2019/09/10: Millions of books are secretly in the public domain thanks to a copyright loophole, a new project seeks to put them on the Internet Archive.
2017/01/10: a collection of 45 websites where you can download tens of thousands of books, plays and texts for free. Oh, and these sites are also all completely legal, of course!
2018/12/05: The whole “fighting climate change” frame rests on the assumption that opposition is the best way to get things done. But that’s not always the case, as the linguist Deborah Tannen wrote in The Argument Culture: Stopping America’s War of Words back in 1998. Military and sports metaphors train us to see everything in terms of conflict — this side versus that side — and that perspective limits our collective imagination about what we can do to fix complex problems.
Coming from a pacifist background, and obsessed with linguistics, I’ve grown uneasy with the way war shapes our words. The thought struck me earlier this year: By pitting one group against another, do war metaphors undermine our ability to address the complex problem of climate change, the biggest global crisis we face? Are there other ways to frame our predicament and convey the sense of urgency that’s needed — without dividing us into Hatfields and McCoys?
My gut feeling was that talking about climate change as a battle between rivals will ensure our ultimate defeat. But the reality might be more complicated than that.
Hundreds of other studies have shown that the best way to get people to stop demonizing each other is to introduce them to the actual human beings they disagree with.
Instead of turning differences into fights, I could frame the climate discussion in positive terms — discussing how a shift to renewable energy creates jobs, for example.
2018/11/27: Due to government regulations, Balinese language TV programs in Bali are aired for only half hour a day, while schools limit instruction in Balinese to only two hours per week or less. While these regulations are intended to boost the use of Bahasa as a national language, they also make it more difficult to promote the use and development of local languages such as Balinese.
Looking to reverse the declining popularity of Balinese among young people, a group of linguists, anthropologists, and students working within and outside the island of Bali started collaborating in 2011 to keep Balinese strong and sustainable.
The main project is called Basa Bali (Basa means language or speech in Balinese), a multimedia Balinese-English-Indonesian wiki dictionary and encyclopedia. It aims to introduce Balinese in the modern digital world as well as to create free digital language resources.
In the year 2114, the wood from 1,000 spruce saplings growing here will be turned into paper and used to print an anthology of 100 unpublished books -- which no one is allowed to read until then.
2018/08/27: the best parts of travel are precisely the things that technology cannot touch.
Algorithms are great at giving you something you like, but terrible at giving you something you love. Worse, by promoting familiarity, algorithms punish culture.
One caveat: Avoiding algorithms doesn’t apply to traveling in beautiful places. I depend on algorithms in expansive natural parks. When I’m in Patagonia, I want to do the best hike. In Alaska, I was to see the prettiest glacier. The focus is on nature, not people. Depending on algorithms, however, doesn’t work as well in cities, where culture is more important than geography. City travel works best when we put down our phones, seek serendipity, and lean into another culture.
Distinct, foreign experiences in cities — which evolve around people —cannot be bought or sold. They can’t be found in guidebooks and you’ll find no reviews on Yelp. More, as I scroll down these algorithmic websites, I find bland experience after bland experience. When we rely too much on algorithms, we travel around the world and end up with the same experiences we’d find in our backyard.
As tourism increases, I wonder if we’re actually traveling less. To travel is to escape familiarity and learn into the head-scratching quirks of another culture.
Dan Wang said it best:
“We’re all traveling to more places now, but I wonder if their novelty is limited by our tendency to travel to them in all the same ways. We use online booking to find hotels close to the city center, Yelp for restaurants nearby, and grab coffee in cafés that frankly all feel the same at this point.”
Unfortunately, algorithms discourage this kind of culturally rich travel. In turn, they destroy difference and encourage similarly — a “globalized sameness-as-a-service.
2016/05/29: As the price of art has skyrocketed, perhaps nothing illustrates the art-as-bullion approach to contemporary collecting habits more than the proliferation of warehouses like this one, where masterpieces are increasingly being tucked away by owners more interested in seeing them appreciate than hanging on walls.
With their controlled climates, confidential record keeping and enormous potential for tax savings, free ports have become the parking lot of choice for high-net-worth buyers looking to round out investment portfolios with art.
“For some collectors, art is being treated as a capital asset in their portfolio,” said Evan Beard, who advises clients on art and finance at U.S. Trust. “They are becoming more financially savvy, and free ports have become a pillar of all of this.”
From left, a Etruscan sarcophagus that was locked in a free port for decades under a shell company’s name and returned to Italy earlier this year along with other antiquities stolen from burial sites; Picasso’s “Petit Pierrot aux Fleurs,” a portrait of his son Paolo in a harlequin costume, one of about 4,500 works the Nahmad family of London art dealers is said to have tucked away in the Geneva Free Port; and Leonardo da Vinci’s oil-on-panel “Christ as Salvator Mundi,” which emerged publicly for the first time in 2004 and was consigned to a free port when it was purchased in 2013.Credit2016 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
The trend is prompting concerns about the use of these storage spaces for illegal activities. It is also causing worries within the art world about the effect such wholesale storage has on art itself. “Treating art as a commodity and just hiding it in storage is something that to me is not really moral,” said Eli Broad, a major contemporary art collector who last year opened his own Los Angeles museum.
Free ports originated in the 19th century for the temporary storage of goods like grain, tea and industrial goods. In the last few decades, however, a handful of them — including Geneva’s — have increasingly come to operate as storage lockers for the superrich. Located in tax-friendly countries and cities, free ports offer savings and security that collectors and dealers find almost irresistible. (Someone who buys a $50 million painting at auction in New York, for example, is staring at a $4.4 million sales tax bill. Ship it to a free port, and the bill disappears, at least until you decide to bring it back to New York.)
