Thursday, May 05, 2011

From the inside-out

Where history, psychology, and other modes of inquiry present a world made intelligible from the outside-in, novels seek to understand it from the inside-out; they obliterate the distance-producing egoisms that lure us into easy assumptions about the people around us, instead forcing us to confront the legion of shocks and heartaches and victories that hammer us into the adults we can’t help but become.

--Joshua Hardina, Smiling With Gritted Teeth

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Is that you, or a bot?

Can one person controlling an identity, or a group of identities, really shape social architecture? Actually, yes. The Web Ecology Project’s analysis of 2009’s post-election protests in Iran revealed that only a handful of people accounted for most of the Twitter activity there. The attempt to steer large social groups toward a particular behavior or cause has long been the province of lobbyists, whose “astroturfing” seeks to camouflage their campaigns as genuine grassroots efforts, and company employees who pose on Internet message boards as unbiased consumers to tout their products. But social bots introduce new scale: they run off a server at practically no cost, and can reach thousands of people. The details that people reveal about their lives, in freely searchable tweets and blogs, offer bots a trove of personal information to work with. “The data coming off social networks allows for more-targeted social ‘hacks’ than ever before,” says Tim Hwang, the director emeritus of the Web Ecology Project. And these hacks use “not just your interests, but your behavior.”

--Andy Isaacson, Are You Following a Bot?

A bang, not a whimper

  Two months into L.'s retirement, and I'm finished with the stockpiling of books. No more book purchases! Or at least, no purcha...