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Identity and the Internet

This morning I came across a strikingly interesting article over at The Guardian concerning the intersection of social science, anonymity and the internet. The focus of the article itself is on the way that anonymous, instantaneous communication creates a culture of groupthink which validates and places even the most extreme of views within an echo-chamber, which is a point that I have been mulling over for quite some time. Tim Adams’ “How the internet created an age of rage” is a catchy title that both reinforces the “shock-value” proposition of the internet as well as explores the reasons why even such a fairly tame article needs such a tag line to get read. Continue reading


Leaving and Not Staying and Still Searching

I am as distant as the land before your nearsighted eyes, across a meridian
of crossings as you came and went before my sighs. It was winter
and the course of the river behind your small cabin had detoured overnight.

We were searching for pronouns, some sentient hand in the river’s new bend.

Yet no beavers,
no lumberjacks could be found for us to point and blame. Something changed
and you knew something had changed. Perhaps it was the lack of a reason
or some everlonging desire that moved you so quickly to jump
and skip over once buried boulders and the remains of springtime.

It was a search without a subject. Like some ancient mystic wandering the wood
looking for God under rocks and in dried creek beds. I wait
until evening before heading home. You never gave up and still greet
roadsigns as markers of your failure.

The river is wide yet shallow. Too murky to see clearly to the bottom.

Before sunrise you return, each day to a day of searching. Between your crawfish traps
and your firm, rising dough the days are simply passing and we both know
that by the end of June I’ll depart into the wilderness of Boston’s streets.

Dreams During a Heat Wave

I still dream of that time you brought me
to that place where our dropped baby teeth
and adult ankles meet. By the pond

with miniature waterfalls pouting
against the granite under our feet.

You said, “We’ll always be this moment”
and you meant it, and I mean it too.
But I never told you how my smallest toes
twitched and sprang to life, as if they
could bring me from where I stand
to where I would eventually be. It is uncanny
how our bodies are augurs. Perhaps the blood
in our veins is what we used to call “fate”.

Now I cannot go back there. That cool stillwater
running between my toes would be too much
movement. For once I cannot bring myself
to place my feet on the floor.

Instead I’ll remember the dreams
of this past month:

Ripping callouses from my fingers.
Blinking because the sun is too bright.
Sneezes that become butterflies.

And that pond. Always the cool water so still
you can swear your face
is both ancient and always dying.

We’re All Shouting and We’re Scared Because Everyone is Shouting.

Should we seek to shape our lives into coherent narratives?

I come across bits of pieces of this and that while I spent hours at my desk not-working-but-thinking, and I have come to find that I often have a different-in-approach view of many chunks of light social theory than your usual comment leaving individual. The above line is paraphrased from a comment left concerning a blip that ran on The Awl last night by Choire Sicha.

Before moving on to actually discuss the question, I want to ruminate over my recent spat of actually caring about internet comments. I mean, on one hand they’re absolutely vile, poor excuses for discourse. On the other, they may be the best examples of actual discourse that we have available, adjusted for audience and such. I know that the comments left on a story at ThinkProgress is going to have a leftist skew (barring the inevitable trolls who come by for a shouting match) and that comments on Jezebel will skew more toward the liberal-feminist demographic. In any case, more than the content, I find the sheer lack of content to be amazingly telling.

But that’s not the point here. Continue reading

Why We’re Still in a Recession

Not only are credit crises different from other cycles, they also differ from other bubbles.

As Dan Gross explained in “Pop! Why Bubbles Are Great for the Economy,” the typical investing bubble leaves behind something of value. Whether it was thousands of miles of railroad tracks in the 19th century or thousands of miles of fiber-optic cables in the 1990s, usable infrastructure survives the bubble. Assets get scooped up out of bankruptcy for pennies on the dollar. Eventually, all of this overinvestment in the bubble du jour becomes a productive part of the economy. All that cable laid by Global Crossing and Metromedia Fiber and other bankrupt firms? Today, it is the bandwidth infrastructure that supports Google Maps, Netflix streaming video and Twitter.

Or so says Barry Ritholtz over at the Washington Post.

I have to admit that as someone in the financial services industry, this is one of those little bits of economic theory that goes completely and utterly ignored. Of course it makes perfect sense: “bubble and bust” is standard enough economic reality, but this last bubble was different. Continue reading