Tag Archives: Culture

Culture and society

Sociological Eye on Revolutions

Successful revolutions provide the founding myths for the newly established order, and are accordingly glorified as the spontaneous uprising of the righteous and downtrodden against their oppressors and exploiters. Randall Collins, professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, has turned his Sociological Eye on the realities behind the myths. The articles quoted below are […]

Deception and Metaphors

Benevolent Deception in Human Computer Interaction by Eytan Adar, Desney Tan & Jaime Teevan presents the design principle of “benevolent deception” – that is, deliberately misrepresenting a computer system’s functionality to the user, but for the benefit of the user and/or developer. The paper cites many surprising (and amusing) examples of benevolent deceptions in technology, […]

Blogging healthy, RSS not so much

People claim that dedicated personal weblogs and anonymous XML syndication are the past. The future belongs to the walled gardens of social networks where every user interaction is tracked for advertising profits. But are blogs and RSS feeds really dying, or are they just momentarily less prominent than Facebook’s Like circus? I dug up some […]

Helian and H.L. Mencken

Helian Unbound is one anonymous writer’s eloquent crusade for radical skepticism. His sober scientific realism is directed against every ideology – including the fashionable ersatz religions espoused by many self-declared “skeptics” nowadays. Added to my recommended Subscriptions. In his latest post, Helian discovered a digitized archive of The American Mercury, a cultural and political magazine […]

Users Ignore Technical Quality

In Dangling by a Trivial Feature, James Hague (quite understandably) dismisses a vector drawing application when he discovers it lacks a simple but crucial feature: Showing the current size of the selection rectangle as it is being dragged with the mouse. The fix involves two subtractions, a change to a format string, and a bit […]

What’s Wrong With E-books

E-books have become quite popular in recent years, largely thanks to Amazon’s Kindle promotion. I own two devices suitable for e-book reading – an iPad 3 and a Sony e-ink reader, comparable to the Kindle Touch – and tried a variety of content over the months. Sadly, the results were rarely satisfactory, and some recent […]

Low Quality Preference

L-worlds: The curious preference for low quality and its norms is a delicious November 2009 Sociology Working Paper by Diego Gambetta and Gloria Origgi at the University of Oxford. They noticed a curious contradiction between the usual assertions on reciprocal behavior and the empirical situation in their native Italy. Theoretically, everyone should prefer to receive […]

The Internet Archive

Matt Simon’s recent article Alexandria 2.0 traces the history of the Internet Archive and the Wayback Machine, vast public data repositories established by millionaire Brewster Kahle. The non-profit organization maintains mirror servers in San Francisco and Alexandria, and accepts donations of both money and all forms of content. Its goal is to make as much […]

The Lack of Flying Cars

David Graeber’s essay Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit opens with a complaint that should resonate with all science fiction fans: Where, in short, are the flying cars? Where are the force fields, tractor beams, teleportation pods, antigravity sleds, tricorders, immortality drugs, colonies on Mars, and all the other technological wonders any […]

Content Creation Without Publishers

For the longest time, spreading writing and music was a slow and expensive process. Writing had to be duplicated by clerks; music and other performance art had to be transmitted in person or in writing. Authors required generous patronage or considerable fame to enjoy widespread reproduction of their works, and usually derived no income from […]