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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

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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

Stupidity Again

I am continually amazed by how absolutely stupid the general population tends to be.

I want to let that sit for a moment. Go grab a coffee or tea and think for a moment. Ask yourself, “How stupid is our general populace?”

Far more often than I’d like to admit, I find myself asking the same question over and over again. Over time, I have learned that in order to not go completely crazy I have to shake it off and just get on with my life. Every once in awhile I come across something that forces me to confront and consider the implications of our shared stupidity.

Like the fact that it is now, apparently, a crime to be in a playground without accompanying children.

Okay, let me get a few things straight before I really get upset and lose my ability to form complete sentences: yes, it was against park rules; no, I don’t fucking care what the rules are or are not.

So, two women in the city got summonses to appear before a judge because they sat on a bench in a playground and ate doughnuts.

My rage from this incident isn’t about the stupid legal issues or anything aside from the fact that the very means by which we are attempting to protect our children is making them far more vulnerable than they ever were before. These sorts of incidents work to destroy community, limit communication and place barriers and walls between us so that we hardly ever see, let alone have a conversation with, our neighbors and fellow members of the community. NYC seems to be par for the course with criminalizing behavior and pushing rigid concepts of social acceptance. All the way back to the cleanup of Times Square, the city has been engaged in a double-talk war on the undesirable. Push the homeless and hopeless into worse and worse neighborhoods out of the public eye; criminalize smoking while reaping tax benefits from the sale to addicts (myself included); and now we’re seeing a deliberate and horrific stomping of basic humanity in the form of this anti-pedophile law.

I don’t know, exactly, but I would think that the more adult eyes there are in an area, the less able an individual would be to conduct unsavory or harmful behavior. This is where my far-Leftist brain takes over and says: “Aren’t we capable of pretty much taking care of ourselves and determining what is best for us?” Let’s not take that statement as an absolute, but as a guideline. My experience with individuals is that we usually work together to make our lives better when we know and connect with others. That’s one reason why I was in-part enamored with the city of Springfield, MA when I lived there: that everyone worked together because there were few opportunities for the low-income population to individually thrive. People knew their neighbors and both offered and asked for help when needed.

And in that article, if you dare, breeze through the comments. They range from the (sorely lacking) rational “What?!” to the immensely stupid “Rules are rules and if you don’t follow the rules you’re obviously a pedophile drug-dealer”. I truly hope that we can get past this and put ourselves back on the track to treating each other as human beings.

Conservative Birth Control

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It totally works, and the stork just brings the baby somewhere else. I hear this is the central handout in Texas Sex Ed classes.