissal of communities like The Bronze. When Tuszynski began her research, many academics refused to describe such groups as communities.
We're not talking about the early, hesitant days of the web here. By 2006, we're talking about the post-dotcom bubble era when sites like MySpace, Facebook and YouTube were either already popular or on the brink of becoming global sensations. [...]
By CHRIS BARANIUK // Sep 30, 2013 - Comments
There are other substances which are rarer than gold, like platinum for instance. And there are several which are worth more by weight, such as diamond, plutonium and even cocaine. But nothing quite captures the imagination like 24 carat gold.
Gold has been the subject of coveting and fascination since at least the fourth millennium BC. From Olympic medals to wedding rings and entire monetary value systems, gold has played many thousands of roles across human culture.
When Apple revealed three new flavours of their new flagship mobile device, the iPhone 5S, the gold edition immediately attracted attention. It was easy to understand as a statement on Apple's part - they were simply reaffirming what they have always believed to be their role in the consumer electronics space. "It's the gold standard in phones," commented Phil Schiller at the launch. Apple sets that standard, everyone else follows suit. [...]
By CHRIS BARANIUK // Sep 14, 2013 - Comments
Years ago I was at a gig. A tall African guy was on stage, about to begin his performance of traditional music. As he picked up the microphone, an abrasive snap of audio feedback shot through the speakers and caused one or two people in the crowd to flinch uncomfortably. As the glitch reverberated and a sound engineer ran around trying to fix it the African man said slowly, in a thick accent, "We like it! It is in the rhythm."
Today there is a fascination with manufacturing glitches, with imposing faults and quirks on otherwise clean and seamless media. Many have theorised that this is a reaction to the irrationally perfect landscape of the hyperreal; or a comment on the "binary" state of technology as we now know it - it either works or it doesn't. [...]
By CHRIS BARANIUK // Sep 10, 2013 - Comments
Here's what Boing Boing writer Xeni Jardin said once the iPhone 5S's (long-anticipated) fingerprint sensor had been officially announced:
"New iPhone mandatory biometrics: Can you use your middle finger?"
Although it isn't actually mandatory, the idea of having a fingerprint scanner on a phone has got some people a little upset. @YourAnonNews tweeted a wry one-sentence review which concluded, "slightly improved battery life and camera quality isn't worth the fingerprinting." They later joked, chiming in with others, that the scanner was the NSA's "wet dream". [...]
By CHRIS BARANIUK // Aug 11, 2013 - Comments
This week, Dazed & Confused's online editor asked me to write a speculative piece on the future of the web. The ideas and predictions I came up with ranged from immersive telepresence to Internet architecture being blasted into outer space.
But the one element I discussed which has got most of my friends and peers talking is the idea of deep and extensive content personalisation. That is, the logical future extension of what Eli Pariser discussed in his 2011 book, The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding From You.
Watching Pariser's TED talk on the same subject was one of the most mind-blowing moments of that year for me. In a short, nine minute clip (below), Pariser stated a simple yet earth-shattering fact: Google changed the search results you got - radically - based on what it knew about you. And depending on the sort of person Google thought you were, a search term like "Egypt" could bring up a string of links about anti-government protests, or nothing about those events at all. [...]
By CHRIS BARANIUK // Jul 15, 2013 - Comments
"No one owns it. No single organization controls it. It is run like a commune with 4.8 million fiercely independent members (called hosts). It crosses national boundaries and answers to no sovereign. It is literally lawless."
These were the words of Philip Elmer-Dewitt in his March 1995 cover story for Time Magazine's special issue, "Welcome to Cyberspace" (paywall). At the time, the lawlessness of cyberspace was for Elmer-Dewitt, like most commentators, a good thing. It was cyberspace's greatest virtue that in this unchartered, intangible territory, millions of cybercitizens were apparently, of their own volition, coming together and (mostly) being nice to one another.
A few paragraphs above, Elmer-Dewitt had already regurgitated the utopianist mantra of the booming 90s web: "In a world already too divided against itself - rich against poor, producer against consumer - cyberspace offers the nearest thing to a level playing field." [...]
By CHRIS BARANIUK // Jun 13, 2013 - Comments
"We completely ran out of green felt," quipped Apple's Senior Vice President of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi on Monday. He was speaking at WWDC 2013 and, of course, he was referring to the eradication of what has almost universally been referred to as "skeuomorphism" from iOS.
With the installation of no-nonsense industrial designer Jony Ive in Scott Forstall's old role at the company, many observers were already expecting such a shift to take place with the latest major update of the mobile OS.
For years criticism had been gathering pace of Apple's over-use of tacky wood panelling, stitched leather and other pseudo-antique style references. It just started to look cartoonish and unsophisticated. [...]
- How We Started Calling Visual Metaphors “Skeuomorphs” and Why the Debate over Apple’s Interface Design is a Mess
- Terrified Together: The Online Cult of Slender Man
- "The Wheel of the Devil": On Vine, gifs and the power of the loop
- Facebook, the Projected Self and Narcissism
- The Quality of Offline and Online Friendships
- Self-Sacrifice in the Age of the Gadget
- The Interface and Hyperreality
Interfaces express not that a journey has been eliminated, but that a new one may be created.
Networking, in many senses, gives rise to a new perspective on the London Riots of 2011.
Does abstinence from the web ever last? Is it even a good idea?
Computer viruses are not just computer viruses. They spread in pathological as well as technological ways.