At least four major free ports in Switzerland specialize in storing art and other luxury goods like wine and jewelry, and there are four more — most newly minted — around the world: Singapore (2010); Monaco (2012); Luxembourg (2014); and Newark, Del., (2015).
2018/04/05: Although their Indigenous language is extinct and their culture has changed in other ways over the centuries, the Lenca no longer want their knowledge to reside only in the minds of elders. They consider the Internet as a tool to empower their community. These people are curios and proud, they like to learn new skills while remaining true to their roots.
Azacualpa poses the greatest challenge our Chapter has ever faced. We are welcoming it with open arms for we understand the great impact that Internet access can have on their lives. We are going to connect 300 families and decrease the existing digital gap compared to the nearest city, La Esperanza, by at least 70% within 12 months. We will promote, through the establishment of a telecentre and hotspots in different points of the community, the human right to Internet access that was approved by the United Nations in the summer of 2016. We aim to document the entirety of this process so that our experience will help others to empower their communities and inspire them to take action.
Indigenous movements are attempting to revive the Lenca language, and recent press reports from Honduras indicate that elementary school textbooks in original language have been distributed to public schools. The Internet will give the opportunity to create spaces where Indigenous art, language, culture, and traditions can be shared, learned, and distributed. This project will make Lenca people free to digitize their oral culture and identify complementary knowledge from global resources to build a better future
2018/09/25: the Parthenon marbles were a single work of art that should not be divided. Wouldn’t it be bizarre, he argued, if the head of Michelangelo’s David was in the British Museum and the body in the Uffizi Gallery? As Greeks have been saying for years, at the moment the Parthenon marbles are like a family portrait in which loved ones are missing.
One of the arguments most frequently made against returning the marbles is that the British Museum is a museum for the world hosting global treasure. By comparison, the one in Athens is insultingly portrayed as simply a national museum – despite the millions of tourists who visit the cradle of western civilisation every year. But to my mind Brexit makes such an argument totally redundant.
Can the British Museum really lay claim to being a museum for the world when the British government has jettisoned freedom of movement in its Brexit negotiations? I think not. Send the Parthenon marbles back to Athens, and they are free to be viewed by any of the citizens of the European Union who should choose to travel there, free from restrictions.
2017-05-19: a discussion with the students of the Roman School of Comics
Digital Do-It-Yourself (DiDIY) may be defined as the ensemble of all those manufacturing activities (and mindsets) that are made possible by digital technologies. The concept of DiDIY is both wider, and deeper, than that of, for example, "making" and "makers".
2018/08/25: the reading circuit is not given to human beings through a genetic blueprint like vision or language; it needs an environment to develop. Further, it will adapt to that environment’s requirements – from different writing systems to the characteristics of whatever medium is used. If the dominant medium advantages processes that are fast, multi-task oriented and well-suited for large volumes of information, like the current digital medium, so will the reading circuit. As UCLA psychologist Patricia Greenfield writes, the result is that less attention and time will be allocated to slower, time-demanding deep reading processes, like inference, critical analysis and empathy, all of which are indispensable to learning at any age.
We need to cultivate a new kind of brain: a “bi-literate” reading brain capable of the deepest forms of thought in either digital or traditional mediums. A great deal hangs on it: the ability of citizens in a vibrant democracy to try on other perspectives and discern truth; the capacity of our children and grandchildren to appreciate and create beauty; and the ability in ourselves to go beyond our present glut of information to reach the knowledge and wisdom necessary to sustain a good society.
The subtle atrophy of critical analysis and empathy affects us all. It affects our ability to navigate a constant bombardment of information. It incentivizes a retreat to the most familiar silos of unchecked information, which require and receive no analysis, leaving us susceptible to false information and demagoguery.
We should be less concerned with students’ “cognitive impatience,” however, than by what may underlie it: the potential inability of large numbers of students to read with a level of critical analysis sufficient to comprehend the complexity of thought and argument found in more demanding texts, whether in literature and science in college, or in wills, contracts and the deliberately confusing public referendum questions citizens encounter in the voting booth.
Somebody once asked Warren Buffett about his secret to success. Buffett pointed to a stack of books and said,rnrn "Read 500 pages like this every day. That's how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will..."rnrnWhen I first found this quote of Buffett's two years ago, something was wrong.rnrnIt was December 2014. I'd found my dream job. Some days, I would be there, sitting at my dream job, and I would think. My god what if I'm still here in 40 years? I don't want to die like this rnrnSomething wasn't right. I'd followed the prescription. Good grades. Leadership. Recommendations. College. Dream Job. I was a winner. I'd finished the race. Here I was in the land of dreams. But something was terribly, terribly wrong.rnrnrnin these last 2 years, I've read over 400 books cover to cover. That decision to start reading was one of the most important decisions in my life.rnrnBooks gave me the courage to travel. Books gave me the conviction to quit my job. Books gave me role models and heroes and meaning in a world where I had none.
The monetary stakes, it turns out, are not the biggest obstacle to rational action on global warming.
For as much as $20,000, Worldwide Motion Picture Group compares the story structure and genre of a script with those of released movies, looking for clues to box-office success.
2009/05/09: The ABC have a piece from National Library of Australia web archiving manager Paul Koerbin, about the importance of digital records preservation. Of equal importance, how can we be sure that we can actually read those archives in the future?
Suicide of the West: An Essay on the Meaning and Destiny of Liberalism by James Burnham
Our tech columnist tried to skip digital news for a while. His old-school experiment led to three main conclusions.
The below original text was the basis for Data & Society Founder and President danah boyd's March 2018 SXSW Edu keynote,"What Hath We Wrought?" - Ed. Growing up, I took certain truths to be self