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Hustle, twitter, bells and banter

Free beer! C.S. Peirce and semioticians make much of the meaningful call out of someone like a street vendor. A cry or call out from someone giving away, selling or hustling goods at a market fits one of Peirce’s sign categories. To be precise, it is a kind of dicent indexical legisign. The sign is complete … Continue reading

Glitch demons

Tutivillus was the original glitch demon. He caused scribes to write the occasional wrong character in a manuscript. He would also collect a record of people’s sins, or would record the idle gossip of churchgoers. The word Tutivillus (or Titivillus) appears in the online OED, with its variant spellings. It seemed to originate from Latin, … Continue reading

Whispirators — In praise of whispers

The popularity of whisper videos (e.g. ASMR videos) demonstrates the longstanding fascination we humans have with the voice. Steven Connor has written extensively on the cultures of the voice. He says in his book Beyond Words: Sobs, Hums, Stutters and Other Vocalizations. “The whisper signifies intimacy and secrecy. It is the mode in which I … 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 smart of the deal

I’m interested in the technologies, claims and challenges of the smart city: its structures, platforms, processes, security and surveillance systems, involving big data flows and encryption, as well as the city’s opportunists, underworlds, hacks and how cities get interfered with. While futurists, urbanists, academics and cultural commentators probe the city’s covert and overt sign systems, … 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

Obfuscation and its remedies

He “took every step that he could to try to obfuscate, to try to get people to lie, tried to reward those people who refused to cooperate with a legitimate investigation, tried to punish and denigrate the people who were cooperative” (The Hill). That’s how the former Watergate special prosecutor (Richard Ben-Veniste) summarised the Mueller … Continue reading

Trash talk

Like most urban commuters I have learned to tune out other people’s mobile phone conversations. But when I’m forced to attend to one-sided overloud jibber-jabber the interlocutor may as well be speaking in code. “She said that? … He did it then. … Ask him to give it to me when I’m there.” Deixis Deictic … Continue reading

The death of a public life

You can be excused for thinking that social media presents imperfect insights into human nature. US political comedian Bill Maher excoriated the public personas social media users present online — their polite, politically correct, family-friendly, “prissy” avatars, whose great “super power” is that they remember birthdays! “If you want to know who someone really is … Continue reading

AI and advertising

Most prominent web publishers such as Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Reddit and news sites, generate revenue by placing banner, side-bar and in-text adverts on their pages. The ads are tailored for your eyes, and may differ from what others see on the same pages. Programmatic advertising directs what ads you see on web pages and social … Continue reading

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