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The future of prediction

Google and other digital masters have the capability to capture, store and process the content and meta-data of our communications, movements and interactions. At least, that’s according to Shoshana Zuboff’s argument about life and power in The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. Aided by algorithms that sort, categorise, and make inferences, Google can predict our desires … Continue reading

Shock and plunder

In her recent book on surveillance capitalism Shoshana Zuboff explains how digital corporations exploit our data, and us, just they claim that their products meet our needs and help us realise our dreams. “our lives are plundered for behavioral data, and all for the sake of others’ gain. The result is a perverse amalgam of … Continue reading

Surveillance capitalism and its discontents

Social psychologist Shoshana Zuboff’s book on surveillance capitalism reveals the perils and menace of the digital age. I’ve now read all 535 pages, or at least it was mostly read to me in urgent tones as an audiobook at 1.5x speed. The content was so useful to me as I contemplate the implications of the … Continue reading

Perspecticide

The concept of defence is not so far from the idea of architecture. Vitruvius made that clear in his Ten Books on Architecture, the last of which is devoted to siege engines and ballistae. Security and defence are amongst the benefits, then and now, that draw people to live together and form cities. Sound the … Continue reading

Offensive media

Television started to make its way into people’s homes in the 1950s. There were very few channels. Audiences shared roughly the same news, commentary and entertainment outlets. By most accounts such unitary media sources helped reinforce social habits and opinions. Amongst its many effects, mass media tended to put citizens on the same page, with … Continue reading

The platformization of cultural labour

“Platform” is a handy architectural metaphor. In a seminal article from 2010, Tarleton Gillespie reveals the architectural origins of the term. “In this sense ‘platform’ has been broadly used to describe human-built or naturally formed physical structures, whether generic or dedicated to a specific use: subway and train platforms, Olympic diving platforms, deep-sea oil rig … Continue reading

Wild signs (Africa edition)

As anyone who walks, treks, or rambles in the countryside knows, nature is replete with messages. Animals deposit and pick up trails and traces. They communicate within and across groups, populations, species and families. They broadcast, narrowcast, and live stream messages to friends, rivals, predators and prey, deliberately, inadvertently, or even falsely. Not all channels … Continue reading

Executive secrets

Who doesn’t want some unstructured time, especially at work! The gaps in the US President’s daily schedule surfaced again this week. 60% of his time is labelled “Executive Time.” Like many others, I’m content to attribute his work patterns to sloth, contrarianism, disorganisation, and tv addiction. (See Axios article.) The main defence from his PR … Continue reading

Organic cyberwars

The respectable sounding Internet Research Agency (IRA) is a media organisation that was started by the Russian government in 2013, initially to exert influence over Ukrainian and Russian citizens. Some time before the 2016 US election the Russian IRA directed these operations to influence online political discussions in the US, with further influence in other … Continue reading

Secret listening: Private, personal, portable podcasts

Podcast listening is a personal and private matter, especially if the listener wears headphones. No one need know what you are listening to. That’s not to say that privacy and secrecy are the same. I’ve been listening to the Podcast Radio Hour published by the BBC. In the 19 October 2018 edition Stephen Fry speaks about … Continue reading

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